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The FINAL Countdown

The FINAL Countdown

The week before your destination wedding can either be filled with anticipation or engulfed in stress.

Most brides will agree that undo stress can totally effect the overall experience of your destination wedding so reducing the stress prior to departure is key.

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Here are some tips to make that final countdown week exciting and productive!

1-If you haven’t created a “don’t forget to bring” list, now is the time to create a list and run through the wedding day from start to finish and write down items that still need to be packed.

The Final Countdown

2-Pull out and review all of your confirmations for your travel, this includes your flights, transfers and hotel vouchers as well as your passports and legal paperwork that may be required for your wedding.  Add to that list airport parking coupons or car pick up confirmations.  Mark on your list to log on to your airline’s website 24 hours prior to departure and “check in online”.

3-Make sure all of your necessary items for your wedding are packed in your carry on; this includes, jewelry, wedding day shoes, veil, medication, hair accessories and important paperwork. (your wedding gown should be in an easy carry on garment bag as well)

4-Print out and pack all of your wedding options and features you have preordered and paid for and bring that confirmation with you.  If you have a DJ music list, wedding vows, programs, welcome letters, reception favors, name cards/table assignments and other items you might want to give to your wedding planner when you arrive, label and pack those all together so you can easily hand these off to her.

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5-Create a list of all of your guests and their contact cell phone numbers and store their emergency numbers in your cell phone.  Mark a time during the week to text all of them at once prior to leaving with any updates or reminders.

6-If you have inspirations photos of your hair/make up and must take photos to show your photographer, create an album on your cell phone for easy access.

And finally,

7-schedule a time to go over any questions you may feel unsure about with your destination wedding agent.  Many times a simple call the week prior to departure can relieve any nerves and provide you with assurances.harah4

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Honoring Your Traditions!

Having a destination wedding doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your family traditions or religious beliefs. Gone are the days where a destination wedding was only officiated by a nondenominational minister or judge. More and more resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are creating wedding packages that cater to specific religions and allow you to customize the ceremony to fit your personal faith. Several resorts have also built chapels right on their grounds so that guests do not have to leave the grounds to attend a mass or service.

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Recently I discovered that Palace Resorts offers a wedding package specifically for Indian weddings. Hindi and Sikh weddings require a lot of attention to detail and often require several days of festivities. Palace Resorts has put a package together that focuses on these traditions and dietary requirements. Their wedding package specifically includes Mehendi/Henna Artists, Mandap, and stage décor too.

The Karisma Resorts have uniquely created wedding options that appeal to a Filipino couple. At the El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Maroma, a traditional Filipino wedding can take place right in the Chapel located at these resorts. The packages can also provide candles for the customary candle ritual and the couple can also have their veiling ritual as the resort can provide a yugal. Additionally, the El Dorado’s can also provide doves for the reception.
As more and more couples feel it is a priority to follow their religious and cultural beliefs, it is very refreshing to see resorts adapt and modify their wedding packages. The destination wedding experts at VIP make it a priority to ensure that your religious requests are honored and specialize in Asian weddings!

Destination Wedding PLUS honeymoon?

Years ago, having a destination wedding incorporated the travel for the wedding and the honeymoon together and the wedding couple often opted to stay at the same resort for their honeymoon as where they got married.  Today, most couples feel that staying at the same resort isn’t special or private enough and now choose to leave that resort and do a separate honeymoon for just the two of them.  Other destination wedding couples return home from their wedding and plan a separate honeymoon at a later date.  Wikipedia describes a honeymoon as the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion.  There is a very romantic aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked when a couple is on their honeymoon and it’s very hard to replicate if a couple ops to stay at the resort where family/friends are staying for the wedding.

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When I got married, I knew that the stress of planning the destination wedding would be a little overwhelming so we decided to go on our honeymoon 2 months after the wedding.  It was one of the best decisions for several reasons.  We had the time to decompress from the wedding travel and we also had something to look forward to as there is often a “low” felt by brides when they return from their wedding.  If due to financial reasons and limited vacation time pushes the wedding couple to take their honeymoon immediately after their wedding and stay in the same area, we often suggest that the couple leaves the resort where the wedding took place and goes to a more secluded resort.  If possible, we also encourage the couple to go to a different area in the destination so that they can experience another aspect of the destination.  This idea works well in destinations like the Riviera Maya, Jamaica and Puerto Vallarta.  Some of VIP’s favorite resorts that we suggest in those destinations are the El Dorado resorts in the Riviera Maya as well as Excellence Playa Mujeres in the Yucatan and in Jamaica we often recommend Sandals Whitehouse and Sandals Royal Plantation.  If the wedding is in Puerto Vallarta, the brand new Secrets Resort is a fabulous choice for couples and highlights romance right in the heart of the “romantic district”.

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Destination Weddings can be consuming for a bride to plan which means that the honeymoon can take a back seat.  At VIP, we are here to provide you with options and encourage you to begin your “happy ever after” by capturing the romance of a honeymoon!

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Taking the PLUNGE!

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Everyone seems to agree that destination weddings provide the most amazing backdrops for photos. Couples have been capitalizing on the beauty of their locations for several years by scheduling a trash the dress photo session. I’ve discussed what a Trash The Dress (TTD) is in one of my blog’s 2 years ago; specifically addressing concerns many brides had about damaging their wedding gowns. This trend has been growing in popularity and many brides have either purchased a second dress just for the photo session or realize that a simple dry cleaning can result in the gowns looking like new. More and more wedding couples are now jumping off of cliffs, doing leaps into pools and even diving into Cenote’s in Mexico. If you are still worried about your wedding gown, you can tip toe into the water (like VIP’s Caityln Kennedy did—see photo) and capture the waves crashing against the shore!

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Photographers are even becoming more and more creative with where and how they shoot a TTD. Lately, many of our destination wedding couples have been sending me their photos and telling me that doing a TTD was one of the best decisions they made. Every time I get a new photo, I feel the sudden urge to take the plunge again! How do you feel after looking at these photos? Blog_TTD Blog_dellafioraphoto
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Top 6 Non-Beach Wedding Locations at Sandals and Beaches Resorts

Destination weddings in the Caribbean provide some of the most gorgeous backdrops! Sandals and Beaches Resorts realize that a beach ceremony is often sought after by wedding couples; however, they also understand that today’s bride wants some unique location options as well. Just because a bride is getting married in the Caribbean doesn’t always mean she wants to walk on the sand to tie the knot.Image

Sandals and Beaches Resorts have many different gazebos and their gardens are spectacular. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of assisting over 100 wedding couples exchange their vows at a Sandals or Beaches Resort. When I speak with my bride, I often ask her what she envisions for her wedding day. If she is picturing a non-beach location, I then show her photos from my previous “non-beach” brides to help guide her in selecting not only a wedding location but also in choosing a resort. Through this process, I have discovered which tend to be the most popular ceremony locations among my wedding couples.

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Here are my 6 favorite Sandals/Beaches wedding locations that are not on the beach:

1. Sandals Emerald Bay’s reflecting pool and Gazebo.
 Emerald Bay’s gorgeous powder beach sits directly behind the Gazebo, which is at the edge of a long reflecting pool. This one-of-a-kind Sandals wedding location emanates a serene and romantic aura.

2. Sandals Negril’s beachside Gazebo.
 Providing shade from the sun and only two steps from the beach, Sandals Negril’s wooden Gazebo allows brides to still wear their heels, yet hear the calm Negril water lapping the shore just a few yards away.

3. Beaches Negril’s garden Roman Arched Gazebo. Elevated at the edge of where the beautiful gardens meet the sand, this arched gazebo encapsulates the essence of Jamaica’s tropical foliage and still provides ocean views for the most stunning photos.

4. Sandals Montego Bay’s Frank Warren Chapel.
 With the only church setting of all the Sandals/Beaches Resorts, this lovely chapel in the tropics can seat 80 guests. Once brides hear the sentimental story of Frank Warren’s widow who gifted this chapel in memory of her late husband, they often decide to follow the tradition of lighting a candle during the ceremony to honor eternal love.

5. Beaches Turks & Caicos deck at Schooners. Directly outside of Schooners restaurant sits a wooden decking area that offers pristine views of Grace Bay. The turquoise waters directly below the decking added with the tall greenery along the edges create an amazing Caribbean setting.

6. Sandals Antigua’s Mediterranean Gardens. Paradise wouldn’t be complete without colorful flowers and lush gardens. In a very intimate setting, Sandals Antigua’s gardens provide an enchanting wedding location. Brides can opt to add an arch or use the Roman Gazebo.

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Where to have a Destination Wedding?

As I look back through the blogs I have written over the past 2 years which have been solely devoted to destination weddings, I realize that the topics didn’t dig deep into the best places to have a destination wedding.

When a couple is looking for a location, the options are endless.  Sometimes too many options often make the process very draining and stressful.  There are a few questions a couple can ask themselves, which I will list below, and then if you review some of the other blogs I have written about religion, beach/non beach locations, legal vs. symbolic weddings, I think you will have a better understanding of the destinations that might be perfect for you.  Here are some of the determining questions VIP Vacations asks our wedding couples and how we move through the process in determining what might be the right fit for our couples.  (Establishing that the couple is looking for a “tropical location”, this is where we begin)

1st question- are you looking for an all-inclusive resort.   If you answer YES—this reduces many destination options and primarily leaves, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica.   Even in the Caribbean, not every island offers all-inclusive resorts.
Assuming your answer is yes, move to the next question:

2nd question- are you looking for an adult’s only all-inclusive resort?  If you answer yes, you have just narrowed down your options even further and can start to look at only St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Mexico, Jamaica, Antigua, and the Dominican Republic.
Assuming your answer is yes, move to the next question:

3rd question- are you looking for a legal ceremony that requires a short “residency” before getting married.  If you answer yes, you have now narrowed your options to St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Antigua.
Assuming your answer is yes, move to the next question:

4th question, are you looking for a shorter flight? The answer here will depend on the city you are flying from, but in many instances, St. Lucia and Antigua require a connecting flight and are further south so the flight time is longer.  Assuming you want a shorter flight, then your options are now Jamaica and the Bahamas.

This is clearly a hypothetical situation but it took 4 questions to get to 2 destinations.  Now, we can narrow it down even further, as there are only a few resort brands that are adults only, all inclusive and located in those destinations.

5th question, are you interested in a Sandals resort?  If your answer is yes, then pricing will now be addressed.  If your answer is No, then other resort brands are mentioned and the process of narrowing those down starts.

What seemed like a very daunting task with many options is now made much easier and it demonstrates the importance of working with a destination wedding specialist that asks the right questions and can provide guidance.  Do you need some help narrowing things down?  Why not call a VIP destination wedding expert and begin your stress-less experience?

It Makes Cents!

You have your resort selected, you’ve blocked out rooms at group rates and everyone has purchased their airfare; so now how do you construct a budget for your actual wedding?  Hopefully, you have looked at the wedding packages offered at the resort that you have selected.

Many of the basic or free packages do not include a reception, or photography, or even a cocktail party.  There are some resorts that offer larger packages with many inclusions, however many wedding couples find that they want only some of the features in the larger packages but not all of them.  They often ask the wedding coordinator at the resort if they can substitute a few of the included items that they don’t want with items/services that they do.  Sadly, the fine print often says that there are no substitutions.  So are you to go with a larger package or should you do a basic package and add in “a la carte” items?

If you decide to do the a la carte option adding in items can require math skills and patience.  Patience is needed because many times the resorts do not publish their rates on individual items and going back and forth with a wedding planner can be a hassle and take a lot of time.  Here are some tips to make this process easier:

First, write down what you envision for your day.  Make sure you itemize key features that you will need to make your wedding dream a reality. So ask yourself these questions:  Do you require hair/make up?  Do you have a bridal party that would like this service too?

Do you want lots of flowers?  Do you want a photographer and/or videographer?   Are you going to have a party afterwards? Would you like some sort of music (a DJ, live band, or just a sound system)?  Are you doing a sit down reception?  Do you want an open bar?  Are you looking for any special outdoor items such as a tent, dance floor, or bonfire?   Do you know how many guests will be attending?  Does your resort charge for ceremony items like an arch, chairs, or fees for using a specific location?

Next, look at the basic package and the more complex packages and see which of your wish list items are included.  If they are not included, write down the cost of this wish list item.  Add up the costs of the items you require and compare the pricing of the packages.  If you are not sure how much specific items might cost, you should send your “wish list” to your wedding planner or destination wedding specialist and have them review things.  I usually advise my wedding couples to create their “wish list” from the very beginning of their planning and we can add/subtract items per their budget throughout the months leading up to the wedding.  Some resorts require you to prepay for the wedding extra’s at least 30 days prior to your wedding.  Prepaying can save you some money due to not having to pay a currency conversion fee when you are at your destination.  If you are not sure if you can prepay for your packages and items, simply request this from your destination wedding agent or coordinator.  In the Dominican Republic and Mexico, prepaying can save you hundreds of dollars in conversion fees!  It makes sense to utilize this savings so make sure to prepay at least 30 days prior.  If you are not able to prepay, find out if your credit card charges conversion fees and keep those fees in mind as you prepare your budget.

VIP doesn’t want you drowning in debt due to not keeping on top of the expenses; so if you are in the beginning stages of budgeting or just trying to keep track of costs, I’ve found this neat wedding calculator to be a huge help in staying on top of expenses!