When it comes to planning your destination wedding, it’s difficult to separate fact from fantasy. Sure you can stare at Pinterest all day and dream of riding elephants to your ceremony on that sunset-lit beach in Barbados. That’s the fantasy. But do they have elephants on Barbados? And what if your beach ceremony is on the eastern side of the island and won’t have much of a sunset to gaze upon? That’s when the facts start to intrude on the fantasy.
In times like these, it’s best to learn straight from those who have walked down those destination aisles before. So here are three couples full of been-there, done-that advice.
Bob & Carrie
Hometown: Oceanside, CA
Destination Wedding: Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
How did you and your fiancé choose this location: We’d been to several Riviera Maya destination weddings and loved the concept. The Hard Rock was a perfect choice; we both know a lot of musicians, and Bob also works in the music industry.
Favorite part of your wedding: The actual ceremony and the gorgeous setting of the reception on the water, and of course the amazing entertainment—we had the band Ambrosia. They really got the party started! We loved hanging out with all of our friends in the days following our wedding. The resort had so many great areas that accommodated this.
Favorite part of the resort: The diverse outdoor locations for events, the impeccable grounds, the spa amenities, the selection of restaurants and the night club Heaven! All amazing parts of the property. The staff was so helpful as well, and room service was extremely prompt.
Anything special you added to the ceremony/reception to make it more special or customized? We had Bob and Carrie bobbleheads on the cake! Also, an outdoor chandelier over the bride and groom’s table, and, of course the band, Ambrosia, which was a huge soft rock band back in the 70’s. They were a big hit!
Anything you would do different or advice to give other couples? Stay longer if you’re able, take more pictures and make the most of your stay!
Lindsay & Brad
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Destination Wedding: Paradisus Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
How did you and your fiancé choose this location? We had an in-person meeting with our travel agent and shared our ideal requests for a destination wedding. Based on our responses, she researched resorts for us and set up on-site tours with 10 resorts. She really helped us narrow down the resorts based on her expertise, and while on site, we found the perfect resort. We were so thankful we did the pre-tour prior to deciding the location. What we thought was the perfect resort, while researching online, turned out to be our least favorite resort, after visiting it in person.
Favorite part of your wedding: There were so many great things about our wedding, but we absolutely loved the reception. Because we had a good amount of time to spend with everyone prior to the wedding day, we felt that we could really just relax and enjoy the food and dancing. Even though we only had 60 people at the wedding, it felt like 200 as the dance floor was packed the entire time. It was so much fun!
Anything special you added to the ceremony/reception to make it more special or customized? We added additional flowers to the package, which made everything look beautiful at the ceremony and reception. We also added customized welcome drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail reception. It was all so beautiful!
Favorite part of the resort: Literally, we loved everything about the resort! We did receive an upgraded suite, which made it extra special for us. The food was fantastic, the pool was fabulous, the beach was great and the service was exceptional. We highly recommend this resort, not only for a destination wedding, but for a relaxing vacation as well.
Most memorable moment: Reciting our own vows to each other in that romantic setting was our most memorable moment. Travel is a passion of ours, and to be able to make our marriage commitment to one another in a beach setting made it feel so much more personalized to us!
Anything you would do different or advice to give other couples? Our best advice is to use a travel agent and use the on-site resort coordinators. It made the destination wedding planning so much easier. Even though we were busy visiting with guests and activities, we weren’t stressed at all during the wedding. It was nice to have things go smoothly prior, during and after the wedding.
Courtnie & Darris
Hometown: Radford, Virginia
Destination Wedding: El Dorado Royale, Riviera Maya, Mexico
How did you and your fiancé choose this location? We found out about the location through our travel agent, who kept talking about how wonderful Mexico was.
Favorite part of your wedding: The romantic dinner on the beach and couple’s massage. The food was amazing and I loved relaxing on the beach.
Anything special you added to the ceremony/reception to make it more special or customized? We added several little touches like maracas for guests, personalized gift bags filled with local goodies, salsa lessons the night before the wedding, and a jet-ski excursion for the bridal party. We started with the basic package and added a lot of special touches. One of my favorites was the toast—instead of doing the traditional champagne toast, I had the wedding crew fill the flutes with tequila. After the speeches we did tequila shots instead of a champagne toast!
Most memorable moment: The most memorable moment was at the reception when all the groomsmen and half the bridesmaids jumped in the pool with all their clothes on! You should have seen my gran’s face! Also, the salsa lessons. Our bridal party really got into the dance lessons. Kameron, one of the groomsmen, even danced with my gran—priceless.
Anything you would do different or advice to give other couples? The one thing I would have done differently is made our guests stay longer than Thursday to Sunday. Our group was having such a great time, and we needed the extra day to recoup and just get together one last time. One other thing is to splurge on the fire dancers. They are well worth the money, and made for a nice ending to the night! All-inclusive resorts offer a lot of fun, so take in to consideration the amount you eat and drink the night before your wedding, as you want to be feeling your best on your wedding day. Also chillax and have fun— enjoy the moment!