Travel and leisure destinations that are rich in wedding bliss
Fairytales are coming true for more betrothed couples, as the hospitality industry increasingly caters to destination wedding clientele.
“People are traveling more and there’s so much more transparency of where you can go and what you can expect. We’ve seen an increase in this area of our business. Colorado seems to be booming,” says Tobias Rimkus, director of catering and events for The St. Regis Aspen Resort, which averages about ten to fifteen weddings annually.
While the majority of such events occur from June through October, in the rocky mountains, “It’s still warm here in March and in the fall, you enjoy the changing of the leaves and crisp evening air,” says Rimkus. People come from all over the world to say, “I do,” here, since, “We have a reputation for being a fabulous mountain town with beautiful shops and wonderful food,” says Rimkus.
On property, engaged twosomes can opt to host their ceremony and cocktail reception in the Fountain Courtyard, with a beautiful background of Aspen Mountain. The party can continue inside the restaurant space or larger event ballroom, which can accommodate 400 guests, says Rimkus.
A dedicated wedding sales manager handles special details, from custom-tailored menus like a ranch-inspired rehearsal dinner to organizing a fly-fishing trip for guests and assigning a dedicated wedding butler for the big day. Event budgets range from $20,000 to $500,000, says Rimkus.
Celebrating ninety years in business, The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco hosts roughly twenty-five small and large-scale weddings each year, and such business is rising, says Chrissy Wolfman, senior catering sales manager for the hotel.
“The amount of money clients are spending is improving,” says Wolfman, who often begins the planning process via video chat.
“We use iPads to show the event space and mock up linens,” she says.
With brides and grooms coming from all over the world, “A lot of clients grew up in the bay area, but live in a different state now, and sometimes couples return here because it’s where they met,” says Wolfman.
The property’s original, Spanish, architecturally iconic structure makes this hotel a unique wedding location, says Wolfman.
“We have truly beautiful views of the Bay and downtown,” she says.
An average, a Saturday wedding for 150 people can run $35,000, with food and beverage.
Many of their working professional, millennial-aged clients are foodies, says Wolfman, who has arranged off-site meetings for clients with wedding cake designers and chartered bus tours of close by Napa and Sonoma wine country for wedding parties.
“One couple lived in Brooklyn, so we brought in specialty chocolates from there as well as our city. We merged their love of two different cities and showed that to their guests,” says Wolfman.
Couple ‘branding’ is also popular now, says Wolfman, with duos using a cute logo, saying, or their initials throughout the event décor.
Weddings at sea are also trending today, says Tiffany Bell, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Weddings at Sea Program Manager at Royal Ocean Events Inc.
“The weddings booked have almost doubled since our company began managing this program in 2012, and seem to increase every year,” says Bell. “The cost and effectiveness of hosting a wedding at sea or at port is a major attraction.”
During their high season, the cruise line has hosted as many as 40 weddings per month, says Bell. In addition to first marriages, Norwegian Cruise Line also receives bookings from those seeking to renew their vows and throw re-commitment ceremonies, she says.
Guest counts typically hover between twenty-five and sixty and the cost to throw an affair ranges from $2000 to $15,000.
Typically, ceremonies are held on board in a lounge, while destination ceremonies are often planned on the beaches of the islands of Bahamas, Bermuda and St. Thomas.
“As Norwegian Cruise Line grows and expands their ports of call, we expect to see an increase in alternative ports, specifically Grand Cayman and Hondurus,” says Bell.
Receptions back on board the ship include luncheons and a cocktail hour and often integrate a DJ and dancing in more traditional style.
With such privileged weather, weddings at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, located in Cabo San Lucas, which opened a year ago, are typically held outside, but in case it rains, “Our ‘Plan B’ is to hold them in one of our restaurants which have beautiful window views,” says Alana Duran, special events director for the property.
Smaller, intimate weddings are ideal, accommodating between sixty and eighty people, says Duran. The hotel recommends area wedding coordinators upon request.
With six weddings under their belt, “We’re almost booked every single Saturday for next May and June,” says Duran.
The trend toward getting hitched out of town is upward at Vero Beach Hotel & Spa in Florida, says Nikki Estes, director of catering here.
“As bride and grooms love the chance to host an exotic destination wedding, but may not be able to pull off the big island destinations, this makes us a great compromise for that beachy getaway, and helps to keep their guest list down,” says Estes.
Averaging 60 weddings per year, the property hosts ceremonies on the intimate Shoreline Patio, which is oceanfront, but beach ceremonies are offered as well. Following the nuptials, such parties continue in the Shoreline Room. Guests can also opt to buy out the hotel’s Cobalt restaurant. Budgets range from $6000 - $10,000 for the former and $13,000 - $20,000 for the latter.
Besides the scenic backdrop, “Brides love our convenience of having an all in one location for wedding needs, including White Orchid Spa on property, rooms, restaurants rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch, along with our quaint town and location with everything in walking distance,” says Estes
At the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, “We only host one wedding a weekend, to make it special for couples,” says Clarissa Cervantes, catering sales executive for the resort.
Set apart from the popular western city, “We’re in Hill Country, with great views. Our four event lawns have cedar trees on them and golf courses with a water feature and a gazebo. Our backgrounds are unique to Texas and the Hill Country which is why couples are bringing their families out here. You won’t find it elsewhere,” says Wilson Luong, event manager for the property.
Flexible enough to provide for 350 or more guests and for budgets ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000, “The great thing about our destination is that when people come here, they don’t have to leave. We have the largest spa in Texas, two PGA golf courses on site, five restaurants – it’s a one-stop shop,” says Cervantes.
Certified wedding planners are available to ensure that couples stay on their timeline and find fitting vendors.
At this luxury resort, a range of world-class services include a personal butler, bridal party spa treatments, a pre-wedding groomsmen golf outing, and complimentary honeymoon suite.
With a fifteen-acre beach at its doorstep, the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino welcomes an average of 60-80 weddings at its property annually, says Lisa Dammerman, bridal specialist for the resort.
“The location and friendliness of those who work here is why people choose us,” says Dammerman.
Dammerman works with couples on everything nuptials from A-Z, including booking their contract and rooms, linking them to florists, photographers and videographers from the island. “Couples typically arrive a minimum of two days before for a meet and greet with all of their vendors,” says Dammerman.
Ceremonies and cocktail hours are typically on the beach and moved to the pool area for a reception.
To incorporate Aruban flavor and beach themes, “We’ll do coconut drinks at the cocktail reception and give away local rum as favors,” says Dammerman. “We’ve also incorporated carnival in to receptions with costumed dancers and music.”
Wedding budgets start at $10,000 and average $30,000, but, “The sky’s the limit,” says Dammerman.
5 HOSPITALITY SECRETS FOR WEDDING BLISS:
It’s in the details.
“Couples love to find ways to incorporate cocktails by color,” says Wolfman. “And we’ll create a weekend wedding agenda for guests with information about best restaurants to visit, delivered with welcome bags.”
Go above and beyond.
“We get quite a few brides that choose our location based on being completely pet-friendly, so their furry babies can be a part of the big day!,” says Estes.
“We’ll create late night snacks for guests that are based off of a nationality or theme. One bride wanted her Mexican groom to feel comfortable, so we made a Mexican-inspired desert table and Mexican hot cocoa,” says Wolfman.
“Brides have requested street tacos as after hour bites, chicken waffle stations, and chocolate covered bacon,” says Cervantes.
“Couples now have custom hashtags for their wedding. We make signs and put them up at the bar so guests can upload and track pictures after the wedding,” says Wolfman.
“We have a Wedding Wednesday tag specific to brides. We post inspirational photos of brides getting ready, the actual ceremony, and other inspirational photos,” says Cervantes.
“On the wedding night, we can arrange a bubble bath with rose petals, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Our chefs are creative and can customize something if the couple likes something in particular,” says Duran.