Engaged...now what? Consider a Destination Wedding!


Well congratulations new brides and grooms! You're engaged and cannot wait to start your future together! Now the, sometimes, dreaded questions..."where to start?" or "Now what?" comes along. That's where me and my now husband were almost two years ago, after the love of my life bought my engagement ring and popped the question. Of course from what I've been told he was a mess and researched the ring to death, learned the 4 C's, and questioned everyone about the process, but that's neither here nor there. Let's talk about the process of getting to the altar and what needs to be done. Unfortunately, we did the easy route...we opted for a destination wedding! It was truly the best decision we made and it was right for US. I guess I am biased when it comes to this topic, but let me share you our experience.

1. Choosing the venue...choosing a travel agent. For us, this goes hand in hand. We could have called hotels on our own and helped EVERYONE book their travel and accommodations, but we didn't particularly like the idea of the headache involved with someone needing to change their flight and making sure everyone was booked correctly. Instead, we researched agents that catered to Destination Weddings. Like many brides, I was hooked on The Knot and specifically on the Destination Wedding Board. We called ourselves DW KNotties and it was a great board to find help and advice. Many of the ladies used DestinationWeddings.com or Beach Bum Vacations. We liked the first and everything after that was easy...sort of!

Photos above courtesy of Angelica Criscuolo Photography & Amanda Blythe Photography

2. Choosing the location. This was harder to do since we had a lot to consider. We definitely wanted the Destination Wedding. PERIOD. We knew many family and friends were not able to go (but you never know and guests may decide to come last minute) and if they really wanted to attend they'll be there. We also knew there were elderly aunts/uncles to consider so we also had to think about how they were going to travel. Add the fact we understand our families were on a budget, so we wanted to choose a location that was affordable, close to mostly everyone, and in a good price range that is also fun. Yea, a lot to look for, but first we set a budget, not for us necessarily, but for our guest. The budget was around $600-$900 for a 3-4 day weekend. To make it convenient for everyone, we chose an island in the east coast. We further narrowed it down to my husband not wanting to go to Jamaica, and me not wanting Mexico (all great locations by the way, so please go ahead and check them out!). In the end, with the help of our travel agent and the budget we gave him, he pointed us to Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. EXCELLENT! We looked at the venues within our budget for both islands and finally decided on Punta Cana, Dominican Republic...specifically Melia Caribe Tropical. It also helped that a few friends have stayed in the hotel and enjoyed it...PLUS it was an all-inclusive resort so the budget would include everyone's food. FOOD is very important in our family and with our friends so we had a winner. The images of the venue were great, had recommendations from friends, it was close to 90% of our guests, and it was budget friendly for a 3-4 day weekend.

3. Choosing a Wedding Package. For weddings, resorts will offer wedding packages that range from the basic to a regular wedding you would have in the U.S. MINUS the HUGE cost!  Since we've never really traveled other than cruises, we had no idea how hotels/catering/decor would be in any of the venues we may choose. Choosing the venue also meant choosing a package. So now that we did choose the venue, we needed to know what package to get and for how many people. We opted to send out a feeler evite/email to see how many truly wanted to attend. We let our guests know our decision to do a destination wedding, but wanted to get our guest's input on who was a real "yes" a "maybe" and a "no" and went from there. Around 80 responses said yes (out of 200+ guests) and so we worked with half that number and in the end ended up with over 65. Since we had a better idea of number of guests, we had our wedding coordinator at the hotel know the approximate range of guests that will be attending and she was more than happy to work with those numbers. FYI, we sent invites to everyone we invited and not just those individuals that replied "yes" to our evite/email feelers.

Photos above courtesy of Angelica Criscuolo Photography & J'Adore Love
4. Catering/Flowers/Music: Unlike weddings in the states where a bride and groom would either need to get a wedding planner to suggest vendors, or the bride and groom themselves would research and book vendors on their own, me and my husband were shown what the hotel venue offered. For the reception it was either a sit down dinner with one option or a buffet with multiple options. For flowers they gave us samples of flower arrangements for bouquets and centerpieces that was part of our package. I love flowers and would loved to have brought in Celadon & Celery, but since they were booked we decided to trust the resort and pay additional for a "higher end" arrangement. We sent the wedding coordinator pictures of flower arrangements we loved and in the end they did an amazing job of creating a similar look. For Music we placed ceremony music, cocktail hour music, and reception music on a disc. We trusted the resort's DJ and I did hear from other Melia Caribe brides that they did a great job on their wedding.
Photos below courtesy of Angelica Criscuolo Photography

5. Photography: This was dear to my heart, so not really being able to communicate with the resort's vendor, we opted to bring our own photographer - Amanda Blythe Photography from Louisiana - to capture our special day. Other brides loved the resort's vendor, so we decided to use them as our videographer. We also wanted a photo booth, but of course none of the U.S. based companies travel to the Caribbean. So being a photographer I got creative to make sure I got my way! We bought a small printer, downloaded a photo booth software on my laptop, and hooked up everything at the reception...well my bridesmaids did and everyone LOVED it. All guests needed to do was hit the space bar and pose 4 times to allow the laptop's camera to capture their picture and send it to the printer. We thought it was a hit and loved the line forming at the "photo booth" section.

6. Programs/Invitations: This is where we got creative. We created our own invitations and created the inner envelopes and added a ribbon to close the envelope. We decorated the outer envelopes using a custom made monogram and basically stamped away. The programs were created using the leftover paper stock for the inner envelope and used a heavier card stock to create the programs. We had a Catholic Ceremony so with the priest's help, we typed in our programs complete with readings, prayers, music list and traditional Filipino custom of the veil, rope, and candle ceremony.

Photos above: Angelica Criscuolo Photography

7. Decorations: Using large and medium suitcases, we brought our decorations for the ceremony and reception! We created table numbers, fans, place cards, seating cards and more. The medium suitcase was placed inside the large suitcase and we asked someone to bring it back with them after the wedding weekend. We also bought parasols as decoration and props and created an out-of-town bag complete with a "medical kit," chopsticks and take-out boxes with candies to give something sweet to our guests, pom-poms to put on top of the napkin settings at the reception, bubbles instead of guests throwing rice or bird seeds and so much more!

10. Bridal Party: As with any bridal party, we asked if our friends/family can be part of the wedding as soon as we knew they were definitely coming. We didn't want to add the pressure of someone feeling pressured they had to come to the wedding since we just wanted them to come and celebrate our wedding and have fun. We bought everyone's dresses(RK Bridal-Alfred Angelo) and shoes for the ladies and flower girl. The men's Barong Tagalog (top) were custom made in the Philippines and we also got their pants, shoes and belts from a department store and sent shipped them all to each of them to make sure they fit. We, well ME, had a blasts shopping at Etsy that I found beautiful silk-touch flowers for me at PowderBlueBijoux and my bridesmaids at All4Brides. The  men got custom made boutonnieres from TheHeadbandShoppe and my husband's at YJDesign. Etsy is so great that we even found a lingerie name hanger from lilafrances and edible flowers for our wedding cake at MissErikas.

As for my dress, I tried my Enzoani dress "Diana" and fell in love with it! Just because we had a destiAnation wedding doesn't mean I couldn't wear the dress of my dreams! My husband got his gorgeous suit and shirt from Hugo Boss and got it tailored at the Soho location in New York City. We carried our dresses and suit with us as carry-on and the flight attendants allowed us to hang them in first class. Some brides have mentioned that certain airlines does not allow this, but we flew American Airlines and they were nice about making sure my dress (and another bride's dress) were hanging without a problem.

Photos Below courtesy of Amanda Blythe Photography