With a ceremony, reception, and honeymoon to plan, it is no wonder couples can get a little stressed out arranging for their big day. This is where the ‘WeddingMoon’ swoops in to save couples’ sanity, as well as their time and money. The WeddingMoon has taken the trend of having your wedding in an exotic locale and adapted it to all aspects of the wedding — the bride and groom plan the service, reception, and honeymoon all in one spectacular location. If it sounds like one-stop shopping in paradise… it is.

Experts say the driving force behind the WeddingMoon is its delightful combination of being able to cut costs and planning time, while still having a distinct and adventurous experience. With the global society we live in today, most guest have to travel to weddings, so why not gather family and friends together in just one destination and have it be somewhere amazing that they are sure to remember. 

Hidden Costs and How To Avoid Them

Jean Picard, California state coordinator for the Association of Bridal Consultants, says, “A WeddingMoon can be significantly cheaper simply because fewer guests will attend, and those who do will be paying for their own travel arrangements.” While brides and grooms are free to invite a full guest list of 150 or so to Jamaica, most prefer to invite only a handful of their closest friends and family. The expense of the celebration automatically decreases with a smaller head count, and this miniaturized guest list — sometimes as low as 10 to 15 people — might even make it affordable for the bride and groom to pick up those guests’ travel and lodging fees, if they choose. The majority of resorts offer steeply discounted rooms for destination wedding guests and sometimes a free stay for the bride and groom.

As for airfare, Joyce Scardina Becker, wedding designer and president of Events of Distinction, says, “We have become a more mobile society making it extremely affordable for most people to travel by air.” For destination weddings, the airline industry is increasingly kind to all wedding guests. American Airlines, for example, offers discounted airfare for the bridal party (with further discounts for earlier bookings). Hawaiian Airlines has offered wedding group discounts for a bridal party of 10 or more — with the bride and groom bumped up to first class. More airlines are offering wedding group packages, and many WeddingMoon plans include all airfare, lodging, and transportation within one low price.

Many times resorts have great promotional offers as a way to attract brides and grooms to their premises. Some put on the entire ceremony from officiant to to photographer, flowers, décor, and seating for free with the booking of a weeklong honeymoon. Other resorts offer the honeymoon as a freebie when you book the ceremony on their grounds with their professionals and staff. The travel and resort industry has opened their arms to brides and grooms with budget-friendly deals.

“Elsewhere in destination weddings, it truly comes down to a ‘buyer's market’ and ‘seller's market’ for purchasing products and services,” Scardina Becker says. Your WeddingMoon prices, just like with any wedding, will rise and fall with the season and industry demand. “The peak wedding season in Northern California is May through October and the seller, (the hotels and resorts) are in such high demand (that) nothing is discounted or free,” she says. “If you want a WeddingMoon at a low price, look to where people are not traveling. Travel agents, airlines, major tour operators, and hotels do work together to market a destination, and given the economy of a particular destination, you will find the best values.” 

But, ‘value’ is in the mind of the beholder when it comes to weddings. The national average wedding cost is about $28,000. Add in enough extravagance to your WeddingMoon, and that price could seem small in comparison. Wedding coordinator Sasha Souza puts the savings into greater perspective, “When you compare a destination wedding (which may be at an all-inclusive resort) to a wedding in a big city, or in a pricy region of the country, it can cost your guests far less to attend your WeddingMoon than it would otherwise.” 

Easing the Pain of Planning

Souza goes on to say that planning a WeddingMoon is far simpler for the bride and groom. “You’ll be working with a team of professionals who know how to pull everything together. We’ve moved away from brides and grooms just signing on for identical destination wedding packages at resorts. They now want to personalize their entire experience, so destination weddings have blossomed into this huge industry. Couples want an American-style wedding in an exotic location, and the wedding coordinator’s team can work with the customs of the site to bring it all together.” 

Very often, you can plan a WeddingMoon with just a few phone calls, a few visits to a Web site, and a stream of e-mails with your wedding coordinator. It’s very advisable to work with a wedding coordinator in your hometown (check www.bridalassn.com to find qualified professionals near you).

“A couple is best served by an independent wedding consultant, someone who is not tied to one property or group of properties and who can present them with all the options. The couple who is aiming for ‘unique’ will definitely want to work with an independent consultant who can customize everything rather than give them packages,” Scardina Becker says. “The wedding couple can prevent costly mistakes by hiring a planner. If they are unfamiliar with the destination and vendors, the planner will know what tasks to do, how to do the tasks and when to do the tasks saving them time, and ultimately… time is money.”

For many couples, a WeddingMoon offers them the perfect ‘rescue’ from overwhelming traditional wedding planning. “I know of couples who made the decision when, while in the midst of planning a large, local wedding, things simply got out of hand,” Picard says. “A couple might be experiencing conflict with their families about where to hold the wedding, who to invite, how much to spend; so they decide that getting married at their honeymoon destination will cut out all the conflict.”

Brides and grooms exploring the WeddingMoon option sometimes do so because the traditional hometown wedding is a ‘been there, done that’ scenario. “If this is a second (or subsequent) wedding, one or both of them may have already had a traditional wedding and wants to do it differently this time around. When there are children from former relationships, a kid-friendly, all-inclusive resort like Beaches (the "family" side of Sandals) is very attractive,” says Picard. 

An Unforgettable Adventure

Taking your WeddingMoon to an exotic location gives you countless opportunities for adventures, such as island culinary tours, luaus, waterfall hikes, and water sports to make your wedding — and your honeymoon —  a truly unforgettable experience for both you and your guests. This may be, after all, their family vacation for the year. “Over the past 10 years, it is not uncommon to host a wedding that lasts three or more days including the actual ceremony,” Scardina Becker says. “So the increase in 

the number of days for a wedding is often due to the great distance families and friends must travel to get together for the wedding celebration. A true destination wedding is one where the complete wedding party and all the guests travel to a destination to take part in several days of unforgettable celebrations including the wedding.” 

Picard says that many times the destination of choice has a special connection for the couple. The WeddingMoon allows them to bring their wedding celebration to the island or resort where they first got engaged, or where the bride’s family has had previous vacations.  

A Little Private Time

One of the first questions couples ask when they discover WeddingMoons is ‘How can we honeymoon in private when our guests are all over the place? Wouldn’t it be rude for us to seclude ourselves or avoid them?’ It’s a simple matter of timing. Wedding guests would stay for perhaps the first three days of your wedding weekend, and then they depart for home. The bride and groom then stay on to enjoy their honeymoon at the resort!