Planned Elopements Are the New Destination Wedding

Planned Elopements Are the New Destination Wedding

The Caribbean’s new twist on the destination wedding By: Lena Katz
A small guest list means wedding couples can be flexible with their date and plan a tropical ceremony in a short period of time. // © 2015 Sandals...
A small guest list means wedding couples can be flexible with their date and plan a tropical ceremony in a short period of time. // © 2015 Sandals Resorts International

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Planned elopements could just be the hottest new trend in Caribbean destination weddings.

If these words have you worrying that destination-wedding bookings might slip as a result, be reassured: It’s the opposite. Couples dreading the family politics and logistical difficulties of planning a traditional wedding at home are deciding to instead run off to a romantic island. But they still want the big day to include the elements that truly matter to them. Now, Caribbean resort brands are figuring out how to offer turnkey, easy-to-plan wedding packages to capitalize on new attitudes toward tying the knot.

Sandals Resorts International was one of the first brands to incorporate escapism, ease of planning, and budget-friendliness into destination-wedding offerings. Its trademarked WeddingMoons program sets the standard in the industry and was driven by shifting contemporary communities, according to Marsha-Ann Brown, the company’s director of romance.

“People live their lives in much wider circles than they did a generation ago,” she said. “Consider this very typical scenario: The couple met at college in Boston, but the bride grew up in Philadelphia, the groom in New York. His parents are divorced, and his mom now lives in Florida. You get the idea.”

It’s easy to get the idea, because everyone’s living it. For the bride and groom, finding a neutral getaway rather than designating a “hometown” destination eliminates a lot of hurt feelings. From there, it becomes a question of time and budget.

“At Sandals Resorts, there are generally two types of couples: the more traditional destination-wedding couple, planning their dream experience from afar; and the more spontaneous couple, who appreciate the convenience and fun of making a single call and having everything managed for them,” Brown said.

Though Sandals is an adults-only brand, family-friendly all-inclusives are getting into the game, too. For couples who have been previously married and are bringing blended families into the mix, a quick elopement with just a handful of loved ones — where someone on-property takes care of all the planning — may be the only kind of wedding that’s feasible.

A family summer vacation can turn into an impromptu beach wedding at Azul Sensatori Jamaica, a property by Karisma Hotels & Resorts. The Always and Forever complimentary wedding package includes everything lovebirds need: ceremony decor and services; a reception; signature services such as a wedding designer and a personalized wedding website; and a honeymoon package. To utilize, couples must stay in a qualifying category for seven nights or more and book a minimum of five rooms for three nights.

With a planned elopement, the smaller wedding-party size makes being flexible a piece of cake.

“The great thing about getting married in paradise with a small guest list is that you don’t necessarily need to say your ‘I dos’ on a Saturday,” said Karen Bussen, the celebrity wedding planner who works with Palladium Hotel Group’s Palladium Weddings. “That’s the beauty of it. If you can be flexible with your date, it’s often quite easy to set up a small destination wedding in a very short period of time.”

Bussen has created a series of five Simple Stunning Wedding packages exclusively for Grand Palladium Resorts that can be implemented at six Caribbean properties in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The packages may include a professional wedding coordinator, an officiant, ceremony decor, floral arrangements, massages and wedding portraits.

And those family and friends who can’t make your impromptu elopement don’t have to miss out. Bussen reminds those with a crowd of well-wishers back home that social media and live video make it possible to share the love and joy from afar.