It may come as no surprise that destination weddings certainly require more planning and coordination than its local counterpart. With the current climate of the worldwide pandemic it is more essential than ever for couples to hire a professional to guide them through the broad puzzle of planning their destination wedding. Traditionally, destination weddings were thought of as luxurious tropical affairs, however a destination wedding simply means you are traveling away from home to get married. Not only are couples exploring options to host their weddings around the globe, but they are also exploring destination wedding options within the borders of their own countries. The possibilities are endless.
Destination wedding couples are looking to hire qualified, reputable destination wedding planners that can handle their wedding planning and travel needs. All while guiding them through the intricate details of legal wedding requirements and providing recommendations of well-respected vendors and venues with whom they have established personal working relationships with.
Even in the state of the current pandemic, destination weddings are on the rise. This is due to couples are seeing this as an opportunity to spend quality time with their family and friends after extended time apart during lockdown. Destination weddings allow couples to extend their celebration from a one- day affair to a week-long celebration. This allows them to create a lifetime of memories with their closest friends and family.
What makes destination wedding planning so different from local wedding planning?
The moment a couple decides to have a destination wedding, the questions begin. They love the idea behind the romance of exchanging vows on a gorgeous beach at sunset; but then the uncertainty of where and how to start becomes overwhelming. Planning a destination wedding is an exciting, yet daunting, task for any couple. This is primarily because they are not in the destination to monitor every detail, visit their host hotel, meet with each vendor or visit the potential wedding venues in destination. The added layer of researching destinations and obtaining travel quotes to narrow down the search to their ideal destination, is a huge undertaking on its own.
You need to understand the process of which to invite guests and manage bookings & travel arrangements for the wedding couple and all of their invited guests; along with overseeing and advising on the intricate details of legal marriage requirements & residency requirements which must coincide with the travel dates.
What is my role as a destination wedding planner?
When a couple is trying to pull together hundreds of details from thousands of miles away, what makes the most sense for a couple? Perhaps they contact you as an independent planner from the start. Or they may even begin the process of trying to navigate the destination wedding planning on their own. In my experience, many couples tend to get quickly overwhelmed with the moving pieces involved in planning a wedding across the globe. Especially if they are frustrated with slow response times when reaching out to onsite resort coordinators who are potentially planning hundreds of other weddings at the same time. So, what happens next… they look to hire a professional independent destination wedding planner from their own hometown.
You need to determine which services you would like to offer your destination wedding clients.
- Will you provide consulting and planning services only?
- Are you going to travel to the destination and provide onsite coordination services?
- Will you also provide travel services to the couple and their wedding guests, or perhaps work alongside a travel partner?
- Or are you looking to offer travel services only and essentially pass your clients off to the resort coordinator of their selected hotel?
Like with any new business, you need to prepare a business plan. This will help you determine which role you will be taking on as a destination wedding specialist and the additional tools, education, certification, and training that may be required.
Where do I start?
As with any industry, you need to find your niche in the industry to stand out among your competition. In the world of destination weddings, the options are truly endless. It goes without saying that you need to research, research, research… Then you need to visit the destinations you would like to specialize in, so that you can start to build your venue and vendor database and establish relationships.
You need to consider WHERE your focus will be:
Will you specialize in planning destination weddings in the all-inclusive hot spots, or will you offer planning services to anywhere in the world? For me personally, I am a firm believer in nurturing my relationships with vendors and venues. I believe that it is very important to be working with them on a regular basis, rather then once every few years.
I have designed my business to focus on specific areas, so that I can maintain these relationships with my international vendors and be able to monitor the quality of services and products they are providing to my couples. Of course, I can certainly plan a wedding anywhere in the world, and have done so for many couples. But in these cases, I have had to rely on referrals from local wedding planners in the destinations my clients selected, rather than having my own firsthand experience in working with them. This can be risky for couples who are looking to you for guidance on the best options.
You need to consider WHAT TYPE OF WEDDINGS you will plan for clients:
One of the things that you need to consider is will your focus be on planning weddings at the host hotel property where the couple and their invited guests will be staying? Will you be handling all of the wedding planning and correspondence on behalf of your clients with the onsite wedding coordinator?
You will need to get familiar with the ins and outs of hotel wedding packages, what free weddings really mean, the rules around hiring external vendors and external vendor fees, residency requirements for symbolic vs legal wedding ceremonies, and having a broad understanding of the important questions to ask a property before your clients book their wedding onsite. Resorts do not typically cater to the individual needs of each couple and usually offer pre-designed wedding packages with the option to customize and upgrade. Your couples will be looking to you for guidance on all aspects of the offered wedding packages and their corresponding terms and conditions.
Resort vs Off-resort
Will you provide clients with an alternative option of hosting their wedding off the resort, at a private wedding venue instead? In this case, you need to be familiar with wedding venues that are within close proximity of the host hotel; and have a good database of vendors to provide services for all areas of the wedding. You can create a very personal, and much more intimate experience for your couples and their invited wedding guests; without the hustle and bustle of a busy hotel that could potentially be hosting multiple weddings in a day.
Your couple can hire who they want based on who best suits their budget & overall vision, without having to compromise on time restrictions or pre-set wedding packages from a resort. Hosting a wedding off property at a private wedding venue also allows couples to select a vacation resort, rather than a wedding resort. The couple can instead focus on the amenities of the hotel for their paying wedding guests; without having to sacrifice on theirs needs & wants just to accommodate preferences on wedding packages at hotels.
Travel with the couple?
Will you offer onsite coordination services and travel with the couple and their wedding group to provide wedding day management? What other services can you offer in destination and how do you charge accordingly? It is important to note that when travelling onsite with your wedding couples, there are specific terms and conditions that should be included in your contract, especially given the current worldwide pandemic and ever- changing travel restrictions.
Education and Training
With over a decade of experience specializing in destination weddings, full time, my biggest piece of advice to anyone interested in added planning services for destination weddings, is to educate yourself by obtaining your certification through the Destination Wedding Certification Course offered by WPIC. This course covers an extensive range of topics specific to expanding your business into the world of destination weddings and will set you up for success in your role as a destination wedding planner.
Some of the topics covered in The Destination Wedding Certification course offered by WPIC include:
- What is a destination wedding planner and who is the destination wedding client
- Things to consider before determining if a destination wedding is right for your couple
- The best times to plan a destination wedding
- What types of services should we offer, how to charge & prepare your contracts
- The destination wedding planning process and what to expect
- What to expect in terms of timelines working with destination wedding couples
- Initial meeting intake questions for destination wedding couples
- What factors determine whether a couple should have a wedding on resort vs a private wedding venue
- The importance of working with a dedicated travel agent (if you choose not to offer travel services) and your individual roles in the destination wedding planning process
- The importance of booking group travel and how it can benefit the couple
- Why teaming up with a local wedding planner in destination can be beneficial
- How to begin the process of building your vendor and venue database
- Why are FAM trips important to our business
- Destination wedding planning etiquette and tips
- How to work alongside resort coordinators and build relationships
- The process of invited wedding guests to a destination wedding
- Your role in planning additional events, activities and excursions for the wedding group
- Your role & responsibilities as a destination wedding planner if travelling with the couple onsite
- What should your emergency kit contain as a destination wedding planner & tips for destination wedding emergencies
- Your role & responsibilities as a destination wedding planner if you are NOT travelling with the couple onsite
- What couples should consider when preparing welcome bags for invited wedding guests
- Why professional liability insurance is important to have as a destination wedding planner
Destination weddings provide romance, excitement and a lifetime of memories that the couples and their invited guests will cherish forever. It is your job to ensure that you educate yourself on how to create these extraordinary experiences flawlessly for your couples.
There is so much that happens from our initial meeting with the clients, to arriving back home from their destination wedding… and we need to be there to guide our couples every step of the way.