Things You Can and Cannot Do Yourself for Your Destination Wedding Weekend

Hello Everybody —

Today’s topic was inspired by a potential client who called me last week with all the best intentions.  Her family happens to be blessed with several chefs — too bad we don’t all have a couple professional chefs hanging around — and she wanted to put them to work during her wedding weekend.  It’s not the first time I’ve heard something like this from somebody planning a destination wedding weekend.  Sometimes it’s sentimental (like in this bride’s case), and sometimes the couples are trying to save money by harnessing the talents of their in-house chef.  Unfortunately, Vieques isn’t the best place in the world to try to bring your own professionals.

First, let’s discuss what kind of services CAN be done by your friends and family.

– Ceremony music.  If you have a talented friend who plays an instrument you like (acoustic guitar, flute, violin), by all means ask them to play at your wedding ceremony.  They have to bring their instruments with them because nobody rents them here and nobody on the big island wants the ones they rent to come over here, but if your friend can bring whatever they need, it’s a beautiful idea.

– Photographers.  I’ve said before that I only think it’s a good idea to bring your own photog with you if you happen to be close with someone who is an actual photographer, not just a friend with a digital camera and a budding hobby.  But if you do have a professional photographer on the guest list who offers to do your wedding pics as a gift, it’s a great savings and works quite well.

– Hairdresser and makeup artist.  If your girlfriend does wedding updos for a living, and is already coming to your wedding as a guest, put her to work!  Same goes for makeup.  But don’t bring your hairdresser and makeup artist if you’ll actually have to pay for her time in coming — that’s just a crazy amount of money once you figure in airfare, accommodations, etc.

Unfortunately, there really are a few things cannot do yourselves on a small Caribbean island.

– Food preparation.  We only get groceries delivered to the island once a week, and although you can usually find the things you need someplace here, it takes lots of time and energy to track them down.  The restaurants and caterers either go to the big island to shop or get it brought in by a delivery service.  If the chefs who live and work here don’t try to buy it in the stores here, what makes you think that your guy will be able to?  He won’t.  If you want to have your family cook your wedding meal, you should be doing a wedding at home, or at least someplace you’ve been enough times to pull it off.  Rental villas don’t provide the kind of serving dishes and utensils you’re going to need either — remember, those kitchens are set up for a family to use for a week, not to create a buffet for 40.  If you decide you want a destination wedding, plan on using local professionals on the island.

– Flowers.  I’m not saying you can’t have your sister who is a florist make your bouquets, but it’s significantly more complicated that anyone realizes.  First off, where are you getting your flowers?  Second, where are you storing them (everything needs to be refrigerated down here)?  Third, you have to bring absolutely every supply you might need — there are no craft stores here for last minute “oopses.”  Fourth, by the time you’ve shipped everything in, you’ve spent more than  you would have if you’d just hired somebody to do it all for you.

– Minister.  You can bring your uncle who is a minister with you, but if he’s not licensed by the government of Puerto Rico (a laborious process), he cannot legally marry you here.  You’ll still have to hire somebody local to do the paperwork.

– Cake.  Same problems apply that apply to catering and flowers.  The supplies.  If it’s a super-sentimental thing and you’re going to ship all the supplies ahead, I guess it could work.  But you’d better remind your pastry chef that things work differently in a hot humid client.  His formula for buttercream at home may resemble a slimy foam after about 15 minutes on a cake down here.

If you’ve always dreamed of having a wedding where all the folks you love did the important pieces of it for you, you should seriously consider saving the islands for your honeymoon.  If you’re thinking you’ll save money by having folks do it for you rather than hiring pros at your destination, think again.  It could end up costing you twice as much by the time your chef has had to fly over to the big island to find all the ingredients not readily available on Vieques.  A destination wedding — by its very nature — is not conducive to the “do it yourself” approach.

You can have a destination wedding for a reasonable amount of money if you hire a knowledgeable professional to guide you through the process.   You can get all the little things you need on the island without having to worry, and spend your time here that weekend enjoying your family and friends.

I’m going to run now and try to catch a couple of hours on the beach.  Wedding guests start arriving today for Jen Shen and Mike Phelan’s wedding in Vieques next weekend, so we’re going to enjoy our last few hours of quiet time on a beautiful beach.  It’s sunny, breezy and about 88 degrees.  Nice!

Happy Wedding Planning!  I’ll write again soon!


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