North America

Picture-Perfect Destination Weddings in Florida

written by | Posted on June 1st, 2009

With its island-feel setting and temperate weather – not to mention a fairytale castle – Florida is a natural choice for a dreamy destination wedding.

According to The Knot—the Internet’s one-stop shop for wedding planning—“destination weddings are a growing trend. Destination weddings tend to involve the couple and a select group of family and friends,” which, in these economic times, can prove to be economically more feasible—less guests means less expenses—and at the same time add quite a bit of revenue to your bottom line.

Indeed, says the Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort’s new director of marketing, Cindy Lew, “With a destination wedding, you are really going to get the people who are close to you to be with you on your special day. If you were in your city, you might have everyone show up. You’re paying for the right people to be there.”

And how does an agent play into a destination wedding? According to Korri McFann, manager of marketing for Disney’s Fairytale Weddings & Honeymoons, “I would say that definitely in the destination weddings market right now, a travel agent plays a very critical role. And probably an even more important role certainly in these economic times. I think couples want to make sure that their guests have access to getting good rates and great airfare, and a travel agent can supply all of their expertise in helping their client through that. We certainly do have couples who go the travel agent route and want that extra hand-holding.”

And when it comes to veering your bride and groom clients to the right venue for their destination weddings in Florida, well…we’ve decided to give you a bit of hand-holding of our own.

on the gulf Steeped in 81 years of history with 277 guestrooms and suites, not to mention a gorgeous setting on the Gulf of Mexico in St. Pete Beach, the Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort is truly the locale for having a quintessential Florida beachside wedding. There’s the powdered-sugar-like white sand, the sunset over the gulf, the Mediterranean castle-like architecture, the grand sweeping staircases leading to a courtyard…and then there’s the expertise—400 weddings a year take place in this charming property.

“There are three dedicated, full-time wedding planners who take care of everything from coordinating the decor to making sure the flowers arrive on time—that’s all they do,” says Lew. “They are the couple’s onsite coordinator putting together all of the different pieces. Additionally, two of them are notarized to perform ceremonies. We also have an onsite pastry chef who makes the cakes. You really have the experts here to back you up.”

She points out that they do get calls from travel agents to see if it’s going to be a good fit for their clients, because although it’s ultimately where the bride wants to get married, they’ll ask their travel agent for recommendations. “And the Don is a little bit unique in that we’ve been here for so long and we are well-known as a destination wedding locale,” and she points out, travel agents like the “ease of airlift into St. Petersburg.” Another reason to book “the Don,” says Lew, is that “we have two beautiful outside terraces for the smaller weddings, so you can have the benefit of doing indoor/outdoor because those offer indoor function space, as well, and then we have a lot of ceremonies right on the beach, too, not to mention the staircases in the back of the resort that goes down into the courtyard.”

An average cost of a wedding here can range anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000, says Lew, depending on the size of the wedding party—it can be as intimate as just the couple or as grand as 250 guests. The array of wedding packages, which range from $96 to $165 pp, include a 4-hour bar, hors d’oeuvres, champagne toast and either a plated or buffet dinner.

More importantly to agents, however, is “depending on where the bride and groom are coming from, we’ve seen weddings bring in as many as 75 rooms to a night. The average, however, is smaller, 10 to 20 a night, and because they are coming to a destination, sometimes they extend their stay and stay seven nights as opposed to a couple of nights.”