Are Pre-Planning Trips Worth the $$$ if You’re Having a Caribbean Destination Wedding?

Hello Brides and Grooms!

I’m riding a total high today because the wedding last night was a huge success!  Megan Conner and Jason Humphries are now Mr. and Mrs. Jason Humphries (or Mr. and Mrs. Megan Conner — it depends who you ask) and it was a fantastic event for them, their families and their friends.  We’ll talk about whether pre-planning trips are a good idea in a minute, but first I need to boast a little bit about the amazing wedding that Megan and her mom Marsha, and I planned.

Meg and Jason met on Vieques many years ago when they were both working down here.  They live in San Francisco now, but their families are in Minnesota and Texas.  They also had a whole bunch of friends on Vieques who were coming to the wedding.  We planned a fantastic weekend.  They started out with a welcome party on the rooftop deck at Bananas so everybody could meet each other.  And then the families of the bride and groom and the wedding party took a tour of our famous bioluminescent bay.

On Friday, we had a really fun rehearsal in the morning (complete with Bloody Marys for those who needed a little hair ‘o the dog) and caravanned right out to Red Beach, where the caterer was waiting with tents and a big spread of pulled pork soft tacos with chili lime sauce.  Rice and beans, fresh Caribbean fruit, and a to-die-for cucumber, tomato and olive salad.  There were big coolers of icy beer and frosty water and huge vat of rum punch!

There was a little spurt of rain, but it didn’t dampen (pun intended) the party a bit.  The bride’s mom filled a tub with beer and took it out on the water and they splashed around in the rain and had a great time til the sun came back out.  The beach looked awesome with a row of brightly colored umbrellas in a line, waiting to greet the guests.  And the whole group looked so cute toting the brightly colored Vieques beach bags that the bride and groom used as welcome gifts when guests arrived on the island.

Friday night the groom’s family hosted a beautiful rehearsal dinner at a fun restaurant with a treehouse feel to it.  The food was awesome, the company even better.  The guests who weren’t included on Friday night toured the bio-bay.

I couldn’t have asked for a better groom and groomsmen than this bunch.  I always tell my brides they have a choice.  I can hire people to help with set up on the day of (at her expense), or she can give me the groomsmen for the day.  It saves them money and it keeps the guys sober before the wedding ceremony.

Let me just tell you how fantastic Jason and his brothers and cousins and future brothers-in-law were — I think they were the best group I’ve ever worked with.  We started at 10 am, and with many, many breaks, and lunch in between, we had everything set up and ready to go by 1 pm.  Including literally thousands of white lights lining the two tents we’d set up at Evamer.

Meg and Jason’s wedding ceremony was beautiful on the beach at Sun Bay, and the reception afterward at Evamer was phenomenal.  The food drew rave reviews from the crowd, the band had everybody dancing, and the bar was a popular spot throughout the evening.  After the festivities ended around 11pm, everybody went down to Mar Azul (a local bar on the water) for karaoke night.  The bride did an excellent “Ring of Fire,” but I think perhaps she and her bridesmaids singing “Like a Virgin” will make the funniest pictures.

We went back this morning to take down lights and finish breaking down everything we spent all day setting up yesterday, and the guys had already taken down the lights for us.  God bless them!  Putting up and taking down strings of white lights is about my least favorite part of wedding planning, but we do it every wedding.  It was soooo nice to arrive to see all the little bundles of lights already waiting for us.  Instead of taking down lights, we had breakfast with her family — leftover wedding cake!!!

Thank you thank you thank you to Megan, Jason, Dan, Gary, Marie, Kathy, Reagan, Bob, Chad, Clint, Jarred, Chrissy, Liz and Grandma Do — and especially to the mother of the bride, Marsha, for everything you did to make this one of the most fun events I’ve ever planned.  While I’m thrilled everything went so well, I’m sad it’s over and I won’t get to work with them anymore.  I truly hope they look us up when they all come back to the island to visit in the future.

Okay, enough bragging about Meg and Jason’s wedding,  On to the topic of the day — is it worth it to come to Vieques ahead of time for a pre-planning trip?

If you don’t have a wedding planner, you probably need to do at least two or three pre-planning trips to make sure everything is in order.  And plan to arrive about 10 days ahead of time to get it all together.

If you have hired the best wedding planner on the island (like me!), you don’t need to make any pre-planning trips unless you really, really want to.  When a bride asks me if she needs to come to Vieques Island before her wedding, my answer is always “no.”  You don’t need to come to Vieques ahead of time if I’m planning it all for you.  But if you want to come, you should consider a couple of things first.

If you have a very tight budget, skip the pre-planning trip.  Depending on where you’re coming from, the combination of airfare, hotel, rental car, food and beverage and entertainment is going to cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.  If you have a very tight budget, skip the trip and put that money back into your wedding instead.  A couple thousand dollars can pay for an entire catered beach party or two private tour boats for the bio-bay or your wedding flowers and your band.  That’s a lot of money diverted to a planning trip if you’ve hired a wedding planner and are paying her to take care of it all.

If you are getting married with a date that’s 9-24 months ahead of your wedding and you’d normally take a vacation during that time period anyway, come see Vieques and help me plan your wedding.

You should keep in mind that if you do come for a pre-planning visit, we won’t be doing the same things that you would do when you plan your wedding at home.  The caterers don’t do tastings unless they happen to have a restaurant (in which case you can go have dinner there and pay for it and try the food).  The cake lady doesn’t do tastings like you imagine — no sitting down in a frufru bakery with 20 flavors of cake to sample while you make your choice.

What I can do is take you to see the spot where you’re going to have each of your events (assuming they aren’t occupied by other renters at the time of your visit).  And I can tell you where to go hear the best band on the island play.  And I can introduce you to my favorite hair stylist so you can discuss your wedding hair.  And we can talk with your photographer about your pictures.  And we can plan your menu with the caterer.  And you can meet with the minister who will marry you to discuss your ceremony.  Just remember that all of these things can also be done via email or phone and you get the same results.

I’m not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t come to Vieques Island for a pre-planning trip, I’m just saying it’s not necessary and if you do come, it might not be exactly what you expected.  If coming down here ahead of time means you don’t have the money you need to pay for everything you want for your wedding, then save your money and leave the planning to me.  I send pics of venues via email and do all the rest of it with conference calls.

It’s really up to you whether you do a pre-planning trip, but I think you should let your budget determine if it’s really worth it or not.  I wouldn’t want to give up something else I wanted in order to do it.  And if you’re one of my brides, please check with me first to make sure my schedule is clear.  I don’t like to do pre-planning trips on weeks when I have a big wedding.

Until next time, Happy Wedding Planning!

Sandy

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