Who isn’t tempted by the lure of a destination wedding? No wonder this format just keeps getting more popular – all that lush romance and adventure. If there’s any challenge, it’s around adding that personal touch. How do you transform a turnkey wedding package? How do you set the scene when you can only jam so much décor into your suitcase? And, how do you make your array of guests feel at home when they’re away from home?
We turned to a couple of industry experts for advice on personalizing a destination wedding. Here are the strategies they shared.
Give a warm welcome
Genève McNally, of Vancouver-based DreamGroup Productions suggests couples spend time considering how they’ll welcome guests “to kick people off into the spirit of the party.” McNally recommends a welcome cocktail, personal welcome letter, detailed itinerary, local guidebooks and thoughtful welcome bag. A friendly welcome gathering before your wedding is wonderful too, she adds.
Plan some quality interactive activities
Arrange to spend quality time with your guests. Janina Pineiro, wedding and event sales manager at Calistoga Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, says, many foodie couples arrange cooking classes with the venue’s executive chef, which come with a tour of the vineyard and chef’s garden. “One of our couples is doing cooking classes for the bridal party and we are gifting custom monogramed chefs’ jackets to them.”
While McNally confirms the popularity of destination weddings (DreamGroup has started offering Destination Vancouver packages based on demand), she says the ultimate personal touch involves thoughtful hosting and showing appreciation – end-to-end – for your guests’ commitment of time and money. “All the more reason to make a destination wedding very inviting and show guests how much you appreciate everything they have done to be a part of your day.”
Consider arriving at the destination early
Couples who prefer a local feel could consider arriving a few days early to organize wedding details. McNally says one of her friends took this route in Hawaii, landing pre-wedding to shop up a storm with her mother and a bridesmaid. “They bought bulk flowers at Costco and went to the local little shops and bought things.”
Customize your package
When it comes to your venue’s wedding package, tap into what’s available first, says McNally. But then, inject your personality by editing things out, and adding others: “From there, yes, pack a suitcase
with 30 or 40 favours that tie more into your theme or feel.”
Put a spin on food and beverages
In the Napa Valley, Pineiro often sees couples personalize their reception by incorporating favourite dishes and wines and sharing a bit of their story alongside their choices. “One couple had a bottle
of wine on each table with a story of why that particular bottle was important to their relationship.”
Ship items to your location
There’s a limit to how much you’ll want to transport, so if you’re really set on personalized décor items, McNally suggests online shopping. Double check that your venue has storage space for your purchases. Some venues have little to no room to store your knick knacks. Be kind to the manager and ask before you send. “On sites like Amazon and Amazon Prime, you can order things and have them shipped to your location.”
Do your research
If a wedding element is particularly important to you – like music or florals – spend extra planning time to get it right, says McNally. Do legwork online and look for recommendations. “Lean on reputable institutions and hotels and hospitality resources at the destination.”