HI All, Ashley the travel agent here.....
Did anyone else just think of Kermit the Frog or is that just me?
Here at Alpaca Your Bags Travel, we are true destination wedding aficionados. We obviously plan destination weddings, but did you also know that I was a destination bride myself?
In fact, due to my experience as a destination wedding travel agent, a destination wedding bride AND a destination wedding guest, I was recently asked to speak about this very topic. Since I'm both a travel agent AND a destination wedding bride, the wonderful team in Nevis thought I would be a good speaker for the Nevis Romance Forum, a special annual event for travel agents. In honor of this event, below are my top tips for how to be a great destination wedding guest.
1. DO RSVP early! Just like an “at home” wedding, the wedding couple needs a head count for who will attend their wedding and events. In most cases, there is a per person cost for each guest who attends the reception or other events… these are costs the couple needs to budget for. When you delay RSVPing, this adds unnecessary stress to the couple. Please do your brides or grooms a favor and RSVP early!
2. DO book within the group contract: If you receive an invite for a destination wedding, chances are there’s instructions for booking with a specific travel agent. The first gift you can give your couples is to book within the group contract. This saves your couple a lot of stress and anxiety. As a heads up, your wedding couple is counting on you to book with their agent.
Your couple has signed a group contract with financial implications for guests who book outside the group. Sometimes guests will want to save a few dollars and search for rates on 3rd party booking sites. This is a no-no and is a HUGE disservice to your brides or grooms!
Since most people don’t have experience with group hotel contracts – especially in a foreign country – here’s why this is important:
Most brides or grooms will never tell their guests this… they are polite and don’t want to stress out the guests. However, now that you have the inside scoop, do them a solid and follow the booking instructions provided. When guests book on their own, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress and financial headache.
Here’s another inside tip: the couple’s travel agent is absolutely willing and able to work with you if you think you’ve found a cheaper rate. Just send them a screenshot of the rate you find and they will take it from there. It’s a win win for everyone!
We’ve covered how booking separately is not a good things for the couple.. did you know that it’s also not good for the guest? Here’s why:
3. DO let the couple know if your plans change. From beginning to end, a destination wedding is often a 9-12 month process. In that time, a lot of life happens … people change jobs, have babies, move across the country and more. If your plans change and you’re no longer able to attend, DO let the couple know ASAP. They will understand! This helps the couple communicate an accurate headcount to the hotel so they aren’t stuck paying for unused rooms.
Part 2 of this “Do” is DO get the travel insurance! Travel insurance provides a refund if your plans change… there are NO refunds without it! This is less stress for you and the couple
4, Do NOT bring gifts to the destination. It is very thoughtful to give your wedding couple a gift- good for you! However, do the couple a favor and don’t bring it to the destination. It’s just one more thing they have to lug home. With baggage fees as high as they are, this can add an unncessary burden to the couple.
5. DO have a great time! This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for your group… make the most of it! Enjoy your time together! Whether its relaxing, going on excursions or just chilling by the pool, one of the biggest perks of a destination wedding is the ability to make priceless memories… memories you just can’t duplicate at an “at home” wedding.
Breaking news! Alpaca Your Bags Travel will have a booth at this year's inaugural Ivory Market Days on June 24-25 in Warrensburg! A huge thank you to show creators and host:
Ivory & Lace Bridal Boutique
Buckeye Acres Produce.
Don't forget to stop by our booth and register to win a 3 night stay at any Royalton Luxury Resorts property! It would make a perfect honeymoon or romantic getaway for one lucky couple. See you there!
When Matt and I planned our destination wedding, we knew that a wedding website would be the best solution for our needs.
For our wedding, we had everyone from my 24 year old niece to my 70-something grandmother asking for info. In total, we had nearly 60 guests traveling from eight cities. We needed ONE place that guests could go for information about the resort, the dates, the planned activities and more.
On top of that, we didn't want to mess with traditional invitations and save the dates. Yes, they are beautiful and I love stationery (card carrying Cricut owner, right here!). However, our wedding came at a very complicated time. I was living in two places (NYC and Warrensburg), Matt was away for training and we had a lot on our plates. With all of our addresses, there was a point in time where I didn't even know where RSVP cards could be sent!
We needed an all-in-one website and wedding manager solution. Enter Wedding Window.
Before you ask - yes, I am Wedding Window affiliate. I believe in full disclosure when it comes to sponsored posts. However, I do have strict crtieria before I write about a brand or product:
Fortunately for my wedding and honeymoon clients, Wedding Window fits the bill!
Why I like Wedding Window
When my destination wedding clients ask me for a website solution, I typically make two recommendations.
I"ll be honest: Squarespace makes beautiful sites. Beautiful!
However, not everyone has the patience to fiddle with the URL settings, the design, uploading photos, etc.
Also, it doesn't have a back-end, behind-the-scenes system to manage the invite list, email save the dates and easily accept guest RSVPs.
Wedding Window offers the following:
In addition to the wedding website and eCard features, Wedding Window offers a bunch of planning tools:
In short, Wedding Window is a great solution for the less-tech savvy couple ... including myself.
I used it, I loved it, and I think you will love it to!
To start your own Wedding Window experience, click on this link and sign up. Make sure you tell them Alpaca Your Bags Travel sent you!
We're thrilled to announce that Alpaca Your Bags Travel will be represented at the 2017 Romance Travel Forum! This prestigious event is limited to only 175 travel agents GLOBALLY and has a stringent application process. This year's event will be held at the Paradisus Palma Real in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
The Romance Travel Forum provides an opportunity for rising star travel agents to network directly with travel partners (hotels, resorts, transfer companies, wedding planners and more). What does this mean for you? MORE firsthand knowledge, MORE access to exclusive deals, perks and amenities and MORE advice to pass to you, our beloved clients!
This year's agenda also includes visiting several top-tier properties, including the Paradisus Palma Real, Secrets Cap Cana, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, AlSol properties and many more. At the end of the week, attendees receive their Certified Romance Travel seal!
Stay tuned for more info! We can't wait!
Last December, I wrote a post called “Three Big Signs a Destination Wedding is Right For You.”
Now that I’ve had my own destination wedding, I think it’s only fair that I update you on my experiences.
In April, Matt and I dragged 50 of our closest friends and family to Now Larimar, a beautiful property on Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Did we have an amazing time YES! Did we learn a lot? DOUBLE YES!
As we discussed in this post, a Destination Wedding isn’t right for everyone! It is a huge undertaking, one that I honestly underestimated. In the end, it was worth every bit of time, energy and dollar spent.
Now that I’m an experienced travel agent AND an experienced Destination Bride, here’s my list of insider tips!
1. Consider Your Guests Comfort when choosing a location. This is a controversial statement, but this part of the process is not about you. If you are asking your friends and family to spend thousands of dollars and travel for hours for your wedding, shouldn’t their comfort be considered?
I am not suggesting that you abandon your dreams to please the masses, but think about this: If your goal is to be accommodating for as many guests as possible, thinking about this now can save tons of stress and anxiety in the long run.
What’s the saying, don’t force a square peg in a round hole? That applies here.
When choosing a location, think about your guest list and ask yourself these questions:
One last question I will add: Does any of this matter to you? If you’re looking for a small, exclusive event, abandon all of this and do what you want! These tips can also be used as a barrier, if necessary (wink, wink)
2. Consider How Far Your Guests Will Travel. For our wedding, we had guests flying in from eight different cities across the US. Eight!
We chose Punta Cana because it was a direct flight for many of our east coast guests and a short layover away from our Kansas City guests.
3. Don’t Forget the Drive Time. This is one that most people forget, even when planning a “regular” vacation. When you arrive at your destination airport, how fast do you want to get to the fun? Do you want to be near the airport, or is a more remote location preferred?
For example, we only considered resorts that were under 30 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. This helped ease the travel burden on our guests and helped everyone start their vacation as quickly as possible.
Some couples may want a more remote location! Tulum is a popular spot for those looking at a quiet, off the beaten path area. However, Tulum is nearly an hour away from the Cancun airport. Discuss with your partner and decide what is right for you.
4. Plan a Group Excursion to Break the Ice. I cannot recommend this one enough. Weddings are wonderful because they bring lots of different people and personalities together. Sometimes those personalities mix well, sometimes they don’t!
For our destination wedding, we planned a group snorkeling trip on the Sanael, a catamaran in Punta Cana. This was our gift to our guests for traveling so far to celebrate our marriage. For three hours, our guests drank, snorkeled and got to know each other on an entirely different level. After all, it’s hard to be shy when you’re all wearing flippers and masks!
The excursion was the highlight of our trip (after the actual wedding of course!) It was so good, we received thank you notes from our guests! Imagine that! By the time our wedding reception rolled around, everyone was great friends and had a fantastic time.
5. Stay Longer Than Your Tribe. This is the single best advice I can give you. When your guests are with you, you will be running around, attending to their needs, answering questions and enjoying their company. You’ll also be meeting with the wedding coordinator, the photographer, the hair and makeup person, etc. It’s busy and you may not have a lot of time to relax.
Near the end, you’ll start to crave some downtime.
I recommend that you and your partner stay for a few extra days after your friends and family depart. Better yet, move to a new resort and see a new place! This will give you some separation between “wedding” and “honeymoon,” which offers a chance to relax.
This word is over used, but our wedding was AMAZING. At many points during the week, I teared up thinking about how much effort everyone made to be there for us. I also have some hilarious memories, such as my dad zooming down an inflatable water slide with my best friends!
Are you considering a destination wedding? Are you overwhelmed by the details? Did this post make you break out in a sweat? Relax, I am here to help! Working with an experienced travel agent will pay back tenfold in saving you time, money and stress. This is the most important day of your lives, not something you want to DIY.
When my fiancé Matt and I got engaged, we debated many options for our wedding:
Did we want a big, traditional church wedding?
A small, quirky farmhouse affair?
No wedding at all? (Hey, eloping is low stress!)
After weighing the choices, a destination wedding was at the top of our list.
We aren’t the only ones. According to The Knot, nearly 25% of weddings in 2014 were destination weddings. Is a destination celebration right for you? Here are three signs to find out.
Three BIg Signs a Destination Wedding Is Right For You
You Want a Smaller Guest List
Don’t want to invite everyone and their Aunt Sally? A traditional guest list can quickly spiral out of control, causing tension and stress. If you envision a more intimate celebration of close family and friends, a destination wedding can limit the guest list without much conflict.
Worried about leaving someone out? Compromise with a casual, at home celebration upon your return.
You Have a Limited Budget
It seems counter-intuitive, but a destination wedding can actually help control costs. The average cost of a traditional at-home wedding has skyrocketed to nearly $32,000, excluding a honeymoon. The average cost of a destination wedding? Only $20,000, though many do it for much less (including me!).
How can a destination wedding help you save? First, limiting the guest list automatically saves on food, alcohol and entertainment costs. Second, a destination wedding offers a romantic scenic backdrop, reducing the costs of décor, flowers and other additions. Finally, combining a destination wedding with an extended honeymoon consolidates travel costs and saves money.
If you have concerns about controlling costs for your guests, a travel agent is essential. Distance, the availability of direct flights, a resort’s distance from the airport and nearby entertainment options all contribute to your guests’ share of the travel bill. A skilled travel agent can suggest locations that are affordable for guests of all ages and incomes.
You’ve Been To A Dozen Boring Weddings and Want Something Unique
Oh look, it’s the same Pinterest Wedding. Again. Sound Familiar?
A destination wedding is a great way to express your unique personalities.
But don’t limit your thinking to the beach! For destination locales, choices abound.
Did any of these Three Big Signs appeal to you?
For all of the reasons above, my fiancé and I chose a beautiful location in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Nearly 60 friends and family will celebrate with us next April. Whatever you decide, communication is key. It is vital to ensure that you and your mate are on the same page about what type of celebration is right for you and your guests.
At Alpaca Your Bags, we cater to the low-key brides and grooms who want a unique way to celebrate their commitment to each other. If your style is more “party” than “prissy,” let’s get started!
Source: The Knot Real Weddings Survey
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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