When it comes to planning a wedding, there’s a lot to consider. One of the key decisions is where should I have my wedding? It’s almost even fair to say it can “make or break” your wedding day. And in my humble opinion nothing beats a destination wedding and I’ll give you 10 reasons why!
Now before we get started keep in mind I’m writing from the perspective of a New York City wedding photographer and when it comes to a “destination” I’m thinking of somewhere tropical. When I’m stressed out my brain automatically starts daydreaming of the crystal clear waters of the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. 🌴
Sure mountains are pretty and I’m sure if you live in a big city, beautiful greenery is only a few hours away.
But for me – nothing beats a tropical destination wedding and why not get married in paradise? So with that being said let’s get started!
1: EXOTIC LOCATION = STUNNING PHOTOS
New York City is definitely an awesome place to have your wedding photos taken. Few cities are as iconic and easily recognizable.
But if you grew up in NYC all your life – it’s really not that special. In fact most New Yorkers avoid tourist places like Times Square as if it were the plague. Mostly due to the amount of people – and tourists.
So instead of shooting in your hometown (in my case NYC) why not go somewhere different, exotic and tropical?! Why not get married in paradise? For me nothing beats clear blue water (the type where you can see your feet in), palm trees and sand.
As in the real estate wold it’s all about location – location -location. So forget the concrete jungle, woods or even a country club and come to Jamaica and feel alright!
2: THERE’S NO NEED TO TRAVEL TO YOUR HONEYMOON
Typically you’ll have your wedding locally and fly somewhere for your honeymoon. But what if you were already somewhere amazing? And as an added bonus you’ll have less stress as you don’t have to worry about getting on a plane to get to your honeymoon location as you’re already there!
Looking for a honeymoon spot in the Bahamas? Why not go swimming with pigs?
As a side note – the idea of having a honeymoon is going somewhere else after the wedding. And if you’re going to spend a week or two at the same location make sure it’s somewhere that you guys will love. Perhaps the type of place where you need a few weeks to really soak it all in (like New Zealand or Hawaii).
3: MORE TIME TO SPEND WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
A typical wedding day averages around 10 hours. It may sound like a lot – but believe me when I tell you that wedding days go by so fast! You’ll spend countless hours and weeks, agonizing over the smallest details – all for just one day.
Once the big day is finally here, you’ll find things move so fast. And before you know it – the day will be over. That’s why I like to remind the bride and groom throughout the day to take a moment and press record in their mind to soak it all in.
If there’s enough time, I’ll always have my bride and groom take a private walk so they can have a moment just to themselves (or in the following case a golf cart). And this is where I slap a long lens and capture this moment from a distance…
But when It comes to destination weddings you’ll have days – not hours. This will give you guys the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, spend quality time and you can even consider it a rare opportunity for a family reunion!
And while I’m on the subject of telling you how to spend your money – may I suggest throwing a rehearsal dinner for your friends and family? This’ll also give you more photo opportunities.
4: ONLY YOUR NEAREST AND DEAREST WILL BE THERE.
Inviting friends and family to your destination wedding is a BIG commitment for them in terms of time and (more often the case) money. As harsh as it may be to say – only the people that really, really, really love and care about you guys will find a way to make it there. You may have to cover the expenses for people that may not have the means to be there; whereas everyone else will have to get there on their own.
So all this being said, your guests will only consist of people that really want to be there and as an added benefit this will cut your guest list significantly.
If you were to have your wedding at home, you’re going to feel compelled to invite several (more) people you may not necessarily want to invite – but you’ll feel obligated (think coworkers or family you haven’t seen in 10 years). By having a destination wedding – this will make it easier to invite people knowing they’re not going to make it. #LOL
As a side note, ironically, the only wedding I’ve experienced where everyone actually showed up was mine! I’m not sure why but I’ve always believed it had to do with our invitations. Instead of sending out traditional invitations I filmed a video announcing our wedding day along with a slideshow with the details at the end.
I burned them to DVD, ordered some fancy covers and sent these out to our friends and family. And to my surprise everyone invited attended. I’ve always felt the reasoning was they felt they just had to be there. If you’re curious you can check it out the video here:
PS – Feel free to copy this idea for your wedding!
5: YOU’LL SAVE MONEY
Now for this tip – it really depends on where you’ll be having your destination wedding so you’ll have to take it with a grain of sand (see what I did there?). For example Cancun Mexico has several resort options in terms of “value” aka cost and it’s pretty cheap to stay at all inclusive resorts there.
A few years ago we paid $600 a person including direct flights from JFK airport. Plus it’s a mere 3 1/2 hours from New York City. But if you’re thinking about going to Hawaii or Tahiti – the $ky will be the limit. Whatever the cost of having a destination wedding in the Mexico costs – you can multiply it by at least a favor of 10!
But if you play your cards right you can save a lot money. As of February 14, 2018 the average cost of having a wedding in New York City (you may want to sit down for this) is a whopping $76,944.
For less than half of that – you can have an over the top wedding, honeymoon and even fly more people to your wedding. Or take that $70,000 and book your wedding at a high end resort.
Best of all – many resorts will also give you a wedding discount and they’ll offer your guests a group booking rate. Plus for a few bucks extra you may have an epic afterparty!
6: LESS STRESS
Ask anyone that’s gotten married and they’ll tell you how stressful wedding planning is. From my experience 8/10 people wanted to throw themselves out of a window.
However if you work with the resort wedding planner they’ll basically take care of everything. Tell them the number of guests, food preferences, wedding colors and they’ll take care of the rest.
You also don’t have to worry about traveling from home, to the hair saloon then the makeup lady, to the church, to the park to take photos, to the reception etc, etc.
Once you’re in the resort everything will take place there so it’ll be a lot less to worry about since there’ll be a lot less moving parts. Plus it’ll be a lot harder to get stressed when you’re in paradise.
7: EVERYONE WILL BE IN A BETTER MOOD
Being in the bridal party can be a daunting task. But having a destination wedding adds a sense of adventure! Think about how pumped everyone will be anticipating the big day. And it’s party time once everyone arrives – and leaves!
Even on your wedding day they’ll also be a greater sense excitement.
But if I’m going to be truthful – this can also be “bad thing” as you may find your parter spending too much time with his or her friends getting drunk and disappearing for long stretches of time. Save your marriage before it starts and definitely come up with an agreement before heading out to avoid any conflict!
8: THE WEATHER
Now you don’t want to plan your wedding during hurricane season (which tends to be in the autumn). But if you do – what beats going go work with a tan in the winter?!
Tangent alert: When I worked for the NYC Board of Education sometimes I’d have to call out sick to shoot destination weddings. And while I was out “sick” I’d have to avoid the sun. It was funny always have to find shade in the pool as there’s no way Mr Colon can go back to work with a tan – when he was supposed to be home sick. If I came to work with a tan the jig would be up!
Don’t tell no-one I said that! Reasons like this is what ultimately made me decide to go full time with my photography career (but that’s a story for another day).
And even if it’s overcast you’ll still have an amazing backdrop. And believe it or not – I’d rather shoot on an overcast day verses a sunny day as the light will be soft and diffused. When it’s super sunny my posing options are limited as if I face people toward the sun (where the light angle for me would be better) I’m going to hear complaints of the sun being too bright and I’m going to get a lot of squinting.
Check out this behind the scenes engagement session taken during an overcast day…
9: MORE TIME = MORE PHOTOS
As I’m writing this post for you guys, I’m trying to think of a time when things weren’t “running island time” if you know what I mean. And when things are behind schedule the formal photo session usually takes the hit.
Let me explain, as a typical wedding day plays out like this…
- I meet the bride and her bridal party to take photos of them getting dressed and getting their makeup done. If the guys are close, I’ll swing by to take photos of them getting ready or I’ll send my associate to the other location. And this is where the schedule is completely thrown off because people are running late.
- We then rush to the location of the ceremony (typically a church).
- And if there’s time after the ceremony we’ll drive somewhere picturesque to take formal wedding photos (as in a nice park or the streets of NYC).
- Afterwards we’ll head to the reception or catering hall where all of the guests will be impatiently waiting to get the party started.
Did you notice earlier how I said “if there’s time”. When things inevitably run behind schedule the formal wedding photo session is what takes usually a hit. In times like these, I always remind the bride and groom that after their wedding – all they’ll have left the photos. So it’s always best to sacrifice time from cocktail hour or a few extra minutes from partying.
But what if you’re already at an amazing place? What if you don’t have to rush to drive somewhere? By having a destination wedding you won’t have to go very far to capture some amazing photos. Plus you may be even able to get more family and friends in the photos as the beach is right there.
10: PHOTOS THAT BELONG IN A MAGAZINE
I could have copped out and click baited you by promising 10 reasons and having each reason be location, location, location, etc, and I wouldn’t have been wrong in doing so! A huge part of taking stunning photos is the location.
For example tell me which place you’d prefer to have your wedding photos taken…
OR EXHIBIT B:
For me no question exhibit B! Sure you can great amazing photos anywhere. But in my opinion, if you have your wedding in a tropical place – your photos will look like they belong in a magazine. But there’s a caveat to this point…
FINDING THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER IS CRUCIAL
Did you know in order become a professional hairstylist, barber or cosmetologist (at least in the United States) one needs to be licensed to legally provide services? Did you know that there is no special or legal licensing procedure to be come a professional photographer?
Just because someone has a “professional” camera doesn’t mean they truly know what they’re doing or are super passionate about their craft. Put me in Gordon Ramsay’s professional kitchen and task me with making a 5 star meal and and I’d be lost! The same can be said with photography – give a professional chef professional camera gear they’d be lost too.
Aside from having the tools – what most people don’t realize is photography is not only an art but it’s a people person business. Sure one can have all of the technical know-how but working with people is a “whole nother’ ball game”. Most seasoned photographers would tell you they’d never shoot a wedding because of the pressure and a lot of things can go wrong. There are moments where you literally have only one shot (like the bouquet tossing and first kiss). But one thing they won’t tell you is the real deterring factor and that is having to work with large groups of emotional people. Wedding photography isn’t easy!
So how does one find a professional wedding photographer? I’m glad you asked! But that’s a topic for my next post where I’ll give you a starting point in what to look for and as a bonus I’ll also give you a few questions to ask to sniff out the pros from the Joes.
ONE FINAL TIDBIT OF ADVICE TO CONSIDER…
Keep in mind most of the beautiful islands in the Caribbean can be considered “developing” or “3rd world”. You’re not going to want to venture into the “real” Jamaica and your best bet is to stay in the resort. Go on an excursion outside of the resort and unfortunately you’ll see a lot of poverty.
With that being said – resort photographers are there to do a job and may not be the best option if you truly value the art of photography. Whenever I’m on vacation (or anywhere else for that matter) and there’s a wedding taking place, I always like to watch the photographers to see how they work. And let’s just say I’m rarely impressed with what I see in the Caribbean.
Ask a friend or family that hired a resort photographer and ask them if they’re completely satisfied with their resort photographer photos. Ask them if they liked the quality of their prints and albums. I’m willing to bet they aren’t.
If you do value beautiful wedding photos I invite you to take a look at some of our work over at nextlevelphoto.net as our catch phrase is “We don’t just take pictures – We make memories” and we take great pride in our work.
THAT’S IT FOR NOW
I hope I was able to inspire you to consider having a destination wedding as it’s something you won’t regret! Even if you’re on a budget, crunch the numbers and you’ll at find it comparable to hosting it locally (if not cheaper if you go to the Caribbean).
If I can be of any assistance don’t hesitate to reach out as I’d love to hear your story!
I’m available in New York City, New Jersey, Boston & worldwide!