Ah yes, a destination wedding. Who hasn’t seen those beautiful pictures?! White-sand beaches, lush coconut trees leaning over emerald waters, the beautiful bride and groom kiss silhouetting against a gorgeous sunset…you can literally breath the love in the air.
Until this week, and for being a guy who’s never married, I always thought that destination weddings are really expensive. First of all everyone have to fly over to the destination and the newly-weds are probably flipping the bill. Having heard countless complaints about how expensive wedding venues are here in California I can’t even imagine how much more it is at a resort on an island. Then there is the reception, the flowers, the rehearsals...all seems to cost a bundle.
All this changed when I got invited to a destination wedding at a beautiful resort in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic. I realized my understanding on this topic was nearly entirely wrong.
First of all, paying for your guests’ travel is optional. You see chances are we all plan to travel to the tropics sometimes in the future. Mexico, Belize, Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, etc. If you plan far ahead of time people would just treat your wedding as their vacation anyway and accept that they can pay for their own travel arrangements - saving you a bundle.
Deals of the season. The Caribbean, South America and many parts of Mexico is the vacation destinations for “snow birds.” US and Canadian vacationers who crowd the beaches during winter season are no where to be seen during late spring and summer times. Our beaches and restaurants were nearly empty. Competition among the resorts meant that the prices were very reasonable. Some of the wedding guests booked their all-inclusive stay for two for about $1600 where the regular price runs about $4200 for the week. I thought that was CHEAP!
Location matters. New resorts in over developed areas use low low prices to attract newly-weds. When they have vacancies you’ll get a deal. Do some research and talk to a travel agent. She’ll know where to go.
Leverage your party. At our resort, a minimum of three night stay will get you a basic wedding package including a gazebo on the beach, some simple flower arrangements, champagne for everyone, an audio guy who rolls out the speakers and plays anything from your iPod and a full support staff for free. From there you can add fancier options such as pool side private dinner, excursions, party boats, DJs, photographers…to upgrade your package. Now remember, you are bringing a party of guests to stay at the resort and that means good business. I bet that if you just ask you’ll get more stuff for free.
The other great thingabout being in an all-inclusive resort is that you’ll never have to pay for the food and drinks for your guests. We ran into another wedding party from LA and the young couple told us they had 11 guests. Instead of paying for a reception they simply made a reservation at one of the nicer restaurants – ate for free and had a great time!
Bring American Dollarsand research currency exchanges. All the resorts will exchange for you but the rates are very different. Call them and your local bank ahead to see who gives you a better rate. Airports are the worse deals. Tip your service staff and shop with American Dollars will get you very good service and much better deal overall.
Vote with your dollars. Dominican Republic seems to be a country that has brought economic benefits from development of tourism to her people. We saw tax dollars supporting a new airport terminal being build, new 4-lane interstates, new hospitals, apartment buildings, new schools and countless other basic infrastructure projects. Comparing to neighboring Haiti which continue to be marred by natural and governmental disasters I genuinely believe in Dominican Republic’s effort to improve their economy. For all your social activists out there this can be a great option.
As I sit here on my return flight home, reflecting on my first Jewish-Mordovan-Romanian beach wedding and listening to Runaway Love by the Diamond Rings I can’t help but think that love really is in the air. Life is good kids. Whether you’ve already found the one or still sticking out like me, may all your dreams come true.