Destination weddings are back – and they’re oversized

With so many ceremonies postponed by the pandemic and a new set of newly announced commitments, decorative gourd season now is also destination wedding season. People were ready and waiting to get married – and combining a late vacation with a ceremony makes obvious sense.

These celebrations – which were once simply called out-of-town weddings – have a new look, reflecting both the emotional and practical consequences of dealing with COVID-19, according to the Bay Area hotels that hold such celebrations.

There were 30 weddings at Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley in 2019, according to general manager Edward Costa. By the end of July, the Wine Country resort had already hosted 55 weddings since it was allowed to resume on May 1 – “and normally April would have been busy for us too,” Costa noted.

Dallas couple Dr. Babu Makkena, cardiologist, and Jodi Higginbotham, medical representative, were among those who tied the knot in Carneros this summer. Before the start of the pandemic, they had already decided to get married in Napa and visit places before choosing Carneros.

Napa Valley vineyard covered in mustard.

Spondylolithesis / Getty Images / iStockphoto

“We have ultimately postponed our wedding plans due to travel bans and the various periodic uncertainties COVID has sent us,” she said. In June, Higginbotham and Makkena were finally able to host a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, followed by cocktail and dinner, on the resort’s Vineyard Lawn and Hilltop Dining Room.

Now that people are planning destination weddings again, some couples are going “beyond that,” according to Costa. “Last weekend we had a full-fledged rehearsal dinner for 50 on Friday night, then 100 for an after-dinner drink, then a big wedding on Saturday and a huge brunch on Sunday,” he said. he noted. “Couples want to spend as much time as possible with their guests. “

“In the past, since you saw these people a lot anyway, you had the big Saturday night event and that was it. But now, because they haven’t seen people for so long, they’re saying, “What can we add to spend more time with them? “”

Hosting more wedding-related events, especially outdoors, is “definitely a trend we’ve seen,” said Cynthia Conat, director of events and meetings at Carmel Valley Ranch and Ventana Big Sur in the county. of Monterey.

At the 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch, which frequently hosts “backyard” weddings of Bay Area couples, Conat said, many “bring all their friends here for four or five days.”

Three young men prepare for a Hawaiian wedding wearing kukui nut beads, Kaaawa, Oahu.

Three young men prepare for a Hawaiian wedding wearing kukui nut beads, Kaaawa, Oahu.

Rosanna U / Getty Images / Image source

Couples who get married at the exclusive Hawaii Four Seasons Hualalai resort also show an increased desire to spend more time with their guests, according to Jaclyn Jerstad, director of weddings and special events at the hotel.


“Some of these weddings we’ve seen are seven-night stays, flying Sunday through Sunday,” she noted. “The majority of the activities they ask for are for the whole group.”

Long-delayed pleasure travel also feeds into other choices. “A lot of our grooms were avid golfers, and they really wanted a vacation, so the new golf vigorous [house] that we have has been a great success, ”Jerstad said.

Some couples don’t just want to play with their guests, they also want to stay with them. The Four Seasons recently launched Bungalow Zero, a six-bedroom stand-alone unit with two specialty suites, one of which features a pool and hot tub on a lawn leading to Kumukea Beach. While each room has its own entrance and key, the outdoor space is shared. “It’s extremely popular for small weddings,” Jerstad said.

Northern California resorts are also reporting demand for larger weddings. At Carmel Valley Ranch, Conat said she was “pleasantly surprised” at the prospect of marriages of 150 to 300 people.

At Carneros Resort and Spa, “a small wedding of 70 people suddenly grows to 140 people,” Costa said. “It’s like there are so many pent-up requests, everyone makes a list and then says, ‘Everyone comes to this.’ Normally, we don’t see such a big increase.

The most noticeable increase at Four Seasons Hualalai is in the budget for weddings, even for small gatherings. With improved wines and champagne, personalized dining experiences, and larger floral designs, “intimate” doesn’t necessarily mean small, according to Jerstad. “Ten to 12 guests could easily spend now what a 100-person wedding would have 18 months ago,” she noted.

A banquet table in a tropical garden.

A banquet table in a tropical garden.

XavierMarchant / Getty Images / iStockphoto

“These celebrations that we have been overblown,” she added. “You’ve been locked up for 18 months, and now you’ve had the opportunity to plan your wedding that you’ve had to reschedule three times – it’s almost like the budget is wasted. ‘I’ve been thinking about it for so long, I want what I want, and I want my guests to have it too.’ “

Of course, COVID remains a concern no matter where a wedding is taking place. “A lot of couples ensure that all of their guests are vaccinated because they care about their grandparents and make us feel comfortable as well,” Costa said. “We had one that wanted all of our staff to wear masks – color coordinated – although it wasn’t mandatory. “

Thanks to vaccinations, readily available tests and reduced travel restrictions, event planners are reporting a surge in interest in destination weddings. But like many aspects of life during the pandemic, they may require careful thought. Here are five tips Eileen Lacey, owner of E Events Co. in Carmel, shares with couples considering a destination wedding.

Determine how you and your facility will manage the vaccination status of guests.

“This is an extremely important step to think about before choosing your destination or wedding venue, as all properties treat it differently, with different regulations on proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test,” Lacey notes . “Leaving this until the last minute can cause a lot of stress not only for the couple, but their guests. Let your guests know ahead of time that they will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test at some point. delay allows everyone to plan accordingly and be prepared. ”

Send “save the date” information by mail nine to 12 months in advance.

“Since the pandemic, everyone has a different level of comfort with travel, and you want to make sure you give your guests enough time to plan their trip,” Lacey explains.

If you are offering a video stream to guests who cannot attend, make sure there is enough bandwidth for a high quality stream.

“Have your supplier who runs this service do a site visit in advance and check all equipment to make sure everything is going well on the day of the event,” Lacey advises. Couples should also include a link to their livestream on their wedding website – another useful tool in the modern wedding era – so guests can easily access it on D-Day.

Book a team of salespeople well in advance and plan to be patient in communications.

This year and the next “is proving to be incredibly busy for the entire wedding industry,” says Lacey. “Many suppliers have been incredibly hard hit during the pandemic and are working limited hours and are understaffed, while trying to complete all of the events that were postponed from last year, in addition to the new business that was already booked, so please be patient. “

To avoid frustration during the planning process, it’s always a good idea to ask what response times to expect, she adds.

Communicate clearly – and early – with guests.

“Even with the vaccine, I find that many guests feel much more comfortable receiving health and safety measures before confirming their attendance,” explains Lacey. She recommends not only building a wedding website, but also keeping it up to date in terms of COVID and virtual event details and creating an FAQ page to answer potential questions from your guests.

“Including COVID security measures, such as whether the event will take place indoors or outdoors, whether there are remote corporate offices, whether masks are optional for guests or whether they will be provided. etc., are all very important details to include, ”says Lacey.

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