STEP FOUR: Finalizing the travel package
Once you have narrowed down your destination and your date, you will need to work with your travel agent to find your ideal destination wedding resort. You may not actually marry on the resort property, but you will need to find a place for you and your guests (again, if you are inviting any) to stay during your event. The travel agent will most likely recommend a few different resorts that fit your tastes, needs, and budget, so it’s wise to take time to go through those recommendations and see which resorts stand out the most to you. You want to make sure you have a good feeling about a place when you look at the pictures and read reviews online. Once you have taken the recommendations and narrowed them down to 1-3 resorts within your chosen destination, have the agent provide you pricing. If you qualify for group pricing (10+ rooms), the pricing process will be a bit more complicated and will take longer as rates need to be negotiated with the properties. If group air is to be included, contracts will also have to be negotiated with an airline. Your package may also include some customizations for your wedding, such as a private island dinner reception or private transfers for your guests, so all of that has to be taken into account during the negotiations, if available to be booked upfront. Typically, resorts only offer travel agents access to a few pre-packaged ceremony and reception options, with even less options for customizations. If you are looking for a completely custom package, or want to add on more than what the agent is able to offer, it’s best to book the travel portion with your agent and then work with the wedding planner at the resort to design your special day (more on that below!) If your wedding group is just you, the lucky couple, fewer than 10 rooms, or you just want the standard wedding package, the pricing process will be a little less complicated and time consuming. A lot depends on the destination chosen, but expect South Pacific or Asian destination weddings to be far more complex to piece together than Caribbean or Mexican destination weddings.
As I mentioned above, your wedding may include some customizations. Destination weddings are usually done by those who seek a pre-packaged deal from a resort to avoid the high costs and/or headaches of a traditional wedding. However, there are a select group of people who want a “wedding at a destination” (as Easy Escapes agent Marjorie terms it.) A “wedding at a destination” requires some additional work by the couple, and possibly the agent, prior to the pricing process. Once the couple has narrowed down the resort list to their preferred choices, the couple should make initial contact with the wedding coordinator at the resorts to see if their specific requests can be met. A travel agent is not in the business of planning weddings, and may not fully understand the couple’s exact requests, so the agent may only get involved if they have a strong relationship with the resort or know the clients very well. Keep in mind that resorts in more remote destinations are only used to dealing with true destination weddings, so if your demands and requests are numerous, the resort may politely decline to work with you by saying they are unable to accommodate your needs. Also, be culturally aware when making your requests. Some ideas that you may have for your wedding may be considered offensive or insensitive in other parts of the world. If you find yourself having a lot of specific requests, it is probably best to consider a traditional wedding closer to home where you can have control over the intricate details of your day. Once the couple confirms that their needs can be met and they are comfortable with their choices, the agent can then begin the pricing process as described above.
After pricing is complete, review all of the quotes with the travel agent. Be sure to ask any and all questions that you may have before making your final decision. Once your final decision has been made, the travel agent will require a deposit to secure both land and air space. The amount of the deposit will vary drastically depending on the type of the booking (group versus individual), the destination, and if insurance is being purchased, but all of the details of what is included in the package, when all payments are due for both you and your guests, and the terms and conditions of the booking will be laid out in the package confirmation. The travel agent may also provide cards or a flyer that can be submitted to your guests with all of this same information, so it is easily dispersed in a timely fashion. You can also choose to broadcast the booking deadlines and package information as you see fit, just as long as it mirrors the guidelines provided by the travel agent. Payment and booking deadlines are set in stone and are usually non-negotiable, so the guests need to be well aware of those dates if they want to ensure their place at your wedding!
When it comes time to finalize my travel plans, my package will be fairly simple compared to most other destination weddings. Since I’m the travel agent, I have a lot of information and pricing at my disposal all of the time, so I know what fits into my budget or what is in season before I even start looking at options. I’m also making a lot of observations as I work with other couples and see how their packages turn out. Plus, I’m not having any guests at my event, so that simplifies the process just that much more. I only have to worry about two people instead of twelve or twenty. One of these days I’ll stop procrastinating and start working on the details!
UPDATE 7/27: I began working with Carolyn from Wilson Island to plan our destination wedding and honeymoon! Since Wilson Island is a part of Delaware North Properties, I have been able to work with Carolyn to piece together a package that also includes stays at Lizard Island, which is also in the Great Barrier Reef, and at King’s Canyon, near Ayers Rock. When I contacted Carolyn, I provided her with my proposed wedding date, what I was looking for from each resort, what I wanted included in my wedding package, and while did not have a specific budget, had I had one, I would have provided her with that upfront. It is essential that you be specific with the agent you are working with so that they can provide you with as many details in your first proposal as possible. I contacted Carolyn nearly a week ago and she is still working on pulling everyting together, which is NORMAL, so each time that something needs to be updated or changed, it just delays the booking process. In my case, delaying the booking process is not really a big deal because we not only have a lot of time before the wedding, but we cannot book our airfare yet and we are also not inviting anyone, so we are not delaying anyone’s travel planning.