What are some of your favorite destination wedding locations, and why?
Well, I'm obviously partial to Florida, particularly the Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Naples, where the sand is sugar-white and the beaches face west for the sunset. I think a lot of people don't realize that Florida truly has it all.
Of course, we have the beautiful beaches, but we also have the "nature coast" area that is very rural and outdoorsy. We have the "space coast" with NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. We have the upscale international ambiance of Miami. We have the laidback island lifestyle in the Florida Keys, and of course, we have the theme parks if you're into that sort of thing.
Another of my favorites would have to be Hawaii. We were fortunate enough to live on Oahu for two years, and visited all the other islands while we were there. You just can't go wrong with any destination in Hawaii, if you can afford to get there!
When choosing a destination wedding site or vendor, what questions should a couple ask, and what elements should they look for to be sure they are trusting their wedding details to a reliable, dependable company?
Well, I think the appearance of a company's website says a lot about how they perceive and portray themselves, especially when it comes to destination weddings. So, I'd suggest that if you just don't get the "feel" you're looking for from a company's website, move on.
Secondly, years from now, all you're going to have are your memories and your wedding pictures. So, I think it is critical to choose a company that does its photography in-house. You should know well in advance who your photographer is going to be, and you should speak with him or her to plan your pictures according to your desires and the photographer’s advice. Your photographer should not just be some nameless person who "comes with the package."
Other things to look for are reviews and testimonials written by actual past clients – and make sure these are on a site where the client has to log in or validate an e-mail address to write a review. Otherwise, they're easy to fake! We funnel all of our client reviews to our profiles on OneWed.com.
Lastly, make sure the company you use provides a written contract and an invoice that clearly spells out exactly what they are providing, and where/when they are providing it.
What is one tip or piece of advice you can share that people may not think about when planning a destination or beach wedding?
Most people don't think about it, but there is a lot of "white noise" on the beach with the wind and waves. Something I see all the time with our beach weddings are clients who think they can save money by providing their own music or forgoing a microphone for the ceremony. So, they bring a little iPod speaker or CD player out to the beach, and no one can hear it. Same goes for an acoustic guitar. You just can't hear it on the beach from more than about two feet away.
When I see this happen, I just think it's such a shame that the bride and groom spent so much time choosing their music or musician, writing their own vows, or personalizing the ceremony, and their guests traveled all this way...and then nobody could hear a thing during the wedding ceremony! So, that's my tip. Make sure you use the right equipment for your ceremony sound and your music. You'll be glad you did!
If you’re planning a destination or beach wedding, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way? Or, if your big day already happened, what’s your advice for future beach or destination brides?
(Photo Credits: Claire Copeland of Simple Treasures Photography)
Jeff Copeland is the owner and marketing director for Simple Weddings by Simple Treasures Photography in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the author of the Florida Beach Wedding Guide. His company offers Florida Beach Wedding Packages on Florida's Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Naples. Simple Weddings was recently named "Best of 2009" in two categories – photography and wedding planning – by OneWed.com based solely on feedback from happy customers! Be sure to check out his website and his Florida beach wedding blog, or drop him a line at jeff (at) simpleweddingsflorida.com.