Author Archives: Pelin

A Destination Wedding in Cabo: My Nuptial Journey

Kevin and I said I Do this past June, at the oceanfront Villa Vista Ballena in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Standing under the gorgeous orchid and lace strung canopy, surrounded by 125 of our closest family and friends, I realized at that moment, that the past one and a half years of planning, organizing, sweat (and occasionally tears) were all worth it.

We knew when we began the process that planning a destination wedding would have its unique challenges. However, we were not expecting the end result to be so profoundly fulfilling, far exceeding anything we had envisioned our destination wedding to be. Here I share my own experiences and advice about the planning process, in hopes of inspiring other destination wedding brides.


Taking the First Step

Kevin and I debated long and hard whether a destination wedding was for us. Did it convey who we were as a couple? Would our guests be able to make the trip? How would we plan everything from 1500 miles away? We made a list of pros and cons. Of course, the pros certainly outweighed the cons, as we felt that a destination wedding reflected our adventurous spirit, would allow for quality time with guests over an extended period of time, would be unique, and of course, so much fun! From that moment on, we never looked back.

Narrowing Down the Options

While exotic locales such as The Cayman Islands or Bali certainly topped my list of dreamy destination wedding settings, we had to be realistic and practical. We had two criteria in selecting a destination wedding location: (1) the cost of the flight and hotel rooms to be manageable, to relieve the financial burden on guests (2) the flight from Northern California had to be less than 4 hours, so that our older grandparents would be comfortable and our guests would have to sacrifice too much time en route.

Geographically, we narrowed the possibilities down to the western coast of Mexico and quickly decided on Cabo, as it offered a wide variety of hotel options. Next, I spent a lot of time researching online. Our demands were lengthy as we needed a hotel that with a variety of price points for rooms, large enough to accommodate all our guests (as we wanted everyone to stay at the same hotel), close to the main attractions and downtown scene, quality service, food and ambiance. We felt the hotel would reflect us as a couple and the tone we wanted to set for the wedding weekend.

Picking the Right Hotel

Once we had narrowed our search down to about 5-8 hotels, we booked a trip to Cabo to see them in person. Of the three we liked, I began getting into the nitty gritty of pricing, availability, the bridal suite, minimum blocks, concessions, etc.

Once we chose the hotel we wanted to work with, we negotiated a fair room block rate. We also wanted to give our guests options, so we made sure that the hotel also had flight+hotel packages on popular online travel sites and wholesale vendors such as Costco, which offered ‘kids eat free’ package deals ideal for families.

Hotel contracts can be tricky, so read them carefully and seek out advice. And always negotiate!

On Site or Off Site Wedding

Having the wedding and reception at the hotel where we were all staying was certainly the more practical (and cost effective) option, as guests would already be there, we wouldn’t have to arrange for transportation, pay a separate venue rental fee, etc.

However, we decided to go with a private Villa about 5 minutes away from our hotel, as I simply loved the change of scenery, the elegance of the authentic Mexican Villa, the excitement of shuttling guests to our secret wedding location, and the complete privacy the Villa would offer.

Hire a Wedding Planner

Navigating the sea of foreign vendors can be difficult. Many vendors operate solely by word of mouth, without websites or being listed in wedding directories. Without resources like Here Comes the Guide to rely on for references and reviews, a wedding planner is your best investment. Having a planner that was familiar with Cabo and had strong connections in town was the best decision we made. While I was personally involved with the decision-making, design and concept, the wedding planner played a crucial role in executing everything to perfection!

Did You Get That?

Working with Cabo vendors was challenging for two reasons. First, the language can be a barrier. While the vendors and I could talk basics, the details of texture, color, taste, etc was often lost in translation. I quickly realized that words carry a variety of interpretations, so I relied heavily on photos to explain what I wanted. I also enlisted our wedding planner to act as liaison, as she was the one who took the extra time to ensure that we were all on the same page. It was certainly frustrating at times not being able to just pick up the phone and call our florist or caterer and ask a simple question, but it was the price we paid of doing business in a foreign country, and we knew we had to accept this.

Put Everything in Writing

The second challenge we faced was the lack of written contracts. As we were selecting our officiant (the most popular one in Cabo, mind you), we were told that in Cabo, verbal agreements were the standard. Of course I understand that much of this tradition was based on culture and trust, however I am a skeptic (and an attorney at heart) so I still insisted that everything be in writing. I’m pretty sure the vendors all thought I was nuts, but it gave me the peace of mind I think all brides should have when planning such a significant event.

Keeping Everything Else Low Key

Six of our close friends were also getting married the same summer. With so many weddings and wedding-related events, we were nervous about asking guests to travel to a destination wedding. So we made a decision early on not to have a large engagement party or over-the-top bachelor / bachelorette parties. Our pre-wedding events were low key, near our hometowns and limited to close family, to alleviate the burden on extended friends and family. I know everyone appreciated the gesture.

Rallying the Troops

This was certainly not hard. Our friends and family shared our love of travel, and appreciated the chance to get away and be pampered over 3 days of organized events. With everyone’s busy schedules, our wedding was a great excuse for guests to make use of those unused vacation days. We were honored that the majority of invited guests made the journey to Cabo San Lucas. Every single person had a blast, and we have the video footage to prove it!

Follow Your Instincts

The destination wedding planning process is about you and your partner. Listen to your gut instinct, as it is often right. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, be insistent about what you want. After all, it is your day.

A Destination for Your Celebration?

Joyce and I share a love for travel and adventure. Between the two of us, we have traveled to the some of the dreamiest spots in the world. So we have decided to create a series of occasional posts about destination weddings, highlighting some of our favorite places to tie the knot.

But first, I want to address a fundamental question that newly engaged couples often ask themselves:  Why should we consider having a destination wedding? 

Here are 7 reasons to take your celebration on the road, along with my “Trip Tips” for making it an awesome experience for everyone.

1.  Be unique.  Only about 20% of American couples have destination nuptials, so if you get out of town to get hitched, you won’t have to choose from the same old spots that the other 80% of your married friends have already booked.

Trip Tip: Pick a locale that represents you as a couple. Think of memorable vacations that you have enjoyed, or places that you have always wanted to visit.

Photo: Chris Gin

2.  What a Great Excuse!  Believe me, your guests will appreciate a destination wedding.  With everyone’s busy schedules, a destination wedding gives guests an excuse to travel and plan a vacation.

Trip Tip: Make sure to send your Save the Date cards well in advance, to allow guests plenty of time to arrange their work schedules and travel plans. Wedding couples should determine their venue and date as soon as possible, and then let guests know!

3.  Quality time with your loved ones.  The standard wedding lasts 6 hours, and the bride and groom spend most of the time running around trying to say hello all their guests! A destination wedding usually spans a minimum of three days, which means the bride and groom have plenty of time to spend with their guests, and in a more relaxed setting.

Trip Tip: Plan easy and fun pre and post wedding activities.  Some favorites include relay races, cooking classes, sunset cruises, bike tours and spa days!

4.  Simplify your Guest list.  Having a wedding at home can often lead to the feeling of obligation to invite everyone you know (or sometimes don’t know) like parent’s friends or distant relatives. Since those who aren’t close to you are unlikely to make the trip to a destination wedding, this keeps the guest list nice and simple.

Trip Tip: You can consider having a cocktail party with extended family members and friends once you return from your destination wedding.

5.  Happy Wallet.  It follows that with a simplified guest list, a destination wedding can turn out to be more economical as well. If you keep it to just close family and friends, this will help keep the budget down.

Trip Tip: Many hotels will offer wedding packages or special group rates. All inclusive hotels are also a nice option for some couples.

6.  Neutral ground for blending & bonding. The opportunity to get married some place different sets up an equal playing ground between families. This way, there will be no hard feelings about setting the wedding in one family’s hometown or another. If the destination is something new for both families, it will become a place special to them, as well as to you. With you and all of your guests spending time in such close proximity and away from home, it creates a much more intimate setting, and a great way for families and friends to mix and mingle.

Trip Tip: Be the gracious host, remember to introduce everyone to each other by first and last name and their relation to you or your fiancé. Encourage conversation topics that highlight common hobbies, careers, hometowns, etc.

7.  The Honeymoon can be part of the package.  Consider combining your honeymoon with your wedding celebration. This is not only cost effective, but you’re already in a location that you love, so why not stay and enjoy longer!

Trip Tip: After the wedding, transfer to a different hotel, or even better, a different part of the city, for a change of scenery. And don’t forget to splurge on the Honeymoon Suite!

Honeymoon Suite at Meeru Island Resort, Maldives

In our next post, we will focus on one of our favorite locations for a destination celebration.  In the meantime, pull out a map of the world and start thinking about where you might want to wed.