A Resort Insider's Advice for Destination Weddings

Martha Stewart Weddings, Special Issue 2009

Verona Carter, Resort Insider 
Miami
What she does: A destination-wedding guru, Carter represents the Ritz-Carlton properties throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. 
Where to find her: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, ritzcarlton.com.

Brides who opt for destination weddings at resorts like the Ritz are often assigned on-site planners. What do they do? 
Once a bride decides to have her wedding with us, she'll start working with an on-site planner. He or she will work hard to find local vendors, coordinate rooming lists, and assist the couple in selecting the perfect menu, color scheme, and flowers. Of course, a bride can also hire a planner closer to home to help her accomplish things like hiring a stationer and a photographer and managing her budget.

How important is it for a bride to meet with her on-site planner before the wedding happens? 
It's not absolutely necessary, but I do recommend it. Some brides choose to visit a few months before the wedding so they can taste the food and experience the culture and the resort from a guest's point of view. If that isn't possible, couples are sent a variety of look books with images of decor, cakes, and even meal presentation so they can make informed decisions without being present.

On average, does it take more or less time to plan a destination wedding? 
More, surprisingly. It can take shipped goods up to two weeks to arrive in the Caribbean. And finding and ordering specific types of flowers and food -- like kosher food, for example -- requires three to four months. Which destination spots are the hottest among your clientele? There are five: Saint Thomas, Jamaica, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. 

In your experience, do most couples honeymoon at their wedding location? 
Yes! We've also noticed that friends and family members are using the occasion to take an extended vacation of their own. What's your advice for brides who are considering a wedding away? Do it -- it will be a truly unforgettable experience. The only thing better than getting married is getting married on vacation.

Top Tip 
"It's important to take the cost of flowers, alcohol, food, and beverages into consideration when you're working out your budget. The availability of these items varies depending on the location, so some things may need to be shipped from the mainland. It's a good idea to do your research, especially if you have your heart set on a specific flower for your bouquet or a particular type of wine for the reception."

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