Why would a travel professional choose to specialize in destination weddings? Why not something a little simpler? “A honeymoon is great, but a destination wedding is so much more profitable. You get the bride and groom and then by guilt, you get 30 to 100 of their closest friends and family,” says Sarah Kline, president of Time for Travel, Ltd. in Maryland.
If that isn’t reason enough for you, keep to reading to hear from more destination wedding experts on their commitment to their couples, how they think about the guests and why supplier relationships are so important.
Destination weddings are not one-size-fits-all. You definitely need to take the time in the beginning to talk to your clients, ask them what they want, understand their budget and, sometimes, see if you even want to work with them.
When working with new couples, Kline says, “I do an interview process. In the beginning, everybody wants every bit of business. Everybody’s desperate to get business. But if you don’t gel from the beginning, it’s a long road to a wedding and a lot of emotion. So before I’ll even start with quotes or dig into the hotels, I do either in-office or phone interviews with at least two people who are part of the event.”
Itzel Rodriguez, wedding sales manager at Modern Destination Weddings in Texas, says she spends a lot of time educating wedding couples not only on the planning process, but also on the destination itself.
“There’s almost an overwhelming amount of information out there online, so a lot of couples are doing a lot of research before coming to us. And sometimes that information can be inaccurate so it’s a matter of narrowing down what they’re looking at, where they are in the process and clarifying the things they’ve read online,” Rodriguez says. “Even though they haven’t been to the destination, they have collected opinions about it.” So it’s almost like you also have to qualify a destination to your clients sometimes.
Sometimes clients can come to you and have already qualified themselves. “Probably half of my weddings are people who are already in process,” Kline says. This means they’ve visited the destination, found some resorts they like and then all of a sudden, they’re overwhelmed and turn up on Kline’s doorstep. “Then I’ll step in and take it from there. Those are my favorites.” She likes taking the reins and coming to their rescue.
Making a good impression on the guests can be an amazing lead generator for you. Tim Evans, president of Modern Vacations and Modern Destination Weddings in Texas, thinks that all the work you put into a destination wedding is worth it.
“I can’t believe how many people have gone on a destination wedding and then they come back and they want a destination wedding. Or it opens it up for [opportunities] for group travel. They go on a destination wedding and they have such an amazing time that the very next year they want to go back for their group trip,” he says. “A lot of times with leisure travel, we spend a lot of time narrowing down a resort for two people, but with destination wedding, you spend a lot of time for the those two people but then you have 40 or 50 people that come with them. There’s a lot of work that goes into, but it’s definitely rewarding.”
For destinations? Our experts love Jamaica.
“I love the fact that you can easily do a legal wedding. There’s very little paperwork, there’s no translation. The cost of a marriage license is very reasonable,” Kline says.
Sharon Campbell Little, president and owner of Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Group in California, echoes that sentiment. “Jamaica is one of the easiest islands to have a legal wedding,” she says. Plus, she says, “I have rarely found any guest that has not gone to this island not totally loved it.”
Rodriguez favors a more specific destination. “My personal favorite right now is Playa Mujeres. It’s an up-and-coming area,” she says. The secluded feeling of Playa Mujeres helps guests who are struggling with an idea of Mexico being unsafe feel more at ease. Plus, there’s a little something extra about the area that helps. “It’s always a reassurance to tell them that it’s a resort located in a private, gated community. And when we tell them that, they’re like, ‘oh, that’s fantastic,’” she explains. “When they get there, all of the anxiety and concern kind of wash away and then they’re hopping on boats and going on excursions, and it’s not far from Cancun so they can go out on the town at night,” she says.
“I only put my brides in resorts where I know someone is just a phone call away,” Kline says. This means she has a close relationship with either the wedding planner or resort manager to be able to solve a problem quickly. “If there is a hiccup, if there is a challenge, you need to know that it’s a resort where you’ve got a good BDM, you’ve got a good contact that you can have put out those fires and get things done,” she says.
All of our experts emphasize the importance of good supplier relationships. “I trust them, they trust me, we have a great relationship and understanding of, when we send clients down there, what our expectation level is,” says Little.
The same goes for Rodriguez, who says, “Relationships are everything. I can reassure my wedding couples that they are going to be taken care of, because I know the wedding coordinators and the wedding managers at the resorts.”
But the relationships with the couples are just as important. They’re the ones you’re really working for, after all. “There’s nothing better than, after the event is all said and done, you get an amazing feedback letter or email from a couple who say that everything went exactly as expected, if not better. That is worth all the tea in china. There is no better feeling in the world than hearing that from our couples,” Little says.