As a Las Vegas wedding planner, I live and work in the wedding capital of the world...which in many ways makes me an expert in destination weddings. In fact, nearly 90% of my couples are coming in from other cities and countries. And ever now and then I am even asked to travel to other markets with my couples, making me the planner in a totally new destination.
Are you considering a destination wedding? Over the years, I have gotten to see the Pros and Cons of having a destination wedding, the impact that it has on the couple and their guests, and what it takes to pull off a wedding weekend successfully.
Here are my Top 3 Pros, 3.5 Cons, and a Thought on Cost for you to consider:
THE PROS OF A DESTINATION WEDDING
1. You will have a totally unique, unforgettable wedding.
Hosting a destination wedding is a sure-fire way to guarantee that your wedding will stand out from the rest that your friends and family have attended. Even if guests have been the the area before (as if often the case with weddings in Las Vegas, Mexico, etc.) there is a different energy when you are there as a part of a group, celebrating something so special. Plus, being in a unique location allows you to introduce different food, drinks, music, and cultures into your wedding, making it all the more memorable.
2. Why have just one wedding, when you can have a series of events?
A destination wedding give you a captive audience - all of your guests are in one place at one time, and available to attend all sorts of events. One of the nicest things about this is that you, as a couple, will be able to spend real time with everyone you have invited, as opposed to the rushed "thank you for coming" that you may have to settle for at a larger, more traditional wedding. You will make memories together as a group, and each person there will be connected to a specific memory.
Beyond connecting with you, your guests will also have a chance to get to know each other before the wedding and before becoming family. Some of my favorite destination wedding memories was making new friendships with family members and friends that I had not yet met. By the time the wedding comes around, everyone will be in a friendly place, making for much more of a party.
When planning your pre- and post wedding activities, remember - Not every event needs to be a formal affair. Think a mix of high formality and laid back get togethers. In Las Vegas, for example, you can start with the hipster scene of downtown Las Vegas for your arrival party, move to cabanas and pools during the day, and maybe go hiking in Red Rock. For your rehearsal dinner you can book a table and tasting with a 5 Star Chefs, and cap off the night with beer pong and late night bites!
3. Honeymooning has a whole new meaning!
For some, the destination is also the location of the honeymoon, which can be awesome! You will have more time in the locale, become more familiar with the area, and by the time you leave you will feel like a local!
For other couples, the entire wedding week (or two) is a vacation, with the wedding being the first stop in a series of places! This is great if you plan on traveling far for your honeymoon, and want to take full advantage of the stop over. For example, a New York couple I worked with recently flew from back east to Las Vegas, where they spend 5 days (including their wedding), before heading on to Hawaii for another week and a half. Their entire time away and off work was just over 2 weeks long, giving them enough time to travel from place to place and enjoy each area before moving on to the next and returning to the "real world".
THE CONS OF A DESTINATION WEDDING
1. Negative Guest Reaction
While you would hope that your family and friends would embrace whatever makes you happy, the truth is that a wedding is more than just the two of you. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends may have been dreaming of this moment for years as well, and a destination may not have been their hope for you. For example, did all of your siblings get married in your grandparent's backyard? If so, then the idea of running off to a beach town may throw your family into a tizzy.
Also, while the idea of a "vacation" is great, you may have important guests and people you love not be able to attend. Some may have to pass for financial reasons. Others may not be able to travel due to health or work related issues. Either way, you need to be certain that you can live without anyone who does not attend. And, on a personal note, remember that their not coming is not a reflection of their love or affection for you. It simply is the sad fact that comes with hosting a wedding outside of your home base.
1.5 One more thing....Gifts. It's a "selfish" thought that most couples don't want to talk about openly, but it does need to be addressed. Your guests will likely incur large costs in order to attend your wedding - everything from travel, hotel, car rental, daily activities, etc. Some guests may view their attendance as your gift, and therefore do not acknowledge your marriage with a traditional present. Others will worry about paying for both the trip and a gift, and may struggle with what to do.
My thoughts on gifts, and how to handle any questions, is this:
"Your presence is present enough. No gifts are expected, but if you are generous enough to come and bestow something upon us, we would be beyond appreciative."
2. Planning Problems
Type-A Couples will need to relinquish a certain amount of control, based solely on the fact that you will not be on hand for every moment of planning. To host a destination wedding successfully, couples really need to build a team that they trust. This starts with your wedding planner, and extends to the venue, the caterer, the florist and designer, etc. Many times, you will be showing up at your location just days before the wedding - which doesn't allow much time for making changes! Be certain to work with a wedding planner that you trust, let her / him build you an A List team, and then commit yourself to simply arriving and enjoying the process.
3. Your Honeymoon may be a group activity
For those not moving on to another location, you run the risk of waking up on the morning after your wedding night, heading downstairs, and running into...well..everyone! For some, this is not a big deal. But for others, it is not the most romantic way to start married life. My tips for avoiding this if you cannot move along to another city: First, book a suite and have your breakfast catered in just for the two of you. Or, better yet, stay at an alternate property for a few days post wedding, just to get the alone time you will undoubtably crave!
PRICING & COSTS - THE CON-PRO...OR PRO-CON
For some, a destination wedding offers the opportunity to cut costs and save money, if only based on the fact that the guest list is more than likely to be smaller than it would if the wedding was hosted in someone's home town. For others coming from high priced markets, destination weddings afford them the opportunity to stretch their dollar, and get more than they could manage at home.
That being said, the destination wedding is not always a money saver! High end wedding markets and luxury wedding locations - such as New York, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Las Vegas - all offer top-notch venues, highly skilled professionals and vendors, the best in food, beverage, florals, photos, and more. The price of these things may be less than it is in your market, but it may be more. I've seen the budget of a small wedding in Mexico exceed what a full blown, traditional wedding on Long Island would cost, based solely on the venue and vendors selected.
The destination wedding is no longer a "trend" but a mainstream, viable option for all couples to at least consider when they begin wedding planning. Whether you host one yourself, attend one as a guest, or work on one as a planner or partner the most important thing to remember is this - At the end of the day, it's all about the "I Do" - getting two people in love married with a little laughter, a touch of luxury, and a whole lot of love.
For more information on Destination Wedding Planning in Las Vegas and out, contact me here.