Monday, July 6, 2009

The Guest Dilemma

I have been speaking with a lot of brides lately that are so excited about their destination wedding. A few of them have decided to get married without inviting any guests, while others are debating over who to invite, who not to invite, who to pay for and so on. This is probably the aspect of their wedding that destination wedding brides stress out the most.

Why? Many brides say that they do not invite guests because they feel uncomfortable asking them to pay "so much money to go to the wedding." I understand that. I really do. But, it isn't the right way to approach inviting guests to a destination wedding at all. Couples that don't invite the people they want to invite because of worries about money are doing themselves as well as their potential guests a disservice.

Dictating Other People's Budgets
The biggest worry about inviting people is that brides don't want to ask people to spend money to attend the wedding. No offense, but who are you to dictate what someone would and wouldn't spend? How do you know what they can and can't afford? Money - especially in this ecomomy - is a big taboo topic of conversation. My best friend and I have known each other for close to 2 decades. I have no clue as to how much money she and her husband earn, nor do I know what they set aside for vacations. Invite whomever you'd like. Let them decide if they want to come or not.

Limitless Possibilities
When it comes to a traditional wedding and reception, guests have a "per head" price. Often times, a bride and groom decide what their budget is going to be for the reception itself, and figure out how many people they can invite in order to keep within the confines of the budget. For example, if the reception budget is a total of $5000, they should subtract $500 for tips (valet parking, maitre-d, servers, bartenders, coat check), which leaves them with $4500. If they have a $45 per head rate, they can invite 100 people. Now, if you have a big Italian family like I do, you have to pick and choose wisely. Couples end up with a main list, and a back up list of other people to invite in case someone on the main list can't go. Then, they make up some sort of excuse of why the invitation was late, yada yada yada.

Not so with a destination wedding! Couples send out their Save the Date cards (if they want), followed by invitations with the contact information for the travel agent that is coordinating their wedding. Then, it is out of their hands. The guests that want to come will make their own arrangements. They will pay for their flights and such. If the couple decides to have their destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort such as Sandals or Beaches, then virtually everything is paid for. You can invite anyone that you want, and not have to worry about paying for anyone to come to the wedding-- unless you choose an option of doing a sitdown dinner at your destination.

Reason to Be Together
There is no better reason to go on vacation than having something to celebrate. Afterall, that is why people go on a honeymoon! Inviting guests to attend your destination wedding may be the catalyst to celebrate something else. Perhaps Aunt Sally just retired, and wants to celebrate in Jamaica after your wedding. Maybe Cousin Paul got a promotion, and bringing his family on vacation is the way he can celebrate on a cruise. Call it killing two birds with one stone... Call it multi-tasking... Call it what you want. I call it a good time. Your wedding just might be the thing to set it all into motion.
You're Worth It
How many weddings have you attended? Think about the last wedding you went to. How long did it last? How much did you spend on the gift? How much did you spend on your outfit? How much did you spend to get there? I just spoke with a bride that I am working with, and we discussed this exact thing. The last wedding she went to was 5 hours long. She spent $300 on the wedding gift, $80 on her outfit, $120 on her shoes, $150 on gas to drive to and from the venue, $100 on her fiance's outfit, and $50 in tips for the bartender and valet. That is $700 for a one day affair where she didn't even get to spend time with the bride and groom! Think about that a minute, folks. For that amount or just a little more, your guests can have a mini-vacation to attend your wedding.

Summing It Up
Do you have to have guests at your destination wedding? No, of course not. Some people want to elope and have a reception when they get home. But, if you are one of those people that secretly wants to have your friends and family around you as you marry the love of your life, go out on a limb and invite whomever you'd like. Don't settle for "Well, I don't think anyone would come..." This is your wedding, for crying out loud! You shouldn't have to settle for anything.

Candice Cain is the owner of the Candy Cain Travel Co. She is a Certified Sandals Specialist and a Destination Wedding Expert. Please feel free to email her for help with your destination wedding!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Using a Travel Agent as Your Wedding Planner

I'm a travel agent. If you've been following this blog, you know that by now. I own the Candy Cain Travel Co., and am featured on various wedding websites as a destination wedding and honeymoon expert. I love my job. Every new travel booking - whether a wedding or not - is exciting for me. I love sending people on vacation, or taking care of their business travel. I love looking at their photos, hearing about their experiences, planning everything for them so that they have a stress-free vacation. I have the greatest job in the world.

Weddings are a completely different beast entirely when it comes to travel planning. There is just so much that goes into planning a destination wedding, couples really should enlist the services of a travel agent to help them out. With everything available on the internet, many couples are under the misconception that they can do everything for themselves and pay less. This is absolutely not the case!!! Most times, travel agents are able to at least match any printed quote that you get. Travel agents can often beat the quotes, as they have a variety of resources at their finger tips. Your travel agent is your friend.

When it comes to planning a destination wedding, your travel agent also takes on the role of your wedding planner. Whether you are going to have guests at the resort or it is just going to be you and your fiance, your travel agent will make sure that everything for your wedding is set up before you get there. Once you arrive at the resort (or cruise, as the case may be), you will do a site inspection with the wedding coordinator that the travel agent worked with in setting everything up.

Your travel agent will help you set up your wedding group, if you have one. This means that he or she will offer the same exceptional service to your guests when they book their rooms. Your travel agent will arrange all group gatherings and let everyone in the group know the details regarding time and place. They will also arrange the transportation to and from the airport, so that your guests are all together in the airport transfer. Plus, they can also arrange flights so that everyone can sit together. Are these things that you really want to take care of yourself? Trust someone that has experience.

Your travel agent should have your best interests at heart. While it is true that travel agents earn a commission on your travel as well as some items you may book for your wedding, travel agents should not act as sales people. They should inform their clients of what is available, make suggestions for what they think their clients would like, and never be pushy. If you feel pressured by your travel agent, find another one immediately. You should feel a certain comfort with and loyalty to your travel agent. If the relationship isn't there, you should find one that you do have a connection with. That way, you know that they have your best interests at heart.

Most travel agents do not charge a fee for their services. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of travel agents get burned. For example, several brides have approached me for information regarding booking a destination wedding. I give them a lot of information in the hopes that they will book with me, only to find that they book themselves, then start asking me questions regarding planning their wedding. It doesn't work that way, folks. If you want a travel agent to answer your questions and work with you - ESPECIALLY for your wedding - book through one. If you don't want to pay a fee for it, find a travel agent that doesn't charge a fee. The travel agent will be paid a commission from the resort where you are booked-- It costs nothing extra to you. After all, you wouldn't do your job for someone else (not to mention someone that you just met) without earning anything on it, would you? It just isn't right.

Travel agents are not there just to book your travel for your wedding and honeymoon. Many travel agents have made connections and even friendships at the resorts where they send their clients. A good travel agent will contact the hotel and let them know to expect you. For example, I send an email to the hotel manager of every resort where I book a client, regardless of whether I know them personally or not. If I don't know them personally, I introduce myself. If I do know them personally, I share some information about the clients that I have booked there. Nine out of ten of my clients have come back to tell me that they received a free upgrade, special perks and other things. It's good business for both the travel agent and the resort.

Your wedding is the most important day for you and your fiance. It unites you as a couple. Whether you do it alone or in front of a group of people, it should go off without a hitch. The planning process - especially for a destination wedding - should not be stressful in the least. Work with a travel agent that has experience and the connections that you need for the perfect wedding. It is the smartest decision you will make... Aside from getting engaged, of course!

Candice Cain is the owner of the Candy Cain Travel Co. She is a Certified Sandals Specialist and a Destination Wedding Expert. Please feel free to email her for help with your destination wedding!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why a Destination Wedding?

I have been thinking a lot about destination weddings lately. I'm working with several brides that are planning their destination weddings at various resorts in the Caribbean. As I am working on all of these weddings, I keep thinking about my younger sister, who has been dating a really great guy for the past year and is just waiting for him to propose to her. Heck, we are all waiting for him to propose to her! Anyway, my sister lives in Alaska right now, and the majority of our family lives in New York. The majority of her boyfriend's family lives in Alaska. I'm Julienne's only sister, so I'm going to be the Matron of Honor. (Well, I hope that I'm the MoH. She was my Maid of Honor, after all... And we are very close. But, I digress...)That means that I'm going to be the one that does the majority of the planning if she decides that they are getting married in New York.

On the Sandals WeddingMoons Fan Page on FaceBook, I posted the question, "What was the best part of your destination wedding?" Jennifer Sanchez put it best when she wrote:
"...the VERY best part and the reason why we decided to have one was because prior to our wedding, we had been to 7 weddings in one year. They all seemed cookie-cutter. Church, drive to hall, you were there for 5 hours, danced, ate, talked to people, maybe got a few seconds with the bride and groom and then it was over. All along we thought, wow, these people just spent $35,000 plus on 5 hours and now it's over. We wanted something different. Not only did we not want to spend that kind of money, we didn't want a cookie cutter wedding. At first I wasn't too fond of the idea of a destination wedding, but then it dawned on me, most weddings have 150+ people and do you really even know them all? No, probably not. So with a destination wedding, your closest friends and family will be there. At my wedding there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd? Why? Was my wedding that different, that emotional? The answer is no... the reason why that happened was because everyone there truly loved us and knew our story and felt the emotions. What made the entire experience so great was the fact that for 7 days we spent an AMAZING time with 45 of our closest friends and family. The entire week was a celebration and we got to spend intimate time with every single person. Everyone was so relaxed and on "vacation" mode so it was very relaxing. And of course, what an amazing setting for a wedding!"
That really got me to thinking about my sister. We come from a big, Italian family. My cousin got married last month on Staten Island, and there were close to 200 people in attendance. The wedding was easily over $50,000. Then he and his new wife took a honeymoon for 2 weeks to Sicily. Jennifer's point hits so, so close to home-- And it makes so much sense. The stress that goes into planning a wedding like that is outrageous. My own wedding had 100 people. To tell you the truth, I can't rattle off the guest list.

If I were to have a destination wedding, I would want my family to be there. I would honestly invite three friends to come that I know would attend, and invite a few others that I know wouldn't. I think my husband would have his family, then probably just one friend. It would have been very memorable. That isn't to say that our wedding wasn't memorable-- It was just a blur. Craig and I still agree that, with the exception of the day that our twins made their 7 week early appearance, it was the most hectic day of our lives.

A destination wedding is so much less stress on the bride and groom. If you are working with a good travel agent, specifically someone that specializes in destination weddings, then they will be able to take care of everything for you. If any snags or problems arise, they will be told. They will handle the problems, and only come to you if there is a big problem that you need to address yourself. With a good travel agent, everything will be in place weeks before you leave, and every last minute request will be granted.

Most resorts that cater to destination weddings offer complimentary wedding coordinators for your special day. This person will work with your travel agent to get you everything that you want, need and deserve on your special day. Once you get to the resort, you will sit down with your wedding coordinator and review the details. You will go on a site inspection for the ceremony and the reception, just to make sure that it is exactly what you want. If you aren't happy with it, you can work with the wedding coordinator to make changes. If you were to pay for a wedding coordinator and/or a wedding planner for your wedding, it would run you thousands of dollars. Many travel agents (including myself) do not charge a fee for their services. Look to work with a resort that offers wedding coordinators for free, such as Sandals or Beaches.
Having a destination wedding allows couples to focus on each other and their love, rather than stressing over place settings, seating arrangements and all of the other drama that can come with a traditional wedding. Love trumps drama, in my humble opinion. Happiness trumps stress.

Candice Cain is the owner of the Candy Cain Travel Co. She is a Certified Sandals Specialist and a Destination Wedding Expert. Please feel free to email her for help with your destination wedding! Special thanks to Jennifer and Lazaro for sharing their wedding photos for the purpose of this article!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Choosing the Ceremony Site

Once a destination is chosen for the wedding, it is important for the couple to decide actually where they are going to have the wedding ceremony on the resort property. Many resorts offer a variety of options: the dock, the beach, the gazebo... While many resorts tell couples that they can choose their location when they get to the resort, it is an important detail that should be decided upon before actually getting to the resort. Once there, the couple can do an inspection of the site. If they do not like it, they can always change the location to something else.

One reason it is important to have an idea as to where you want to have your ceremony - and to let the coordinator at the resort know - is so that no other functions are booked in that location. There is nothing worse that showing up with an idea of where you are going to get married, only to find that you can't have it. You're the bride. You should be able to get exactly what you want. Plus, isn't it a little less stressful to have seen the different options before getting there right before your wedding?

Another reason to choose the location where you are going to get married has to do with the decor. How do you know what to choose to decorate your location? Many resorts offer decor and floral packages that cost thousands of dollars. That is all well and good, but how do you know what it is going to decorate if you don't have an idea of your ceremony location? How can you justify purchasing an $11,000 wedding package and not know what the site is-- or even just have an idea of it? That in and of itself can cause a great deal of stress.

This is one of the many reasons why travel agents are such a valuable asset to a destination wedding. A travel agent will be able to get the information that you need about ceremony sites (among other things) at the resort where your destination wedding is going to be held. He or she may already have photos of the sites on hand, not to mention photos of weddings he or she already arranged at a particular resort. Plus, they can have recommendations of where to and not to hold the ceremony at a particular resort.

If you receive a variety of photos of different ceremony locations, rank them in the order of your preference. That way, if you arrive at the resort and your first choice isn't what you thought it was going to be, you don't have to stress out because you already have a fall-back plan. And don't forget to look at indoor locations in case of inclement weather. (Unfortunately, this does happen at times.)

Choosing a location for your ceremony should be easy. You did, after all, choose the resort. You are aware of its location as well as the beauty of its grounds. With help of your travel agent and wedding coordinator, your picture-perfect ceremony location will be exactly that.

Candice Cain is the owner of the Candy Cain Travel Co. She is a Certified Sandals Specialist and a Destination Wedding Expert. Please feel free to email her for help with your destination wedding! Special thanks to Jennifer and Lazaro for sharing their wedding photos, as well as the other bride and groom that allowed me to use their photos for the purpose of this article!

Do Me a Favor!

Everyone likes to get gifts. Whether a plastic spoon with some chocolate kisses or a Tiffany frame, favors are gifts given by the bride and groom to their guests. They can range in prices from less than $2 to over $50. It is completely up to the bride and groom what they spend and what they give.

Favors for destination weddings are a little trickier than "normal" wedding favors. Surely, checking a box of glass ornaments can cause a bride to have heart palpitations during any sort of turbulance on the flight to the destination. Plus, depending on the amount of guests in attendance, another suitcase just for favors may have to be packed. That can incur more airport charges. Chocolate can melt. Glass can break. Metal can bend. What is a bride to do?


You aren't going to be the only person carrying these favors on the plane. Your guests are going to have to bring home the favors as well. If it's something heavy, such as a paperweight, it is going to be a memorable favor for reasons other than you want them to be.

There are so many favors that you can give to guests at a destination wedding. Think about something that you might leave home on a trip... How about a personalized travel bag? One bride that I am working with is having totebags personalized with their names and wedding date, then filling it with necessities for a trip: tissues, lint roller, lip balm and so forth. Perhaps you would like to give a bottle of sunscreen. Why not personalize the label? There are plenty of companies that create personalized labels, or you can do it yourself on your computer, if you are handy.

Many couples agonize over what they should give as a favor for a destination wedding. Stop thinking about the favors that you have received at weddings you have attended in the past, and start thinking about something that you would like to get if you were attending a destination wedding. Many resorts offer souvenirs with the resort's name on it. Why not buy a bunch of them while you are at the resort and add a personalized ribbon? For all of the destination weddings that I book at Sandals and Beaches Resorts, I give the bide and groom as well as all of their guests a free 30 minute photo session and a free 5x7 photo, which is worth $116. I create a certificate for the favor with instructions on how to redeem it, as well as a note from the bride and groom so that it looks like it is from them instead of from my travel company.

You don't have to deal with the favor situation alone. Ask your Travel Agent for help. He or she should be able to recommend someone that they work with. If you ask the favor company, they may be able to ship your favors directly to the resort. (A great company that does this is Creative Edge Events.) Remember that, while this may be your first wedding, the people that you are working with have done this many times before. Have faith in that.

There is no rule that says you have to give wedding favors at the wedding. A more non-traditional approach is to give favors when you get back, as a "thank you for coming" gift. People understand, especially if your favors aren't conducive to travel. You can deliver them in person, or send them yourself. Either way, they will be appreciated.

Favors aren't mandatory for any wedding, especially for a destination wedding. They are certainly a nice touch, but often end up collecting dust on someone's shelf somewhere. Give your guests something you know that they will use and enjoy, not to mention something that will remind them of the wonderful vacation they took in order to celebrate your wedding.

Candice Cain is a Destination Wedding Expert and Certified Sandals Specialist, as well as the owner of the Candy Cain Travel Co. For help planning your destination wedding, please send Candice an email. Juliette Marotta is the owner and one of the designers of Creative Edge Events. For customized favors, please send Juliette an email.