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Destination Weddings

Take me far away, if you love me.

Posted: February 1, 2008 6:50 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2008 2:02 a.m.
Getting married is one of the most joyous yet stressful occasions in life. Among the many stressful aspects of wedding planning is choosing a location.

Some of the stress may be alleviated if the couple chooses to have a destination wedding.
A destination wedding is when the couple has the wedding at a special place, far away from their everyday life. They are usually held in a vacation location away from the couple's home town, allowing them to combine the best of an exciting honeymoon with a traditional wedding ceremony, while potentially saving money in the process.
"It's a wedding you have to travel to," said Nanette Marotta, an independent wedding consultant who operates Affairs 2 Remember in Acton. "Basically, any wedding that is not in the couple's hometown is a destination wedding. It could be something in Las Vegas."
Alice Goetschel, who is a wedding consultant with Memorable Occasions in Santa Clarita, agrees with Marotta.
"It's a wedding that is not local," she said. "It might be in the other part of the state. It could be in another part of the country."
Destination weddings allow the couple to do a variety of things, such as downsizing the guest list - having the wedding at a place so far away that far-flung family members are discouraged from attending - or merely offer an escape. Couples can even combine the wedding and honeymoon into one trip, often called a "weddingmoon."
A couple may just decide to elope and enjoy a destination wedding by themselves, while others include family and close friends. For the ambitious and wealthy, a destination wedding may be a blowout affair with multiple parties over an entire weekend.
Another advantage is that destination weddings, depending upon the location, can be far less expensive than the traditional kind.
Ultimately, destination weddings provide the couple a chance to have a weekend full of memories and enjoyment at a great vacation spot, as opposed to enjoying one afternoon in a reception hall.
Before taking the plunge with a destination wedding, consider the following benefits and drawbacks:

Complete package: Many resorts and hot vacation sports offer the gamut of wedding services for couples that choose to have their wedding at their location. Couples will be provided with an on-site wedding consultant who assists them in coordinating all of the wedding essentials, such as marriage license, cake, officiant, etc. The resorts make it so easy on the couple, all they have to do is show up.
If the couple is not eloping, the resort may also offer a variety of services and amenities for wedding guests. As part of a package deal, many offer the complimentary services of their on-site wedding consultant, who will help them coordinate all of the ceremony essentials (marriage license, cake, officiant, etc.). All the couple has to do is show up.
"There are facilities and people who are always willing to help out," Marotta said. "They are very willing to work with the couple. It's not that hard to pull together."
Couples should also consult with their wedding coordinator about organizing activities for their guests, such as sightseeing, scuba or snorkeling excursions, sports or shopping. If the resort has a spa onsite, the couple may want to consider providing gift certificates for spa services to enhance the event.
Royal treatment: Since many services are already provided in a destination wedding package, the couple may feel like they are getting the royal treatment.
"Everything is pretty much handled for them," Goetschel said. "It's not really a do-it-yourself wedding. The couple is treated as a guest even if they are stars of the show. They don't have to do the extra labor, either."
Keeping the family tight: Some wedding consultants facetiously state that destination weddings allow the couples to avoid inviting an annoying family member or troublesome in-law. Yet having a wedding in a far-flung location is the perfect setting to keep the family close. Couples usually end up inviting their closest friends and family to participate in an intimate ceremony and celebration.
"Destination weddings allow couples to keep it a smaller, intimate group," Marotta said. "It's perfect for keeping the family together and coordinating events for the people that travel in. Smaller groups are easier to coordinate." Marotta added that it also keeps travel balanced for everyone involved.
"It keeps travel equal for all family members," she added. "It keeps it even on all sides."
For those couples who intend to use destination weddings as an excuse to elope, no one has to be invited and the wedding would be rather romantic.
Keeping the guest list small: Keeping a small guest list may be an incentive for a couple to have a destination wedding. This may include avoiding distant relatives or casual acquaintances from crashing the wedding.
In some respects this may save some money. Depending on location, an exotic wedding weekend may cost less than a seated dinner at a nice location in the couple's home town.
Have a weddingmoon: Destination weddings provide couples with an opportunity combine their wedding and honeymoon into one trip, saving by having two events as one.
It's fun: "It's fun," said Goetschel. "It becomes a vacation for everybody."
Marotta was slightly more elaborate: "Destination weddings provide more of vacation atmosphere. It's a two- to three-day affair instead of a one-day thing."

Planning from afar: For couples who are planning a marriage at a resort, they may have to judge the location from long distance.
"If you have your wedding in a far away place, like Acapulco, for example, you just can't show and visit during the planning process," Goetschel said. "You might only be able to visit once, at most, whereas you can visit the venue more frequently if it's down the street."
White wedding, red tape: Having a wedding in a foreign country may sound exotic, but there may be complications with the legal aspects of the wedding, such as obtaining a wedding license.
"You have to be careful of the legal issues," Goetschel said.
Fortunately, there are wedding coordinators who can help smooth out these issues.
"Depending on how exotic the wedding is, I have resources in other cities or even internationally to help them find a venue or help with other services," added Goetschel.
Marotta echoed similar sentiments: "I help them find the location they are looking for. From there, I help them find their business partners and vendors and pull everything together. It's actually not that difficult."
Family or friends may not attend: While some couples hope that certain family members or friends avoid their wedding, there are others, too, who will be discouraged from attending because of distance, price or inability to take time off work. This may be an issue if the relative or friend who is not attending is someone who the couple wanted to attend.
Travel: According to Marotta, travel might be the biggest hindrance for destination weddings.
"A lot of people are weary of flying, especially after 9/11," she said. "If someone is not an avid traveler, they tend to think twice about attending."
Also, as pointed out below, travel is also expensive.
Wedding etiquette - couple pays for room, food and expenses: According to several wedding consultants, it is proper wedding etiquette for the bride and groom to cover the expenses such as hotel room, food and basic expenses. Conversely, guests are expected to pay for their own airfare.
Family honeymoon: Most wedding planning Web sites point out that while a destination wedding is great for family time, the couple may not have enough romantic time alone. Yet some couples do plan to stay behind after everyone leaves in order take advantage of the honeymoon segment of the vacation wedding, according to Goetschel.
Cost: According to Marotta, a destination wedding can range anywhere between $5,000 to $50,000, though extravagant weddings may cost more. "It really varies on the couple's taste," she said.
According to Goetschel, there is not an average price for destination weddings.
"It is not necessarily the most inexpensive wedding," she said. "Couples have to factor in transportation costs.
Despite the disadvantages, an increasing amount of couples are considering destination weddings instead of the traditional weddings their parents had.
"More and more, couples are trying to express their individuality," Goetschel said. "More people want to put their own stamp on what they do. Going to a far away place makes it really unique or personal."
For one couple in Valencia, a destination wedding is all they could have asked for.
"We had our wedding in Santa Barbara," said Andrea of Valencia, who married Ryan in July 2005. Approximately 125 people attended the wedding, and some of Ryan's family members flew in from Texas to attend the ceremony. "My husband and I absolutely love it there. It was great not having to do all the work. You couldn't go wrong with the location, either - it was right across the street from the beach."


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