From the beautiful countryside of the south to the crisp blue waters of the Caribbean coast, couples are not just opting for an exotic trip for their destination wedding but are discovering or returning to their heritage while taking their guests along for the adventure. This return to “heritage” concept has initiated a spike in destination weddings and may be the cause of its most recent popularity.
The Roots Diving into your roots is the first steps in planning the most unforgettable Heritage Destination Wedding. Reviewing the foods, the music, the culture and the fashion is what makes your destination wedding come alive and leaving your guests wanting more!
The Destination If you have never had the pleasure of traveling to your heritage destination location but have only heard of its beauty from the lips of your grandparents or other family members, it is time for you to plan a pre-wedding trip. When booking your travels, consider traveling during the time of year you would like to have your dream wedding. This will give you an opportunity to get a feel of the weather, the time of the sunrise/sunset, and the energy of annual events — local and conventions — taking place during your wedding weekend. Keep in mind these events will affect hotels, traffic and the natural culture of the location. What is often a surprise during these trips are the unexpected festivals taking place. Brides and grooms can find that when they plan their wedding weekend, it can fall into the laps of a local festival that is filled with art, music and culture, which gifts your guests an even more authentic experience.
During your scout trip, schedule meetings with venues and vendors. The venues will be happy to provide you a list of vendors they work with. Visiting all the vendors during your pre-wedding travels allows you to plan with comfort when you return home.
Although you will work with a planner from the venue you select (especially if you select an all-inclusive venue), I recommend hiring an event planner from the United States who has experience in destination weddings. You should take your U.S.-based planner on the trip with you and your fiancé, so he/she can walk the grounds and get the lay of the land to fully envision what your wedding ceremony and reception will be like in the space. Your planner will be your advocate in the details before any contracts are signed.
The Guests It is important to get your guests excited about your heritage destination wedding extravaganza. This is accomplished with the first line of communication… the announcing of the wedding with the Save the Date. As soon as you secure all final details of the wedding (i.e., venue, hotel accommodations, etc.) mail out your Save the Dates. This will not only excite your guests, but it allows them to plan and save for the celebration.
Most destination weddings are costly, which is why some friends and family will opt not to attend, especially if the wedding conflicts with their work schedule or their children’s school schedule. However, if you truly want all your guests to experience the culture, the food and the celebration (and not using the destination to decrease the number of guests attending the wedding… wink wink), your guests will applaud you for providing them at least nine to 12 months to plan.
Your Save the Date should include your wedding website, which will allow guests to visit and review the details of the destination wedding. It should showcase the introduction to the journey, the event in detail, the hosted hotel, airport shuttle information and a Q&A page to further assist guests in making this a stress-free experience. Organize the details in an enticing way, so that it leaves your guests wanting more!
The Celebration A heritage destination requires a little more detail planning than your regular run-of-the-mill destination wedding. It requires exposing your guests to the beauty of the culture, the food and the love you have for your heritage. Start your journey with the delivery of your invitation. Incorporate a piece of you and your culture in the design of the invitation. Some ideas: cultural fabrics to line the invitation or include floral seeds of a flower that is popular in the location that you are visiting.
Celebrating your roots may lead most of you out of the country, but for others it may lead them a couple of states over. In these cases, the planning is the same without the need to deal with passports and customs. Your goal is to give your guests a true cultural experience. It does not matter if you are going back to the Georgia Peach state or the Motherland. Just make the experience authentic.
Consider making the experience over a couple of days and beginning upon their arrival. For example, when the shuttle arrives to pick up your guests, have a cultural band or singer welcome your guest in song or dance. This will not only set the mood but will wow your guests.
As your guests arrive, have the hotel welcome them on your behalf by presenting them a signature cultural welcome drink. This welcoming touch not only leaves a lasting impression but also says, “Thank you for taking this journey with us.”
As the bride and groom, you are responsible for throwing the ceremony, cocktail and dinner reception. If the budget permits, consider including a welcome party on the date most of your guests arrive, this allows guests to relax, breathe, mingle and get to know one another (especially after their travels) while enjoying some of the cultural elements of the destination. A fun local excursion (or tour) following cocktails adds the finishing touch to the first night.
As you get ready for the wedding, many guests will have the morning free. Consider offering guests a list of local fun activities that are signature to the location and to the roots of your culture that they can indulge in prior to the wedding. This will add to the epic weekend and allow guests to truly feel that they are on vacation.
After the big day and everyone is preparing for their travels back home, wow them one last time with a morning brunch. Provide them a traditional breakfast that is signature to your culture. For guests who have an early morning flight, provide them a convenient to-go breakfast box. They will thank you for the thoughtfulness.
The Memories Being part of a Heritage Destination Wedding is truly an epic experience for everyone. Use photo- and video-sharing apps such as Shutterfly and Wedpic to see the wedding weekend through the eyes of their guests. You and your man cannot be everywhere and being able to live the wedding weekend as bride and groom is amazing, but going back to live it with your guests from their perspective is epic.