Like you, I love a good piece of advice, especially if it can save me both time and money. Recently I had a chance to catch up with Destination Wedding Guru Tammy Levent to talk about the ins and outs of hiring a wedding planner/travel agent for your destination mountain wedding. I’m so excited to share with you her expert advice about what to expect from a high-quality, professional planner/travel agent, and when to run!
One thing that Tammy reminded me of that I loved: There are mountains on many tropical islands. LOVE!
Every wedding is a destination for someone. And in this age of far-flung friends and family, it often makes sense to choose somewhere in the middle, or somewhere different altogether. I’m Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, and I have spent the last 15 years helping couples plan their destination weddings. Don’t be intimidated by distance, planning a wedding from afar is easier than you think. Or at least, it should be.
Note: When you choose your travel agent, it’s important to find one who specializes in destination weddings. Because I do both, I’m using “travel agent” and “destination wedding planner” interchangeably.
5 Things You Should Expect from your Destination Wedding Planner
- Your travel agent should help you plan your destination wedding for absolutely free. If they want to charge money for planning services, run! The reason is that travel agents are paid by the hoteliers and vendors we work with to bring in clients – we don’t have to charge couples for planning, and we shouldn’t.
- Your travel agent should alert you to legal hurdles at your destination. For example, you can have an extraordinarily beautiful mountain wedding in Canada – there is no residency requirement, the exchange rate is good, same-sex marriages are legal, and Banff is a mountain bride’s dream. But, every Canadian province has its own rules and requirements for obtaining marriage licenses, and some have easier processes than others. Getting married in the French Alps, on the other hand, is more difficult than it’s worth with France’s 40 day residency requirement, the need to hire a French lawyer, get medical exams in France, and obtain a certificate of celibacy. It’s part of a wedding planner’s job to warn you when you’re headed for trouble!
- Your wedding travel agent should go to bat for you if anything goes wrong during your wedding or honeymoon. They should have relationships already in place with your resorts and vendors that allow them to solve problems fast. If something goes wrong during your wedding, you shouldn’t be the one stressing over it.
- Destination wedding planners probably won’t be on-site with you, like a day-of coordinator might be, but they should have a policy of being available 24-7. You need someone who will pick up the phone when you call, no matter what time it is.
- A good travel agent should negotiate the lowest prices by using their buying power and relationships with resorts. Agents can get free room upgrades, massage credits, and cocktail receptions – and they know where to find introductory deals for opening and recently renovated resorts. If you have a low budget, let your travel agent know, because the most important thing they should be doing is finding a way to make your dream wedding happen.
5 Reasons to Run Away from a Destination Wedding Planner
- If they charge you money for their planning services, run. Helping you choose your location, organize your and your guests’ travel, recommending and communicating with vendors, and ensuring your wedding happens the way it’s supposed to via 24-7 support – should all be free.
- If the agent you’re talking to can’t describe exactly what the resort or hotel experience is like from either first-hand knowledge or feedback from other couples, head for the door. Part of the reason to have a travel agent help you is their expertise, and it is vitally important that they have experience with your destination. If your agent sounds more like a resort’s PR Employee of the Month, get out of there. You need to know if there are screaming kids constantly running around the pool, or if the property’s idea of a wedding resembles an assembly-line. Yes, we get paid by the properties we sell to bring clients to them, but a travel company doesn’t last long without delivering high quality experiences.
- If you tell your agent your budget, and he or she can’t offer you great ideas that work within that price, ditch’em. Never let a planner – travel or otherwise – tell you that you can’t have a beautiful wedding on any budget. Sometimes it takes more creativity, and definitely more flexibility on your part, but find the destination wedding planner who is willing to work with you as a member of your team. There are so many ways to make amazing weddings and honeymoons happen. In fact, couples often come to me with a $5000 budget, and are amazed to find that they can have a week-long celebration with a gorgeous wedding for that.
- Check your travel agent’s record with the Better Business Bureau to see how they resolve client problems. Every company will have some dissatisfied clients, but the good ones know that customer service doesn’t end after money changes hands.
- Do your own research after talking with a potential agent. See if what your agent says about a resort, hotel, or B&B jives with what you’ve found on sites like TripAdvisor. But keep in mind that if a property is under new management, your agent might have information that is more up to date than the review sites. In fact, some of the best destination wedding and honeymoon deals out there are for properties that are in the process of transferring ownership and rebranding.
Above all, you want the destination wedding planner who will be transparent and tell it like it is so you won’t be surprised on arrival. The truth is, destination weddings aren’t for everyone. They’re cheaper than weddings at home because guests have to pay for their own accommodations and most, if not all, of their food and drinks. And that means that many of your loved ones won’t be able to come. Then there are the resort chains that turn out “factory weddings” with very little personalization, or lure couples in with promises of free flowers (read: carnations and daisies), free photos (read: one free photo), and even a free wedding (read: you may still have to pay for a setup fee and the site fee).
However, destination weddings can be the easiest thing in the world when you work with a good planner. In fact, one of my brides told me that she was more relaxed on the day of her wedding than she was sitting on the couch, a couple years later, talking to me. When you aren’t running around from ceremony to reception, or fretting over last minute DIY details, you remember more of your wedding, spend more time with your closest loved ones, and truly have an unforgettable day.
Happy travels Mountain Brides.
An American Express Travel Representative