WOOOAHHH you guys. It has been a WHIRLWIND of a few weeks. Let me quickly recap for you:
- Mike accepted a new job
- We found a new apartment
- My car was totaled
- We bought a car
- My boss’s office flooded
- Oh yeah – we got married.
This seriously all happened in the last three weeks, so I apologize for being nothing short of delinquent with updates.
It’s so hard to believe that I started my fantasy wedding Pinterest board so many years ago, and now I’m reflecting on my actual wedding. The truth is, nothing I could have pinned on Pinterest could have prepared me for this day. It was so magical in so many ways. Mike and I are huge family people, so having everyone we love gather together to celebrate with us on an INCREDIBLY gorgeous island was beyond our wildest dreams.
When Mike proposed last March, we knew we wanted to have a destination wedding. In 2011, his brother got married in Hawaii, and we still talk about what an amazing trip it was. We understood that a destination would preclude certain people from attending, but we really wanted our wedding to be an experience, not just an event.
If you’re considering a destination wedding, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: Are you willing to significantly decrease your attendee list? After all was said and done and every last minute cancelation was accounted for, we wound up with about 75 guests. That’s a pretty large destination wedding. Had we done it in Chicago (where we’re from), we would have likely had closer to 200. If you’re okay with a trim guest list, then a destination wedding might be for you.
My mom and I dove headfirst into wedding planning. We’ll just pick an island! Any island! Doesn’t matter – give us a beach and some blue water, and ta-da! We’re getting hitched!
WE. WERE. WRONG.
The process of picking WHICH resort on WHICH island was by far the hardest part of this entire process. Here are a few things we analyzed when picking our island of choice:
- Safety. Full transparency – I’ve only ever been to Mexico for a day. Cozumel was lovely, and I make no judgements about the state of the country. However, given recent news coverage, many of our guests were reticent to travel to places like Mexico due to safety concerns. While we were fairly certain it would have been fine, we had to take the comfort of our guests into account. Safety was a definite factor when choosing a location.
- Travel Time. Where are the bulk of your guests located? Ours were in the midwest, so we tried to pick an accessible island. We researched travel itineraries on Expedia to find out on average how many stops/planes it would take to get to each island from Chicago and Michigan. Three plane changes and fifteen hour travel days automatically nixed certain destinations from our list of favorites.
- Kid Friendliness. I have seven little cousins who played an integral role in the wedding, and it was absolutely necessary that we find hotels and resorts that were kid friendly without catering to kids and families. We didn’t want a Wisconsin Dells vibe. This was trickier than you think. If your wedding is adults-only, I would advise you to consider the hotel’s kid policy and decide if you are okay with the pitter-patter of underage children roaming about.
- Food. This was absolutely one of our biggest concerns and ultimately, the reason we decided to go with a hotel rather than an all-inclusive resort. Mike and I took a trip to Punta Cana a few years back and stayed in an all-inclusive resort whose food we couldn’t stand. For five days, we basically lived on beans, rice, and little donut holes they served with coffee in the morning. It was such a bummer to know we paid extra for the option to eat whatever and whenever we wanted and we completely forewent it. Though it’s typically cheaper overall to go the all inclusive route, it’s a complete waste if you don’t like the food. We decided we didn’t want to be responsible for choosing our guests’ meal options for any day other than the wedding. This means they would pay less for a hotel room, but likely more on food on the whole.
- Price. We were hyper aware of the cost of hotels, since we were going to be making our guests travel to join us. If money is no object to you and your guests, then please, bring me to your wedding. Otherwise, I suggest sussing out a few close friends and family members for what their budgets allow and using that as a measuring stick.
My mom is a flight-attendant, and one of her colleagues serves as a travel ambassador to Grand Cayman. When my mom reached out to her to inquire about Cayman, she directed us to Linda Mitchell of Luxury Destination Travel. It was clear from the jump that Linda knew her stuff. During our first phone call, she gave us a quick overview of all of the popular hotels on the island spanning all different price ranges. She then suggested we consider the Ritz Carlton.
We quickly dismissed the idea. Arab Sultans and Kris Jenners throw parties at the Ritz – not a family from a suburb of Illinois where the biggest attraction is the local Ikea.
Nevertheless – she persisted 🙂 She worked her magic and we did the math, and we settled on numbers that were comfortable to us and to our guests. Yes – the Ritz is still more expensive than a Holiday Inn – for sure. But Linda was able to get us rates at the Ritz that we’d never seen before and may never see again. This isn’t a sponsored post – I’m writing this because she made my wildest dreams come true. She connected us with the Events Manager at the Ritz, and we quickly made clear that we are not next in line for the royal throne, and that there would be a budget involved. The Ritz was gracious and understanding and willing to work with us to make cuts where necessary.
Here’s another big suggestion: if you are going to pick a hotel that might be outside of the budget of some of your guests, ask your wedding coordinator if there are other, less-expensive options nearby. I would say more than half of our guests opted to stay at the Ritz, and though it was likely a bit more than they would normally spend, everyone loved the experience. The rest of our guests were able to take advantage of the Sunshine Suites and Holiday Inn – both very close to our resort and both roughly half the price (I think Holiday inn might have even been less).
Choosing our wedding venue was by FAR the hardest part and the part for which no one prepared me. I hope this helps you make an informed decision. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or a DM. I absolutely love planning parties, and I’d be more than happy to share any of the knowledge I’ve gained over the last year!!