Marsha-Ann Brown with assistants holding wedding cakes

Must-Read Tips For Planning a Destination Wedding Straight From a Seasoned Pro

Destination Wedding Tips from the Director of Romance and Weddings at Sandals


Thinking of having a destination wedding? Well you’re not the only one, 25% of today’s weddings take place in a destination away from where the couple resides. This isn’t a surprise when you learn that the average cost of a destination wedding is $17,000, a little more than half the cost of a traditional wedding, which is around $32,600. Marsha-Ann Brown has been the Director of Romance and Weddings at Sandals for the last 10 years, so we figured she’d have valuable advice to share with couples thinking about a destination wedding, and she didn’t disappoint.

What are 3 things you want your clients and potential clients to understand about planning a destination wedding? 

First, I believe couples should carefully consider things like the size of their wedding party, the number of people they want to invite, as well as the makeup of that wedding party. Is it going to be an all-adult wedding or do they want to include children as well? That’s going to help them decide on their resort and location of choice.

 Second, couples should factor in where their guests will be traveling from. Some locations are easily accessible from the East Coast, some are more accessible from the West Coast and some provide a happy medium for most people. Also consider the air lift to the destination and the number of airlines that provide service to that location, as well as the number of direct flights available. This can vary by season, so the advice of a travel agent can save a lot of time and stress.

Along with the first two items, couples should have a clear vision in mind. How do they want their dream day to look and feel? What is their ultimate backdrop for photos? What kind of activities do they want to enjoy with their friends and family the day before and after the wedding? Asking these types of questions will help guide their decision. 

Marsha-Ann Brown: Couples should carefully consider things like the size of a their wedding party, the guest list, and if it's going to be an all-adult wedding or will children be invited.

Why are destination weddings a good idea?

Destination weddings are growing in popularity for many reasons. One of the top reasons is the value it provides the couple – both economically and emotionally. Destination weddings are typically multi-day events versus a more traditional wedding and reception, which lasts about five hours on average. Because of that, couples get to spend more time with the people who matter most to them. This usually includes a day or two before the wedding and perhaps a day after, which allows everyone to share all of their fun stories and memories. Plus, the destination itself provides a unique opportunity to wrap a vacation experience into an already memorable occasion.  

What is the biggest misconception about destination weddings?

I find that the biggest misconception is that brides have a particular dream in mind that’s very elaborate in design and décor and they question whether or not they are going to be able to fulfill on certain aspects. What I do to overcome that concern is to invite my brides to put their mood board together, share it with the wedding planner at their resort, and have their planner work with them to conceptualize, deliver and exceed the couple’s expectations. 

Marsha Ann Brown at the altar as a wedding ceremony begins
Wedding Planner at Sandals: Brides should create a mood board, share it with the wedding planner at their resort, and work with their planner to conceptualize, deliver and exceed all expectations.

Why is it important to hire a wedding planner for a destination wedding?

Planning a wedding in a location far away from where one lives can be overwhelming. One of the benefits of planning your big event at an all-inclusive resort is that a wedding planner is included in the package. This is a tremendous benefit because it allows the couple to communicate everything they want with an expert who has been planning weddings for a specific location for years. Not stressing about all of the details allows the couple to enjoy their engagement period and feel confident that their wedding will come together just as they envision. We at Sandals appoint a wedding planner to you so you don’t have to speak to multiple people. The joy of having a planner is having the ability to say “this is my dream, make it happen for me.” The Aisle to Isle Wedding Program is designed so the couple can customize the wedding to exactly what they want within their budget.

How do you help your clients keep their planning stress at bay? 

I believe consistent communication and accessibility to one’s planner is very important. Also, the wedding planner needs to coach the couple through the entire process to build trust that everything they want will occur. This minimizes the concept that every wedding has to be stressful because really, it does not.

Marsha Ann Brown arranges flowers overhead
Sandals Benefit: One of the benefits of planning your destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort is that the wedding planner is included in the package.

What would you say to a couple that is hesitant about having a destination wedding? 

Without a doubt, I would be convincing them that they are giving themselves the gift of experiencing their dream wedding as well as a honeymoon in a beautiful location for an incredible value. 

What is your favorite thing about planning destination weddings in particular? 

My favorite thing about destination weddings are the memories that are created for the couple and their friends and families. They get to celebrate one of the most important events of their life in an idyllic setting. This holds true especially when you think of the Caribbean with its azure blue waters, its amazing sunsets, and the gorgeous flora and the fauna. And I find that many couples like to relive the memories by celebrating anniversaries at the resort in which they got married. 

Inspired by this article and want to speak with an expert travel agent about how you can plan your dream destination wedding at a Sandals Resort? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with a Sandals specialist to customize an itinerary you’re going love.

Marsha Ann Brown at a beach wedding
Unforgettable Moments: "My favorite thing about destination weddings are the memories that are created for the couple and their friends and family."