13 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding

tips destination wedding

13 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding by Wedding Group Travel Specialist, Amy Seng, Destinations by Amy

1. Location, Location, Location

There are a lot of factors when choosing the perfect location.  The location of your wedding determines not only the mood but also the travel, time and budget required to pull it off. You want your guests to walk away from your wedding weekend saying, “That was so them!” Your wedding elements — not just location, but also activities and overall vibe — should say something about your personal style and your passions. Looking for upscale on the beach with a lot of nightlife, consider Cancun, looking for a 3 mile beach with some of the best resort food, think Jamaica.  Or if you love outdoor adventures, consider Costa Rica, where guests can zipline through the treetops before the rehearsal dinner.

ceremony cancun

2. Setting the Date

Clients of mine usually have an idea of when their friends and family are most available for travel.  I speak with a a lot of brides and grooms that like to follow a teacher schedule or we need to plan at least 10 months in advance for someone to get the time requested off.  Other times, couples just want to get married and come to me for advice.  Unfortunately, the best weather in popular vacation destinations tends to correlate with tourist season, when there are typically more crowds, fewer hotel and venue availabilities, and higher rates all around. If you choose to marry during high season, you’ll want to reserve hotel blocks and venues immediately and send out save-the-dates 10 to 12 months in advance so we can set up a great package for them. If you choose the shoulder season (right after high season), you may be able to save yourself and your guests some money and still enjoy great weather. While the off-season will mean fewer crowds, the weather can be iffy, and would require all guests to get the travel insurance just in case.

Destination Wedding

3. Check out the resort first hand

I seriously can’t recommend this enough: Take at least one planning trip, if you can swing it.  The couples that go down to the resort, experience the charter flight, take the same transfer company, and stay at the resort have a better grasp of what to expect for their wedding.  Setting your expectations ahead of time is so important.  You will meet with the wedding coordinator that will be helping you with the day of coordination.  You can first hand pick your ceremony and reception locations.  Meet with vendors.  Hit the town and shop for favors.  Couples will even find that they would like to compare resorts, so site inspections can be set up before you depart.  It really relieves the stress of unknown and I highly suggest it.

Secrets Silversands

4. Tips, Tax and Service Charges

If done right, a destination wedding can cost no more — and maybe even less — than hosting the same party at home (depending on where you live, of course). Though please take into account that things may be a little different as to how they calculate the bill.  Almost all catering menus as well as décor will add a tax and service charge for set up and rentals.  Don’t forget about tips for everyone that helped with your wedding onsite.  As well as daily tipping to at restaurants and bars at all-inclusives.  Trust me a dollar here and a dollar there will not break your bank, can make a world to someone else.

Jamaica Destination Wedding

5. Legal or Symbolic Ceremony

The legal side of tying the knot in a different country can be complicated. Many countries have a “residency requirement” (for example, 24 hours in Turks and Caicos and 4 days in Mexico), which means you must reside in the country for a certain length of time before your ceremony. Although this is usually just a few days, it can be longer.  Many couples will decide to go to the courthouse prior to their trip to make it legal and then do a symbolic ceremony in destination.

Destination Wedding Dreams Los Cabos

6. Get Help

Control freaks, beware: If you’re hosting a wedding in a distant locale, you will need to entrust at least part of the planning to someone else’s capable hands. A wedding planner can shoulder the burden of researching and securing local vendors (especially valuable if said vendors speak English only as a second language), dealing with logistics like tent rentals and lighting and handling any last-minute fires that may start in the weeks leading up to the wedding. She is also the behind-the-scenes queen, creating gift bags for guests, greeting everyone at the airport, keeping people busy with fun activities once there, vetting special requests (babysitters, dry cleaners, and so on), and getting everyone where they need to be on-time. Many all-inclusive resorts include a coordinator in their wedding packages. I even know of resorts that allow for a completely free wedding and reception based on the number of rooms in your group.

7. Remember: You’re on Island Time

Don’t keep a constant eye on the clock. Remember that many tropical islands run on “island time” — things happen when they happen — so don’t mistake a vendor’s laid-back attitude for incompetence. Avoid the temptation to micromanage from afar. Schedule regular check-ins and then trust your vendors to work their magic.

8. Vet Vendors Carefully

While you can view vendors’ portfolios online and check references from afar, it’s especially important that you’re comfortable with all your vendors. You’ll be leaving a lot in their hands, as you won’t be able to be nearly as hands-on, so it’s important you trust those hands are capable. That’s why we strongly suggest making at least one planning trip to meet with potential vendors. If you must hire your vendors unseen, schedule a video chat so you can get a sense for a potential vendor’s demeanor and personality before you sign a contract. Your wedding planner can meet with potential vendors on your behalf and brief you on your options, as well. Another option: Bring pros you trust from home to handle critical aspects such as the wedding photography, hair and makeup, and design (lighting, flowers), and even work with local vendors in a supervisory capacity to avoid any communication mishaps. Just remember: You’ll have to cover their travel and lodging expenses.

Destination Wedding

9. Forewarn Your Friends & Family

Tell your bridal party about the destination before you ask them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight. Don’t be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don’t attend.  And while your wedding is a mini-vacation for you, it may not be the one they want to take! Having a well organized trip makes for happier friends and family and eases all the stress.  Let your guests know that you have worked hard with a Wedding Group Travel Specialist to set up all the details and to book with the group.  This way everyone wins!  The group earns the comps and your group’s travel is monitored by a professional.

10. Mind Mother Nature

Don’t just assume that the weather in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico is gorgeous year-round. Hurricane season lasts from July through October in the Caribbean and can put a major damper on your nuptials, while rainy season makes marrying in Hawaii dicey from November to March.

11. Take Care of Guests

Make sure each of your guests has a travel specialist that can help them make their travel plans.  Also, utilize the provided Personalized Wedding Webpage to highlight everything the trip will have in store including distance to the airport, information specific on the resort, type of rooms in the room block and an easy way to book.  Destinations by Amy provides invaluable travel tips before departure and are a quick phone call away when in transit.  Once on property you can offer welcome bags to be included in the rooms or at check in.  Pack some fun items to share like sunscreen and an itinerary of events for the week.  You can informally set up non-private meet ups all over the resort that guests are not obligated to attend.

That beaded pink dress on the right is under $300 and is absolutely gorgeous. With all the beading work I thought I was going to have sticker shock. Great job ladies!

That beaded pink dress on the right is under $300 and is absolutely gorgeous. With all the beading work I thought I was going to have sticker shock. All three would make amazing bridal gowns for a Destination Wedding.

12. Dress the Part

Don’t forget to consider the climate when choosing your wedding dress — and deciding on everyone else’s attire. You’ll be swimming in sweat if you pair your fairy-tale satin ball gown with tropical humidity, and asking your groomsmen to wear tuxes in the sun and heat is just cruel. Also, if you’re exchanging vows outside, you may want to reconsider a long train that will easily get muddy or grass-stained or three-inch heels that will stick in the mud.

WIN a Free Wedding at Hard Rock All-Inclusive Resorts!

13. Get a Move On It Already!

Not to stress you out, but if you are specific in what you want, the best stuff fills up first.  No worries if your wedding isn’t until 2018.  Now is the time to get your date set and secure your room block.  You can lock in on this years rates and contracts can be negotiated again prior to 120 days prior to departure.  Let Destinations by Amy help you choose your destination, perfect resort, set the date, put together a Personalized Wedding Webpage, Electronic Save the Dates, and all the leg work of managing all of your guests travels.  Contacting us will be the best decision.  Leaving you time to enjoy the wedding planning.  This is an exciting time and you can’t do this all on your own.  We are happy to help!

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Amy Seng  |  Wedding Group Travel Specialist  |  847-485-0018  |  amy@destinationsbyamy.com

6 Excursions that made my Honeymoon AMAZING!

I book A LOT of Honeymoons.  I get asked all the time, “Ok- expert, what did you do on your Honeymoon?!”  My answer, “A little of everything.”

excursions on my honeymoon

Our Panama Canal Cruise

We started in Miami, went through the Panama Canal, and ended up in San Diego with numerous stops along the way. We were on the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas for a 14 night trip that was quite unforgettable.   Our days on board were filled with big meals, daiquiris by the pool, and black jack all night.  Our days off the ship were filled with adventure.  My travel tip: get off the boat and do something memorable.


A cruise of this length is not to be taken lightly. It’s a long time on a ship!  Though it is so nice to do this much traveling without having to cart your luggage from place to place.  I really enjoyed cruising the Panama Canal.  It was like doing an excursion on the boat.  It took an entire day to get through all three locks of the canal.  The history and engineering are fascinating. The beauty of the rain forest on both sides of the ship was amazing.  You wait in line most of the day to get from lock to lock so cruising the canal is at an extremely slow speed.  It was super hot but nothing a pina colada couldn’t fix!  The best part was leaving the last lock.  There were people in buildings cheering us on as we made our way to the Pacific.  Even though I just sat by the pool all day and watched the marvel from a short distance, I still felt a sense of accomplishment.  We made it!


We made the most of the time we had off the ship.  We did an excursion at every stop.  There is so much relaxing to do on the boat, we were fired up to take advantage of the adventure of it all.


1- First stop, Aruba.  Jeep tours of the countryside are the best way to see the island.  Heading out on the rough terrain after only being in the country for a mere half hour is quite an adventure.  We did a lot of driving over this 8 hour tour though we saw a lot too!  Stopped at some historical sites and ruins.  Saw the world’s largest natural bridge that disappointingly fell one month before we were there.  Though still amazing to see the size of it.  We stopped for lunch and hit up some snorkeling.  Finally wrapped it up at the infamous Carlos & Charlie’s, for yard glasses of tropical drinks.  All in all, the jeep experience was fun and Aruba is definitely on my list to travel to again soon!


2- Next stop, Costa Rica.  Zip lining is the ultimate in day trips.  There are few other excursions that can compare in the adrenaline rush you get from sliding from tree to tree at dangerous heights.  The scenery was incredible, lush green rain forest.  Experiencing the wild life up close in their world was amazing.  I loved this exact zip line tour because it offered numerous lines, I think up to 16, with the last one bringing you to the ground.  As you untangle yourself from the line, you are stepping out of the forest onto the beach.  I think I was just in shock at that point, the rush and the beauty of the beach was unforgettable.


3- After two rustic tours at our last two stops, after an entire day getting through the locks of the Panama Canal, we arrive in Panama City.  Wow! What a city it is!   We took the short tender over to walk the marina to see what we can see.  To our surprise, yachts and fancy restaurants were a plenty.  We spent the night eating and drinking and taking in the ocean breeze.  It took us so long to get through the locks we only had a few hours to indulge.  It was well worth getting off the boat and taking the tender.  Panama was a pleasant surprise.  Panama is on the way up in the travel industry also, with new hotels opening all the time.  Can’t wait to go back!


4- Time to take on the Pacific coast of Mexico!  Huatulco is cliffs, crashing waves, and certainly off the beaten path.  We walked the pier, saw the beach town, and then took a double-decker boat ride to view the cliffs up close and celebrity homes.  Unfortunately for us, it was a rainy day though the sites were still beautiful.  There is so much more to see of this area, hopefully we will make it back soon 🙂


5- Acapulco was a busy day!  We started our morning swimming with the dolphins in a water park in downtown Acapulco.  I wanted to be a dolphin trainer when I grew up so I was like a little girl in a candy shop.  Even though we did the dolphin swim in a pool with older dolphins, I think it was a great experience and treasure the memory and pictures we have from it.  We were also able to take advantage of the water park and rides.  I really don’t think they have the same safety guidelines as our water parks, so it made it that much more of an adventure!  We headed back to the ship for a quick outfit change, and then hailed a cab to the cliff divers.  It is the “IT” attraction in Acapulco and is well worth it.  Acapulco is such a classic town. You can see why Frank Sinatra liked it so much.


6- Our last and favorite stop in Mexico, Cabo!  We took the tender and headed right to the beach to rent wave runners.  If you have been to Cabo, you know that stretch of beach, that the cruise boats stop at it, is not for swimming.  Saying that you could just imagine how rough the waters are for wave runners.  It is the best way to view the rock islands.  We were able to get up close and personal with the sea lions, which was really fun.  After drying off we headed downtown to Cabo Wabo to relieve our back pain from the waves with a couple tequila shots.  It was Cinco de Mayo, so it was fitting 🙂  LOVE Cabo, I would own property here 🙂

There you have it!  Excursions are an amazing way to get active during the day to make the night even that more romantic.  I have a ton of ideas to make your Honeymoon special and memorable.  Give me a ring!

Amy Seng  |  Wedding Group & Honeymoon Travel Specialist  |  847-485-0018  |  amy@destinationsbyamy.com

Tour the new Sandals Over Water Bungalows in Jamaica!

Sandals has out done themselves!  The first over water bungalows to hit the shores of Jamaica are now open.  Take a look at this amazing tour of what looks more like a villa than a small bungalow. Located at Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Only a short four hours from Chicago by nonstop flight into Montego Bay.

Sandals Royal Caribbean is an amazing all-inclusive resort that is great for Honeymooners and Anniversary couples.  These bungalows are located right off the private island that is included with your stay at Sandals Royal Caribbean.  They have boats that continuously shuttle guests up and back from the private island.  When on island you can experience a spa treatment, eat at the Thai restaurant or just lay and be a beach bum.

If you are looking for this elevated experience to stay in an over water bungalow, I strongly suggest booking far out.  With low deposits, you can plan for your 10 year anniversary.  Better yet, plan your wedding at Sandals Royal Caribbean and while your guests are staying on resort you can be tucked away in your private over water bungalow.  Butler service, 24 hour room service, private plunge pool and water access from each bungalow.  You seriously would never have to leave the island if you didn’t want to.

It’s these experiences that make my job that much more fun.  I love helping my clients make amazing memories.  I have a ton of ideas, so even if the over water bungalows isn’t your style, try me.  I’ll help you plan the best adventure of your life.

Now share this post with your friends and let them know you have a friend that is on trend with amazing travel experiences!

Amy Seng | Wedding Group Travel Specialist | 847-485-0018 | amy@destinationsbyamy.com

It’s time to book Breathless Punta Cana

It’s time to get away.  Let’s celebrate, wrangle our crew, and get out to the beach together.  Maid of Honor’s: Listen up. This resort is the perfect getaway for a Bachelorette party! Breathless Punta Cana is an amazing new build resort on the beautiful Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Adults Only, All-Inclusive with a fun young vibe.




I understand how hard it is to wrangle all of your friends for a trip. My team and I can help you do it. We will give you a personalized group booking webpage and send out an email to everyone invited. Everyone also gets personal attention to their reservation from a dedicated travel specialist. Don’t do it alone, my team and I would love to help!

amy@destinationsbyamy.com  |  847-485-0018













Don’t wait to book.  Give us a call, shoot us an email and let’s get it on hold for you.  We just need your names as they appear on your passports and birth dates to secure it.

Remember we offer low deposits and don’t charge a fee for our services.  You are guaranteed a great booking experience with one of our qualified travel specialists.

It’s time! Take us up on this great offer and be sitting beach side before you know it!

amy@destinationsbyamy.com  |  847-485-0018

Renew Your Passport Now


Friendly Reminder-Renew Your Passport Now
Passport Expiring Soon? Renew It Now

If you have a United States passport expiring any time in 2016 or 2017, the State Department has a message: Renew it now. The department anticipates a surge in passport demand throughout this year as a flood of renewals of 10-year passports issued in 2006 and 2007. This is when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, for the first time requiring passports for Americans returning by air from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

If you already have a passport, be sure to see how much longer it’s valid. Your passport is valid for 10 years, but remember that your children’s passports are only valid for 5 years. Many countries require that your passport have 6 months of validity on it when you enter the country.  So if your passport expires in 5 months and you plan to travel, that won’t work. You need to renew!

Start the process now.  It’s easy.  Click here to go directly to the US Passport Website.

Amy Seng |  Wedding Group Travel Specialist |  847.485.0018  |  amy@destinationsbyamy.com

Raving Review of Paradisus La Esmeralda

Raving Review

The Turner Family’s Review of Paradisus La Esmeralda

When I first contacted Amy, I asked her the most vague question about vacations that you can probably ask. She quickly got me on track and helped us find a perfect resort for our first time traveling with our young family. We had no idea how to get started. We have three toddlers (ages 4,3, and 1 year old at the time) and had never stayed more than a night or two with them somewhere, much less flown on a plane. Amy helped us every step of the way from passports for the kids to all the details of the various resorts. When we started with her, she quickly got back to me with a few different ideas for resorts, with prices, room types, flights. While we narrowed down what we wanted, she remained available and answered all our questions very promptly. Just when we thought we had our destination picked, I asked her to check out one more place for me, The Paradisus La Esmeralda in Playa Del Carmen. Boy are we glad she did! She helped us book a fantastic family vacation! She set up all our transfers, cribs, and family concierge. She answered all my questions and when I was feeling nervous, she helped to allay my fears. She gave me great tips for traveling with kids. Her help did not end once we booked the trip either. She was in contact with us before the trip with tips and reminders. She even had a bottle of wine waiting for us in our room when we arrived! She even checked in with us via email when we were there. We had a problem with our transfers being late and she reached out to Funjet and got us credit for our next trip! She was so easy to work with and there is no doubt I will be calling her again to help me with another vacation.

The resort itself was amazing. Family friendly on one side and adults only on the other, it has something for everyone. We decided to book the Family Concierge option. This gave us a butler that we could reach anytime by a phone that was provided to us at check in. Also, there was a dedicated Family Concierge building with its own check-in area and always stocked with snacks and drinks (and smelled amazing because of fresh flowers everywhere!). This was right next to the Family Concierge pool that was heated with a swim up bar. Our butler met with us shortly after check in and got us anything we needed. They left a treat in the room every night for the kids. The tub was outside the room on the balcony and one night they came and made a big bubble bath with balloons for the kids. We felt like royalty. They handled all the dinner reservations for us. We were very spoiled. I would recommend the Paradisus La Esmeralda to anyone with kids. I would recommend Destinations by Amy to get you there!
Balloon Bubble Bath Thanks to the Family Concierge Butler

Balloon Bubble Bath! Thanks to the Family Concierge Butler


Cupcakes Paradisus La Esmeralda

Daily Sweets in our room every day!


pond Paradisus La Esmeralda

Koi Pond on Resort


Travel Agent Paradisus La Esmeralda

Thanks to our fabulous travel agent, Amy Seng!

Thanks so much to the Kelly & the Turner Family for your kind words and support!  Your review of the Paradisus La Esmeralda really shows you how much I care about your travel experience.  I am so happy that I was able to help you make such great memories.  Your family is beautiful and I look forward to helping with many more trips to come.
Amy Seng | 847.485.0018 | amy@destinationsbyamy.com | www.destinationsbyamy.com

Hoping to run into Taye Diggs at Club MoBay

Club Mobay Jamaica

Taye Diggs at Club Mobay

Yep! That’s Taye Diggs sleeveless on my blog.  He is one of the many celebrities to utilize the services of Club MoBay for Arrival & Departures at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica. You have to give it to the Jamaicans for offering their hospitality right when you walk off the plane.
These are few of my favorites that I picked from all the celebrities listed here.
I’m headed to Jamaica on Monday will be experiencing Club MoBay for myself.  This service needs to be booked in advance with your flight information.
Arrival Meet and Greet 
There is no better way to begin your Jamaican travel experience than with a personalized expedited service throughout the airport. A hassle free process that fast tracks you through immigration, customs and security.
Departure Lounge 
Once you have checked in with your airline, our departure will allow:
-Fast-track privileges through immigration and security
-Complimentary refreshments including fresh fruits, pastries, snacks, sandwiches, tapas, sushi, sliders and Jamaican patties
Club Mobay Pickney Place; our one-of-a kind sound-controlled children’s play-room
-Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
Here are the menus in the Departure Lounge:
Club MoBay Breakfast MenuClub MoBay Lunch menuClub MoBay Cocktail Menu








If you are like me, the complimentary food and drink are such a value.  I like to drown my sorrows of leaving an island in cocktails at the airport before departure.  You are still in Jamaica and technically still on vacation so why not?!
I suggest purchasing the bundle for arrival and departure.  Then sit back and relax, everything is taken care of for you.  This VIP experience only costs $80 per adult and $40 per child (infants are free).
I wonder who I may run into at Club Mobay?  Taye Diggs, you are at the top of my list!
Interested in a trip to Jamaica?  Destinations by Amy can help.  No worries, all of our trips include Club MoBay for our VIP clients like you.


Amy Seng  | Wedding Group Travel Specialist | 847-485-0018 | amy@destinationsbyamy.com

Las Caletas Wedding by Adventure Weddings

I met this amazing couple a couple weeks back at the Tabula Tua event.  They had already booked their Las Caletas Wedding with Adventure Weddings though I am able to help them with booking travel for each of their guests for their Destination Wedding.
Their day of wedding plan is to take a catamaran out to a private beach named Las Caletas to have their ceremony and reception.  Private, beautiful and unique.  This video says it all.

Adventure Weddings takes care of all the details of your Las Caletas Wedding and Destinations by Amy will help your guests get there and stay comfortably.  We offer electronic save the dates, personalized guest booking webpage,  and personalized service to each of your guests.  Don’t take a chance and try to manage the hotel contract yourself when you can have my team of experience travel consultants take care of every detail for you.  Remember we don’t charge a fee for our services, we just ask that you have all of your guests book their stay with us. It’s a WIN, WIN for all parties involved.
Give me a call and we can chat about your plans 🙂
Amy Seng |  Wedding Group Travel Specialist |  847-485-0018  |  amy@destinationsbyamy.com

Proud to be a WOW Specialist for Hard Rock Hotels!

Destinations by Amy is now a WOW Specialist for Hard Rock Hotels All-Inclusive resorts!

I just spent the last week at Hard Rock Riviera Maya learning even more about their Destination Weddings.  I’m thrilled to be able to say that I am a WOW Specialist and that I have met and trained with Colin Cowie.  He was as charming and personal as I hoped.  The Hard Rock made me feel so welcome to be at their resort and becoming a part of this exclusive group of specialists.

WOW - Black


WOW Specialist, Amy Seng, & Colin Cowie

Colin Cowie (left) & Amy Seng (right)


If you are interested in learning more about Hard Rock All-Inclusive Resorts, give us a call.  We would love to tell you more.  We can also help you start planning your Destination Wedding.

Amy Seng  |  847.485.0018 local phone & fax  |  amy@destinationsbyamy.com |  www.destinationsbyamy.com

Introducing Meghan Evans, Our Disney Travel Specialist!

I am so proud to introduce Meghan Evans to the Destinations by Amy team!  Meghan is one of the sweetest people I know and knows everything DISNEY!  Her love for it aspires me to learn more and appreciate the magic.  She has already done all the research for you.  Sit back and let a professional take care of your Disney plans for you.  She has incredible tips for dining reservations as well as the best times of year to travel.  What attractions are worth it and sharing with you attractions you don’t even know exist!

Meghan with Mickey circle

Meghan Evans, Disney Travel Specialist

As the youngest of 5 children, I was first introduced to Walt Disney World as just an infant. I have experienced Disney through all ages growing up, as a teenager, as a single adult, as a mother with a toddler, as a mother with an infant and while pregnant. Disney has always had a special place in my heart and the joy it makes me feel is incomparable.   We are annual passholders and get there every chance we get. We particularly love going over the Christmas holiday season and experiencing Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party with snow on main street. It is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season! I been lucky enough to stay at 10 different WDW resorts. No matter which resort, I have always felt immersed in the magic and that is one of my favorite parts of the trip. I am so drawn to and in awe of Disney as a whole that it was a no brainer when I was given the opportunity to help others experience it. Call me, I would love to chat and start helping you plan an unforgettable experience for you and your family.  Meghan can be reached at (847) 485-0018 or Meghan@destinationsbyamy.com

We are so lucky to have her on our team and you are so lucky to have her services available to you!  Ask us about Group Trips and Destination Weddings.  We are ready to help you make your dreams come true!

Even better we are offering a FREE Disney Planning Guide with Meghan.  It includes the best times to book promotions with Meghan and how far in advance to book.  Trust me, this information is priceless for your Disney Trip!  Click here to sign up for Meghan’s Disney Newsletter and receive it free via email!