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                                   IS A DESTINATION WEDDING RIGHT FOR YOU?
                                                                      Although destination weddings have become increasingly
                                    popular for many reasons, including budget, they are not
                                                                      right for every couple.
                                         Donnie Brown, celebrity wedding event planner and
                                 host of the Style Network show Whose Wedding is it Anyway?
                                                                      has produced more than 2,000 events for celebs including
                                     LeAnn Rimes, Emma Thompson, the Dallas Cowboys and
                                                                      many others. His book, Donnie Brown Weddings: From Cake to
                                      Couture, hit bookstores this October and is an approachable,
                                                                      practical way every bride can have a little Donnie at her
ocean.                                    wedding. In it, he cautions all brides to ask themselves
                                                                      with whom they want to share their wedding day before
                                                                      deciding to choose a destination. He recently ran into a
    “I want to tell you a story.” He takes my hand and leads          bride planning a destination wedding in the Caribbean
    me outside. Anticipation. I sit down, facing my nervously         and asked her how old her grandmother was. “Ninety-five
    excited man. “A long time ago,” he begins, “the crafting of a     years old,” she replied. “Do you want her at your wedding?”
    very special ring signified, in its very making, the union of a   he asked. “Of course,” she said. “Then you better forget the
    man and a woman. The jeweler would set an exquisite piece         destination wedding, sweetie.”
    with a center stone and then the bride-to-be would wear
    the ring, without the stone, as the outward expression that       SETTING A BUDGET
    she was promised to a certain man. During the wedding             Statistics show the average traditional American wedding
    ceremony, the stone would be set into the ring and the            costs just under $30,000 and includes 200 of your parents’
    bond completed.” He paused, my anticipation grew. “I have         closets friends you’ve never met. Yet with a connection to
    such a ring for you.”                                             great resources, for about a third of the cost, couples can
         Though my now-husband proposed in October (I do              plan an amazing destination wedding with the people
    believe he would have imploded had he bought the ring             who mean the most to them. While in 2008, the average
    and waited until Christmas to propose), 35 percent of all         destination-wedding budget was $20,000, wedding experts
    proposals occur between Christmas and New Year’s Day,             have been seeing more destination weddings within the
    according to Jen Wooster McBride, Columbus wedding                U.S. that have smaller price tags.
    planner and CEO of J. Lauren Events (www.jlaurenevents.                 So, assuming that in 8 to 10 months (the average time
    com). Once you’re engaged, it begins: the impending panic         couples spend planning a destination wedding) you’ll be
    of 1,000 decisions yet to be made.                                saying “I do” as the sun dips into the ocean, you need to begin
         Hey, the stakes are high on this one. It’s one of the        the planning process by first setting a budget. According to
    biggest, most memorable days in your life – the event you’ve      Brown, many brides who forgo making a working budget
    dreamed of since you were playing princess bride with your        get 30 to 40 percent into the planning and run out of
    next-door neighbor in the backyard.                               money. Web sites like provide
         Every year, an average of 2.4 million weddings are           helpful budget manager tools that even track when certain
    performed in the U.S. – 16 percent of those are destination       vendors should be paid. You also should think beyond your
    weddings. In fact, annually, destination weddings account         budget to include the budgets of your guests. In today’s
    for $16 billion of the $50 billion wedding market. Maybe          economy, Alison Hotchkiss is seeing many couples attend
    you picture palm trees swaying as ocean waves gently crest        more carefully to their guests’ financial situations.
    behind you. Maybe your fantasy happens on a crisp fall-like             Hotchkiss advises couples to take the total wedding
    day in the courtyard of a quaint 16th century church where        cost divided by the number of people invited, and then
    the scent of lavender fills the air. A destination wedding,       begin taking people off the list to reduce their expenses.
    whether Brazil or Belgium, is romantic in the “I’ve dreamed       Food and beverages are usually the second most expensive
    of this day since I was a little girl” kind of way.               budget item, so to keep costs under control, consider

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Michelle Moore and David Houze on a hidden (and unmapped) beach in Antigua celebrating their marriage as ocean waves crash over them. |
To see more of Shelly Chadburn’s work, visit

having an open bar or maybe just a table wine. Labor is also            rethink their guest lists, especially for destination weddings.
expensive, so think in terms of staffing. And be prepared to            Smaller, more intimate weddings are en vogue.
think about your venue’s timing. Sunset is the most popular                   Think about where most of your guests live. Wooster
time for destination weddings, but that may not work for                McBride suggests planning your wedding off-season if you
the location you select. If you work with their timing, you’ll          want your friends and family to attend. Even though June
be able to better control costs.                                        is a popular wedding month, if you plan it for January or
     In addition to the venue, food and beverages,                      February in the Caribbean when it’s freezing in Columbus,
cake, dress, tuxedo, invitations, florist, photographer,                it’s more tempting for your guests to join you.
videographer, favors, entertainment, licenses and official,
think about whether you’ll be budgeting to include helping              PICKING THE LOCATION
your guests see your special day. While, on average, guests             My husband and I started by making a list of “must-haves”
at a destination wedding spend $400 to attend, there are                before sitting down to pick a destination. We both wanted
couples that secretly factor financially supporting guests              a warm tropical destination, and I wanted one where my
into their budgets. If you want everyone to stay at the same            hair wouldn’t grow to three times its normal size. Whether
hotel but rooms are $299 a night, consider subsidizing so               you’re a curly girl or not, weather is a key factor in selecting
your guests pay $99 a night. You don’t have to let your                 a destination for 9 out of 10 couples – making the leading
guests know – they feel like they can afford to attend and              destinations for out-of-town weddings Las Vegas, Hawaii,
you’ve not offended them with the help.                                 U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Bahamas, Mexico and Florida.
                                                                              With our criteria firmly decided and after spending
DECIDING THE GUEST LIST                                                 many nights blurry-eyed on the Internet, we stumbled
While my wedding at Curtain Bluff (                upon Condé Nast’s Johansen’s list of the world’s top luxury
in Antigua included just the two of us, statistically speaking,         spas and hotels ( which proved to be
the average number of guests at a destination wedding is                invaluable in choosing our destination.
48. The benefit to deciding your guest list at the outset lies in             Two beautiful, well-planned weddings later (one at our
helping you narrow down your location possibilities. In the             house and one in Antigua), I found www.weddingmapper.
current economic conditions, Hotchkiss is seeing couples                com. Julie King, VP of sales and marketing for the company

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says, “Every wedding is a destination wedding in some                  and regulations of the particular area to make sure your
way.” launched two years ago as a                    destination wedding runs smoothly. She suggests sending a
web tool for couples to create wedding maps, including                 “Save The Date” at least 9 months in advance and requesting
hotels, restaurants and local attractions to help guests plan          a response two months prior to your wedding. Plus, make
their trips and itineraries. The site morphed into a hyper             at least two copies of all your documents, passports and
local platform with in-depth information on over 10,000                photo IDs – and make sure all requirements are indicated in
locations. It’s real information from real couples – photo             your contract (such as the permit for the location, limitations
albums, vendor lists, attractions and more. You can raise your         in regards to the number of guests, décor, sound, alcohol,
comfort level with a tool like this because you see actual             food, chairs, canopies, etc.). Public beaches require permits
pictures versus photoshopped marketing–department                      and are usually limited to a certain number of guests. Private
creations. It also contains all the contact information on             beaches also require permits, but the owners usually give
the vendors the couple used, as well as any questions                  you more leeway. She also says you should be aware of the
and discussions they asked during their planning process.              weather. Always plan for rain and thunder even though it
Also, the vendor manager, budget manager, seating chart                may not be the season for it. Further, it’s common courtesy
tool, guest content, guest tracking and thank-you note                 to plan for transportation to and from your wedding
tracking make the site your blueprint for success. The site            location, even though you are not expected to provide
capitalizes on both the social media and DIY destination               travel and accommodations for your guests. If they accept
wedding trends.                                                        your invitation, the expense is usually considered as your
     While most couples think of churches, resorts,                    wedding present. However, the bride usually provides
museums and outdoor vistas, another alternative is the bed             accommodations for the bridal party.
and breakfast. This can be a more offbeat option ranging
from the traditionally romantic to the quirky and fun.                 DESTINATION WEDDING LEGALITIES
Through the Web site, you can plan a                 Every country has different marriage laws. Some countries
small, private affair or grand soiree. Plus, it’s really affordable.   require that you become a temporary citizen. Find out the
While, of course, there are the bucolic, ultra-romantic Bed            requirements to get a marriage license. In Antigua, we had
and Breakfast wedding destinations, there also are a few               to become temporary residents. Some countries require
that probably never crossed your mind.                                 witnesses, which is no big deal if guests are joining you, but
     Alice Suh, marketing coordinator for www.                         if it’s just the two of you, you need to make sure the resort, says B-and-B’s are wonderful places for               will provide them. You might even need proof of certain
a destination wedding because the Innkeeper can plan                   medical tests. Ask the resort if there is someone who can
everything for you. Have you ever thought of getting                   handle the details and guide you through the process. If
married on a boat? At Pinita in Baltimore, Maryland, your              you have to travel offsite to get the license, make sure your
guests can sail away on a 45’ sailing Ketch. Green Weddings            resort provides transportation. And be aware that the rules
are also becoming increasingly popular. At Dobson’s House              can change without notice – so monitor this continually.
Bed & Breakfast in El Prado, New Mexico, there’s an eco-
friendly inn built entirely of 2,000 tires and 20,000 cans.            WHAT TO WEAR
How about getting married in a tree house? Fire Mountain
Inn, Cabins & Treehouses in Highlands, North Carolina,                 Depending on the location, destination wedding wear is
offers an upscale, grown up version of a treehouse. Or                 different from traditional wedding wear. You really need to
maybe a ranch is more your style. Meadowlake Ranch in                  consider the weather in choosing your gown and his suit.
Sand Springs, Oklahoma, allows guests to choose to sleep                     While you can shop at traditional bridal stores, online,
in real teepees or log cabins. Western weddings happen                 and in the magazines, I found it was quite the big adventure
by the lakeside and you can even rent the entire ranch for             to experience the world famous “Running of the Brides”
up to 200 wedding guests complete with lodging, armed                  event. The appeal is that designer dresses retailing for
security, hayride shuttle and breakfast.                               $10,000 sell for $249 to $699. If you plan on attending the
     Staycations are popular this year. For a staycation               sale, you need running shoes, a team of helpers and a great
destination, there’s the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls, nestled           tailor. According to the Filene’s Web site, it is scheduled
in Hocking Hills in Logan, Ohio. Weddings take place in the            for January 29, 2010 in Columbus. When I went, the store
garden, under the trees, in the family fireside lounge and in          opened at 8 a.m. to let in brides-to-be and their teams who
The Gathering Place. Next spring, brides can be married in             had lined up as early as 6 a.m. When I arrived at 8:15 a.m.,
the rooftop garden overlooking the hills.                              there wasn’t one dress left on the racks. Teams had grabbed
                                                                       dresses in their bride’s size in bundles and carried them off
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS AND ETIQUETTE FOR                               to makeshift base camps, where the rejects were used as
ANY DESTINATION                                                        “offerings” to trade. Amazingly, I found a beautiful Badgley
                                                                       Mischka gown for the ceremony we had in Columbus, and a
After you have selected your location, your real work                  Mon Cheri Destinations gown for the ceremony in Antigua.
begins. Minoo Hersini, celebrity wedding planner and                   Know in advance that if you bring your man, he will see half-
Creative Director at Au Ciel Design Studio (               naked brides-to-be. There are no dressing rooms and plenty
com) based in New York, advises to inquire about the rules             of clothes flying off. I was as amused by the fiancés carrying

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     “   A



“I need an 8” signs as I was with them trying not to look at       programs and escort cards to dinner menus and thank-you
the naked women.                                                   note cards, Marit’s work is beautiful and distinctive and many
      Wooster-McBride recommends J. Crew. She says many            local wedding planners swear by her.
Columbus brides choose J. Crew for destination wedding                  Many wedding Web sites, such as The Knot (www.
gowns because they are sleek and simple, and you can     , give you a free Web site when you register
return them easily if you receive the gown and it’s not what       that allows you to customize all of your wedding details and
you had in mind.                                                   email the link to your guests. Like www.weddingmapper.
      Recently, a new wedding gown store opened in the             com, these sites include maps, hotels, activities, directions
Short North called Big Rock Little Rooster. According to           and location details that let your guest plan a mini getaway
shop co-owner Rebecca Reeder, her store offers more                in conjunction with your wedding.
traditional gowns along with dresses that are sleek and
sexy – perfect for destination weddings. It carries exactly the    THE PHOTOGRAPHER
type of dress I was seeking when I went to the “Running of         The importance of your wedding day photography
the Brides” sale. She says her store also offers hand-crafted      cannot be understated. After you have traveled back
jewelry and accessory designers using the highest quality          home, your dress has been boxed and your flowers have
and craftsmanship. Hand-beaded dresses, freshwater pearls          wilted, your pictures and video are the lasting memories
and unique pieces you can’t find anywhere else: handmade           of your special day.
headpieces, necklaces and bracelets by local artisans. “What            While you can find amazing photographers
we offer is a really great styling service,” she says, adding,     through your destination venue, you can also bring your
“we’ve styled brides who have had destination weddings,            photographer with you. Wooster-McBride recommends
and in the end, I think they even surprised themselves with        Columbus-based Kimberly Potterf (www.kimberlypotterf.
the gowns they ended up wearing.”                                  com) who does photography locally and for destination
      To travel with your gown, the Wedding Gown Specialists       weddings. The benefit in bringing your photographer is that
offer truly helpful tips at         you can meet with this person in advance to really spell out
they also sell a destination wedding kit right-sized to fit into   your needs.
the overhead of an airplane so you can get through airport              Because we had two weddings, we had two photographers.
security. You can find the kit at         The talented Scott Cunningham photographed the ceremony
and                                            at our house, and in Antigua, we chose a photographer
                                                                   recommended by the Curtain Bluff resort. We looked at her
COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS                         Web site and loved her creativity. Originally from South Africa,
There are so many creative ways to inject your personality         Shelly Chadburn ( has a unique
into every ounce of your destination wedding, including            “trash the dress” concept that had us jumping into the ocean
in the way you communicate it. Recently, a family member           in our wedding clothes. By the way, after a fresh water rinse in
sent a “save-the-date” magnet with her destination wedding         the shower and a trip to the dry cleaner, our clothes were as
details. Picture your face on the refrigerator – that probably     good as new.
hasn’t happened since you were in the third grade. I thought
it was a cool idea.                                                THE VIDEOGRAPHER
      There are plenty of online resources to order                The videographer is equally important. Your wedding day
wedding invitations and Save the Date cards. A popular             DVD will allow you to relive the moment. Interview the
site is But if you wish to meet with the          videographer the same way you interview the photographer.
designer, Columbus-based Marit Hanson creates custom               Make sure there is a personality fit and that they understand
boarding pass save the dates. You can find her work at             what’s really important to you. Do you want the wedding From save-the-dates, invitations,             shot from the bride’s perspective? The groom’s? Both? You

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need to communicate this, because if you leave it to chance,            your skin. While a photographer can photoshop this out,
it may not match your expectations.                                     red marks will remain in your video and the photos your
      We had the videographer tape the wedding, but also                guests take. And, don’t tug at your dress all day – it won’t
the “trash the dress” photoshoot, so we had a mini “making              fall down. Strapless gowns are made with elastic to keep
of” video with candids of us acting just like us.                       them up. If you are worried, use doublestick Hollywood
                                                                        Tape to keep it in place.
OTHER INTERESTING TOUCHES                                          9. Be on site at least 3 to 5 days before. You will have enough
Columbus-based Sher Bliss ( makes Bliss             time to verify all details, and, if needed, you will be able to
in a Bottle, which are chocolate covered bottles of wine.             rearrange certain aspects of your wedding.
They can be decorated with the bride and groom’s names             10. Minoo Hersini recommends buying fancy flip-flops for
and can be shipped to your location. They are a novel touch            your guests if you are having a beach wedding directly
and your guests will love them.                                        on the beach.
     You can also order realistic, handmade sugar flowers
from the Sugar Flower Shop (
to ship for use on your cake. Martha Stewart, the STYLE            “For one day, your wedding day, you are a celebrity,” says
Network and the Macy’s Flower Show have all featured               Donnie Brown. “You may never have that again.” So enjoy
these beautiful creations that are packed to be safe to carry      every ounce of the journey, as well as the destination, pun
on airplanes. Plus, these flowers can be preserved after the       intended. A destination wedding can be the wedding of
event as a lasting keepsake. We have ours in a curio cabinet       your dreams if you plan it thoroughly and then roll with
in our foyer.                                                      the punches. After all, even in paradise, it occasionally rains.
                                                                   When it rained in Antigua, the wedding official said the
THE BEST TIPS I WISH I HAD THOUGHT OF:                             raindrops were blessings from angels pouring down on us.
                                                                   And who couldn’t use a little angel love from heaven on
1. Donnie Brown says don’t just clip pictures in bride             their wedding day?
   magazines, clip descriptions. If you can bring a description
   of a floral arrangement or cake to your vendors, it helps
   them match your expectations.                                   Wondering if a destination wedding is right for you? Take the
2. Alison Hotchkiss tells all of her couples to ship things in     quiz now at
   advance – paper materials, gifts for attendants, etc.
3. For both the bride and groom, Donnie Brown
   recommends shaving with conditioner, not shaving
   cream – conditioner eliminates shaving bumps.
4. Donnie Brown tells brides to open an American Express
   just for wedding expenses. Pay it off every month and
   get the points to use toward your honeymoon.
5. All of the wedding planners I interviewed say to hire a
   wedding planner – at least a day-of planner – separate
   from the hotel planner. It’s one of the best investments
   you can make. The bride dictates the mood of the
   wedding. The planner is the liaison with the family
   and is your advocate. Without a planner, the bride and
   groom are attending to all the details and often are not
   even enjoying their wedding day. To find a planner,
   visit blog resources such as Style Me Pretty’s (www. black book list, do a Google search,
   or ask the hotel.
6. Put your guests first. It’s not just your day. Make sure your
   guests are comfortable, too. Dinner at 9 p.m. may be okay
   for you, but it won’t be okay for any guests with kids.
7. For those who cannot attend your wedding, maybe a
   webcam is available to show your ceremony. Perhaps
   your photographer can upload your wedding album
   quickly so you can email the link from the resort.
8. Donnie Brown reminds brides with strapless dresses to
   forgo the bra and binding clothing for at least 24 hours in     What better way to take the plunge than to literally take it – Moore and Houze
   advance of your wedding. You don’t want red marks on            taking the plunge in Antigua.

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