It’s a cold and rainy fall day here in Michigan, and I’m dreaming of Caribbean beaches and swim up bars, so let’s talk honeymoons and destination wedding planning!
Whether you know EXACTLY what you want for your honeymoon, have no clue where to start, or maybe fall somewhere in between, it’s important to think through the basics before locking yourself into anything. Just like wedding planning, you want to start with the main “pillars” so that your planning is intentional and doesn’t feel scattered. And just with your wedding plans, we start with the budget and priorities!
Before you do anything for your honeymoon, you’ll need to decide on your budget first. You don’t want to plan backwards by deciding on the trip you want, and then find out it’s out of reach with your honeymoon budget. Most couples do not include the honeymoon in their main wedding budget, which is fine, but the funds need to come from somewhere!
If you will be paying for the honeymoon yourselves, have a conversation about what you are comfortable spending. Be realistic, and keep in mind that you’ll be on the heels of all of the wedding expenses. You don’t want to end up more stressed or anxious about the trip because the thought of paying it off is so overwhelming. And again, just like the wedding, no one else can tell you what you should be spending for your honeymoon. You'll need to decide on the budget, and then find an option that works within that price point.
Once you know what your budget for the trip is, it's time to talk through your priorities. When we discussed priorities in regards to the wedding, we were referring to the timing, size of the wedding, location, and the breakdown of the planning components. For your honeymoon, the timing and location are definitely a huge part of it, and should be where you start.
What I recommend is that you sit down with a pen and paper (or your Notes app), and just start making notes of what you would like for a honeymoon. Do you have a certain country/city in mind? Would your ideal trip be a relaxing beach vacation, or a trip filled with visiting big cities, museums, and sightseeing? Are you looking for something adventurous, or chill? Do you want to be super social and make honeymoon friends, or prefer to see as few people as possible? Again, remember you’ll most likely be coming off of a very busy few weeks with the wedding, what do you think you will be in the mood for?
As you start jotting down ideas, get more specific about what you would want to do. For example, if your dream honeymoon is to go to Ireland, do you picture the quiet countryside, big cities, or castle hopping along the shores? If a sunny Caribbean resort is more your vibe, would you want to spend the trip on the beach or at the swim up bar, or fill your days with scuba diving, zip lining, and checking out the local towns? Maybe you’re a mix of the different options, so write down your “wish list” of what would be a part of your honeymoon.
When To Go on your Honeymoon
The timing of when you go on your honeymoon is also something you’ll need to think about at this stage. Gone are the days that couples leave their reception after dinner and head right to the airport. You’ve spent all this time and money on your wedding, why would you leave it early?!?
If your work schedule allows, I highly recommend that you do NOT leave the day after your wedding. With all the excitement and prep for the wedding, it’s not ideal to also add honeymoon packing/prep to your list. Waiting a day or two to leave will also give you time to have a farwell brunch the following day, or just chill with your guests and family to wrap up the celebrations.
Another great idea, especially if you’re short of days off from work, is to have a “minimoon” right after the wedding, and wait to take a bigger trip later. You can go somewhere for a couple of nights that’s a short drive, or maybe a staycation, to relax a bit right after the wedding. Down the road, maybe for a first anniversary?, you can plan a bigger, more “official” honeymoon. This also gives you some more time to save up after the wedding expenses, as well as gives you something to look forward to, as the post wedding crash can leave you feeling a bit blue.
Working with a Travel Advisor
Once you have an idea of your honeymoon budget and possible locations, I recommend you reach out to a travel agent or advisor to help with the booking. Most work under commission from the companies that they work with, so their services are free for you to utilize. Travel advisors can really help you find the best deals, avoid locations and/or resorts that might not be a great fit for you, and help navigate through any last minute changes, cancellations, or other travel issues.
Many years ago, I was part of an organization that had a partnership with Sandals Resorts, and I was lucky enough to go on what they call a Fam trip to check out one of their resorts. It was such an amazing trip, and I was so impressed by the resort, that I decided to learn more about their different properties and offerings. Since then, I’ve been to most of their resorts, and have helped many couples, including close friends, plan their honeymoons there. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of my favorite details about the resorts here, and why I highly recommend them.
High end, Luxury Included Resorts
To start off, the Sandals brand is certainly not the cheapest all inclusive resort out there, but let me share with you why. They offer a 5 star, luxury included experience, while also being all-inclusive. Yes, they have the buffets, but they are run by master chefs, and the other restaurants on property are ALL included with your booking at no added cost. Each property has many different restaurants representing global cuisine, and you can go to as many of them, as often as you’d like.
When you go to the bar, you’re not going to be served bottom shelf, watered down drinks. They partner with brands like Absolut, Robert Mondavi, Tanqueray, Bombay, Johnnie Walker, Appleton, and Crown Royal, amongst others. And this is all part of their standard options, though if you have a more selective taste in wines, you can purchase higher end bottles at each restaurant.
One of my favorite things to do when I’m there is to try different drinks and food that I would never try at home, for fear of wasting money on a drink or dish that I don't like. There’s no way I would spend money on escargot at a restaurant at home without knowing if I like it, and turns out…it’s not for me. But no worries, i tried it, and was then able to order something else after.
Outside of the food and drinks, they also offer a great variety of water and land sports included in your booking. Snorkeling, tennis, golf, paddle boarding, and hobie cats are just part of what’s offered, And if you’re a scuba diver, you get up to two tanks a day at no extra cost. Of course they also offer many other excursions and activities at an additional cost, but you’ll certainly not get bored with everything that is included.
One of the best things about the resorts are the variety of rooms they offer, at a variety or price points. While you’re honeymoon is a great time to splurge a bit, the lower category rooms will still get you access to all the benefits of the resort, while not totally breaking the bank. If you do have a bit more to spend, you can get amazing swim up rooms, balconies with soaking tubs, and even butler service to save your cabana by the pool each day. And if you’re really looking for a memorable trip, they now have several resorts with over the water bungalows that don’t involve a long flight to Fiji or Bora Bora.
All this said, I think one of my favorite things about going to a Sandals Resort is the way the staff makes you feel so welcome. They make a huge effort in their hiring and training process to focus on customer service, and it really does show. And if you’re looking to travel with family or kids, their partner brand Beaches is perfect for that. The Beaches Resorts are also close to Sandals Resorts, so a common practice for destination weddings is to have the family and other guests stay at the Beaches Resort, so you as a couple can have a bit more privacy staying at Sandals.
If you are interested in learning more about the resort options, please feel free to reach out. Full disclosure, I do earn a commission on any bookings made via the links included here, however I truly do stand behind this brand. I have the ability to earn a commission for any and all resort chains, but I only choose to include Sandals and Beaches because of my experience with them, I'm confident you will have an amazing honeymoon!
Name change & possible upgrades
While we’re talking travel and honeymoon plans, I wanted to address a common question that’s asked about the legalities of traveling internationally right after your wedding. If you’re planning on changing your last name, hold off until after your honeymoon to change your passport and other legal documentation. Your boarding pass will need to match your legal ID, so I recommend you keep everything under your maiden name until you get home.
One other thing I recommend is that you bring a copy of your marriage license with you on the honeymoon. Many resorts, airlines, and other companies will offer upgrades to couples on their honeymoons, but they usually require proof that it is actually your honeymoon. Don’t be shy about asking too, you never know if a couple of first class seats are going to be available!
Let’s chat about a few things you’ll need to consider if you’re planning on a destination wedding. The first, and probably most important think, is that if you are planning a destination wedding, you need to be understanding of guests that are not going to be able to make it. If there are people that you absolutely need to be there, have an honest conversation with them about the anticipated costs and see if they will be able to make that work.
While a destination wedding typically costs the couple less overall than a more traditional wedding, the cost of being in the wedding party or a guest is usually much more. And even if you are giving them plenty of notice to save up, that may not be an expense that they can take on. You can also offer to cover some of their costs of their travel to make sure they can attend without the financial stress.
One other thing to look into if you’re thinking of having a destination wedding, especially if it will be in a different country, is to ask what the “residency rules” are for wedding ceremonies. Some countries require that you be in the country for several days or even weeks before the ceremony can be considered legal, and that’s not something you want to discover once you are there. The easy work around for this is to have a civil ceremony at home before you go, so you don’t need to worry about the legalities of the ceremony while you are there.
Do you know where you'll be going for your honeymoon yet? Head over to The Wedding Planning Collective Facebook Group and share your plans!