8 Tips for a Budget-Friendly Destination Wedding Slideshow
April 28, 2011
1. Identify Your Priorities
Sit with your fiancé and discuss the things that mean the most to each of you in selecting the perfect place to wed. Do you have a favorite setting in mind? Would you prefer a destination you can drive to or somewhere farther away? Will your bridal party and key guests be able to travel? What kind of environment do you envision? What season?
Write down the top five things that are most important to each of you, then combine them into a list of “Couple Priorities.” Refer to this list when making decisions about the wedding — it will help keep you on track when considering options and upgrades.
2. Get Organized
Start by researching your preferred areas. The Internet is an amazing resource. You can check out cities, hotels, and venues with just a simple click and your favorite search engine. You can read reviews of hotels on TripAdvisor.com and other travel sites. Love food? TDM has some great tips here, too. As you research, look for comments about value and quality. At the same time, organize the details you know about your own celebration. Write down your estimated guest list, your preferred date, and a basic target budget. This will help you as you make decisions.
3. Hire an Experienced Planner
There are professionals who specialize in destination weddings, and their job is to make your process easier and more streamlined. While you’ll likely have to pay a fee to a wedding planner, her expertise may save you money in the end. With a travel agent, chances are you won’t have to pay extra for this service, as many hotels or venues will cover their commission. So you can benefit from their expertise (which destinations have direct flights from your area, for example, or which weeks or seasons are the best value) — and their buying power — by getting them involved early in the process. If you prefer to do it alone, create a list of criteria and key questions so that you can compare apples to apples when exploring various venue possibilities.
Don’t forget that your planner or travel agent can also help you find great locations for a welcome dinner or a post-wedding breakfast or brunch. They can also assist you if you want to arrange special group outings for golf, sightseeing, or shopping. Take advantage of their knowledge and connections!
4. Consider an All-Inclusive Resort
The advantage here is that, while you and your guests must pay for travel and accommodations, an all-inclusive resort will include food, sometimes beverages, and even certain activities like water sports. For the bride and groom, that can mean lower reception fees. And reception fees for food and drinks are typically the highest percentage of a wedding budget. Some resorts also offer ceremony and décor packages. For example, I’ve just launched a whole line of Simple Stunning Weddings at the Grand Palladium Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Almost everything is negotiable in one way or another. Don’t be afraid to ask — politely, of course — for discounts. But beyond discounts, don’t hesitate to inquire about upgrades and extras. There is never more bargaining power than at the very beginning of your process, so once you’ve received a basic proposal from your intended venue, compare it to your list of priorities and to what other venues are offering.
If your wedding venue representative knows you are an educated buyer, chances are they’ll give you a better deal. Negotiable elements include the price and or level of hotel rooms, per person charges for food and drinks, party overtime charges, and even extras like upgraded tablecloths, votive candles, or other decorative elements. If you’ll have a large group arriving together, see about getting airport transfers included.
6. Use Local Vendors Wherever Possible
Nowadays, almost every wedding professional has a website and you can easily check references via email or make a quick phone call to verify their services. You’ll save money and gain expertise by using local talent. After all, a photographer who works regularly at your destination will know precisely where the sun sets and which hidden spots are best for portraits.
7. Set Your Guarantee Low
If you are required to guarantee a certain number of guests, estimate 10-15 percent lower than the actual number of guests you think will attend. With destination weddings, there is often a higher attrition rate, and you don’t want to get stuck with charges for guests who do not come. Just be sure to check that there are no penalties for increasing your guest count later in the process.
8. Get Everything in Writing (Including any Additional Charges)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been saved by an email I kept detailing a price quote or a special accommodation. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Is there anything else that I should know, any hidden charges or fees that might come up later?” This makes it clear to your venue representative or travel agent that you want full disclosure now.
Also, always ask for lists of what exactly is included (types of alcohol on their “top shelf” bar or the number of hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour, for example) and request that any changes be added to an updated written contract. Recap phone conversations in a follow-up email. This way, if any discrepancies arise, you’ll have a record of what was agreed upon.