While couples on their second marriage tended to dominate the destination wedding market in the past, the concept is catching on in a big way with young couples tying the knot for the first time.
“Millennials are really driving demand for destination weddings, which has not always been the case,” said Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Whitehall, Pa., and a specialist in the niche for 15 years.
What is sparking their interest?
Doncsecz believes a lot has to do with the affordability of a destination wedding compared to a big traditional wedding close to home.
She also noted that many of her millennial wedding clients are footing the bill for the wedding themselves and often have student load debt and other obligations.
“We saw a big increase in interest after the economic downturn in 2009 when a lot of young couples seemed to realize that it would be cost effective to do a destination wedding,” Doncsecz said.
“You have fewer people attending than at a traditional wedding and many resorts, especially the all-inclusives, really throw in a lot of extras,” she said.
“Plus, because the brides tend to plan 18 months out, you can get really good travel deals.”
Customizing the big day
Siera Duiser of Destinations to Explore in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., realized the cost benefits of a destination wedding when planning her own nuptials.
She said many millennials also like the fact that “you can really customize it and have an experience that is totally your own.”
Still another appeal for millennials is that’s gotten easier to give first-time wedding couples the kind of traditional elements that many desire, according to Connie Riker, owner of Create the Moment Travel in Rochester, Wash.
Beyond the beach
Resorts catering to the market have upped the number of options available for weddings and have adapted to the demands of clients, Riker noted.
Rather than just a simple “toes on the sand” wedding, couples will often find traditional venues ranging from churches and chapels to spacious waterfront gazebos.
“It used to be that the resorts would offer just a nominal package for weddings, but now everything is completely customizable,” Riker said.
“And a lot of brides have realized that a true wedding on the beach means they can’t wear their fabulous shoes.”
High tech communication
Because destination weddings often involve young couples, agents need to adapt to their frequent preference for instant online communication, Riker said.
“I have changed the way I do business because people of this age expect instant responses—I have a chat bar on my website and I text and use Facebook messaging all the time,” she said.
“I also create a sharing document for the guest list, so the couple can see who I am in contact with and who hasn’t responded yet.”
Doncsecz said her agency invests heavily in online communication, including an interactive website, a weddings blog, frequent participation in “Wedding Wednesday” forums on Facebook and Twitter.
The agency also creates a special web page for each bride.