Trip Coach: August 22, 2006

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John Bigley and Paris Permenter, authors of "The Destination Wedding Workbook," answered your questions about destination weddings

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Greetings! We're Paris Permenter and John Bigley, a husband-wife team of travel writers specializing in romantic travel. We look forward to answering your questions about destination weddings so let's get started...

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Dallas, TX: I'm considering a Las Vegas wedding but want something other than the Elvis ceremony that I usually associate with Vegas weddings. Are there more elegant options in the city?

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: That's a sure bet! Las Vegas has an increasingly large number of elegant options (although the city still offers plenty of small--even drive-through--wedding chapels as well). The casino hotels are home to some of the most elegant wedding venues in town. One of our favorites is the Bellagio; along with wedding chapels at the hotel, you can opt for a small wedding outdoors with the famous Bellagio fountains as your backdrop. You'll be able to select your music and the "dance" for the fountains, all timed to go off as you seal the marriage with a kiss. Another good option for small ceremonies is the top of Paris Las Vegas's Eiffel Tower, a beautiful choice with the city as a backdrop. For something very unusual, check out the pirate wedding at TI (formerly known as Treasure Island); "pirates" play a role in the wedding and can serve as ringbearer or even give the bride away. And if you'd like an historic touch to the ceremony, Excalibur has Renaissance costumes to transform you into a princess bride.

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Eudora, KS: Our daughter is having a destination wedding May 26 in Mexico (Mayan Riviera). We will have aprox. 40 people attending. How do we arrange for get-togethers while we are there without incurring more expenses? We want to be able to meet and have good times together, but not spend more money since most everybody is on a budget.

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: If all the guests will be staying at the same resort, your job will be simple. Your daughter will be able to work with the concierge to arrange special activities for the group which can range from a cocktail party to beach volleyball to a charter tour of the region (and you will qualify for group rates with many operators).
 
If the guests are divided up across several resorts, especially all-inclusives, check into the possibility of purchasing day passes. Many all-inclusives sell day passes so that non-guests may experience the property for the day which would then allow you to set up activities on property. (Night passes are also available at some properties.)
 
Also, look to some of the larger attractions in the area such as Xcaret as a possible day trip. Again, be sure to check for group rates.
 
Finally, a nice touch is to put an itinerary in each guest's room, outlining the weekend's activities, suggested dress, pickup time, what to bring, etc.

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Rincon Beach Resort in Anasco, PR: I am getting married on March 31, 2007 at Rincon Beach Resort in Anasco, PR. My family and I are from Puerto Rico and wanted it there for that reason, although we (and the groom and family) live in the US. I am looking to have a small wedding of less than 50 people. I am 33 and the groom is 34 years old. I was looking for help on finding a florist, photographer and videographer as the hotel does not provide that. How do you recommend that I search for good and reputable ones since we don't live there or know many people there? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to get it right and have no regrets. Thank you!

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. When the bride and groom don't live close enough to the wedding location for a pre-wedding site inspection, it can be especially important to hire the services of a local wedding planner. Although it might seem like the stuff of the rich and famous, you can talk with a local wedding planner about hiring her simply as a consultant for advice on local vendors. If your budget allows, you can hire the wedding planner for more extensive work including working with the vendors (and following up to make sure all will be in place for the event, especially important if your time on island will be brief before your wedding.) Best wishes!

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Seattle, WA: If the bride's family was originally considering a traditional wedding, then changes to a destination wedding, who typically pays for the grandparents, groom's family, etc. to attend (airfare, hotel, etc.)?

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Typically everyone pays his or her own way to a destination wedding although, when finances allow, the bride and groom sometimes cover expenses for a special family member or a member of the wedding party who might not otherwise be able to attend.
 
One way you can assist with the cost factor is to try to secure group discounts whenever possible. Talk with airlines and hotels about group discounts; guests will generally need to make their reservations through a special group booking number.

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Knoxville, TN: Can you offer suggestions on islands or tropical locations that are tolerant of same sex union ceremonies? We are planning to make some sort of committment in the next few months and enjoy cruising and traveling through the carribean including Puerto Rico.

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Attitudes about same sex union ceremonies vary greatly from island to island within the Caribbean so your best bet for a ceremony is to look to the gay-friendly islands in the region. The US Virgin Islands (especially St. Croix), Sint Maarten, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico are all good choices.

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Lake Forest, IL: We are trying to find a beach wedding location that isn't tuned to the tourist dollar or the wedding price-hike effect but which isn't on the other side of the planet (we love Zanzibar but cannot ask everyone to fly there). Every place we look at in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Florida is outrageously expensive, or seems like a deal until you start adding on all the "extras." Is there any such thing as a truly "secret" wedding destination place that isn't upmarketed by advertisements from Bridal magazines or other media sources that make it turn overnight into a high-end claim to wedding fame?

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: It's tough to find a "hidden" destination in North America these days and, when you do find an out of the way property or remote island, you can often expect to pay extra charges in terms of transportation.
 
Our suggestion: look to off season for good deals. If you have your heart set on a resort that you think might be out of your budget, ask about off season rates which are often less than half the high season rate. In the Caribbean, off season means mid-April through mid-December with the very cheapest rates falling during the height of hurricane season: September and October. Remember, however, that the region is a large one. Also, ask your resort about hurricane guarantees in case a storm interrupts your wedding plans. 
 
Also, consider less-visited locations on popular islands. For example, while Jamaica's Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are tops with bridal travelers, look to the quieter South Coast for small properties. You'll still have the benefit of low airfare thanks to the large number of tourists but you'll have the benefits of a smaller property.

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Davie, FL: We have a destination wedding in Bodega Bay, California on Labor Day weekend. While we are there what should we do aside from the wineries?

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Save time for a walk on the beach (or even catch a wave if you can sneak away from the wedding festivities long enough.) There are many good art galleries in the region and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa is a fun option if there are kids (or just "Peanuts" fans) in the wedding group.

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Englewood, NJ: If you are attending a destination wedding, (air, hotel, car rental) and you have bought a substantial gift from the registry, are you still require to give a $ gift at the wedding?

John Bigley & Paris Permenter: No; a gift from the registry counts as your gift (and oftentimes, the gift of your presence is all that's expected and hoped for at a destination wedding).

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John Bigley & Paris Permenter: Well, it's about time to wrap up. Thanks for all your questions. You can always find us over at Lovetripper.com and our new Texas travel site, TexasTripper.com. Happy travels! Paris & John

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