From saying “I do” in front of a clear blue ocean to an abundance of gourmet food, drinks and entertainment, there are plenty of reasons to get married at a Sandals or Beaches resort. Not to mention that with an island destination wedding, you’ll get to spend several days of sun and fun with your loved ones—not just a short hello during cocktail hour or a quick turn on the dance floor. Plus, there’s a dedicated team that will work with you to ensure the entire experience is both stress-free and filled with personalized details reflecting your style. We talked with Marsha-Ann Brown, Director of Weddings & Romance for Sandals and Beaches resorts, to get some insider planning tips. Keep these seven things in mind to make your WeddingMoon an unforgettable celebration.
Choose the Right Resort
Picking the city, country or island to hold your destination wedding can be an easy decision for many newly engaged couples. But narrowing in on the exact venue to hold your ceremony and reception can be tougher. After all, there are a lot of factors to consider when you’re gathering friends and family in a far-flung location for several days: how many guests you anticipate, the backdrop and level of privacy you’re envisioning for the ceremony, and where you want to stay for the wedding festivities and honeymoon, for starters. (Do you want to wake up in a lush garden setting? A beachfront suite with picturesque seaside views? Closer to the ocean in an over-the-water villa?) When it comes down to it, who you are as a couple and who you’re inviting is most important. “Figure out whether you’re the type of group that wants an upbeat, all-night party or a more relaxed atmosphere,” Brown says. “The quality of service and range of restaurants, bars and activities at our resorts is consistent, but matching the specific features and vibe you’re picturing with a resort’s DNA is key.” Use the Sandals Vacation Planner
Visit in Advance
Once you’ve selected the resort, plan a trip to see it in person. You’ll be able to get the full look and feel for where you’ll get married, meet the on-site coordinators, watch live entertainment options you may want to incorporate into your wedding and try some of the food and beverage offerings. Sandals offers a two-night Test Drive Your WeddingMoon package, which is a good way to scope things out. Brown suggests going 6 to 10 months before your wedding and in advance of sending your save-the-dates. It’s also a good opportunity to explore your backup venues for the ceremony and reception in the event of inclement weather. Another bonus: You’ll receive up to $700 in resort credits when you visit and book your Weddingmoon group of 10 rooms or more.
Utilize a Wedding Planner
Although there are more logistics involved, planning a wedding from afar doesn’t need to be more complicated or time-consuming. “Brides and grooms tend to feel a bit overwhelmed at the onset of planning a destination wedding,” Brown says. But even though you’re handling logistics from afar, Sandals makes it easy for you: The resort’s pre-travel wedding planners offer virtual planning sessions on an interactive platform with face-to-face and screen-sharing capabilities to take the time to get to know you and your interests, then work to incorporate these personalized details into your wedding and overall itinerary.
Spend Time Off the Resort
Much like weddings close to home, couples planning a destination event are making their weddings more about the guest experience. This is perhaps even more important when guests have traveled farther and at greater expense than they otherwise would. “As a thank you for coming, couples want to show guests a good time—especially with something authentic to the destination or that they can’t do at home,” Brown says. And there are lots of ways to do that, while still allowing for plenty of R&R time: In addition to the more traditional pre-wedding welcome dinner and farewell brunch, book an off-site excursion, such as a catamaran cruise, waterfall tour or snorkeling expedition. Although the resorts have unlimited food, drinks and activities, bringing everyone together for an adventure is a thoughtful way to get guests beyond the beach.
Send a Countdown Email
Connecting with guests two weeks to one month before the trip is a good way to drum up excitement for the wedding. If you’re providing welcome bags, consider mentioning a few things that will be provided, especially if the items can help guests pack a little lighter, such as hats, shirts or sunscreen. As a more laid-back approach to sending out an official daily itinerary, include the resort’s activity schedule (you can get this from your pre-travel wedding planner), and call out any events you’re looking forward to. This way everyone can plan what they’d like to do on their own and as a group. Finally, ask guests to share any outstanding needs, whether it’s dietary restrictions, room types, or anything else that may arise, Brown suggests. “Addressing these requests prior to arrival will help everyone immediately get in a vacation mind-set,” she says.
Be the First to Arrive
Don’t let friends and family get the party started without the guests of honor. Brown recommends arriving a few days ahead of guests to meet your on-site coordinator and do a final review of everything you’ve planned. You’ll also have time to put together welcome bags and potentially make any last-minute changes. “Once you’re at the resort and can better envision your upcoming nuptials, you may also decide to add experiences, like a spa treatment, or the fire dancer that wowed you at the evening performance on your first night,” Brown says. Before you select your arrival date, check out the country’s legal requirements for marriage. Many islands have different residency requirements—typically you’ll need to arrive a few days before tying the knot. (After all, you want to make sure your marriage will be legal and recognized in your home state when you return).
Experience a New Location for Your Honeymoon
While you’ll undoubtedly have an amazing time with your guests during the wedding celebrations, you’ll probably be ready for some one-on-one time by the morning-after brunch. Sandals Honeymoon Hop® makes it easy to say goodbye to friends and family and start your honeymoon at another Sandals resort on the same island—or another island altogether. Their experts will handle the travel arrangements, so you can craft your dream honeymoon itinerary as easily as you planned your wedding.