How I Planned an International Destination Wedding – Part 1

Hey guys!  I’m back!  And, totally enjoying the post-wedding love haze.  While I’m waiting for my pro pics, I figured I’d share my experience of booking an international destination wedding.  I’m a details person; I like knowing what to expect.  When I was first working on planning I was pretty bummed out that there was barely any information out there about the nitty-gritty steps of planning, organizing, and booking a destination wedding.   So, here’s my story, to hopefully help some future destination wedding bride.

Unfortunately, this series of posts is probably not applicable to most of the bees in the hive, so for that I’m sorry!  My feelings won’t be hurt of you skip through ’em.  😉

Cut back to October/November 2013…

After we picked a location, the work began:

Step 1.   Find a travel agent.  Having a travel agent is totally optional, but I knew I wanted one.  I knew that  I wanted to book a room block and that I didn’t want to handle the details myself.  I looked online, read some reviews, emailed a couple of people, and picked our travel agent.  We had to pay a $250 non-refundable deposit (this was applied to our room account) and sign a contract to secure her services.

Travel-Agent-Cartoon-300x272

Image via Smart Destination Travel Blog

Step 2. Travel Agent (here after known as “TA”) gets you room block quotes for the resort(s) you’re looking at.  We asked her to check out the Excellence and the Iberostar Grand.  She got quotes from both (plus some resorts in Mexico, just to compare), and we decided to go with the Excellence.

Step 3.  TA deals with the hotel groups booking people.  With the size of our invite list, TA recommended holding 20 rooms in the block (we had invited 106, and I created a spreadsheet with columns for “yes”, “no” and “maybe” attendees.  We then took all the “yeses” and half of the “maybes” to arrive at the number 20.)

Blog RSVP

Imagine numbers in the maybe column.  This is my “final” sheet, so there are only “yeses” and “nos”.  Names are blurred for privacy.

Step 4.  Sign the room block contract, and pay the resort a deposit.  We payed a pretty large deposit.  I think it was $250 per room, and a total of $4900.  (Again, this amount gets applied to your room account.  You could get a credit back depending on how long you stay at the resort, what room category you book, and how many rooms in the block you book.)

expensive bill

Image via 123RF

Confession: the whole deposit per room thing was really scary for me.  The deposit was a decent chunk of the wedding budget.  This isn’t the norm for room blocks in the US, so I was freaked out.  But everything ended up working out.  Once the final payments were due, we had a small balance due for our room.

Step 5.  Send out Save-The-Dates. We sent them a full year in advance to give people as much time/notice as we possibly could.

Step 6.  Send invitation to guests.  This included information about the resort, pricing, and details about how to book their rooms and pay the deposit.  TA handled all the financial stuff, which was a load off of me.

Step 7 .  The room block contract had three big financial due dates: the deposit, 1st payment, and the final payment for all of the rooms still left in the block.  Prior to each date I would email the TA to make sure we had the funds, and to see if any rooms needed to be dropped.  As the contract signer, we were liable for all the amounts due.  So I made it a point to follow up with TA, and make sure we were on track.

checklist

Image via WeddingsbyColor

I am happy we did the room block because we got some concessions: a free cocktail hour that we used the Saturday before the wedding, a little break on our room, and a credit against the cost of the basic wedding package (If you used a room block you got the basic wedding package for free.  Since we booked the Gold package, the cost of the basic package was credited to our bill).  All in all, I think we saved somewhere around $2k.  We also were able to secure 2014 room rates for our 2015 wedding which saved our guests a little bit of money too.

Step 8.  Once the room block is secured, you can confirm your wedding date with the resort.  This seemed really weird, but it’s the way the resort operated.  TA worked with the resort to confirm our wedding date and time.  We were the first 2015 wedding to be booked at the resort.

FYI: All of this took a really, really long time.  I started working on securing the TA prior to Thanksgiving in 2013.  That took a couple of weeks.  Securing the room block took a solid month, and booking the wedding date/time took another solid month.

No Patience

Gif via WiffleGif

Once we had the room block set and wedding date booked, there was a huge lull.  I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but the resort does not reach out to you to plan the details of your wedding until you are two months from the wedding date.  So, I waited…

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