Planning the destination wedding of your dreams

STORY Laurie Wallace-Lynch

If you’ve ever dreamed of getting married on the warm sand of a sunny beach, or perhaps in a romantic castle in Europe, you are not alone.

“Destination weddings are hugely popular, with the top three destinations being Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic and a trend moving towards more exotic destinations such as Bora Bora, Italy and France,” says Camille Jocsak, owner of Planned 2 Perfection Limited and Paradise 2 Perfection in Mississauga.

Camille has what is arguably one of the best jobs in the world—as a wedding planner, she globe trots with bridal couples. Camille calls herself a wedding broker and she works with clients to make their dream wedding come true.

“I’ve planned weddings in Italy, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Barbados, England, France, the Middle East and of course in Canada,” says Camille. “I run Canadian training wedding boot camps, designed to train and help hotels and resorts understand North American culture and how to best manage bridal couple expectations. I get to know culture and marital laws. I travel to the hottest destinations and their resorts to familiarize myself, meet their staff as well as local wedding vendors, building personal relationships. This allows me to complete tasks and get answers in a fraction of the time it would take the bridal couple to try and do on their own.”

Getting the wedding day vision down on paper is the first step. Camille meets with clients to find out what type of wedding they have in mind and then offers suggestions based on their budget and their chosen destination.

“Getting married in some countries can be more difficult than in others. You have to be aware of the rules and guidelines,” states Camille. “For instance, if you are getting married in Mexico, you have to be in the country three business days prior to your wedding day, have blood tests performed in Mexico and supply the necessary legal information ahead of time; you must have four witnesses, none of whom can be relatives and they must be over the age of 18. Once you return to Canada, your wedding documents must be translated into English before they can be recognized in Ontario. Most countries offer three types of weddings; symbolic wedding, a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the wedding is recognized as legal in Canada.”

Camille is recently helped to plan a wedding that sounds like it was straight out of a Hollywood romance. “It was a Venetian masquerade in Venice on the canal with gondolas,” explains Camilla. “I am also planning another wedding in Tuscany where the bride’s vision is whimsical and romantic and will take place in a beautiful Tuscan garden.”

Many resorts and cruise lines offer destination wedding packages, often with perks for the bride and groom hosting, dependent on the number of guests and the package they book.
“It really depends on the couple and their needs,” explains Camille. “If you are looking at Mexico and doing a South Asian Wedding, I would say Grand Velas and Moon Palace. I love AM Resorts, Dreams specifically, and Paradisus, as they just are great high end resorts with beautiful amenities and great to work with. If you prefer an adults-only resort, there is Sandals, Secrets and Couples. Many resorts now offer the split option where your guests can choose between an adults-only side or a family side. I just did a wedding like this two weeks ago at Paradisus in the Riviera Maya. This is a great option for bridal couples who would like to include everyone. More affordable options are Iberostar and Karisma Resorts. I’ve worked with them all and it really comes down to who you know and how good your planner is at negotiating and working with the venue and vendors to get the best services and the most flexibility from the resorts.”

Camille advises bridal couples to do their homework and ask questions. “Always remember that when doing a destination wedding, you must respect the country’s laws and culture.”
We checked out some other upscale resorts which have truly thought of everything when it comes to destination wedding packages.

Resort Options

The beautiful Elbow Beach Bermuda is a 98-room luxury hotel located on the pink sands of the island’s famed South Shore. Their wedding package includes private beach use for the ceremony and reception, elegant indoor and outdoor spaces with ocean views, banquet facilities for up to 200 guests, gourmet catering services, discounts for groups booking 10 or more rooms and access to their luxury spa and beauty salon. The resort team can customize packages to offer special services such as horse-drawn carriages, fireworks, entertainment and more. Honeymooners receive perks like a complimentary night stay with full breakfast, VIP status, a $100 USD spa voucher and more. www.elbowbeachbermuda.com

The House is a charming 34-room adult-only boutique hotel located along the stunning west coast of Barbados. The inn is reminiscent of a fabled castle with terraced brick walls and arched wooden doorways for that chic beach house vibe. The Tropical Luxury Package includes a private beach candlelit dinner for two including a bottle of bubbly, a petal-strewn aisle for the wedding ceremony flanked by two floral pedestals, and the gift of two plush resort bathrobes which will come in handy at the resort spa. www.thehousebarbados.com

The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa offers several wedding packages, and specializes in large- scale ethnic weddings. Their certified wedding planners are experts at coordinating the nuptial rituals as part of their three-day wedding package which includes authentic food, music, decor, makeup and hair stylists and a mendhi artist. The Honeymoon Bliss Package, available to couples who are married at the resort, includes perks like a welcome bottle of sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a $50 resort credit per day. www.marriott.com

The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Sarasota, Florida is a luxurious beach front resort boasting tennis, golf, a spa and wellness centre, a marina and several dining choices. Having stayed recently at this upscale resort, it truly offers everything a bride and groom could wish for in one location. The His and Her Wedding Package includes five-hour premium open bar, selection of hors d’oeuvres and one gourmet display, sparkling wine toast, wine service with dinner, plate, buffet or reception stations dinner, a customized wedding cake, mani/pedi salon soiree with light bites and bubbly for four ladies and golf foursome with lunch for four gents and best of all, a stay in the beach view honeymoon junior suite, (based on a minimum food and beverage package purchased). www.longboatkeyclub.com

Cruise Ship Weddings

Cruise ship weddings are hugely popular with several cruise lines offering wedding packages. This is a fun way to join family and friends together for a wedding combined with a holiday.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line offers “Royal Wedding” packages including their Ultimate Love Story Package, which includes the assistance of a wedding planner to help organize the big day, a non-denominational wedding official, a wedding photographer (photos available at an additional charge according to the order), a three-tier wedding cake, a bottle of champagne, and a chocolate-dipped strawberries and Mimosa breakfast served in bed.

“Most large cruise lines now offer wedding packages,” says Camille. “Some can perform weddings on board while others offer in port weddings. There are certain cruise captains who can officiate. I know that Celebrity, Azmara Club, Princess and Cunard all allow on board weddings. In order to legally marry aboard, the ship has to be registered with a certain country, such as Malta or Bermuda. Legal marriage rules apply depending on where you are getting married and where the ship is registered. The proper license must be issued in Canada or a foreign port and arranged well ahead of time. Always check on which countries provide marriages that will be legal in Canada before booking. Do your homework!”
Although some ships do not have the authority to perform legal ceremonies, cruise passengers can still have a wedding on board with an arranged official, if the ship is docked at a port.

“Other ships do the weddings on their private islands, such as Holland America with weddings on Half Moon Cay or on Disney Cruises, with marriages taking place at Castaway Cay, but keep in mind that if the port is cancelled due to weather, your wedding will be cancelled as well.”

There are as many packages and variables to packages available as there are cruise lines and resorts offering couples plenty of exciting options to make their dream of a destination wedding come true.