Congratulations! You’re planning a destination wedding. Whether it’s taking place stateside, on a tropical island, or in a foreign country, gathering your loved ones for a celebration outside the bounds of familiar territory is sure to create special memories for all involved. Unfortunately, it may also introduce uncertainties for those who aren't as comfortable with travel. One wonderful way to mitigate concerns? Buying out a resort or hotel for your wedding.
In a full buyout, the only people on the property will be guests of your event. With a destination wedding, this helps take the guesswork out of travel and accommodations for attendees, ensures resort staff will have more time and energy to devote to the occasion, and can mollify health concerns in a post-pandemic world.
Still, this approach can be an expensive undertaking, so you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of buying out a hotel for your wedding before fully committing to the idea. To better understand both sides of the coin, we consulted three seasoned experts: Jean-Claude Messant of Royal Mansour Marrakech, Baltazar Gomez of Paradero Todos Santos, and Michelle Rago of Michelle Rago Destinations. Read on for their insight.
Meet the Expert
Pros of a Full Hotel Buyout
You’ll have full access.
"It makes the most sense for a couple to completely buy out a hotel for their destination wedding when they aim to take advantage of some areas that cannot be privatized during regular occupancy, such as the restaurants or spa," says Messant. When the resort is all yours, your group will be able to better savor the experience of each space without restrictions—especially useful during a multi-day event. Not for nothing, you’ll also ensure that you and your guests get the best rooms and suites.
You’ll have more creative freedom.
"A complete buyout provides couples with the freedom and flexibility to truly embrace their wedding ideas," says Gomez. Messant agrees: "The exclusivity allows a hotel team to offer 100 percent custom service." This may mean catering is more willing to deviate from their standard menu offerings, or the floral team may commit to the extra hours needed to deliver the high-impact ceiling installation you so desire. A buyout will also give you more options when it comes to set-up and storage. Because other guests won’t be using common areas or reserving smaller ballrooms, your event professionals can take up the space—and better keep any in-progress work hidden away until it’s time for the grand reveal.
You won’t be subject to certain limitations.
When a resort has wedding and non-wedding guests to cater to, Gomez says they may impose certain restrictions on your event, such as curfews and limitations on the use of certain high-traffic common areas, such as restaurants, pools, and outdoor patios. In a full buyout, however, the rules are more flexible. Celebrations can run longer and can take place in more desirable areas because the resort is only concerned with the satisfaction of one party: yours.
You’ll have the staff's full attention.
"If a hotel has other guests, it’s difficult to get their full attention," adds Rago. "But if you are the only group in-house, you’ll have full access to all of the teams." This comes in handy every step of the way, from transporting guests from the airport to last-minute fixes for wedding-day emergencies. Guests who want to take advantage of resort amenities, such as surf lessons, spa treatments, or yoga classes, also won’t have to worry about booking far in advance.
Privacy is a guaranteed.
You don’t have to be a celebrity couple to want to minimize intrusions on your wedding day. If you’d really rather not have strangers gawking while you walk down the aisle—something that happens more often than it should at beach weddings—or attempting to crash your ballroom reception, a full buyout may be the way to go.
Health concerns are easier to mitigate.
In a post-pandemic world, concerns may arise about new COVID strains, mask usage, and vaccine and booster requirements. Taking the steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of your guests while traveling to a destination wedding will be easier if your guests are the only people present at the hotel during your celebration.
Cons of a Full Hotel Buyout
You’ll likely have to meet certain minimums.
To make a full buyout financially worthwhile, your resort may require a minimum spend in categories such as food and beverage, spa services, and room bookings. The property may also require a multiple-night stay. Before you commit to the idea of a full buyout, be sure to consider whether or not your budget can absorb the extra costs.
You may introduce new costs.
If you’re asking your guests to stay at a specific hotel, who pays for the guests’ accommodations? While some experts consider it proper etiquette for the hosts of a resort buyout (i.e. you) to host the full experience and cover all costs, others say it is perfectly fine to request that guests pay their own way when it comes to room rates. If you won’t be ponying up for rooms beyond your own, just be sure to first ensure that your VIPs are comfortable with the amount.
Ask your resort if they offer discounts for bulk bookings, especially if your event is occurring during the week or off-season.
Guest choices can’t always be controlled.
Rago cautions against trying to simulate a buyout (i.e. attempting to fill up all the rooms) without fully committing to the resort’s terms. "You don’t really have control over whether your guests will book there or not," she says, which could lead to one or two rooms staying empty and subsequently being booked by people who are not attending your nuptials. Even though these guests will be in the minority, the hotel will need to keep functioning as usual in order to accommodate them.
You may need to secure RSVPs earlier.
A hotel will need several months' notice in order to close down for a full buyout. If your guests will be paying for their own rooms, that might mean you’ll need to ask them to commit to attending earlier than you otherwise would have. In a small wedding, this will be less of an issue, but with more guests comes more uncertainty over schedules.