May 7, 2010 / 10:05 AM / 9 years ago

Destination Weddings: package deals for runaway brides

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Here comes the bride, there goes the bride, along with the groom and a small group of family and friends.

A wedding photographer takes pictures of newlyweds on Furanafushi Island in the Maldives May 23, 2009. REUTERS/John Goh

Many are opting to tie the knot far away from home and the hassles of the traditional catered affair.

And travel experts say whether couples choose a beach in the Caribbean or a castle in Spain, combining wedding, reception and honeymoon can be kinder to their nerves and their wallet.

“It’s one stop shopping! Wedding and honeymoon and no problems with tuxes, caterers and flowers,” said Jeff Krudop of Travel Leaders in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I would say about 50 per cent of our leisure business is somehow related to a destination wedding or vow renewal.”

Krudop says it’s a niche market that keeps growing.

“It’s most popular with young couples in their 20s and 30’s who want to make a big vacation with family and friends. It’s also very popular with repeat marriages.”

He said Mexico, Hawaii, Florida and the Caribbean remain the most popular destinations, although recently more clients are requesting Europe or South America.

Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean has been specializing in destination weddings for 30 years.

“We began concept of combining wedding and honeymoon in one,” said spokesperson Vanessa Lane. “We coined the term ‘weddingmoon’ because as soon as the wedding is over, honeymoon begins.”

Lane, citing a market report in Destination Weddings and Honeymoons magazine, said the destination weddings market has seen a 400 percent increase in last ten years.

“It’s the ease of having everything included, of getting away with family and friends,” she explained.

Celebrities have fueled the trend, according to Lane. Tom Cruise wed Katie Holmes at a castle in Italy; Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner married in Turks and Caicos.

Then there’s the money factor. Unlike traditional receptions, which might have to accommodate 250 guests, destination weddings are attended only by family and a few close friends.

“Often brides cover the reception and guests pay their own way,” Lane explained.

“And guests can contribute to offset the costs, or pay for extras for the couple, like a spa treatment or a candlelit dinner,” she said.

For some couples, nothing says romance like a shipboard ceremony.

“Norwegian Cruise Line performs more than 400 weddings annually,” according to spokesperson Courtney Recht. And there’s a Norwegian wedding planner at the ready to handle every detail.

The cruise line offers package deals for shipboard weddings, as well as for those held on dry land, and from ports in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

If you’re not quite there yet, Norwegian will provide a consultant to mastermind your proposal at sea. If you’ve been there and done that, it will help you renew your vows.

But weddings are the mainstay.

“Couples are seeking non-traditional weddings,” said Marcia Grant, a travel agent with Travel Leaders in North Oaks, Minnesota. “Less stress, more memorable, all-inclusive.”

And weddings fortified with a little luck.

“The dates that couples are most interested in now are 10/10/10 and 1/1/11,” Grant added.

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