Planning Within a Resort
If you're thinking about having your ceremony and reception at a resort, realize that not all destination wedding sites are created equal. The vast majority will do a beautiful job of handling your reception, but certain sites are better for certain types of weddings.
For example, if you're choosing a hotel on a little, out-of-the-way island in the South Pacific as your wedding site, you won't be given the option of which reception hall suits you best, because there likely will be only one. If you choose a hotel or resort near a huge metropolis, however, your planning might proceed much as it would if you were living in that town and planning a traditional wedding.
First things first: big wedding or small wedding? While traditional etiquette holds that certain people may be invited to the reception but not the wedding, this does not hold true for the destination wedding. If people are shelling out money to make it to the site of the wedding, they're automatically invited to both events.
In other words, then, during this planning process, you shouldn't be thinking, “The ceremony will be small, but the reception's going to be much, much bigger.” Find a site that will accommodate all of your guests for both parts of the wedding day.
Large resorts can usually handle weddings of just about any size, though they may have an absolute bare minimum required number of guests (20 or so).
Small resorts, on the other hand, definitely have their limits, so if the wedding coordinator at one of these tiny places tells you that they just can't handle a wedding for 100 guests, don't try to change her mind by shedding some bridal tears or offering her a bridal bribe. Be grateful that she's honest enough to be up-front with you about the site's limitations. You'll either have to cut the guest list or look elsewhere.
What's Included in a Package?
Resort wedding packages usually make an attempt to provide brides and grooms of all incomes with various options. You'll find that some places are much more expensive than others, but that usually is due to either the location or the quality of the food and drink being served.
Packages can run from a few thousand dollars into the tens of thousands, depending on the number of guests and what sorts of added “goodies” you want to throw into your reception. Some couples grab up these add-ons like crazy, reasoning that this is the kind of wedding they could only have at this particular site. Other brides and grooms prefer to keep things scaled way back, to preserve the sacredness of the occasion.
And there lies the true magnificence of destination weddings and their packaging: There's something out there that's just perfect for every bride and groom. The same resort may be able to offer the most boisterous wedding and the most sacred wedding — for two different brides, mind you, but on the same exact day.
The lesson to learn here? Do your research carefully and thoroughly. Just because you know of someone who had a teeny, tiny ceremony at a given location doesn't mean that you can't have a much larger event at that same place. These are some of the questions you should ask of a resort wedding coordinator:
How many reception guests can this resort comfortably handle?
What types of decorations are included at the reception, and what will cost extra?
What types of meals are offered? (Sit-down, buffet, stations? Fish, beef, chicken?)
What will you end up paying extra for? (In other words, what isn't included in the package?)
That last one is a biggie. Extra charges for things like glasses, linens, and plates can add up quickly. Caterers are more likely to charge these fees than resorts are, but since some resorts use caterers for their large functions, these fees could end up on your bill.