March 2009

Getting Hitched Without a Hitch

Author: Toni Glick

You’ve been dreaming about your special day since you were a little girl. Did you imagine a secluded tropical beach setting with just you and your spouse digging your toes into the sand as you say “I do”? Did you envision tying the knot out on the open sea, surrounded by friends and family, just like Julie did on The Love Boat? There are many ways to have an unforgettable destination wedding! The most popular and easiest include island resorts that specialize in weddings and cruise ship vacations.

A destination wedding is marriage ceremony that takes place in a locale other than where the couple resides. Today, it’s common for couples to live far from their friends and family. If guests have to get on a plane to attend the wedding anyway, why shouldn’t the bride and groom pick the destination?

According to Susan Moynihan, editor-in-chief of Destination Weddings magazine, the top 10 reasons why every bride-to-be should consider a destination wedding are:

1. It’s easy on the budget.
2. Your locale sets the tone.
3. You get more quality time with guests.
4. Guests enjoy a discounted vacation.
5. Everyone stays together.
6. Plenty of people are available to help.
7. Everyone gets to have fun.
8. You get a review of your honeymoon.
9. You’re forced to relax.
10. You make unforgettable memories.

A destination wedding is an amazing way to start your life together as a couple. Your wedding will not only be a one-day celebration with your friends and family, but a vacation filled with lasting memories. Additionally, because guests typically pay their own way, often a destination wedding is less expensive for you.

My husband and I planned our own wedding in the Virgin Islands five years ago. We chose a cruise that included St. Thomas as one of the ports-of-call. When we arrived, our families were shuttled to a picturesque mountaintop venue where our ceremony was conducted. Afterwards, we were driven to our reception at an intimate beachfront restaurant where a private lunch was served. After feasting on lobster and other Caribbean delicacies, the group returned to the ship with plenty of time for dockside shopping. It was perfect!

Planning for this major event can be very stressful if you try to do it alone. Why run the risk of not having your dream wedding become a reality? A destination wedding requires specialized expertise. That’s why more couples are seeking out travel consultants to navigate the complexities of trip planning. Travel consultants are uniquely poised to help couples hone in on their dreams by working with resorts and cruise lines to make those dreams a reality. We coordinate all the travel components such as air, cruise, resort, ground transportation, and even sightseeing tours for the entire wedding party and their guests. Depending upon the number of attendees, we negotiate group rates which results in significant savings.

A travel consultant also saves you precious planning time. Because we “speak the language,” we avoid possible miscommunications or misunderstandings with a resort or cruise line. We work closely with wedding planners and form partnerships to ensure that all goes according to the plan specified by you. A knowledgeable local wedding planner is essential, because the documentation required, fees and regulations vary by locality. With advance planning, some locations allow couples to be married the day they arrive. Other destinations require the couple to arrive anywhere from 24 hours to four full working days prior to the ceremony. When you work with a travel consultant, all you’ll need to do is send your “Save the Date” cards with our contact information, and we will take it from there.

Several Caribbean resorts have added beachfront wedding chapels or gazebos to their property. Many resorts located in the top honeymoon spots in the world have on-site wedding planners to help create the ideal event for you. All-inclusive resorts are a great option for wedding parties, because meals and drinks are provided at no additional cost.

Wedding and vow renewal packages are available on most major cruise lines. Many of the cruise ships also feature onboard wedding chapels, and some provide online live “wedding cams” for those guests who are unable to attend. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), different cruise lines offer unique ways to tie the knot, including allowing the captain to officiate the ceremony while sailing the ocean waves.

Let’s not forget the second part of your destination wedding: your honeymoon! After the wedding, you might choose to stay with your guests, or you can sneak off to a different resort for some romantic time alone. Another option would be to add a few days at a resort where you disembark from your cruise.

Why not have your marriage that was made in heaven begin with a wedding planned in paradise. Before you spend hours poring over websites, call a travel consultant. Planning the destination wedding of your dreams begins with us.

Toni Glick is a consultant with Valerie Wilson Travel. For more information, call (843) 341-2000.

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