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:
- Your wedding couple has an existing relationship with their travel agent and the resort. Before that save the date is sent, there is a 6-8 week planning process with the agent and resort The couple puts a LOT of time, energy and effort into this process.
- After the destination is selected, the travel agent negotiates a group contract with awesome rates, a bunch of amenities for your group and most importantly – “credits” for the wedding couple. These credits are used by the couple for the week’s events and activities.
- When a guest books on their own (outside of the group contact), the wedding couple LOSES these credits and in some cases, has to make up the cost difference themselves. YIKES.
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:
- Group rates are not just for the hotel room; they are created to help cover the wedding events as well. Due to this, most resorts penalize guests who do not book within the group contract. If the resort learns that someone has booked on their own or via a 3rd party site, those guests can (and will!) be charged a fee to attend the wedding events.
- These charges can be anywhere from $75-150 per person, per event. When you add up the fees for a cocktail party, a reception, a post-wedding brunch and more, this can get pricey.
- Rooms sold on 3rd party booking sites are leftover rooms that the resort couldn’t sell themselves. These are usually in less desirable locations (after all, someone needs to get the room in the back by the dumpster)
- If a resort is oversold, guests who book on 3rd party sites are the first to get “walked.” Being “walked” is an industry term for relocating a guest to another sister property when a resort is full. This is a huge inconvenience that can easily be avoided by just booking within the group
- Finally, the travel agent cannot assist you if you don’t book within the group. If you book separately, you lose the personal one-on-one service that the agent provides. If something goes wrong, you’ll be left calling customer service at one of these big generic sites… yuck.
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.