Photo by Weber Photography
In this week's Ask the Expert, we've turned to Danielle Vogelheim, previous owner of N|M Event Designs and a current account executive at Nüage Designs. We asked Danielle about planning a destination wedding because she happens to also be a bride planning for her own wedding in the Bahamas! With her years of experience planning destination weddings for couples coming to Northern Michigan, she's the perfect person to pass along advice to anyone planning their own.
What are the things you look at when picking a venue, especially when you don't know the area and it's new to you?
It's important to look for things that represent you and your 'soon to be'. Whether that be a beach, a country setting or a romantic vineyard, first find where your dream location exists then see what's around that area. If you can picture yourself standing there in the photo that's a good start. However, it's also important to make sure it's logistically possible for you and your guests, from flights to accommodations. If you are able, schedule a site visit and pick three solid contenders, many venue pictures look glamourous online but don't depict the full picture of the whereabouts.
How do you find vendors that you know are going to do a good job?
You really need to rely on those who have planned events there in the past. Local Wedding Planners or Event Coordinators for the hotel have seen first-hand the vendors in the area. They want the event to be just as grand as you do and their preferred list is compiled with people who have worked well for them in the past. They would not recommend someone that has a record of showing up late or not meeting their clients' expectations. Don't be afraid to ask your coordinator exactly what you are looking for and they will recommend the best fit.
How do you handle guest accommodations? Do you assume they'll handle it on their own? Do you plan to cover part of their expenses, and if so how do you select what you cover? Do you make sure to include shuttles? Or choose a venue that has everything included?
If your budget allows for it then yes, by all means a paid vacation for all your family members and closest friends is a real treat! You don't need to pay everyone's way but you do need to provide them all the necessary information. Let them know where there are accommodations, suggestions on rental cars or transportation providers as well as things to do around the area. If you have a destination wedding and the ceremony and/or reception is held offsite from the hotel it's best to get a shuttle so they don't have to worry about finding their way around on their own in a foreign town. If you are asking your guests to travel hundreds of miles help them figure out how to get there with ease!
How do you take care of the guests?
Welcome them! After a long trip it's always great to see a friendly face greeting you! Make sure you arrive to the destination before most of your guests do so you can spend time with them as they arrive. If the budget allows it's always nice to have an informal "welcome reception" as a gesture of appreciation for them coming all the way to see you both; serving refreshments and light appetizers allows people to mingle and come and go at their leisure. This also does a bit of double duty as it allows guests to get to know one another if they don't already. When the wedding night comes along everyone is really able to let loose and have a good time as they feel like they are all amongst friends.
Any additional advice for couples planning a destination wedding?
Find a spot that you both would love to return to. It will be your "special place" and a great excuse to make future vacation plans. Also, there is only so much you can do from so far away so rely on your planner or coordinator as they do this for a living. When you get there... relax and enjoy your vacation!
Thank you so much Danielle!