Wedding Planning 101 Part 2

Wedding planner extraordinaire Olga Fagundo explains everything you need to know about planning a destination wedding. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ms. Fagundo has been planning weddings since 2004. Her company Caribbean Planning focuses on destination weddings, many of them in her native Puerto Rico and she has over two dozen weddings under her belt to date. Here she answers some of the most common questions about planning a destination wedding.

Can I pull off a fabulous destination wedding without spending a fortune?

YES! Having a destination wedding can actually save you money for 2 reasons. In general, catering services will be your biggest expense. The amount you will spend on catering is directly related to the amount of guests you end up hosting. A destination wedding allows for a smaller gathering since you won't have the pressure of inviting everyone you (or your parents) know. A destination wedding also pretty much ensures a beautiful setting, which will ultimately save you money on décor as well.

As a Latina other concerns may arise surrounding the expense for your family. Remember, many of your guests will have to travel to attend your wedding no matter where you decide to hold the big event. A trip to a great destination not only provides an incentive for your guests to spend the money to attend, but it also allows your wedding to double as a vacation! The trick is to secure the venue and a group-rate at the hotel at least a year in advance to give guests time to save money and take time off.

What are the best places to have a destination wedding?

I know this sounds cliché but it really depends on you and your hubby-to-be. Think about your lifestyle and backgrounds. Perhaps one of you has family at a particular location or maybe you took a trip at some point in your relationship that has special significance. Convenience of travel will determine attendance for a lot of people. Passport requirements, frequency, duration and the number of direct flights to your destination should be researched. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have become popular destinations for weddings lately as passports are not needed. Keep these factors in mind since for us Latinas it is especially important that our love ones be there for the special day.

What are the first steps you need to take in order to start planning a destination wedding?

Your first step should be to contact a wedding planner! Try to earmark about 10% of your total budget for this expense. This person will be a crucial part of the process, especially if you have chosen a location in a country in which English (or Spanish) is not the main language. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, start researching venues. Once you have narrowed down locations, take a trip to the destination! You’ll need to scout and secure your key venues and local suppliers. Once a venue has been secured the staff will be a huge resource. Unfamiliarity with the destination will add to the challenge so asking for local help is key.

Any other last minute pointers?

  • Never underestimate the power of “Save the Dates”. For those guests whom you really want in attendance, I suggest sending Save the Dates as soon as you have a signed contract for special group accommodations. These reminders are crucial for destination weddings and are your best tool in determining the final number of guests. Remember that your guests will need to plan substantially in advance in order to make all necessary arrangements.
  • Research the legal requirements for marriage! Although legally, a marriage ANYWHERE is also valid in the US, some destinations have prerequisites that can range from residency requirements to blood tests. Know in advance so that you can plan ahead.
  • Avoid “all-inclusive wedding deals” which include everything (i.e. musicians, florists, photographers) for a flat fee. Go for packages that offer a variety of vendors in each category. This will most definitely save you money because most “all-inclusive wedding deals” include hidden costs to cover vendor “referral fees”.