Trend Watch: Fall Destination Weddings

Trend Watch: Fall Destination Weddings

Everything you need to know about having—or attending—a tropical destination wedding in the fall.

When most of us think of destination weddings, we imagine those sublime lower-latitude destinations that haunt our dreams while we’re stuck in the depths of winter. In fact, most destination weddings in popular Mexican and Caribbean resort areas take place in the winter and spring months — right when the happy couple and their guests can’t stand another day of snow or chilly rain.

That may be changing, however. Some wedding coordinators say that fall is becoming a trendy season for a destination wedding.

“Fall is our second most popular season,” says Haydee Tovilla, groups and weddings sales manager for Excellence Group Luxury Hotels and Resorts. “We’ve seen a strong increase in fall weddings over the last six years.

“September, October and November have almost the same number of weddings as April, May and June,” she continued. “For Excellence Group, fall weddings account for 33 percent of our total activity.”

Why might you want to consider a fall destination wedding? What are the advantages, and what are the challenges you might face? We recently sat down with several experienced wedding professionals to discuss what you need to know if you decide fall is the right season for your big day.

THE ADVANTAGES

A beachfront reception at Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta

A beachfront reception at Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta

Couples typically gravitate toward a fall destination wedding for two reasons. First, it’s not peak season, so travel costs are lower. Second, you’ll find lower occupancy rates at the resorts.

“Fall is a great time to travel if you need to keep traveling costs down,” says Paula Coffaro, wedding concierge at Weddings by Funjet. “It’s great for your guests, too. It allows them to save a few dollars, and it doesn’t interrupt their holiday plans.

“And the resorts are far less busy,” she added. “You can ensure that your guests will have plenty of room categories from which to choose, and they won’t be fighting for prime chairs at the pool.”

That’s especially important if you’re booking a destination wedding very close to the date of the event. Due to lower occupancy rates in the fall, your preferred resort may be able to offer more open wedding dates.

As an added bonus, you’ll avoid the humid heat of summer and the chilly winds of winter and early spring. The weather is likely to be mild and pleasant.

“In the Riviera Maya, fall means sunny days and very low humidity,” said Rafaela Lantigua, wedding manager for Mexico-based Weddings by Lomas Travel. “The weather is perfect.”

Well, usually. If lower prices and lower occupancy rates are the major advantages of a fall wedding, Mother Nature can be the most significant disadvantage.

THE CHALLENGES

The Atlantic hurricane season, which affects the Caribbean islands and the Mexican Caribbean, runs from June 1 to November 30. The Pacific hurricane season, which affects Baja California and Mexico’s Pacific coast, starts May 15 and also runs until November 30. In fall, you definitely run the risk of encountering a tropical storm system or a hurricane.

Admittedly, this deters many couples.

“Cancún is a popular destination for weddings, and most of our year is very busy, but most couples prefer spring instead of fall,” said Lisbeth Cruz, wedding coordinator at Live Aqua Cancún. “It’s our hurricane season, and guests don’t like the risk. For us, 60 percent of our weddings are in spring and summer, and 40 percent are split between fall and winter.”

Coffaro concurred, saying fall weddings account for just 25 percent of Weddings by Funjet’s business.

“I only have a few weddings scheduled for fall, because the weather risk does keep people from booking,” she explained.

Even if you don’t get a full-on tropical storm or hurricane, you can get days of gray, rainy weather.

“Although fall weddings are considered more whimsical that weddings in other seasons, you do need to consider the weather,” Tovilla said. “Rain is a factor that any fall wedding should be prepared for, especially knowing that the ideal venue might be changed to a backup venue if necessary.”

WHAT IF A STORM ARRIVES?

An alternate location at El Dorado Royale by Karisma is the beachside chapel

An alternate location at El Dorado Royale by Karisma is the beachside chapel

If a tropical storm or hurricane takes aim for your wedding destination, don’t worry — your preferred resort and wedding coordinator will ensure that you’re in good hands.

“The hotels all have backup options, so be sure to consider their indoor venues if you want to have a fall destination wedding and check them out, if possible, on your tour,” Coffaro advised. “Many times, the indoor venues are just as beautiful as the outdoor ones. Weddings by Funjet also offers All In One Travel Protection, which allows you to cancel for any reason, so you will have an extra sense of security in case canceling is the route you wish to take.”

Talk with your on-site wedding coordinator (and with your Weddings by Funjet Concierge, if applicable) regarding how far in advance you need to switch venues. If you do have to make the switch, work closely with your wedding team to make sure you understand how the indoor venue can be decorated and used.

Cruz said the best advice she can give couples is to be flexible, be relaxed, and be happy no matter what happens.

“The rainy season is a risk, but Cancún usually has great weather in fall, so we don’t want the bride and groom to worry too much in advance,” she said. “And in case of rain, we always have a plan B. We have a fantastic team, and we will do our best to create a gorgeous wedding, even in the rain.”

“A destination wedding in the Mexican Caribbean is an opportunity not all couples have,” she continued. “It’s a perfect way to enjoy an unforgettable vacation with family and friends. Your guests will talk about your wedding for years.”

FALL WEDDING TRENDS

Marsala is Pantone's color of the year and the warmth of the color pops off lush backdrops

Marsala is Pantone’s color of the year and the warmth of the color pops off lush backdrops

While some couples won’t incorporate the specific season into their wedding planning, others are encouraged to incorporate the feel of autumn. This might involve color schemes with earth and neutral tones and an occasional splash of bold color.

“Fall colors represent an evocation of love, romanticism and hope,” Tovilla said. “The brides feel they have a special connection with nature. Remember, the color of the year is marsala, which is perfect for fall weddings. Experts say that this color represents sophistication and natural earthiness, and it can be combined with both warm or cold colors, depending on personal tastes.”

Also in vogue are the use of birdcages, wine bottles, chandeliers, candles, frames and light, flowing fabrics. Flowers should be versatile and provide a variety of color; favorites include English roses, peonies, hydrangeas and lilies.

“These elements complete the romantic ambiance for the perfect beach reception under a starry sky,” Tovilla said.

Yet, a bride and groom should never feel constrained by the season. The sky’s the limit when it comes to making your treasured vision a reality.

“The great thing about the colors of the tropics is that they remain vibrant throughout the year,” Coffaro said. “While your friends in the United States are having a dark or neutral color theme for their fall weddings, you aren’t limited to those flowers or decor in your destination.”

“It’s the Caribbean, so vibrant colors are the norm,” Lantigua agreed. “So much depends on the personality of the bride and groom.”

MAKING WEDDING MEMORIES

When Mother Nature smiles fall destination weddings, they’re pure magic. Tovilla recalled one wedding at Excellence Playa Mujeres which saw the bride arriving at the altar with her father only to realize her groom wasn’t there waiting for her.

“Suddenly, her favorite song started playing in the background, and in the distance, the groom was riding a Jet-Ski like a modern prince on his white horse,” she said. “Everyone was clapping, shouting and whistling at this unexpected entrance. He arrived at the seashore, and after arranging his elegant tuxedo, he approached the altar and kissed the bride in front of everyone. Then the ceremony started.”

And, even if Mother Nature proves temperamental, you’ll still make priceless memories on your wedding day. Cruz shared a note from a bride who got married at Live Aqua Cancún in the midst of a tropical storm.

“You made our tropical storm wedding the best day of our lives,” the bride wrote. “You seriously saved the day, and we ended up loving our rainy wedding. Our guests even told us it was the best wedding they had ever attended.”

For more information about planning a fall destination wedding, contact your Vacation Coach or visit weddingsbyfunjet.com.

*Note: main image courtesy of Excellence Group Luxury Hotels and Resorts.

Heather Steinberger

Heather Steinberger is a Contributing Writer for Here & Beyond, where she writes feature stories, interviews experts for in-depth Q&As and insider articles, and covers a variety of news items and vacation trends. Heather holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she has been a professional magazine editor/writer for nearly 20 years, with articles appearing in nationally circulated titles such as Backpacker, Boating, Cabo Living, Islands, Sailing and Sport Diver. Her work has taken her from the United Kingdom and Germany, to the Mexican Caribbean and the Sea of Cortez, to Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga.