Destination Weddings

Q & A

Q. Is it difficult to plan a destination wedding?

A. As easy as or easier than putting one together at home, as long as you have an experienced wedding planner on your side. Since she knows the local players, she'll have no trouble snagging the best florist, rocking-est steel-drum band, and craftiest pastry chef for your budget. She'll also take care of any regional red tape, including paperwork wrangling, currency conversions, and document translations. So unless you're the kind of bride who craves daily e-mail consultations on reception lighting (something, by the way, a good planner will be happy to accommodate), the only thing you'll have to worry about is making it to the gazebo on time.

Q. How do I find a trustworthy coordinator?

A. If you're marrying at a hotel, chances are it will have either a consultant on staff or a relationship with a local professional. But if you still haven't settled on a resort—or if you're planning to wed off-grounds—you might want to seek advice from an independent specialist. For a referral to a U.S.-based expert, contact the Association of Bridal Consultants (bridalassn.com) or an affiliation of top-notch travel agents like Virtuoso (virtuoso.com). Either one can refer you to a coordinator who specializes in organizing destination weddings in your chosen location. Another option: Look into regional groups, such as the Caribbean Wedding Association (caribbeanweddingassociation.com) and the Maui Wedding Association (mauiweddingassociation.com).

Q. How do we decide where to get married?

A. Just let your imagination do the work. Do you envision a barefoot beach ceremony or a formal fairy tale in a medieval castle? Are you carrying a faux-fur muff on a mountaintop or draped in exotic silks in a faraway land? Once you've decided on the general look and feel of your bash, start researching destinations that fit the bill. Hit your bookstore's travel section, browse through resort and tourist-board Web sites, visit destination-wedding chat rooms, and talk to a bridal consultant or travel agent who specializes in nuptials away. Be sure to discuss factors that are issues for you, including budget, religious needs, residency requirements and distance. Though this is definitely the time to indulge fantasies, make sure you also keep one eye on reality. "If it takes more than two flights to get there," says JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions in New York, who's handled countless vows abroad, "you're going to lose a lot of guests."

Q. How much is a destination wedding going to cost me?

A. If you play your place cards right, a whole lot less than homegrown vows would. "You can do three days' worth of events on a Caribbean island for what a four-hour wedding costs in New York," says planner JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions in New York. That's because you'll be able to winnow down the guest list without hurting anyone's feelings. (Sorry, Dad—your boss's nephew has got to go.) Evidence that it's OK to pare down your invitations to the chosen few: Traditional weddings have an average of 164 guests; destination weddings, a cozy 56. Even if you're planning on inviting a planeload of people, vendors abroad often charge less for the very same services. (Jerk filet mignon for everyone!) Some all-inclusive resorts will even plan your bash for—can you believe it?—nothing. And if you honeymoon at your wedding destination, you'll save time, stress and cash—and maybe even get upgraded to the bridal suite.

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