My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful week in Aruba. Warm (ok sometimes hot) weather, soft sand, and beautiful blue water. We stayed in the high rise section and the hotel was packed. If you weren’t at the pool at 7:30am you weren’t getting a chair. It was a little easier at the beach but then we weren’t there during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s where we heard that there were fist fights on the beach over chairs……

I’ve been to Aruba the “happy island” before. We went with friends in September 2004. We specifically picked Aruba because it’s not in the hurricane zone. We landed the day after the worst storm the island had seen in 50 years. It got hit by the tail end of Hurricane Ivan. A 20 minute ride from the airport to the hotel took 2 1/2 hours. The island was a mess the entire week we were there. Some roads were so flooded that people were walking up to their shoulders in water. Inland homes looked like lakefront property.  Some hotels and restaurants were closed for months afterwards as they struggled to rebuild.

We’ve all seen the ads in the travel sections of the local papers advertising the different hotels and prices. How do you know, if you’ve never been to a location, which hotel is the best one for you?

I’ve seen the shows on TV that show couples taking off for destination weddings at locations where they’ve never been before and I wonder “if you wouldn’t think of booking a reception site here in the US without visiting it first and tasting their food why on earth would you pick a destination site for your wedding without visiting it first???”

I guess the reply to that is “because it’s an added expense” and destination weddings can expensive depending on the location. On Aruba (or any island), everything has to be brought in by airplane or ship. Food is expensive especially at the bigger hotels and the nicer restaurants. To give you an example – my husband and I went to Hooters for lunch one day (trust me Hooters was not my choice) and it cost $50.00. That’s right – $50.00 for a hamburger, fries, buffalo wings, two beers, tax & tip.  Dinner each night for the two of us averaged $100 (and I don’t drink) and I would only go back to one of the restaurants. We did find a lovely restaurant downtown right on the water for lunch as we were driving to the airport to go home that had good food at reasonable prices. Who do you rely on if you’ve never been there before?? Trip Advisor? Yelp?

If you come to All the Best Weddings & Celebrations for help with a destination wedding, and I’ve not been to the location before, we’re taking a short trip so we can see the location, taste the food, and choose your vendors.  If I’ve never been there and you can convince me that you know the location like the back of your hand I might reconsider.

Things to keep in mind include bringing your own vendor (like a photographer) if you can’t find one at your destination that you like. Also, some islands have their own “time” which means that they operate “close” to the designated time but not necessarily “on” the designated time (Hawaii comes to mind). While this should not be a problem at a name hotel it might be at a smaller property. Also regardless of the size of the property if you’re there during a holiday (ours or theirs) you can expect things to be even slower and perhaps more expensive. Cell phone and internet service (or lack thereof) could also be an issue.

If you think the details of a wedding at home are stressful think about doing that same thing at a location far, far away. There are a lot of logistics involved but the payoff could be the wedding of your dreams in warm soft sand at the edge of a turquoise ocean during a sunset that will blow you away…..