This week we’re talking destination weddings! Not mine – I’m getting married nearby and will spend the days leading up somehow repeatedly ruining my manicure instead of lounging on the beach. But destination weddings are everywhere! I’ve been invited to 7 ceremonies this year (this is a true story) and literally only 2 were local, so I sat down with the Director of Romance at Sandals Resorts® to talk everything destination weddings. These are the smart things she told me.
I honestly didn’t think about wedding planning for at least a solid month after getting engaged. There were just so many other fun things to do, like go to parties! And start Pinterest boards!
Eventually, though, we did sit down to talk venue strategy (exciting!) and budget (terrifying!). And we had absolutely no idea what we were looking for. I think our only requirements were that it had a roof and an open bar, and even then I think we would have compromised on the roof thing.
Have you ever been venue shopping? It’s tedious. We spent most of our spring taking weekend road trips to every site in the tri-state area, and by the end I just could not make myself care about the number of bathrooms attendants these guys had. But! We did wind up booking a beautiful place I adore and also has a mashed potato bar, so all is right with the world.
Even though I wound up staying close to home, something like 25% of couples decide to have a destination wedding. And it’s easy to see why! The travel? And romance? And having someone else plan it while you just paddle around the pool bar? That’s so fantastic.
So to get the inside scoop on all things destination wedding, I spoke to the sublime Marsha-Ann Brown, Director of Romance for Sandals Resorts®, to talk guest list etiquette, the best beach hair, and her all-time do’s and don’ts.
First and foremost! How do you narrow down a location?
The key is to look at your options and then narrow them down based on what’s most important to you. Discuss with each other elements of your destination you want, and other elements you can live without.
I suggest taking an evening at leisure to pour some wine and browse through all the breathtaking photos of every beachfront, garden, or wedding gazebo available. Imagine yourself walking down a rose petal aisle on the sand at all of the resorts; it will help make your decision-making much easier!
How many people should you invite?
Invite as many people as your venue can hold comfortably. Even though destination weddings normally have fewer guests than were initially invited, under no circumstances should you use this as a reason to invite everyone you know so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. If you invite 150 people, it is quite possible to end up with 150 people that RSVP ‘yes’ while you really only intended to have 50!
Start with your closest family and friends, and expand on your list from there. Remember: your guests will also have to travel and make hotel arrangements, so you want to book as a group for the best rates and inclusions.
What’s the etiquette about who to invite? Should you still invite everyone who attends your bridal shower, like you would at most weddings?
Technically no, not everyone at your bridal shower HAS to be invited to your wedding. Destination weddings are fairly intimate, so you should be able to get away with inviting people to the shower who may not have been invited to the wedding.
Destination weddings require a different finesse when it comes to your guests – you always have to take into consideration that some people will simply not be able to attend the actual wedding. This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to be involved in anything concerning your wedding. I advise sharing your wedding guest list with whoever will be planning your wedding shower. If people are unable to attend the wedding but would love to come to any wedding events, invite them to your shower.
If you’re doing hotel room gift bags, what should you include?
Chances are your guests will be visiting the location for the first time. Including a “welcome to the island” brochure with local treats would be lovely. You can also get creative and add a bottle of water, a pre-wedding favor like monogrammed sunglasses or fans, and whatever fun novelty items you can think of. You should also include a schedule of events with times and locations of important events like the rehearsal dinner.
You may want to stay away from adding information like your room number, just in case you and your fiancé want some alone time. Ask your maid-of-honor if she’ll handle any last minute wedding questions your guests may have.
What kind of dresses or shoes work the best for an island wedding?
For the ceremony, wear wedges if you want a little height. A sturdy yet cute wedge heel will allow you to navigate comfortably on sand or on grass without sinking (though I suggest you also use an aisle runner, as well). Go low with a pair of gorgeous looking sandals for your reception and photography session – there are tons of amazing sandals that will compliment your wedding gown.
My favorite gown for destination weddings is anything tea length. Besides being extremely versatile (you can dress them down to be cute or dress them up to be classic retro-chic alà Betty Draper) they’re very destination wedding friendly. Beach brides will definitely appreciate the shorter hem, and garden brides…well, everyone will see your cute blue heels!
What are the best hair and makeup styles?
At our Love Is All You Need wedding blog, we’re crazy over loose, wavy locks for brides – it just seems so fitting with a beach wedding! A simple way to achieve an effortless wavy look is to braid your hair in a few different sections and press the braids with a hair straightener. For brides who may need to make an adjustment to the Caribbean heat, a loose chignon or high bun always adds a bit of chic to your look.
As for makeup, a fresh face with pops of color is always a clean, stunning look for weddings. You don’t want to overdo it on the makeup during an outdoor wedding. Add small touches of light color to your eyes with a nude lip during the day, and go dramatic at night by adding simple black liner with a bold, red lip. Entrust your maid-of-honor with a small bag that has the few make-up items you need to transform your look, and don’t forget to keep blotting paper on you to take away any shine.
Are there any kinds of flowers that work better than others?
The same lovely flowers that you would have at a wedding nearer to home you can have at your destination wedding! Your wedding expert will know to keep your flowers cool before and on the day of your wedding to keep them as fresh as possible.
You can also definitely use your location as inspiration and piece together local flowers to make your bouquet. We’re really fond of birds of paradise, ginger lilies, and pincushions for a summer-inspired wedding bouquet.
Is there anything you should or shouldn’t do before the big day?
While you definitely want to avoid things like like cutting your hair, overdoing the sun, or drastic skin procedures, there are some things you should avoid the morning of as well!
- Don’t have that large coffee. While a hot double latte sounds like a great idea first thing in the morning…don’t! Wedding day jitters plus a double dose of caffeine equals a really shaky bride.
- Don’t drink too much. I know, I know… it’s time to celebrate, but you still have a wedding to get through. Save the champagne toasts for the reception (and the honeymoon).
- Don’t use fake tanning lotion. This goes double for beach brides taking vows under the Caribbean sun, who are risking perspiration and a brand new tan streak down the front of their white dress. If you’re bent on having a bit of a tan, a light dusting of bronzer may be all it takes to give you a hint of color.
- Don’t make drastic last-minute changes. Sometimes the desire to change your mind is just pre-wedding jitters. Will everyone love my hair? What if my make-up looks too plain? Stop! Remember your wedding is not a show.
- Don’t stress about it! Hand your cell phone over to the maid of honor – the morning of is not the time to stress over details. Do you want to know a secret? You’re the only one who knows how everything is ‘supposed to go’! No one will know that your shoes were supposed to be eggshell instead of ivory if you don’t tell them.
Most importantly, the best advice I can offer to any bride is to stay relaxed and think of your fiancé’s face the moment he sees you walking down the aisle. Everything else pales in comparison!
Thanks to Marsha-Ann and the entire team over at the Sandals® Love Is All You Need blog for the awesome advice! And check back soon, because I’m going to be sharing the mystery that is booking a room block. If you’re anything like me, you’ll put this off for weeks doing fun things like shopping monogrammed honeymoon bathing suits, and then one day realize it’s horribly overdue.
Are you planning on a destination wedding? Where are you going? Can you also not go a day without chipping your manicure, or is that just me? Let us know in the comments!
Want to know more about wedding planning? Check out the rest of our Megan Gets Married series!
By Megan Ranney