Celebrating a beautiful destination wedding without happy guests is unthinkable. No matter the distance they must travel, your destination wedding guests have to make a much greater effort to celebrate your special day with you than if it were in their or your hometown.
Couples can show their gratitude by putting extra effort into planning their guests’ experience. With 350,000 destination weddings taking place annually (that’s one in four y’all!) some standards are worth checking out.
There are numerous beautiful, hidden and unique places to host your wedding, but be sure to consider how your guests and vendors will travel there and know the cost will go up with distance and logistics. Also, take into consideration weather factors such as wind & rain, lighting, electricity sources (there are still some remote venues that have no electricity), washrooms and catering, as some locations may be difficult to service. Weather issues aren’t usually a problem in Los Cabos; however, it is always a good idea to have a backup plan for outdoor activities, especially at certain times of the year. A wedding planner can easily advise on this.
The average number of destination wedding guests is 86, meaning you will need to book hotel accommodation, and getting a group rate is a necessity. The average group discount for a three-star hotel is 22% which is much better than what your guests will get if they book on their own.
If you plan to book accommodation in the same hotel where you conduct your wedding events, be careful, as some hotels require the entire group of guests to stay at their property and there could be some guests who may not be able to manage the cost of the rates. Rather than alienate these important people, let a wedding planner in your destination help you narrow your choices. A site tour is the easiest way to streamline this decision.
Hire a Pro
Planning a destination wedding is virtually a part-time job. In the last three months before the wedding, the average bride spends about 11 hours per week planning the wedding. That is an enormous commitment and one that needs to be prepared for in advance.
Hiring an independent wedding planner in your destination is often a lifesaver. Although most hotels have their own staff dedicated to helping with the details, it is best to work with someone who is intimately familiar with the entire destination and is much more highly trained and experienced than a hotel staff order taker.
A professional can also help you spot potential sore points for your guests that’re coming to your destination wedding. They can help you by suggesting amenities and mentioning necessities for those coming to see your big day.
Communication with your guests is critical, starting with a save the date a minimum of 6 months out, preferably longer, allowing guests to request time off from work and secure childcare if needed. A destination wedding takes time to plan and more time to coordinate.
Remember that not all guests may be involved in all activities, so a detailed itinerary should be included in the invitation. Dedicated couple’s wedding websites with frequent updates are ideal, and you may also want to create a Pinterest Page to share.
A travel agent can be beneficial to those who need assistance with arranging travel to your wedding. Although many of your guests will be internet savvy and love booking a good travel deal online, not everyone has the ability and time to do it. A travel agent can minimize the number and length of stopovers that a guest has to experience when flying to your destination.
A great way to know exactly what you are getting and from whom is by conducting a visit of the sites you are considering for yourself and your wedding guests. The added expense is well worth the knowledge you are getting precisely what you want. A good independent wedding planner can arrange this for you, as well as set up the venue tour itinerary.
Meet the Vendors
Communicating in person with vendors such as photographers/videographers, florists, bakers, hair & makeup artists, caterers and so on will establish the tone and expectations for your events. This is best be done during your site visit.
Who Pays for What?
40% of destination couples pay for a portion of travel expenses for some of their guests. Paying for your parents, and immediate family members is customary. In some cases, the couple also pays for the bridal party’s travel expenses.
Every situation is different, and you really aren’t obligated to foot the bill for any of your wedding party’s travel expenses, but if you aren’t, you should assist with finding affordable options for those who need it.
One on One Time
Our favorite bride, Lauryn Evarts of the Skinny Confidential, prioritized spending one on one time with all of her guests by building added days onto the itinerary to accommodate just that. As most guests were arriving at different times, she and (now) husband Michael carefully scheduled time with each of them. Said Lauryn in an interview about her wedding, ”I didn’t want to be saying hi to a bunch of people, I wanted to be in a space where I had already been with them three days before, and I could just enjoy time with my husband, Michael, and my friends in a light way and not, I’ve got to say hi to this person and that person.”
Many of your guests may have never been to your chosen destination and would love the chance to take in the sights, traditions and popular activities of the area. Your wedding planner can provide suggestions for any number of attendees; in Cabo, sunset cruises are plentiful and can also double as a welcome dinner and kickoff for the coming events. Other activities can range from snorkeling to diving, parasailing, zip lining, horseback riding, rock climbing, spa time or deep sea fishing.
Within any group, there are likely to be those who have needs that require extra planning. It could be the elderly with mobility issues, those with vision, hearing or physical challenges, or those who are bringing children. This is another area that your wedding planner can assist with, she will have encountered and solved these and numerous other issues hundreds of times.
Today’s couples are interested in creating an unforgettable experience not only for themselves but also for their guests.
Swag bags are a great way to provide guests with some “wow” as well as thank them for coming. In a tropical destination like Cabo, couples often create welcome kits that can include items such as customized sunscreen, sunglasses, koozies, itineraries, maps, rosewater facial spritz, and hand fans. Other ideas can include surprise entertainment, traditional musicians (Mariachi, here in Mexico), or fun, interactive food stations.
At the end of the day, the guest experience will depend on numerous factors, from the couple’s personalities to the guest’s characters and even the destination itself. Use your own creativity to come up with ways to ensure everyone goes home with unique memories that will last a lifetime. Can we help?