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Destination weddings are a growing travel trend, and there's a lot to consider if you decide to join the bandwagon. Editor-in-chief of Modern Bride Magazine, Antonia van der Meer, joins host Kelly Regan to provide helpful tips on etiquette and planning, and address some logistic challenges you -- and your guests -- might face. Van der Meer and Regan also reveal some destinations that can be less expensive than a wedding at home, talk about honeymoon registries, and list some hot spots for a spur-of-the-moment wedding (other than Vegas).

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Top Tips from This Podcast

See transcript below for links to more information.

  • Destination Weddings Currently 16% of couples are getting married places that neither the bride or groom are originally from, or currently live.
  • Advanced Notice: Give your guests at least three to six months notice so they can make their travel arrangements.
  • Preliminary Visits: If you can afford it, take a trip to your destination ahead of time to see the destination and do a menu tasting.
  • Budget Destinations: Try Costa Rica, Belize, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the US Virgin Islands.
  • Wedding Packages: All-inclusives such as Sandals, Dreams, Paradisis chain, and Occidental chain have pre-set price levels.
  • Spur-of-the-Moment: Aside from Las Vegas, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is on the top of the list for number of weddings per year.
  • Honeymoon Registry: Similar concept to a traditional registry, but rather than buying items, guests buy experiences for the couple.
  • Where to Go (Honeymoon): Make sure you choose a destination that fits the personality and interests of both people.
  • Top Destinations (Honeymoon): Hawaii, Disneyworld, Italy, Tahiti, Fiji, Mexico, Anguilla, St. Lucia, South Africa, Thailand.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Announcer: Welcome to the frommers.com travel podcast, for more information on planning your trip any one of throusands of destinations please visit us at www.frommers.com.
Kelly Regan: Hi, and welcome to the frommers.com podcast, the latest in our continuing conversations about all things travel. I'm Kelly Regan, editorial director the frommers.com travel guide, I'll be your host. Today we're talking about destination weddings and honeymoons, always a fun topic, and my guest is Antonia Vandemer, editor-in-chief of Modern Bride magazine.


She's the author of twelve books, including her newest book "The Modern Bride's Survival Guide", which is on sale now. And I think I described the book as a very down to earth, comprehensive wedding planner, that has advice for all budgets on a wide variety of topics, from choosing your vendors, and flowers, and your dress, to how to orchestrate your ceremony and reception, but today, Antonia is here to talk about destination weddings, and to give us some honeymoon planning tips. So, Antonia welcome, thanks for being here today.
Antonia Vandemer: Thank you, I'm happy to be here.
Kelly: Great. You know, I wanted to start by talking a bit about destination weddings, and I guess my first question is: how common is it for people to pick a neutral location, as it were, or a destination for their wedding? I mean, do you have statistics for how common that it?
Antonia: It's really becoming more and more common every year. And right now, we see about 16% of couples having destination weddings which means they're getting married in a place where neither the bride nor the groom are originally from or where they don't currently live.
Kelly: Right, OK. Sounds like it's something that as people start to be more adventurous as they travel, it's becoming something that they want to incorporate more into their wedding ceremony as well.
Antonia: Absolutely. It's really getting super popular I mean, you're getting married in a gorgeous place, you can kind of control the weather a little bit more, sometimes, by choosing a place that's going to have more warm days, less rain, and a lot of guests now are really getting in to it, and they appreciate the fact that they can build a vacation around it, at the same time.
Kelly: Well, it's an obvious bonus there. So, how far out do you think you should begin planning a destination wedding? Is it something that you need to plan even more in advance than maybe...
Antonia: [interrupting] You do.
Kelly: ...a traditional wedding at home?
Antonia: Yes, you do need to give people a little more time when you're planning a destination wedding, so we like to suggest that guests get at least three months notice, so they can reserve their vacation times, take time off of work, and they can make their travel arrangements. And, even three is a little tight, so six is really ideal, and the bride and groom should really start the process more like a year ahead of time, so that they can pick a location. And we do see a lot of couples actually doing that more like 18 months ahead of time.
Kelly: Wow, yeah OK. Well, you say in the book that for these kinds of getaway weddings, that you'd recommend keeping the guest list more exclusive, a little bit smaller. So, I'm wondering what that means, obviously [cuts out] people at your destination wedding, but what's the average number of guests, or kind of a rough upper limit for having something that's more manageable?
Antonia: The average that we're seeing right now is about 50 guests at a destination wedding, but there really isn't an upper limit, and couples need to keep in mind that the number of people they invite...it can be hard to determine how many people are going to come.


It used to be that, a destination wedding, a lot of people didn't go, it was something new, they weren't used to it. Now there are so many of them that we see the guest list continuing to climb, as guests are used to the idea of a destination wedding, and think "oh, this is nice," and they go. So, you need to figure when you're looking at the properties that you're thinking about having your destination wedding at, how many people are going to come, so keep that in mind when you determine how many people you want to invite, because it's going to affect the locale that you choose, and affect, also, the amount of time required to plan it, and the cost of the wedding as well.
Kelly: Sure. Sure, OK. Now, are some logistics challenges when you're planning a destination wedding, since you're not there when you're doing the planning in it -- I know a lot of resorts and a lot of places where you might get married have on-site wedding coordinators that will help you out with things, so what is it customary for them-- What areas is it customary for them to be in charge of? Is it only the logistics of the ceremony and the reception? Or does it extend to booking rooms for the guests and helping with special travel arrangements and things like that? What's the customary purview of the wedding coordinator? [laughs]
Antonia: Well, as destination weddings have become more and more popular, we have seen a big rise in on-site coordinators and that's been a huge hope to brides and grooms for planning from afar, because - as you said - there are challenges. You're not there, so you really do have to depend on a great on-site coordinator, or sometimes a wedding planner even in your own area that maybe is just really familiar with the property that you're going to be traveling to.
Kelly: Right.
Antonia: Typically, the on-site coordinator, one who's employed by the hotel where you're getting married, is responsible for almost all the details of your ceremony and your reception. Exactly what that entails is going to vary from place to place, but some resorts have packages, so you can actually choose from packages, and it can be less labor-intensive.
Kelly: Great.
Antonia: (continued) but in general the planner can help you to arrange a block of rooms for your guests to book, the planner can help to find an officiant, to find your vendors, and they're obviously very familiar with the destination, familiar with doing weddings there. So they can take a lot off of your plate.
Kelly: Right. Right. Well, what about the things that are more hands-on, like the menu tastings, and the band auditions, and things like that - the things that you want to have a hand in? I mean, should you plan on taking at least one or maybe even two trips down to the location before the wedding to try and take care of some of that stuff, or do you do it remotely?
Antonia: If you can afford it, we do recommend traveling to the site for preliminary visits so you can get the lay of the land, and you can meet face to face with key vendors. This is a nice plan, as you said to do a menu tasting, something like that. But if you can't do that, then it's just even more important that your planner knows your destination inside and out...
Kelly: Right.
Antonia: ...email makes a lot of things easier, because they can send you photos.
Kelly: [laughs] Oh, sure!
Antonia: That's very helpful. Contracts, playlists, everything can go back and forth, so you if you have any questions prior to the day, they usually do get answered. And then, even if you haven't been able to make a trip beforehand, you can - and we do advise that you go a couple days before your wedding, so that you're situated in a place, you know what's going on, you can do some of those last-minute things, make some changes if necessary... That's a big help, too.
Kelly: Yes, so if you get down there a couple days ahead of time, you can take a deep breath, tie up some of the loose ends that might be there and then you're not arriving and having the stress of your wedding distracting you, with your giant to-do list...
Antonia: Absolutely. [laughs] That's right.
Kelly: OK, well, that's good!
Antonia: Yeah, we do suggest that you get there before your guests to send them the location, so you can be all relaxed by the time they arrive. You also want to check the laws in the location because some of them do have specific numbers of hours or days that you have to be there in advance of getting married. So be clear of those rules in advance, so there may be a little bit of a waiting period. Of course, if there's a time difference, you want to also feel like you're over the jet lag before your wedding. So there are really a lot of reasons to get there a little earlier than everybody else. Just make sure you don't overdo it when you get there, by spending too many hours out in the sun and getting a sunburn or doing anything else- [laughs]
Kelly: [laughs] Right. Right, right, yeah. That's not the way to get--kick things off at all.
Antonia: [laughs] No.
Kelly: Well, for people on a budget who have their costs as one of their primary concerns, do you recommend maybe one or two good bargain locations for a destination wedding, like a place where you're going to get more bang for your wedding buck? Or maybe even a resort or a chain that has especially good deals?
Antonia: Well, destination weddings in general tend to be less expensive than home weddings, which surprises people, and it's really only because the guest list tends to be smaller, so someone who in their hometown might have had two or three hundred people might have fifty people at a destination wedding, so just by virtue of the guest list, destination weddings in general are a little bit more of a deal for people.


Places where you can go to get more bang for your buck: I would look at Central America, that's still relatively affordable, countries like Costa Rica, Belize. In the Caribbean, I think Puerto Rico and USVI tend to be a little less pricey, and you don't have to worry about the exchange rate, so the dollar is what the dollar is. Mexico: I think we think of Mexico where you can find some good deals as well. A lot couples will choose an all-inclusive resort. Sometimes that just makes the whole financial package a little easier.
Kelly: Oh, OK.
Antonia: You don't have to worry about so many little things. There are a lot of all-inclusive places like Sandals, Dreams, Paradisis chain, Occidental chain, those are all places where meals and drinks are included in your room rate, and the wedding packages tend to be pre-set, so sometimes that's a good option.
Kelly: Then you're not so worried about hidden cost springing up because it seems like it's all laid out for you upfront.
Antonia: Right, and your guests who are paying for their own rooms often feel the same way, because when they buy the room there they know that they're set for their meals as well, so that's helpful.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah, OK. Well, before we leave this topic I have to ask you, do you have any good recommendations for spur-of-the-moment elopement destinations besides Las Vegas? Because I'm thinking, if a couple is listening to this Podcast, and they suddenly become seized with the notion that they want to go get married tomorrow, you know, just take off and go, where would you tell them to go?
Antonia: [laughs] It can be tough only because the spur-of-the-moment wedding depends on how long it takes to get a marriage license in that area, so that's what's made Las Vegas such a draw. Now, Las Vegas's marriage license bureau used to be open 24 hours a day, which is what made it so easy for people to get married there. They have changed that, so now it is only open from eight a.m. to midnight, so even if you were going to elope right now and go to Vegas, make sure you show up at the license bureau sometime between eight a.m. and midnight.


[Interviewer laughs.]
Antonia: Otherwise, believe it or not, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the great Smokey Mountains, falls second to Vegas in the number of weddings per year.
Kelly: Wow, wow, OK.
Antonia: I'm not sure if it's because of the speed of the marriage license as much as it's due to the concentration of chapels and the gorgeous scenery, so there are just tons of beautiful little chapels in which to get married.


Hawaii, that's another great idea if you want to go quickly, you want to get married right away. Hawaii is still the number one destination for weddings away. Hawaii is really set up for that, they're very, very used to it, their resorts are used to handling it. Most resorts can arrange a ceremony even after you arrive, so you could be on a trip to Hawaii and decide you want to get married, and I'm sure they could arrange it for you.
Kelly: Sure. It transitions from vacation right into honeymoon. Now, let's talk a little bit about the honeymoon aspect. For those people who don't know, one of the interesting developments in the wedding industry over the past, maybe, eight or ten years is the honeymoon registry. For those people who don't know, can you explain what a honeymoon registry is and how it works?
Antonia: Sure. Well, honeymoon registries enable wedding guests to treat you to a piece of your dream vacation. So instead of a wedding guest getting a china plate or stemware for you or a piece of luggage, they are buying you a piece of that dream vacation. It might be a spa treatment or a romantic dinner at your resort or even a portion of your plane tickets. So the concept is very similar to your traditional wedding registry, but you are not buying things, you are buying experiences for the couple.
Kelly: Once you sign up for a honeymoon registry, do you designate in advance what you want the trip to be, or can you just have people contribute and then once they do then you decide what it is you want to do or where you want to go?
Antonia: Well, often people have already decided where they want to go and some of the honeymoon registries are general. Distinctivehoneymoons.com where you can really go anywhere or thebigday.com where you could use those registries and then decide later where you want to go, and the gifts are typically given to you as one collective check before your trip.


There are other registries through resort chains like Starwood or Mariott, Sandals, Disney they all have honeymoon registries so everyone would know that you are going to have a Disney honeymoon, or you were going to go to Starwood Hotel, and you can list the types of things that you are looking to have, like a champagne brunch, or a massage, or things like that.
Kelly: Oh I see. OK.
Antonia: I believe you could still change how those dollars are spent once you get to the resort. That is just the money you have to spend at the resort.
Kelly: Oh I see. OK. So there is some flexibility there.
Antonia: There is. People should also be aware thought that there is, for some of the web sites, there is a charge. There is a set-up and handling fee.
Kelly: OK.
Antonia: So make sure that you look into that and you know exactly what you're being charged and how that particular honeymoon registry works.
Kelly: OK. That is good to know. I am curious about how you think couples should respond, or how they should present this information. I know on the Frommers.com message boards, we have had a lot of dialogue back and forth with some people who, actually, they are not really on board with the concept of honeymoon registries. I have seen some people posting messages saying they feel it is kind of in bad taste to ask guests to contribute money to your honeymoon trip. So, I'm wondering if you have any tips for how couples could present this information or how they should respond if that is the kind of feedback they are getting from their guests.
Antonia: Right. We've heard that, too, and I think that as the rules relax around weddings, and as people do things that are new, different and sometimes unexpected that there is sometimes a discomfort level with some of those things. I have heard back and forth that some people think that the honeymoon registry is great, some people don't like it, some people think it is in bad taste, some people think it is fine.


So I think that you need to take it based on your friends and family and how they feel about it, and the best thing to do, sometimes, is to sign up for one or more traditional wedding registries as well. If you do have guests that don't want to give to a honeymoon registry and they are more comfortable shopping for a gift for you, that option would be available for them. You can also choose who you reveal the registry to by mentioning it only by word of mouth which is really the best way to get registry information out there anyway rather than posting on your website or printing it anywhere. That way if there is someone on your list that you don't think will be comfortable with it, you don't really need to announce it.


Other than that, I think that people that sign-up for honeymoon registries typically tell their families and friends that they have chosen to ask for experiential gifts rather than material ones. Maybe they don't have the space. Maybe they don't have the need for housewares. Maybe what they appreciate more is the memory that is going to be built that they can cherish forever, and they don't want the things. There is nothing wrong with it either way. Everyone is going to have their own opinion and you have to remember that you can't please everyone with all of your wedding choices.
Kelly: [laughs] Right!
Antonia: If somebody is not upset with your registry, they will be upset with the flavor of your wedding cake.
Kelly: [laughs]
Antonia: You can't really control it, so do what you think is in good taste, and try to do it in a way that makes your guests as comfortable as possible.
Kelly: I think we've seen a lot of times with second marriages or with older couples who are getting married, the honeymoon registries are very popular because you're established, you have a house, you have all of the vases and material household goods that you really want. I think that it's a very popular option for people who might be further along when they're starting out their lives together. As you said, they want those experiential gifts as opposed to one more thing to put in their house.
Antonia: Right, sometimes that's the reason. Of course, even people who have a lot of things sometimes have to register for a very serious hobby they have. They may be real foodies and want to build up some of those things, or build up a wine collection or whatever. There are a lot of options out there for registry, even if you are getting married for a second time and have other things. Certainly the honeymoon registry is just one more of those options that's out there for a couple, and it's up to each couple to decide whether or not it's right for them.
Kelly: What do you think is the most important thing to remember about planning your honeymoon if there's only one thing that you can pick, whether or not somebody's using the registry? When you're thinking about a honeymoon, when you're planning it, what do you think is the most important thing to remember or to do?
Antonia: Hmmm, I'm kind of torn. First of all, I would say, most importantly, pick the trip that suits you as a couple. These are two people coming to the trip, they sometimes have slightly different likes and dislikes and hobbies. You want to pick something that's a great choice for the both of you. If one of you loves to sunbathe on the beach, but the other one likes activities, just make sure that you've chosen a place where both things are available. There are a lot of places where you can be on the beach one day and zip lining through a rain forest the next. It's the vacation of a lifetime, you really want to customize and tailor it to your preferences.
Kelly: It's a nice way to introduce the art of compromise into a new marriage, just making sure it's something that both people really want to do.
Antonia: Exactly. Something that both people really want to do. That would be number one. The other thing would be not to skimp. We don't even call it a trip, we call it a honeymoon. It's a whole different word for this particular type of vacation. It clearly has a very special place in everyone's lives, and you don't want to be disappointed. Most brides and grooms do find that this is the one time that they will trade up or that they will want to do something that's a little bit more special. Whereas on other vacations, you might be trying to find places to cut corners here and there. On the honeymoon, typically, people don't. I think if you really want the ocean view, go for the ocean view so you're not disappointed with the garden view if that's not what you wanted.
Kelly: Right, I think that's a really good idea because as they're going through all this planning people can get really overwhelmed, "the money, the money, the money!" You need to step back and think this trip is happening for a reason and we really want it to be appropriately celebratory.
Antonia: Absolutely. At the same time, obviously don't start your married life in debt. You have to budget it and balance it out. If you need to, some people take the honeymoon a little later so they have time to save up again. Or, they have already prepared for it in advance so they know it's coming and they've budgeted it in. Be sensible; don't do anything that's going to be financially disastrous for you. In general, when looking at the honeymoon, know that it's a honeymoon, so you're not going to skimp.
Kelly: We're just about out of time, but before we go I just wanted to get your quick take on some honeymoon destinations. I'm curious about - there are a lot of places that I know are perennially popular, like Hawaii and like Disneyworld and things like that. I'm wondering from your perspective, what spots are kind of hot right now for honeymoons? Are there any new or surprising trends for 2008 that you are seeing?
Antonia: We see things change all the time, and a lot of times new places kind of popup on the list. Hawaii and Disney as you said are perennial favorites, they are perennial favorites for a reason, people love them and they are amazing places to go on your honeymoon. But there are a lot of other choices out there as well if you want something a little different.


We do - at Modern Bride we do a list every year of the world's best honeymoons. We do a survey, and we find the 50 best spots for honeymoons, and last year Italy was number one. So, we are seeing a lot of bride and grooms wanting to go to Europe, to do something a little more cultural, combined sometimes, a beach resort part of Italy or the mountain green part of Italy, with the city tour part.


Also, top spots included this past year were Tahiti, Fiji; those are kind of perennial favorites as well. Mexico, Anguilla and St. Lucia have been on the list, but if you are looking forward to see what's really new, what's surprising, what's popping up, Costa Rica has really moved up on our list over the past few years. South Africa, a lot of couples wanted to do Safari. We have even seen attended camps in Thailand as a great honeymoon option, so, Thailand popping up there.


As far as surprising trends for honeymoons, the most surprising one that I have seen, and I think a really wonderful one, is a volunteer honeymoon. We just read about this in Modern Bride recently, and it's really cool. Some couples are opting to travel to Africa, or to India, or South America to help build schools or teach English. So, their honeymoon becomes not only a trip about them, but a trip about other people and a really rewarding life-changing experience at the same time. So again, not for everyone, but it is a trend that we have seen just recently, where people are trying to give back at the same time as have a wonderful trip.
Kelly: Yeah, that's great. We actually did a podcast a few months ago about volunteer vacations, and how they are becoming increasingly popular, and that you'll get a vacation experience that you are able to actually, as you said, give back a little bit while you are there, and you are having a vacation or a honeymoon experience. So, that's great, that's a really good idea.
Antonia: Honeymooners have said they didn't really get a chance to see one another in a situation like that before, and they kind of fell in love all over again, because of the qualities that are brought out by volunteering, so that's very cool.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah. No, that's nice, that's really nice. So, all right, well that's pretty much all the time we have for today. I have been talking with Antonio van der Meer, who is the editor in chief of Modern Bride Magazine, and she is the author of the new book, 'The Modern Bride - Survival Guide', which is on sale now. Antonia, thanks for being here and talking about destination weddings and honeymoons. It's making me want to take another honeymoon.
Antonia: You're welcome, I hope everyone has a fabulous wedding and a fabulous honeymoon, and I hope they'll get the Modern Bride - Survival Guide, because it really is a fun guide. It's very easy and down to earth, and you'll be able to kind of dip into it and get whatever you need out of each chapter.
Kelly: Yeah, I feel the same way having looked through it. I wish I had it when I was planning my own wedding.
Antonia: That will make your life easier, yeah.
Kelly: It certainly will. So, thanks again, and join us next week for another conversation about all things travel. I am Kelly Regan and we will talk again soon.
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