Marrying Away in the US: Destination Wedding Q&A

by the knot

Planning your destination wedding isn't as difficult as you might think. Often it's as easy as making a few calls and sending a few emails. Many resorts now include the services of an experienced and knowledgeable wedding coordinator, and there are many more available for hire in popular areas. If you want to go at it alone, without the help of a coordinator, be prepared for extensive research, preliminary trips (hey, there are worse things!), and perhaps some timing snafus.

Q. How do we know where to go?

A. One of this country's greatest assets is its diversity, and that's especially true when it comes to geography. Try to think about it in terms of your dream setting first, and then in terms of activities that you and your guests might enjoy. A glitzy, high-rolling affair in Las Vegas? A sun-baked beach wedding on the Florida coast? A snow-filled adventure in the Rockies? The options are as limitless as your imagination.

Q. Are we responsible for our guests' expenses?

A. Most couples that go the destination-wedding route do not have the means to pay all of their guests' ways but if you do, it's a wonderful gesture and of course they will appreciate it. Usually, though, guests expect to foot the bill for their own airfare and hotel accommodations -- and they might not be so intimidated by a trip that doesnt require them to leave the country. That said, guests are committing themselves more financially and time-wise than they would for a wedding closer to home -- they're probably treating this as a vacation. This is one type of wedding you will need to plan further in advance if you're inviting lots of guests, and save-the-date cards are crucial. Whatever you do, make sure that you provide lots of economical options for your guests.

Q. We want to incorporate a little local culture without having a theme wedding. Any ideas?

A. Include some accents that are keystones of your surroundings. For example, if you're marrying in...

  • Highlight the city's music scene and hire a jazz band to play while guests enjoy cocktails; or have a Rainbow Room-style celebration and hire a band who specializes in big band music.
  • Pay homage to the city's cultural diversity with an eclectic menu. Consider having food stations -- a Lower East Side station with pastrami sandwiches, corned beef and knishes; hot dog carts with Coney Island hot dogs, French fries and old fashioned lemonade; NY Steak station with fries in cones, onion rings and steak carved to order.
  • Color your wedding with classic black and sleek silver to match NYC's chic style.

  • Marry during Cherry Blossom time and weave the gorgeous blooms throughout the ceremony and reception.
  • Show guests all your city has to offer -- from the water. DC Duck tours are a fun way to entertain guests.

  • Carry a bouquet of orange blossoms, Florida's State flower.
  • Learn to salsa, one of the hottest (and sexiest) dances on South Beach, and dance the night away to a live Latin band.
  • Have a Cuban cigar roller on hand to showcase the secrets behind one of the world's greatest indulgences. Give cigars out as favors to those who smoke.

The South
  • Make your getaway in true southern style -- a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Give guests a taste of the South -- traditional fried chicken for dinner and red velvet cake for dessert.
  • Capture the timeless elegance of your area and serenade guests with the sounds of classical musicians.
  • Use Mason jars to hold flowers on tables covered in soft white linen.

  • Have a mariachi band or Latin guitarist lead a processional from the ceremony to the reception.
  • Incorporate the vibrant sunset colors of the Southwest into your wedding. Consider using Mexican blankets as tablecloths or suspending a brightly colored pinata from the ceiling.
  • Highlight the Southwest's Mexican culture by serving Mexican-inspired foods -- fajita stations, taco stations or a tapas bar are all wonderful touches.

Las Vegas
  • Treat groomsmen to a game of tenpin bowling, one of the city's serious pastimes.
  • Take advantage of Vegas' world-class facilities -- in addition to the casinos, you and your guests can indulge at some of the best spas, restaurants, nightclubs and shows.
  • Include a book on black jack strategies (or whatever your favorite game happens to be) in guest's welcome bags.

Photo: Laura Hannah Photography

Q. If we want a more urban wedding, are there other options for us?

A. America's big cities offer endless opportunities for fun, adventure, and, of course, romance. Cities can be more expensive as far as daily costs go, but you can also find great package deals that include everything you'll need. Also, any wedding-related resources will probably be easier to locate. When marrying in a big city, there are a few important things to be aware of, however. Research any parades, conferences, or special events that may be occurring during your wedding weekend -- they will not only tie up traffic, but may also affect hotel availability. It is also important that you know the high crime areas of the city and do not book your hotels in these areas. Keep your guests safe by advising them to avoid carrying long-handled bags.

Q. Are there any must-dos that we should advise our guests of?

A. It's probably a good idea to provide each guest with an up-to-date travel guide for the area. Act as their hosts and see that they are kept entertained, which shouldn't be too difficult. Hotel concierges are great resources for itinerary ideas. Encourage your guests to participate, but don't be demanding. Realize that they'll occasionally want to hang out at the hotel and relax.

Q. Are there any local drinks or culinary specialties that we should know about and incorporate?

A. Concierges and travel books are a great resource for these types of things. Check the Internet for a web site for your specific town or area – they'll often clue you in to local specialties you won't want to miss. We love the idea of serving Manhattans in New York City, Cherry Blossom Martinis in DC, Mojitos in Miami, Mint Julip in the South, or Margaritas in the Southwest.

Q. I'm planning a trip to an area where I have family. Is it OK to ask them if they'd be willing to house guests?

A. It's always OK to ask, but just don't be upset if they say they can't -- especially if it's not immediate family you're asking. Instead of asking them to put people up, conder asking if they'll help by scouting out hotels and reception sites for you.

Photo: Laura Hannah Photography

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