Happily Ever After, Eventually
Following our recent cover story on how agents are handling destination wedding bookings during a pandemic, Travel Courier takes a look ahead to a brighter future with hot romance trends and a look back at recent real agent booked nuptials.
First comes love, then comes a picture-perfect marriage.
Ashley Hillary, Luxury & Romance Travel Designer at North South Travel, says destination wedding couples are putting a lot more emphasis on capturing the special memories from their big day.
“Trends include elevated photo and selfie station options, choosing standout locations to obtain Instagram-worthy photos, and putting more value and importance into booking a really great photographer and videographer,” she tells Travel Courier.
Going beyond the beach
While the resorts’ beach was previously one of the most important priorities for destination wedding couples since wedding ceremonies often centred around a beach ceremony, Liz Moore, CEO of Liz Moore Destination Weddings, says it’s now about what unique elements resorts can offer for a ceremony and the reception location.
“The experience is becoming the focal point of the destination wedding rather than the beach and resort amenities,” she says. “The beach is still important, however, not at the top of couples’ lists any longer. Couples now are looking at unique ceremonies, cultural events around their wedding, as well as activities and excursions they can add onto their wedding group. They want to create a very unique wedding and vacation experience for their group.”
Off the beaten track
Stephanie Griffiths, the owner of Mangata Escapes, points out that off-site locations are also on the rise.
“The demand for these off-the-beaten path locations has been steadily increasing over the past few years as vendor fees on resorts are rising,” she notes. “Brides are wanting to find a better value for their wedding, more bang for their buck and these spaces offer that. They also come with more privacy and a much more personalized experience.”
“The experience is becoming the focal point of the destination wedding rather than the beach and resort amenities.”
The trend even carries over to fam trips and site inspections.
“My trips to Mexico now are visiting resorts and also visiting off-site locations with wedding planner friends,” she adds. “There are some pretty incredible locations.”
An intimate affair
As for the guest list, it’s becoming increasingly popular to cut down on the number of invites.
“Many couples are opting to reduce their overall guest count to have a more intimate wedding experience at a more luxurious hotel/venue (and often sans children), or to help afford a more luxurious honeymoon which they will add-on to the end of their wedding trip, or [they] choose to travel later in the year,” says Hillary.
Staying on trend
Overall, Hillary says couples are finding ways to make the wedding day more of a reflection of themselves.
“Other trends include more emphasis on adding unique lighting options for the ceremony/reception, incorporating longer veils to even more casual wedding dress styles, neutral pastel shades mixed with brighter bolder colours, putting focus on one major statement piece that makes a big impact and cutting back on other décor items, and finding unique ways to represent couples’ personalities into all aspects of their wedding day.”
A sense of community
Leading up to the wedding, Griffiths says that Facebook groups have really evolved for the brides.
“I was married in 2017 and these were new then,” she recalls. “Now if you have an idea of a location… you can join any bride group and someone knows where you are talking about or have been married there. Technology is taking things to a new level. Built a camaraderie of sorts.”
South Asian weddings continue to rise
Moore notes that South Asian Destination Weddings are becoming increasingly popular, with a growing number of resorts catering to the demand for multi-day functions.
“With large groups travelling from all across the globe, resorts have created many new feature offers for larger groups that can save couples a a lot of money in reception costs — especially when offering two to four additional events during their wedding festivities,” she says. “Not all resorts have caught onto the way they can offer services that will really appeal to couples bringing a large group of guests. For those that have, they have seen a great deal of business these days.”
Location, location, location
As for locations, Moore says Costa Rica is high on the list of alternative locations for couples wanting something completely different.
“Stunning flowers, tropical oasis backdrops with volcanoes, and beautiful evening sunsets,” she says. “Thailand is also emerging as a new trend in destination wedding travel. Many properties offer stunning beach locations, amazing amenities for weddings and high end accommodations at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. It’s no wonder it’s become a trending new location for destination weddings.”
Another hot destination is Mexico, with Moore fielding more and more requests for Los Cabos in particular.
“There are a plethora of new resorts that have sprung up in Cabo, many of them higher end luxury properties that our couples love,” she notes.
Meanwhile Griffiths, who specializes mostly in Mexico points out that it’s the price point that continues to lure her clients.
“I do also often start with brides who want places such as St. Lucia, Aruba, the islands, but it doesn’t take long to narrow down guests’ budgets and realize these aren’t ideal for many budgets,” she says.
Although there have been concerns about sargassum in Mexico over the past few years, Moore says Costa Mujeres, located approx. 30 minutes north of the Cancun airport, has emerged as one of the best places to wed.
“Stunning white sand, seaweed free beaches, beautiful tranquil surroundings and a whole array of new five-star properties has created quite the buzz for destination wedding travel these days,” she says. “I’ve site-inspected many of them over the past year and have really been wowed. Wonderful spa amenities open to all guests, great live entertainment, butler services on many accommodations levels, resorts are really going above and beyond now to attract wedding groups.”
“Off-site locations are on the rise. The demand for these off the beaten path locations has been steadily increasing over the past few years as vendor fees on resorts rising. There are some pretty incredible locations.”
CEO, Liz Moore Destination Weddings
“Couples now are looking at unique ceremonies, cultural events around their wedding as well as activities and excursions they can add onto their wedding group. They want to create a very unique wedding and vacation experience for their group.”
Luxury & Romance Travel Designer, North South Travel
“Couple are putting focus on one major statement piece that makes a big impact and cutting back on other décor items and choosing standout locations to obtain Instagram-worthy photos.”
To get excited about the opportunities ahead, here’s a look at some recent real weddings booked by Canadian travel agents.
Stephanie & Ryan
The wedding date: January 31, 2020
The location: Dreams Dominicus La Romana
The agent: Shalene Dudley, Latitude Concierge Travels, Ltd, www.latitudeconciergetravels.com
Photographers: Georges Gurascier & Mili Gonzales, GGG PHOTO, www.gggphoto.com
Size of the wedding group: 42
Tell us about the booking: “Stephanie and Ryan were such a joy to work with. Their entire group was looking forward to this event. For many of them, it was their first all-inclusive vacation. They had guests travelling from Thunder Bay, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Sault Ste Marie. We selected Dreams Dominicus because of La Roman’s beautiful beaches. They also preferred a destination that wasn’t overly populated with tourists. Everything was moving smoothly-even with some last-minute cancellations, name and room changes we were good… Until Air Canada began their migration to Amadeus. Thankfully, my group coordinator, Jennifer Williams is always on the ball and assisted me with all the documents, seat assignment and corrections. Mr. and Mrs. Moran returned with a group of happy guests who loved the property and photos that definitely highlight the joy in everyone’s hearts.”
Catherine & Chris
The wedding date: March 13, 2020
The location: Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta
The agent: Pamela Walker, Weddings by Escapes, www.idoweddingsaway.ca
Photographers: Marvik Meza & Fabiola Valenzuela, www.delmarphotography.mx
From the bride & groom: “I have to tell you our timing couldn’t have been better – we were still living in a bubble the day of the ceremony. Our guests, as well as ourselves were not overly panicked and thankfully were all still able to fully enjoy ourselves for a few days following the wedding. We really wouldn’t have changed anything, the Hyatt did an incredible job.”
Feedback on the Hyatt Ziva: “It exceeded our expectations. Valentina, our wedding planner worked with us from beginning to end (including the day of the wedding), we were never passed onto another staff member when we arrived. That was a huge bonus. Staff responded quickly to any questions and changes. It was a seamless experience with a high quality and trusted brand (the flowers were amazing!). We highly recommend it.”
Aman & Harminder
The wedding date: Nov 5, 2019
The location: Moon Palace Cancun
The agent: Allison Tatham, Liz Moore Destination Weddings, www.lizmooredestinationweddings.com
Photographer: Style Video Productions, http://stylevideo.com/svp/svp-home
Size of the wedding group: 90
From the groom: “You always hear that it’s difficult for the couple to enjoy their big day because of all the stress that comes with planning and coordinating. Well, that wasn’t the case with us. Allison went well beyond her scope of work to make sure that we enjoyed all the incredible moments during our special week at Moon Palace Cancun. She protected us from all that didn’t go as planned and made sure that all we saw and experienced was the beautiful end product. Such an amazing week!”