Destination wedding planning during this time might seem daunting, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve to ensure that you get the right insights and advice. Enter our inaugural Destify Team Member Spotlight: Things you Need to Know About Destination Wedding Planning!
To kick off our series, we sat down with Rachel P., an experienced destination wedding professional and current manager within Destify’s Guest Services department. From easing anxieties about COVID to getting more bang for your buck, Rachel shares all the biggest trade secrets below:
How did you get started with Destify?
I started last January. A very exciting time to join the travel industry. I was working at a membership company that dealt with a lot of customer service. I really enjoyed the level of customer service that I was able to deliver there, but was looking to do something a little bit more different day to day.
During your time with Destify, what kind of hats have you worn?
Many a hat. I started in sales, and then I was the first employee to move over to Guest Services, and now I’ve bounced around a lot. So I got to participate a lot in creating the Department and breaking the Department into multiple teams. I’m now on the concierge team, which is really exciting because it lets us get on the offensive and solve problems for couples before they exist.
I’m really excited to be able to bring proactive customer service to the Department and be able to give people an experience that they think about really positively.
Customer service definitely goes a long way, how does that tie into Destify?
I think when people come to us, they’ll expect to get problems solved. Solving them quickly, pleasantly, and going above and beyond? I’m excited to really dig into that.
What’s the biggest kind of anxiety issue in planning? And how do you approach it?
I think that every country and every hotel, and maybe every website seems like they’re doing something differently. I think that from the brides and grooms to their guests, people are unsure of what the rules are for travel right now. Do I need a test? Do I have to wear a mask even while I’m sitting on my pool chair? I have the answers for them. I’ve traveled to Mexico and the Dominican Republic during the pandemic, and being able to explain to someone I’m very COVID cautious, and I felt safe.
These are how things are being cleaned. These are how staff members are behaving. These are how it goes from something as simple to like, you know, checking in for your flights. It’s more complicated now. Because there’s all of these forms you have to upload. Part of walking through this with a client is acknowledging that it is confusing, and that we are here to help.
A huge part of it too is being able to explain to someone that a negative travel experience during the pandemic was not my actual lived-in experience.
From getting that first call or request to actually getting somebody connected to their wedding package or to the resort. Why is it so important to hire a destination wedding planner in the first place, such as Destify?
I think that the hardest adjustment of planning a destination wedding, when you have friends who have planned an American based wedding, is that there is a difference in the customer service expectation. I’m sure there are people who talk to their American wedding planner every day, even 18 months to two years in advance.
That is not how destination weddings work. You are not going to talk to your wedding coordinator at the resort that often or that far in advance, but you can talk to us, and you can have someone who’s involved assuring you that this isn’t actually poor customer service on their end.
You don’t have anything to worry about. We can answer your common questions, and, if you have an urgent question or a complex question specifically about the wedding, we can get an answer for you. We can coordinate everybody else who is attending. For instance, if you’re hosting a wedding in Phoenix, everybody knows how to get to Phoenix, even if they’ve never been there before and nobody seems confused about it. People do get confused about getting to your destination wedding, and if you don’t coordinate with us, you have to answer all these questions yourself. We can temper our service to be an aggressive roadblock between you and your guests.
If you need to get people off your back, we can handle that for you.
It’s like the story about that Chicago couple whose destination wedding went all wrong with their guests. That would never have happened with us. We have a million fail safes in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. You know, for a fact, who is going to your wedding if they are booked, and you can look at it in real time. If it ever confuses you, there are real life people who can walk you through it.
We have guests who go on and make a booking and no one ever interacts with them personally, and we have guests we talk to all the time. We’re happy to serve both communication preferences.
What would you say to couples who are hesitant about planning a destination wedding during this time?
I think very few people have a wedding where no one is traveling to you. Just because it’s not a destination for the bride and groom doesn’t mean it’s not a destination for your guests. There isn’t really a lot of difference between traveling from one state to another and in traveling to a resort.
The resorts have invested interest in not creating outbreaks because they want us to prosper too. The resorts are as safe as they possibly can be. And the other thing is, I think that there are a lot of weddings happening right now. There are people with a wedding to go to every weekend because they got 18-months of delayed weddings.
I think that we all have a new perspective on the last year and what we want out of life and our relationships and our experiences and being able to provide your guests with an opportunity to travel while seeing family and friends. Especially while doing something as special as watching two people they care about commit themselves to each other. It’s really worth it for your guests. Nowadays, people have to make a decision about, am I going to go to this wedding, or this wedding this weekend, and in reality…destination weddings are simply more fun.
If people are traveling for your wedding regardless, you might as well travel somewhere special and somewhere new. You might as well make an entire experience out of it. The worst thing that can happen at a resort is an outbreak, and so they’re working so hard to prevent that.
What are you most excited about in the future of your role within Destify?
There are so many strange things that can happen in our customer journey. So I’m excited to really dig into what happens and anticipate ahead of time and already have solutions for people.
In your experience, what’s kind of been the biggest myth that you had you come across or that any guesses I ask you about?
I think it’s interesting the number of people who are apprehensive about their wedding just being this cookie-cutter thing that nobody at the resort cares about. That’s not true. These resorts that host weddings do care. The staff is going to know who the bride and groom are. When you’re there, you’re going to feel so special. You can have that Instagram worthy wedding on a beach or beautiful gazebo, with or without sand. Because personally I definitely don’t want the sand in my wedding dress. They just don’t mix.
What’s something that people don’t often realize about destination weddings?
You can really make it a whole experience. I think the other thing that people don’t take advantage of necessarily enough, maybe, I don’t know if you would call it a myth, is that you can bundle in multiple events. You can really make this a whole weekend of celebrating your love.
There’s just no way that multiple staff members won’t know exactly who you are, that you’re the future newlyweds, you’re going to feel like a celebrity when you’re at the resort. You’re going to come home tan, rested, and with a nice belly full of margaritas.
What’s a huge difference between domestic and destination weddings?
Destination weddings are not any more or less assembly line-like than getting married at a hotel in America. There are all of these as packages you can take advantage of in both places. But I guarantee you that the bank for your buck goes further in a destination wedding.
So speaking of bang for your buck, how much does destination wedding planning itself actually cost?
Well, our services are free. You can have a hundred-person wedding at most of these resorts for under $10K in the actual ceremony and reception costs. There’s absolutely nowhere in America that you can do that.
I would call the $10k one, like, “moderate bones.” You’re not going to have custom florals with your $10k, but you are going to have full decor with a moderate amount of choice food and drink and wait staff.
The nice thing about the destination wedding is that the upgrades are truly all à-la-carte, so you can just pick the ones you actually care about. You don’t have to pick the DJ to get the six other things. You can really pick what you want.
Destination weddings is an industry that has exploded in the last five to ten years, and I think people feel a lot of pressure and expectation to live up to an influencer’s wedding.
You see these things on Instagram and you have no idea whether that person went into debt for their wedding, which no one should do. You definitely don’t have to do that for a destination wedding.
Which is fantastic because we handle that part of it, right?
Especially with, like, the payment plans for your hotel room and for paying for the wedding itself are so much more flexible with us than they are for a domestic wedding.
Plus the experience of booking a beautiful destination like Cancun or Punta Cana is worth just being there right?
Absolutely. You’re already in a beautiful backdrop. With the wedding packages available at the resorts themselves, you can save money on the floral and photography add-ons. Or you can even have a friend who’s a photographer join.
I have never seen any of our Destify Couples truly pay for something that they don’t care about, which absolutely happens in America.
What do you envision for the future of destination weddings?
I really think we’re seeing an increase in people wanting to travel. People are looking for a reason, in the least cynical way possible, to make their wedding the one that someone wants to come to. The last 18 months have taught people the value of time, and people want to maximize what they experience in life.
Destination weddings are simply more fun. There’s so much more to offer than just going to a ceremony and then going to a reception where you eat the same boring piece of chicken and nothing was different about this wedding verses that wedding. So I think people are looking for unique experiences and destination weddings provide that.
What’s the biggest piece of advice that you have for couples planning a destination wedding right now? What’s the secret sauce, if you will?
Ask for help. The thing that people don’t think about when they want to get married on a beach is how complicated it is to keep track of who is coming, if they actually booked, if they figured out how to get themselves to the right resort, if they know how they’re getting there. Your guests are going to have so many more questions than you could ever be prepared for, because the couples planning destination weddings tend to be seasoned travelers.
You should not count on your guests to be seasoned travelers, and it truly can be a full time job fielding the questions from your guests. You have plenty of other things going on in your life. Trust somebody who won’t get frustrated answering the same question 17 times, who is there to help with all the resources you need.
Lean on us. We’re here. Ask us your questions. There’s not a question that’s too stupid. There’s not a question that we haven’t heard before and can’t get an answer for you. Your wedding is supposed to be fun, and it is way more fun to pick out flowers and linens and playlists than it is to help your second cousin book a room for her and her three children.
So, what would happen if I tried to plan it myself?
If you do it yourself, you’re going to have Excel spreadsheets and emails to follow up on. We give you a portal. It’s all in there. The coordination part? It really ain’t easy. There’s no reason to take on the burden of coordination.
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