Why We Chose a Destination Wedding

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Planning a Destination Wedding

One of the reasons for my long blog silence was that Keegan and I were planning a destination wedding in Mexico. We got married at an all-inclusive resort on the Riviera Maya on February 2nd. It wasn’t difficult for us to choose to have a destination wedding. I was married once before, and I wanted my wedding with Keegan to be different…mainly I wanted it to be more about us and our family and friends and less about all the planning stuff that can tend to take over a traditional wedding. Keegan doesn’t work during the winter but is incredibly busy from March through November, which would have made taking time off for a summer wedding here in Iowa difficult. Most of our friends are married with children, and we knew that asking them to travel to our wedding was going to be a huge financial and time commitment, so we wanted them to be able to make a real vacation out of it. A destination wedding just seemed like the the perfect solution for us and our lifestyle.

Planning a Destination Wedding

Even though I knew going on vacation with 50 of our closest family and friends would be awesome (and it really was), I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to try out all of the cool wedding crafts and ideas that are all over Pinterest and the wedding blogs. I never even really chose a color palette…just asked the girls to wears colors in the blue, green, purple area of the color wheel. Sometimes I wished we chose the Iowa summer wedding, so I could have succulent centerpieces and handmade favors and whatever else I could dream up, but in the end, I’m really glad I didn’t send myself down that path. Between working and school and the holidays, I would have made myself crazy.

And, we knew by choosing the destination wedding that our guest list would be smaller and that a number of people wouldn’t be able to make it, including some of our aunts and uncles and cousins. But, on the plus side, we knew that since we’d all be on vacation together for multiple days, we’d actually get to spend quality time with mostly everyone who chose to make the trip. That’s exactly what happened, and it was by far my favorite part of the experience…along with finally getting to introduce all of our different groups of friends to each other.

I used two websites for all of my research – Trip Advisor and Best Destination Weddings (BDW). BDW was pretty much the answer to my prayers…the members of the site are full of help and tips, reviews, feedback and advice. After I used Trip Advisor to narrow down my list of resorts based on price and amenities, I used BDW to really evaluate each resort in the running and ended up making my final choice based on the rave reviews on BDW for the wedding planners.

Planning a Destination Wedding

Six months before the wedding, we created a Facebook group for our guests, send out Save the Dates and then did pretty much nothing for five months. After much debate, I did buy a dress from a local boutique, but we left mostly everything else until after the holidays. We knew that the resort wouldn’t be in touch until right before we left, and we decided not to worry about things like the flowers or menu until we arrived. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to be lugging suitcases full of vases for centerpieces of bags full of goodies through customs (though I have tons of respect for anyone who can pull that off without having a nervous breakdown). Those little things weren’t important to me. All I really wanted was to have a memorable experience with our closest family and friends and marry my best friend.

We did prioritize the ceremony and went to counseling sessions with Keegan’s step-father, who was our officiant and a minister. I spent a fair amount of time reading the archives on A Practical Wedding (my favorite wedding related site) and looking for inspiration on how to plan a non-religious wedding ceremony and how to keep it personal. We both love music, so we chose the songs for the ceremony together. And, we opted to have our wedding party participate by giving the readings.

On the day of the wedding, I got up at 9:00 and ate breakfast with a few of our guests. Then I sat on the beach with my friends for a couple hours until I went to get my hair and makeup done with my bridesmaids. I was so relaxed and had the perfect day from start to finish. No running around, no worry about the photographer being late, guests getting lost, or the flowers not looking perfect.

After the ceremony, which was held in the early evening overlooking the ocean, we had a cocktail hour and dinner and dancing. Most of our guests stayed until Monday morning, so we were able to see everyone again the next day, talk about the night, and relax on the beach or by the pool.

My thoughts for any couple thinking about having a destination wedding…

I mindfully and intentionally chose not to worry about things like the color or style of my flowers, favors, or menus, or centerpieces. Although I had some crazy perfectionist (break down) moments along the way, eventually, I decided to embrace whatever the resort had to offer and be happy with it. I think it’s easier to let go of some of these details with a destination wedding…everyone is so happy to be on vacation that everything else is so much less significant than it might be back home.

Do your homework and take your time choosing a resort that most closely meets all of your needs. And, those needs will be different for everyone. We sat down and really thought about everything we wanted in a resort and what we were willing to sacrifice and want we wouldn’t compromise on. This up front research really paid off.

Be flexible and understand that you’re going to have to put a lot of faith in the resort wedding planners (unless you hire an outside planner). I admit I got pretty nervous the week before when we made some last minute changes, but everything turned out perfectly in the end.

Put extra effort into the aspects of the wedding that do matter. We chose music we loved and wrote our own vows. We paid an additional fee to make sure that we got as many photos as possible. And, we tried to spend as much time as we could with everyone who made the trip. It basically turned into a huge family vacation with the added bonus of all of our friends being there too.

In the end, having a destination wedding was the best possible choice for us, and I will cherish the memories of it forever.

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Jillian Lare is a Des Moines based interior designer. She blogs about her current projects, interior design tips and tricks, and her life in Iowa with her young son, husband, and lovable Labrador.

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