I Had a Destination Wedding: Part 1

Hello!  If you have been following me on instagram, then you would know that I’ve been planning my wedding for the past year!  Mason and I got married Sunday, June 18 at an all inclusive resort outside of Cancun, Mexico.  This first post will be about why we chose to do a destination wedding, and how we planned for it.  Also some FYI’s if you are thinking about having a destination wedding.

So, why a destination wedding?  We’ve got a couple reasons for this:

  1.  This first bullet was mostly my opinion, and Mason was wonderful and obliging: I felt that having a huge wedding would overwhelm me, and ultimately take the enjoyment out of the experience.  I thought having a destination wedding would narrow down the guest list significantly, and it did.  We had about 40 people attend our wedding, which was the perfect number for us because we got to spend a lot of time with our close family and friends.
  2. Weddings are so expensive.  According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $35,000.  Holy cow.  Thats just for one night.  I was up for paying a lot for a wedding, but not that much, and not for just one night.  We paid about 10k for our wedding.  Keep in mind that included our wedding night, as well as a welcome party, rehearsal dinner, farewell brunch, and a week of honeymoon on the resort for us.  We just got more bang for our buck.
  3. Finally, we chose a destination because everyone would have had to travel anyways.  Our friends and family are all over the country.  We decided instead of making them travel to small town North Carolina or Pennsylvania, we would choose a vacation spot.

What was the first step?

  1. We had to pick a location quickly, so that we could send out our Save the Dates.  You want to send out Save the Dates early if you are doing a destination wedding, so that your guests can save up and plan for it.  We got engaged in June, and had decided on a location and sent out our save the dates by the end of July.
  2. We went through a website that a few people I knew from work used, called DestinationWeddings.com.  This website links you up with a travel agent, who then helps you pick a resort based on your expectations, and then helps your guests book.  After talking to our assigned travel agent, we decided we wanted an all inclusive resort, a fun, party atmosphere, and lots of activities to do.  Based on that we decided on the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
  3. Next, we quickly created a wedding website with an FAQ’s section to field questions.    Believe me, if you choose to do a destination wedding, you will get a lot of questions.  We thought the resort was a good deal because it was all-inclusive, but many friends were in sticker shock and we had to face some negative feedback.  My saving grace during this time was that for every friend that was a little upset or critical, there was a friend who was truly excited, and who will tell you that its your day, so stick to your gut.

What was planning like?

  1. We had 2 main people that we were interacting with: our Destination Weddings travel agent, and then our hotel group wedding planner.  Planning was mostly just emailing back and forth with these two people, and referring all guest questions to them.  Also keeping track of deadlines.  There were a lot of deadlines for us to remember, like when everyone had to be booked by, the last date to cancel the rooms we had blocked off that didn’t get filled, the final day to pick and pay for decor.  I wish I had put all of these into a calendar because I tried to keep them in my head and then had to dig through emails to verify.
  2. We didn’t really start planning until January, when the resort group connected us to our USA wedding planner.  Every resort is different, but for the Hard Rock Hotel, which is part of the AIG group, you are connected to a USA based wedding planner, until the last month before, when you are transferred to a wedding day coordinator on the resort.
  3. Also, a bonus of our resort choice, we got a comped trip down to preview the resort and meet with the wedding day coordinator.  This helped us visualize the location, and also meet the onsite vendors for lighting and flowers, etc.
  4. Overall, planning was pretty easy.  It was nice to just have a couple vendors to choose from, rather than having to do a lot of research.  We just would get like a catalogue of lighting options, and pick our favorite.  Same for food, we just got a lot of menu choices, and we picked what looked best.
  5. The downside to having only a few vendors however, meant that we missed some things that we really wanted.  I really wanted a beach bonfire vibe, but none of the vendors provided things like a fire pit, or yard games, or things like that.   You can choose off-site vendors, but there is a huge fee you have to pay to the hotel to bring them on for the event.
  6. Also, some of the things were obscenely expensive, just because they can take advantage of the fact that you are traveling and don’t really have another option.  We experienced this with sound and florals.
    • For a small group, we just wanted a couple speakers at each of our events to play background music, for which they wanted to charge us $2600.  Don’t do that.  We bought two Beats Pill speakers, synced them up to one iPod, and it was plenty loud enough.  We send one of the speakers home with my parents and we kept the other afterwards.
    • Flowers were also very expensive, with it looking to be about $2000 for bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres, and small centerpieces.   I didn’t want to spend that much on flowers that I wouldn’t even be able to take home or send home with the bridesmaids.  So I made my own bouquets out of faux flowers from the craft store.  My mom got some pop-up paper lanterns that we could put the bouquets in after the ceremony and those became our centerpieces.  She even put some color changing lights inside.  Doing this saved us $1800 and looked much prettier.  I will post pictures of these in my part 2 of this post, when I go into more detail about the day of on the resort.

What did you splurge on & what did you forgo?

  1. Going off of the last section, because we were traveling very far, we couldn’t just make a ton of decorations and bring them, so we had to be strategic.
  2. We decided that photographic memories were very important to us.  We splurged by flying out our own photographer, Paige Nelson, to document the occasion.  She was great for the destination wedding, because she was present at every event, not just the wedding.  So we got professional photos of our welcome dinner, rehearsal dinner, and the wedding.  She was also super sweet, and go with the flow.  Can’t sing higher praises for her, and I can’t wait to see our photos.  We also splurged on an hour of videography, so that we can have a recording of our ceremony, and we got a Photo Booth for the reception, because they are always always fun.
  3. For decor, we decided we didn’t need much since our ceremony was on the beach, and the reception would be in a beautiful gazebo on the hotel property.  While on the resort, you can tell who had expensive weddings, because they had a dance floor outside, chandeliers hanging, all matching colored napkins and table clothes and seat backings.  We didn’t feel like we needed all of that because the venue itself was beautiful.  Instead we just splurged on the lighting.  We sprung for twinkle lights, and a light up LOVE sign.
  4. We saved money by nixing all of our flowers, except for my bouquet and some corsages for the moms.  I made bridesmaids bouquets and the groomsmen boutonnières, that I will have pictures of in my next post.  The bridesmaids bouquets doubled as centerpieces for the tables, which we gifted to the bridesmaids afterwards.
  5. We also nixed all the sound equipment.  Like I said before, they were going to charge $2600 just to have a speaker and mic for 3 hours.  My dad is a musician and does this stuff all the time and was appalled at how much they were charging.  FYI a sound system that will reach about 50 people is about the same decibel range as 2 Beats Pills (which I got a discount on through work).  We got that, and my dad got a portable mixer with wireless microphone on Amazon for 30 bucks.  So instead of paying $2600, we paid about $300 total, and got a Pill for us and a Pill for the parents to keep.
  6. Overall, doing the destination wedding saved us money too.  Because we had enough people staying at the resort for our wedding, we got our ceremony and all of our catered events comped.  We just had to pay for the lighting and decor.  That means we got our welcome party, rehearsal dinner, reception, and farewell brunch, with all of the food and open bar (not to mention a different menu for each event!) included in our cost of staying at the resort.  We basically paid for our honeymoon, and got our wedding for free.

I will wait until we get our wedding photos back from the photographer to post Part 2, which will be what wedding weekend was like for us, and some things to consider if you want to have a destination/resort wedding.  If you want to read about our experience visiting the resort before we started planning, click HERE.  OR preview what our wedding was like by following my instagram.

Planning your own destination wedding?  Have any questions about our experience?  Just need to rant, bride to bride? 😉  Comment below!

-jules

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