A year ago, I was hired to plan a beautiful beach wedding in a tropical destination. The bride was from New York but did not want to have her event in the city. She wanted to transport her guests to a magical place where they could enjoy a paid-for vacation. After she started the planning process, what she found were some truths about planning a destination wedding that she had not anticipated. By following a few of my easy steps listed below, I was able to throw her the getaway wedding of her dreams!
1. A HEAD'S UP: If you are doing a destination wedding or even more importantly, a last minute one, send out a Save the Date. You can even go paperless: It's green and affordable. There are many online sites available and guests will appreciate the heads up to block off the weekend.
2. BE KID FRIENDLY: Let guests know that you can offer a local babysitting company to attend to those precious but sometimes precocious little ones during your ceremony and reception. Parents of young children will enjoy dancing the night away while their kids are safe and secure. Good childcare will help folks make the hard decision on whether or not to attend.
3. INCLUDE YOUR GUESTS: Invite everyone to the welcome reception, not just your bridal party and immediate family. Even if you don't have the budget for a big banquet dinner, do cocktails and appetizers so everyone can join. If you still want to keep it more intimate for a special few, schedule that dinner before opening it up to all.
4. A WARM WELCOME: Give your guests a warm welcome. A welcome bag does not have to be the same as a post-Oscar party celebrity swag bag. It can be simple. Bottled water is a must. Water in hotels is expensive and much needed if your wedding is in a warm locale. Other great ideas are packaged cookies, dried fruits and nuts or even a local favorite.
5. MAKE IT EASY: Provide a list of places of interest in your area (such as restaurants, landmarks, spas and scenic spots). Give options so guests can make the most of their trip (even if the best sight is YOU walking down the aisle!)
6. PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION: If your wedding is not on the hotel campus, and this is within your budget, you should provide round trip transportation to and from the ceremony and reception. This is a great way to let guests drink and have a good time.
7. GIVE THANKS: Whether you are a seasoned karaoke singer or afraid of standing up in front of a large crowd, grab the mic the night of your wedding (or welcome dinner) and express your appreciation. Never underestimate the power of thank you. Your guests will be grateful for your gratitude and happy they came!
8. A FLY AWAY BRUNCH: A post-wedding brunch does not have to be formal or fancy. My Golden Rule: Nothing should outshine your wedding day. So make the post wedding brunch an open-ended event. Allowing guests to come and go as they please helps them with their own travel plans home. Plus it's a great way for you to say goodbye.
So remember when you are planning a destination wedding there may be a challenge or two, but if you keep your guests in mind while you plan, your wedding will be the one you and they dreamed of!
—Danielle Elder, Huffington Post Weddings
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