Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Sep 04, 2017

Fall for these destination weddings trends

(photo above courtesy COCOON EVENTS)


From ceremonies infused with local traditions to lavish luxurious locations, today’s destination weddings are anything but cookie-cutter. Whether it’s going the extra mile to reach a more remote country or paying a little bit more for a truly memorable experience, modern day brides and grooms are going after the celebrations of their dreams.
Here’s a look at what’s trending, what’s changing and just how newlyweds-to-be are making their nuptials stand out from the crowd:

Paying the price for a picture-perfect wedding
If a picture is worth a thousand words, an Instagram-worthy photo is no doubt worth much more! Not only are bridal couples opting for longer stays – often booking two-week affairs as opposed to just one – they’re willing to pay the price for something special.
“They tend to be seeking higher quality resorts to start with, places that they know will deliver ‘Instagram-worthy’ photos,” says Kristina Boyce, vice president of sales at Merit Travel. “Free weddings also don’t seem to be the only draw like they used to be for destination weddings. The bridal couple still want specific items to be part of their wedding, and they’re willing to pay for them.”

Going off the resort
Even though destinations like Jamaica are still top hot spots for brides and grooms, many couples are choosing to tie the knot off the resort.
“Working with off-site venues is becoming more popular because brides can have a more private wedding, but also be involved in every aspect, including the decoration, to create the most perfect, destination wedding of their dreams,” says travel agent and destination wedding/honeymoon specialist Pauline Blacoe of Shine Travel.

It’s all about the group dynamics
Friends and families are essentially turning the wedding celebration into a full-blown family vacation.
“Couples are looking to enhance their guests’ experiences by booking group excursions and upgrading their wedding packages to include extra private events, such as welcome dinners and cocktail parties,” says Megan Velez, vice president, product at Destination Weddings Travel Group.
Meanwhile Emily Sullivan, destination planner at Emily Sullivan Events has also noted couples are expanding on group activities beyond the wedding day.
“Destination weddings are becoming more about spending time with family and friends than just the ceremony and reception only, so multiple events are a focus,” she says.
“These weddings offer families and friends the opportunity to truly connect with one another over the duration of the trip, and we’re seeing people valuing that aspect more and more,” adds Boyce.

Going the luxury route
While the majority of couples are seeking affordable packages, Air Canada Vacations is also set to launch a new luxury brochure to cater to the demands for more higher-end properties and services.
“Everybody wants the diamond at the price of the cubic zirconia as I like to say, however, we have seen an increase in demand for luxury properties,” says Voula Spiridonakos, manager, group & incentives at ACV.
Similarly at Transat, spokesperson Marie-Annick Lalande says there have been some luxury bookings.
“Weddings continue to be on the rise, and represents an important part of our group business,” she says.
Whereas the rest of the group often opts for the entry-level prices at resorts, Boyce says bridal couples frequently choose to upgrade their accommodations.
“Parents and other guests of honour often upgrade as well,” she says. “Sometimes ,the bridal couple will also add an extra week at the end of the trip at a higher end resort.”

Making a vacation out of it
Meanwhile at Flight Centre FC GROUPS, general manager Shane Bannerman says couples are giving their guests the opportunity to turn the destination wedding into a personal holiday by allowing them to tag on time for themselves.
“What a lot of brides and grooms are doing, they’re having a wedding in let’s say Italy or Greece, and they’re basically saying we need you here for these two or three days, and then a lot of them are creating suggested itineraries for ‘this is what you might want to do if you come five days prior,’ ‘this is what you can do if you’re gonna stay an extra week,’” he says. “So, families are making their way to the destination wedding for three days, and then they’re getting their own personal travel out of it. If you’re going to dish out that amount of money to go to Italy for a wedding, then you might as well go and really enjoy the holiday.”

South Asian destination weddings are on the rise
A rapidly growing niche for destination weddings is in South Asian events, with many resorts catering to the needs of these multiple day celebrations.
“Indian wedding couples are seeing tremendous value in having a destination wedding over a traditional wedding and are excited to be booking in their groups into popular wedding areas such as Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta,” says Liz Moore, the CEO of Liz Moore Destination Weddings.

Couples are going the distance
Perhaps more than ever before, couples aren’t afraid to push the limit when it comes to travel.
“In the past, couples were concerned that their guests might not travel long distances, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer,” says Jasprit Kaul, managing partner at L’escape. “We have seen an increase in weddings to Portugal and Greece.”

The booking window is getting smaller
It’s also interesting to note that for Air Canada Vacations, the booking window is decreasing.
“Where they used to book a year to two years in advance, we’re seeing that – and there are a few exceptions – but they are booking between a six and nine months window,” says Spiridonakos.

Locations are getting more unique
Although the groups are smaller, at Merit Travel, more and more wedding parties are heading to more off-the-beaten-path locations like Costa Rica, Chile, Ireland, Italy, France, Greece, and parts of Africa, for the big day.
“This is often due to a family connection in destination and/or a slightly upgraded budget for the entire group,” says Boyce. “These groups require a lot more work on the part of our consultants, as there’s no ‘wedding package A’ for a destination wedding in Chile for example, we have to piece it all together from scratch. That said, they’re a lot more fun to plan!”
Meanwhile Dublin, Ireland-based Tara Fay, founder of Xena Productions Bespoke Events, says brides and grooms are on the looking for special locations.
“What most couples coming to Ireland for destination weddings are looking for are venues that have some history, are in beautiful locations and have accommodation if not on-site, close to the venue for their guests,” she says. “A lot of historic houses in Ireland that are privately owned are coming on stream for weddings.”

Incorporating local elements
From offering wine tastings prior to the ceremony to taking guests on a brew tour the next day, Heather Jones, catering sales director at Wente Vineyards says incorporating local experiences into the wedding is more of a priority for couples.
“Couples want to include local wines, beers and food specialized to the area,” she says, adding that destination weddings have the added benefit of driving more income into a community. “They are looking for visually interesting venues, as well as venues with history that will provide another side of the experience for the guests. We find guests are looking for alternative locations to the high traffic tourist areas.”

What’s in it for agents?

Tour operators reveal what makes the relationship mutually beneficial for their travel agent partners.
“Transat has knowledgeable veterans, which can be a great help in coordinating an event where details are a key element. Customer service is our No. 1 priority, so we offer flexibility when doing business with travel agents. Finally, our Bonbon and free trip rewards are always popular!” says Transat’s Communications advisor Marie-Annick Lalande.
“We have incentives and promotions throughout the year, and our standing ACV and Me reward points, which they accumulate whenever they book through us. They can exchange their points for gift cards or Air Miles so there’s different reward programs, as well we have a promotion where they can earn free airline tickets. Let’s say, if they book anywhere between 60 or 120 passengers, they can get either two or four free airline tickets with Air Canada; and with groups, it’s very easy to get to the 60 passenger mark because it’s not like for one booking,” says Voula Spiridonakos, manager, group & Incentives,
Air Canada Vacations.