The most difficult planning decision we made for our destination wedding happened at the very beginning. After the excitement of the engagement settled down, we started to search for the perfect destination wedding venue, but that left us with too many possibilities around the globe. We finally selected Hawaii for our tropical “I dos” at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. But sorting through all of our options to get there wasn’t easy. As a wedding professional I expected to know it all but what I learned along the way is how important your venue tours are to the success of your day. An informed decision is a good one, so I armed myself with eight key questions everyone should ask their destination wedding venue before you book. It’s how we found our dream spot.
1. What’s my backup plan?
Luckily for us, Wailea is one of the driest cities in Hawaii, but it’s not without rain. I knew booking a tropical destination wedding meant having a weather backup plan, but I also knew it was important that we like it. In the event weather strikes, I want our wedding to still look beautiful without feeling as if we settled. Fortunately the plan B locations at Four Seasons Maui can be indoor/outdoor, so the wedding still feels like Hawaii, rain or shine.
2. What services and stock do you have in-house that we can use?
For us, we splurged on location and wanted to save on details like rentals, a lower priority in our budget. Asking questions on our tour about what the property does and does not provide was helpful for us to select a place that fit within our budget but also made it easy for us to design a day we would love. Our hotel has an in-house dance floor (for indoor receptions), a lighting company on property, provides all the staffing, food and beverage, and allows us to use their tables, linens, tabletop items and more. To help keep us on budget, we’re going to use the flatware and china the hotel has but rent specialty glassware to change the look of the tables to something completely unique to us.
3. Can our guests visit with us if they aren’t staying at the same hotel?
If you’re getting married in a private home or villa, chances are all your guests won’t be staying with you but you have the luxury of allowing them to lounge by your pool on the days surrounding your wedding. Most hotels unfortunately don’t have the same open door policy. To circumvent that issue and to ensure everyone can enjoy an all-day vacation together (something important to us), we opted for a room block at only one hotel to encourage all of our guests to stay where we wed. If a communal vacation experience is part of what you envision, understand your limitations prior to sending our your travel information and plan accordingly.
4. Do you charge for welcome bag delivery?
Traditionally a destination wedding guest would receive a welcome gift to kick off the weekend and show your thanks for traveling so far. This often comes in the form of a tote filled with essentials for the weekend, along with treats or snacks. Many hotels charge to deliver each bag, while some offer different tiers of service and will or will not charge to hand the gift bag to the guest at check in. Small fees like this can add up when paying for them in bulk so we decided to spend our money differently and deliver a hotel produced welcome amenity instead. There’s no delivery charge and the best part is, it’s one less item we have to design, order, plan and execute. Four Seasons Maui is creating a wonderful welcome surprise for our guests and we don’t have to lift a finger or pay a delivery fee!
5. What’s the weather normally like around our wedding date?
Sure, you can check every weather app on the market and research the history of your wedding date. I skipped these steps and simply asked our catering manager (who has lived near our property for a decade). There’s no better weather advice than from a local. So while we still have a backup plan, we feel confident our weather will be just what we want it to be based on what the residents in Wailea tell us about their personal experiences. I also received some great hair tips from ladies on island when discussing the weather, since they know how to manage hair in a climate I’m not as used to.
6. What’s your curfew?
This answer was less important to us but key to everything else we were planning. Some people want to party until 2am and if that’s you, ask if it’s allowed before you book. If there’s an outdoor music curfew in that county or location, perhaps the property has an after party space inside you can continue the music in. While we didn’t feel the need to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning, we did need to understand our limits so we could determine what kind of wedding this would be – an evening wedding, early afternoon, or otherwise. Understanding when the wedding reception would end allowed us to look at a hypothetical schedule and design a day that we wanted with a ceremony start time that fit within the venue’s guidelines.
7. What are your room block terms?
There’s no wrong answer here, but understanding your property’s terms and policies are key. Some hotels will require couples to guarantee a certain number of rooms and nights in order for guests to receive a discounted room rate. If that’s the case at your property, having a solid understanding of how many guests plan to stay there is critical to avoid having to pay for empty rooms just days before your big day. Whatever the policy of the property, make sure it works with your budget before you book.
8. Do you allow outside vendors and professionals to work here?
This was especially important to us. Working in the wedding industry for more than fifteen years means I have pretty strong opinions about who I wanted to hire for our wedding. Be sure to ask if your venue has a preferred vendor list that you must book services from or if you have the freedom to bring your favorite teams in from home. Luckily, Four Seasons Maui welcomes certain outside vendors with the proper insurance and professional guidelines. That means we can fly our wedding planner in from New York and hire our photographers from Colorado as well as book local entertainment and island companies too. The property gave us great musical recommendations since we wanted that local infusion as well as working with people we already knew.
Choosing a destination wedding venue can be a difficult task with so many wonderful options available. Arming yourself with key information and the easy-to-forget details will help narrow your choices until the right one reveals itself to you. We took our time, shopped around for a few months and eventually landed on a Hawaiian paradise wedding venue just right for us.