ASHLEY MORGAN From Weddings by Funjet offers these five simple steps for choosing the right destination for your big day:
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED in a destination wedding, the sheer volume of options seems endless. Even if you already know which resort brand you prefer, you might be blown away by your choices. Riu Hotels and Resorts, for example, has more than 30 properties in Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Panama and Saint Martin. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices and details, take a deep breath—many resorts offer wedding coordinators and you even can hire your own wedding concierge (a full-service wedding and travel coordinator who also can work with your preferred Vacation Coach—see page 45) to hold your hand every step of the way, from booking travel and rooms to finalizing all the wedding details.
1. CHOOSE YOUR CEREMONY STYLE.
Would you like to be legally married in the host country or get your marriage license at home and have a symbolic ceremony? If you’re going the symbolic route, you can choose the type of ceremony that’s right for you. Karisma Hotels and Resorts, for one, offers nondenominational, Catholic, Jewish, Indian and Mayan ceremonies at El Dorado Royale in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
2. DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET.
As is true in all areas of life, establishing a budget is key to the wedding planning process. You’ll need to figure out what you can spend on the ceremony, reception and dinner, but keep in mind that you’re also planning a significant vacation for yourselves and your guests. Determine your per-person vacation package budget for guests; your wedding concierge will help you find the right number.
3. CONSIDER YOUR GUEST LIST.
Some resorts are beautifully equipped for families with children, while others are designed only for adults. If your resort of choice is adults-only but your guest list includes kids, neighboring resorts can provide age-appropriate accommodations. For example, if you’re attending a wedding at the adults-only Iberostar Grand Paraíso, guests with children can stay at the Iberostar Paraíso Maya next door.
4. ASK YOURSELF WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT.
The answer is unique to each couple. It’s easy to be very focused on the wedding itself, but couples should start with what’s most important for the whole experience. They might want a resort with lots of activities at the pool, or a resort that’s elegant and upscale, or a resort with top-shelf liquors. It could be anything. If excursions are important, take a look at your options based on wedding size. Couples might choose a catamaran tour or a lobster-and-steak dinner on the beach. The girls might have a spa day while the guys go fishing or play golf. The bigger resort brands can seem similar on the surface, but when you look at the details, you’ll discover many opportunities for customization and special benefits available to wedding groups (see opposite page).
5. DIG INTO THE DETAILS.
Do you want to be married on the beach or in a garden? Would you like a private or semi-private setting? El Dorado Royale by Karisma has sand, sea and chapel wedding locations, and the Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma next door offers sky weddings. What type of meal would you prefer? Are you looking for an intimate, unusual dining venue like Live Aqua Cancún’s Hidden Garden Restaurant, or are you interested in a full, American-style dinner and reception? As part of the Weddings by Funjet Promise, your wedding concierge will walk you through your options and help you find just what you’re looking for.
Resorts that host destination weddings offer a variety of special benefits for visiting groups. Examples include:
- Complimentary anniversary stays
- Every sixth guest stays free
- Free room upgrade for every 10 rooms booked
- Group pricing for excursions
- Free cocktail hour between the ceremony and dinner
- Special in-room amenities
- Candlelight dinner on the beach for the newlyweds
- Many resorts, including Riu Resorts, offer complimentary wedding packages when couples book a certain length of stay or number of rooms