Is it safe to look ahead and plan a destination wedding? While of course nobody has the answer to this million-dollar question, we are seeing more countries open up (for example Aruba, Bermuda, Bahamas and parts of the US have all announced phased re-openings for travellers at this time) and couples are definitely looking ahead to 2021 and beyond to plan their dream day on location.
We spoke to Treasa Leigh Brown, principal planner and creative director of Toronto-based Leigh Events, who counts destination wedding planning as one of her specialities. “Destination weddings are on the rise and having a destination wedding undeniably brings a different level of excitement and anticipation from the guests,” Brown shares. “So many couples are now focused on their guests and giving them that ‘WOW’ factor experience while also creating a mini vacation for themselves and all the guests that are flying into the destination. One of the most compelling factors of having a destination wedding is that it becomes a weekend celebration and not just the standard eight hours in one day, creating great opportunity to blend the two families by giving them more time to celebrate together.”
We asked Brown for some intel regarding how couples can move forward at this time and plan a destination wedding in the months ahead.
Can you share a little about your 2020 experience with destination weddings and what the status is for the rest of the year?
“In the early months of 2020, the Leigh Events team was routinely traveling to each of the destination wedding locations to begin the pre-event planning process. During the preliminary planning stages, our team conducts site visits, meets with local vendors, and uses this time to establish the necessary connections with suppliers and vendors to ensure seamless execution. Planning for destination weddings in 2020 started off invigorating considering the weddings were taking place in cities that the Leigh Events team hasn’t had the pleasure of producing in yet. However, following the onset of the current pandemic, we weren’t sure how long travel would be restricted so we immediately transitioned to virtual meetings with vendors to maintain open communication. Shortly after, we realized we needed to proceed with beginning the cancellation and reschedule process for each of our couples. Subsequently, majority of our destination wedding couples decided to postpone their weddings until 2021 to ensure safety for all guests and to simply be able to have their loved ones in attendance.”
Looking ahead, is it safe at this time to plan for a 2021 destination wedding? What do you have on the books for next year with couples and what destinations?
“We believe that it is safe to plan for a destination wedding in 2021, however destination weddings which have majority of their guest list already living in the destination have a much higher probability of happening in comparison to the weddings where all guests have to fly in. For our couples with majority of their guests flying into the destination, we advise them to keep their wedding intimate, have a limited guest list, and a potential local ‘plan b’ in place paired with an exhaustive contingency plan. One of our biggest takeaways we’ve learned and implemented while combating the worldwide pandemic is our contingency plans will now cater to unforeseeable events happening months before the wedding as well as hours before the wedding. As for future weddings, we have quite a few on for 2021! Some of the cities and countries we are excited to venture into are St. Kitts, Palm Springs, Jamaica, Miami, and Italy. Although our business isn’t destination based, in the recent years we’ve found an increase in inquiries from couples that live locally but want to have a destination wedding to create a different ambience for their guest rather than the traditional norm you would receive locally.”
Do couples need to think smaller and micro when it comes to destination celebrations in the future?
“In the immediate future, we believe it would be more manageable to think smaller and micro for destination weddings, due to the mere fact that rescheduling or postponing destination weddings can become quite complex and costly. However, we also believe thinking smaller isn’t always necessary depending on where your guests are coming from. If all the guests already live in the destination, then we encourage our couples to move forward with their desired guest count. In light of this quandary, we have enhanced existing services that allow guests who are unable to physically attend, to virtually attend destination weddings while also allowing them to communicate and engage with guests at the wedding. The newest feature in our virtual services consisting of enhanced wedding design and operations, that captures each guests’ reaction during the entire wedding has quickly become one of client favourites.”
What are some creative ways you can bring a couple’s favourite destination to them as travel is difficult at this time?
“At Leigh Events, we specialize in customization for each of our couples. A few ways we’ve been able to bring our couple’s favourite destinations to them is by finding a venue we can transform to the ideal desired location. Ensuring the chef can provide authentic cuisine. Confirming the DJ is knowledgeable and versatile with the couple’s music genre selection. Also focusing on the fine details is so key. One of our trademark design strategies is bringing in fabricators to produce customized décor and importing authentic décor (flowers, wine, fabrics, etc.) from the desired destination to ensure the wedding encompasses the couple’s wedding vision while also ensuring guests have a remarkable and memorable experience. Lastly, extensive research and asking the right questions are a couple of keys we use to unlock the very achievable celebration.”
Any tips for couples who may be considering a destination wedding in the future but are nervous about booking it?
“I would encourage anyone considering a destination wedding to book a consultation with a wedding planner before you rule anything out. Ask all the detailed questions you think may be insignificant—no question is too small! We have had many clients who have expressed their doubts when it comes to destination weddings, but when you work with an experienced destination planner, you will realize the array of possibilities there truly are to make your wedding vision come true.”