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Tag Archives: Jennifer Doncsecz

Are you the perfect FIT for a destination wedding!

Having spent 20 years planning destination weddings/elopements, I have found that there are 4 types of couples that are the perfect fit for a destination wedding vs. a traditional wedding at home.

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If you fit into these parameters, maybe a destination wedding is the right choice for you.

1st – The bride and groom (but really folks, the bride) has always dreamed of getting married to the love of her life with the tropical breeze gently blowing and walking barefoot in the sand. She won’t settle for a church wedding as she has planned this scenario for years. Her family has often heard her talk of her big day and seen her “inspiration boards” on Pinterest! The groom wants to make her happy and is totally on board for a stress free non-formal event and, in fact, he thinks this is the best plan yet!

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2nd – This is the second marriage for either or both the bride/groom. They know what a huge wedding feels like and would rather have something more relaxed, more intimate and with some of their closest friends and family. Their loved ones (those that travel often or wouldn’t miss it for anything) are thrilled to travel with this couple and are planning their yearly vacation to coincide with the couple’s dates and location. The bride/groom are happy for those that can make it, but aren’t crushed for those that are struggling to fit it into their budget or vacation time off.

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3rd – The bride and groom just can’t afford a big blowout at home. If they have a wedding locally, they are almost committed to invite 200+ guests and simply can’t afford to do so. Having a destination wedding would easily cut their guest list by 3/4 and they can enjoy a honeymoon and their wedding rather than having to sacrifice a honeymoon all together. They are more interested in saving for a home, or a car, or just paying down bills than spending over $15,000 on a 4 hour event back home. However, they are worried, not all will be able to make it and might have to help some of their loved ones make the journey. This couple has a harder road ahead of them as they hadn’t really thought about a destination wedding as a DREAM event in their life and could feel conflicted about not doing the traditional thing.

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4th-The bride and groom are both living in cities that are far from their individual home towns. Both grew up in different states, maybe went to a college in another state and finally, they are living in a state that is not where their families live. No matter what they do for their wedding, everyone will have to travel so having a destination wedding is the best way to allow guests to also vacation while incurring travel fees to see them wed.

Do you fit into any of these scenarios? Are you a destination wedding bride/groom and have another background you want to share? Please leave me a comment and start the discussion!

To view some swoon-worthy beach ideas found on Pinterest, click here to see the list!

My Presence is my Present!

Usually I write my blog from the perspective of the bride. Having been a destination wedding bride, I often refer to my own experiences, coupled with experiences I have shared with the other wedding couples I have worked with over the years.  However, this blog entry is from the dual perspective of a destination wedding guest and a destination wedding bride.  I have had the pleasure of traveling to many of my friends destination weddings and am often asked, “did you get the wedding couple a gift?”
Many guests who book into our group weddings also ask if it is customary to bring a wedding gift to a destination wedding.  Guests often assume that the expense of going to a destination wedding usually infers that they won’t be purchasing a gift or giving a monetary gift either.

Is there any sort of etiquette for destination wedding guests when it comes to gifts?

Here are some general rules that have been widely accepted for destination weddings:

  • For my wedding, we made it very well known that we didn’t want any gifts.  I also put in my invitations, “in lieu of gifts”, and this let the guests free from guessing.  Destination wedding couples who clearly do not want gifts should put the word out to their guests! Most wedding couples feel an enormous amount of guilt throughout this whole process concerning their guests paying to come to their wedding and they do not want to burden their guests with other costs.
  • If the bride/groom stated that they didn’t want any gifts from guests attending their wedding, this doesn’t mean you should not bring a congratulatory card.   From the bride’s perspective, reading the cards following the wedding meant so very much to us. I have kept those cards and cherish them.
  • The general rule in etiquette would also tell the invitee that if they couldn’t attend (due to financial reasons or other obligations) that a gift/card should be sent to the wedding couple.
  • If the bride/groom are financially helping guests attend, than the guests should reciprocate with a gift.  This is even the case if the bride/groom state, “in lieu of gifts”.  If the bride/groom paid for your stay, as a guest, you are not off the hook for a gift.
  • Should you decide to purchase a gift, you do not have to bring that gift with you to the destination wedding.   In the card that you bring, simply state that you have a gift at home for the guests.
  • If the wedding couple is having an at home reception following the wedding, and you can’t attend the destination wedding, then you are supposed to bring a gift to the reception.
  • If you are in the bridal party, and spent a lot of money to travel to the destination wedding, you may feel financially strapped about the responsibilities that usually go into being in the bridal party and can’t even consider a gift.  Discuss this with the other bridal party members, and have a one to one conversation with the bride.  Hurt feelings can be spared with good communication.

A very cute way the bride/groom can convey to their guests that they do not want gifts is by simply stating, “ your presence is the best present you could give us”.

Remember, the memories made during a destination wedding are “priceless”.

Getting Started!

     If I read back through all the blogs I have written, I realize that I never stressed how important it is to know “WHO” you are using to help you plan your destination wedding.   Let’s face it, this is the most important date of your life and most likely it is the most important travel planning you will ever make.  

     It is really crucial to do your homework and ask some key questions.  Just because you may have a travel agent that you have used in the past, doesn’t mean that this agent knows everything there is to know about planning a destination wedding.

     Here are a few ways to ensure you are getting someone good to work with.  First, look for an agency that truly focuses on destination weddings and group travel.   When you find a few, then review their testimonials.  Most agencies will post them on their website and if there are a lot of testimonials, then you certainly know that this agency focuses on destination weddings and has happy clients.  However, you still need to dig a little deeper.  Next, see how long they have been in business and check their credentials.  I realize that since I was a destination wedding bride that I can relate to the stresses and give my wedding couples first hand suggestions that I learned in planning my own wedding, but just because I got married abroad, that doesn’t mean instantly that I am an expert on destination weddings.  To truly know all the ins and outs of weddings, it requires training and up to date education, PLUS putting those skills to use and planning weddings on a daily basis.  At VIP Vacations we strive to continually educate and learn about new legalities, and new resorts.   We proudly list our credentials that display our hours upon hours of education.  We plan more than 50 weddings a year and still insist on constant education and certifications.   You wouldn’t go to a doctor who didn’t finish medical school, so why would you not ensure that your wedding planner has as certifications about their trainings?  To prove my point, here is a link to VIP’s credentials:  http://www.travelbyvip.com/vip_destination_wedding_credentials.html.

I Need a Plan of Attack!!!

One of the most common questions my wedding couples ask after they have selected their resort, held their time, and sent their save the dates, is—“how do we plan all the details?”

If you are a Type A person, detailed oriented, or even a little OCD, planning your destination wedding will have you readjust what your behavior would normally be.  This doesn’t mean that type A personalities should not plan a destination wedding, it just means that maintaining order and control will be trying.  Since I am a recovering “control freak”, I can tell you first hand that I had a long list of MUSTS for my wedding and always felt that I should know every detail of everything.  This OCD (overly conscious of the details) trait, has served me very well in the past, and is one of the things my wedding couples love about working with VIP.  However, I had a lot to learn about keeping my personality in check with the natural process of events for planning a destination wedding.   My experiences have given me a basis for which I can make suggestions to ease the uncomfortable feelings a type A personality may have with this whole process.

Here are some of the ways I coped with “handing off control”.

  1. Know your plan of attack.   This means that if you have a “wish list” of things you want for your wedding, create that list.  Do not send each item over to your wedding planner one by one, rather, complete your list and send it at one time. If you make amendments or additions, then just update them accordingly.
  2. Know your budget.  This means that if your wish list is clearly “over budget”, trim it down before you send it to your wedding planner.  Some resorts have set costs so early on, you can start to calculate the necessary items and budget accordingly.
  3. Know your timeline.   If you are 18 months + out from your big day, it is virtually impossible to expect a quick response from your wedding planner/coordinator at the resort or get precise pricing for every detail as prices are sure to change.   Ninety days prior to your wedding, you should have an idea of approximately how many guests you will have.  With your wish list complete, and your guests confirmed, this is the perfect time to get firm costs from your coordinator and detail out precisely how you envision your wedding day to be.
  4. Create lists.   I had a list for just about every aspect.  I listed the music for the DJ, including the order of the songs.  I created a playlist on our Ipod, burned it to CD, and typed it out.  (OCD to the max!)   I had a detailed program for the wedding, including the exact wording for the sand ceremony, our vows, and individual programs (which were fans) and when I met with the wedding coordinator, I simply gave her my program and timeline.   I created a “wedding packing list” and “reception packing list” and crossed off items once they were placed in the suitcases.   I had a full portfolio that included samples of “must have photos”.  I handed a copy of these photos to the photographer that was assigned to our wedding when we arrived.
  5. Understand the philosophy of the islands.   You have surely heard the expression, “when in Rome”.  If you are planning an island wedding, there is a very “relaxed” approach to life.  You simply cannot change a lifestyle or culture, so learn to deal with it early on.  Understanding that the wedding coordinators create magical weddings on a daily basis and are the experts, but still seem laid back, may frustrate some Type A’s.  However, if you continually demand immediate attention months prior to your wedding, you will only create friction and frustration.  I find that I can often answer my couples within hours and provide direction which alleviates some of the frustration concerning quick response time from resorts and their wedding planners.   The wedding planners will certainly follow what you would like, so spelling out what you expect and handing them your many lists when you arrive, is actually a good thing.

The most wonderful aspect I found with my destination wedding,  was that I discovered the true joy of the entire event wasn’t wrapped up in perfect seating charts, or precise timelines; instead it was about looking around at the smiles, love and laughter that was shared by our friends and family during the 5 days they were there.     I will also note that I am on a 12 step program right now called TAA—Type A’s Anonymous.  If I can help you “stay on the wagon”, feel free to send me an email!

Flowers Die, but Diamonds are Forever . . .

Ever hear the expression, “Diamonds are forever”?  What an amazing marketing slogan created by De Beers Jewelers back in 1938!  Those three little words have become synonymous with diamonds and engagement rings as the ultimate piece of jewelry symbolizing eternity or eternal love.

The expression isn’t really far from the truth either as a diamond is said to last an average of two to three million years!  On the other hand, flowers, bouquets, and corsages, die and wilt in a short matter of time.  Just as many equate diamond rings with weddings, would you even dare think of a wedding without flowers?

For all those destination wedding brides that spend so much time searching for the perfect bouquet and paying hundreds for bridesmaids, and flower girls to carry, it is often tragic when they find out that according to U.S. customs, it is illegal to bring flowers (bouquets) back into the country.  Many times, bride’s bouquets are removed from their luggage or carry on’s and seized either upon entering the US or even prior to boarding the plane heading back home.  The US government warns that flowers (even cut) can carry diseases, and bugs that could cause damage to US plants and agriculture.  The customs officers have to actually depose very carefully of your bouquet and you could face fines if you attempt to conceal them and bring them back into the US.

So, if you are aware of the rules and still choose beautiful flowers for your bouquets (like I did) and aren’t worried about the costs and realize they will be left behind, then that is absolutely fine.  However, if you are looking for other suggestions for your bridal party that can still be beautiful, and “beachy”, I have a few to offer.

First, one of my destination wedding brides had bouquets made from “real touch” silk flowers.  I have added her picture to the blog (bottom left) and wonder if you can actually tell they are not real?  Another wonderful idea is to forgo flowers altogether and use beautiful colored parasols.  They come in an assortment of colors and price under $20 per parasol and have the added benefit of making a nice souvenir.  They look stunning in photos and  I have also seen cute text written on these parasols via photo shop and used for “Thank You” notes from the bride and groom.  Finally, another practical and pretty option is to use “fans”.  There are thousands of websites offering a wide selection of colors, textures and a few online companies even print a couples date and name on the fans.  Like the parasols, they look beautiful in wedding photos too.

Whether you decide to use silk flowers, parasols or fans, they won’t be seized at customs, are affordable and make for a nice keepsake.  They may not last forever, but they certainly will be a “lasting” memory of your amazing destination wedding!

Have another idea for a bouquet substitute?  Please comment or send me a note . . . would love to hear what you have found!

Keep The Faith

 

Deciding on having a destination wedding usually involves getting family and friends ‘on board’, selecting the perfect location and resort, and budgeting for the costs involved.  Sure, there will be issues with family over affordability of attending, and maybe even some objections to the destination that you have selected.  However, many time couples internally wrestle over preserving their religious obligations more than any of the issues I have mentioned above.  Even though at times, it seems like society has disregarded religion as a priority, we can’t forget that the origins of marriage stem from moral and religious doctrines.  Remember, 75% of weddings still take place in a “house of worship”.   Couples planning a destination wedding used to have to “settle” on a non-denominational minister as the officiant.  There simply was no other option.  As the trend of having a destination wedding has surged, couples now actually do have a choice as to including their religion and faith into their wedding abroad.   It is very important as you search for a destination to make mention this desire to incorporate your faith into your ceremony from the very beggining.   Mentioning this is vital as there are still some destinations where it may be impossible to grant this request.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping Catholic couples get “legally” married abroad and have learned everything that is needed to make this wish a reality.  I’ve learned how to have a Hindi wedding with vegetarian only dining options in other countries and know where it is far easier to make this happen and where it is surely an issue.  Jewish weddings can be a piece of cake and even adding “Kosher” menus to the reception options, when you know the locations of where they do this regularly.  Couples no longer have to sacrifice their heritage simply to get married on an island paradise.   I might also mention that it is not as simple as just bringing your Rabbi or Priest with you to your wedding.  VIP Vacations has gone through in-depth trainings and has the experience to guide you to the perfect location that meets all of your wedding needs.  As the saying goes, “Where there is the will, there is a way” and if it is made clear from the beginning that you must “keep your faith” in your wedding, VIP Vacations will provide you the way to make it happen!

Some of my Favorite Things

I am often reminded of the Queen of “it’s a good thing”, Ms. Martha Stewart, when my destination wedding brides ask me for helpful links and cool websites to purchase extra items for their destination wedding.  I can’t help but keep saying, “these are a few of my favorite things” to the tune of the Sound Of Music.  I am sure this list will grow, and encourage any readers of this blog to post other links that you have found to be “a good thing”.

First, if you want to see some lovely photo’s and meet some other to be wed Beach Brides, or get sage advice from brides recently married, I love the BEACH Bride’s company page on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=118636003922

My favorite Sand Ceremony kit is from weddingstar.com. The Heart shaped sand ceremony with your initials and wedding date engraved is one of the best sand ceremony kits I have ever seen, plus they have tons of beach favors, and accessories at this site:

http://www.weddingstar.com/ceremony-accessories/unity-sand-ceremony

Are all the extra’s for the reception really starting to add up?  Can you believe that Sashes cost upwards of $5-10 each?  Well, this site has all the colors and styles for $0.59 to 3.59 each.  Plus, you can list them on eBay or donate them when you get back and they take up very little space in your luggage.

http://www.weddinglinensdirect.com

Want to put together a cool welcome bag, or price fans without spending hours on the web?  This site has so many really great ideas for beach weddings, favors, fans, and gift bag accessories.

http://www.myweddingfavors.com/beach-favors.html

AND finally, most resorts charge a fortune for rose petal aisles or flower petals for your guests to throw at the end of the ceremony instead of rice or blowing bubbles.  However, they are very specific about making sure you don’t use silk flower petals as they harm the environment.  I purchase small organza 3 inch sachets and then went to this site:

www.petalgarden.com

and purchased freeze dried petals that were vacuumed packed, took up very little space and were fresh and environmentally safe when opened. Open them the day of the wedding, and they are gorgeous.

Finally, Martha Stewart’s fall issue of her Weddings Magazine was totally devoted to “destination weddings”.  Here is a link for all the highlights and do it yourself ideas:

http://www.marthastewartweddings.com/photogallery/welcome-gifts or

http://www.marthastewartweddings.com/photogallery/destination-wedding-advice-from-a-travel-agent

Would love to hear about your favorite things!