When my daughter Desiree first started planning her wedding, she did consider a destination wedding. When you look at wedding photos from white sandy beaches, how could you not want that? They are in front of a blue ocean, at sunset, with a visible breeze - well maybe that is coming from the perspective of a photographer's mind!! In the end Desiree opted for a wedding in her hometown. However, I did get to experience the planning of a destination wedding with my friend Lea Hall. Lea married the love of her life - Chris - in Punta Cana, Domincan Republic. I simultaneously watched two brides plan completely different weddings with one common outcome - in the end they were both married!!
For several months, I watched Lea plan her destination wedding. I saw her excitement and ocassional stress. Now that the wedding is behind her, I asked her to share her experience with me for my blog:
Me: Congratulations on your recent wedding!! You successfully planned a destination wedding and in the process became a destination wedding travel agent! I would really appreciate if you would share some tips with other brides who may be thinking of a destination wedding.
You selected Punta Cana, Domincan Republic -- what made you decide on that
Lea: Chris and I knew we wanted to go somewhere that was different, a place where no one else had traveled to before. Our wedding planner with Destinations gave us suggestions and we narrowed the search based on the type of wedding we wanted.
Me: Did you work with a wedding planner there?
Lea: Yes, we worked with two wedding planners. One with Destinations and one with the hotel. The wedding planner with the hotel would go over the locations and
wedding packages that their hotel offered.
Me: How did your family react to the idea of a destination wedding?
Lea: Our family and friends were excited that we wanted to travel for our wedding. It was a wedding and vacation all in one. We had 30 of our family and friends attend.
Me: You had to get married in United States before you were married in the Dominican. Which date do you use as your actual anniversary?
Lea: Yes. Chris and I got married in the United States on the anniversary of first date. We wanted it to be a special day because we knew that we were only going to use the anniversary of our wedding ceremony. It's nice to look back and remember that it was just Chris and myself but nothing major because the big day with our family and friends was and is the day we want to remember.
Me: You had all your friends and family travel to your wedding. I know you had lots of time with your guests which had to be fun. But do you feel you were able to have some alone time with your new husband?
Lea: The resort we decided on was a grand resort. We were able to spend plenty of alone time together. We would also meet up with family and friends in the evening for the different theatre shows and night life.
Me: What were the pros as opposed to a traditional, at home wedding?
Lea: For me I only have one living grandparent who could not travel. So that was a little bit of a bummer. Other than that I could not have asked for a more beautiful ceremony. It's an all-in-one no-hassle with the venue, food, reception, hair and makeup, and photography so I had nothing to worry about.
Me: What are the con's?
Lea: Unfortunately not everyone was in a block of rooms. I would suggest that when you choose a location that has different room packages, pick the same room for everyone so that everyone can be together. Check with your wedding planner with destinations to get with the hotel planner to make sure that this can be done. My mom and family were on total opposite ends of the hotel compared to Chris and I.
Me: Any regrets?
Lea: Flights- be sure to have a game plan for the flights because they can not be paid in installments like the hotel.
Also, make sure you research the location you choose for your trip and their airline accommodations. We had a big group leaving together on the same flight and it was delayed for a whole day. My 13 family and friends were stuck at an airport for over 10 hours before they told them the flight was canceled. The accommodations for them to stay the night until the next day flights were awful.
Also, if you have a specific color you want in mind, make sure you correspond the swatches with the hotel planner. Thank goodness I took my own table cloths and chair sashes because they got the color wrong. No big deal, I was the only one who noticed.
Me: Is there anything you would change?
Lea: I would definitely change the room layouts. The good thing about going with a planner is that you can pay the hotel in installments. So picking a room that might be a little more pricey but all inclusive might not sound too bad once everyone is there.
We had people upgrading when they checked in because they didn't realize the
layout of the rooms. Sometimes pictures do not do a room justice.
Awesome! This was so informative. Thank you so much Lea! I wish a lifetime of love and happiness to you and Chris!
To any brides that may be reading this - if there were any questions that I missed, let me know and I will ask!!
Love + Peace!
PHOTO BY DESTINATION WEDDINGS