Now that I’ve not only planned a few for others and have had the joy of my own, I can say wholeheartedly that a destination wedding is a fantastic experience for the right couple. Below you’ll find a few tips and tricks for planning your own – from the must-have mindset to the must-have team to turn your dream wedding into a reality.
ISLAND TIME + FLEXIBILITY IS KEY:
When planning a destination wedding, it helps to be on the laid back side – or at least, understand that everyone you’ll be working with will be on the laid back side. Island time is a real thing – but this goes much further than just the Caribbean (it’s true of just about any island, anywhere: Greece, Hawaii, Tahiti – you name it). We as Americans live in a rat-race, I-want-it-now mentality. Most of the world doesn’t operate like this. You’ll stress less if you go into planning your destination wedding with the culture of your destination in mind, especially when it comes to turnaround times.
Similarly, it helps to be flexible. Identify your top priorities and recognize the areas that are not as critical. In many destinations, you’re working with more limited resources, in terms of both talents and tangibles. For us, we knew that photo + video was most important: we found a photographer who was absolutely fantastic (SceneKitts), but the video options on the islands where less of what we were looking for, so we turned our attention to mainland videographers (Rob of Rob Adams Films) to ensure that that element was absolutely perfect. Beyond those elements, we tried to be as flexible as possible.
DETERMINE YOUR VISION:
Just like the first story I shared of how Jeremy and I came to decide on the destination and the overall feel of our wedding, it’s crucial to spend time as a couple thinking through these things. When you imagine that dream destination, what does it look like? Is it warm or cold? In the background: is it a wide-open ocean, fields of flowers or a mountainous landscape? In the foreground: what are your guests wearing? Where are your toes (in shoes or in sand? Barefoot or in Louboutins?)?
When we dreamed up our overall vision, we dreamed of a destination that would allow others to fall in love with our passion for travel, as well as our passion for them. We wanted to give our guests an epic vacation that allowed them to mix and mingle, as well as incorporate all of the great things we loved about islands (I didn’t care what other items were on the menu, as long as we got conch fritters at some point).
When you figure out your vision and your priorities, it makes the rest of the planning much easier.
Also, make sure you discuss whether or not a legal ceremony is important to you. When we looked further into the paperwork and requirements for our wedding to be legal in St. Kitts, we decided that we preferred a symbolic ceremony and we’d just get our marriage legalized back in the States at a courthouse.
Of course, this eventually led to our decision that the we would use a courthouse in Las Vegas and we’d use Elvis to legalize it in front of our closest travel industry friends, but that’s another story for another time.
YOUR MUST HAVE TEAM:
We could have never begun to plan this without the wonderful team at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts and Destination Solutions (our amazing wedding planner!), as well as our lovely photographer (Tina with Scene Kitts) and videographer (Rob of Rob Adams films alongside Charles King).
A wedding planner is a MUST. We worked with Teresa Walwyn and her team at Destination Solutions and could not be happier. Teresa was efficient, fun, and was every bit the ringleader we needed to coordinate the elements of the rehearsal dinner and wedding day. She spent time getting to know our vision and brought that to life. I loved working with a planner based in the destination, but, depending on your needs, I also highly recommend local planners who can coordinate for you. If you need referrals for this, please ask me – our best friendors (friends who are vendors, duh) are wedding professionals!
Not sure where to go or need help coordinating your guests arrangements? That’s when it’s wise to utilize a travel professional. At Epperly Travel, our services pair perfectly with that of a wedding planner. Trust me, you don’t want us picking out your florals, but you do need someone to help bring your vision to life. We love working with wedding couples who are in that phase of “We know we want toes in the sand….but how do we even find that beach?!” Beyond that, we take the stress off of the bride & groom of being the main point of contact when it comes to the travel. Using a travel professional gives guests a resource for making their hotel and air arrangements, what to do during their down time, best spots to eat when they’ve got a free night, and then some.
Finally, using a hotel that is all about making your wedding dreams come true is a non-negotiable. Whether you’re having your ceremony on property or not, your host hotel for a destination wedding is an invaluable partner. Can you imagine showing up for your wedding and no one on property knowing that that’s what you’re there for? That’s why we work with our 4 and 5 star hotel partners and on behalf of our clients to ensure that they are celebrated.
For those who are going to be getting married on property, the host hotel’s team will be a fantastic resource. For example, while Teresa at Destination Solutions arranged all of our off site vendors, we worked hand-in-hand with the Park Hyatt’s Food & Beverage team to craft a menu that fit our guest’s tastes and needs. Not only that, the hotel had quite a few pieces of furniture that we were able to utilize as part of our decor. They worked with us above and beyond leading up to the event and, during the week of, made us and our guests feel like royalty. More than royalty: they made us feel like family. I’ve never cried leaving a resort until we departed from the Park Hyatt St. Kitts.
If you’re considering a destination wedding, you are in for an absolute treat. From my experience, getting married in a beautiful place with the details sorted out allows you to truly focus on your guests and the love that you’re celebrating. It’s invaluable and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.