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Planning a destination wedding requires several decisions. How do you choose the location? How much should you budget? And how do you plan a destination wedding that is affordable and tailored to the interests of the bride, groom and guests?

Bride kisses groom on dock in Cayman Islands.
Bride kisses groom on dock in Cayman Islands.
Photo: Rebecca Davidson

"I've seen a huge increase in destination weddings," says Rebecca Grinnals, president of Engaging Concepts, a wedding and honeymoon industry consulting company in Celebration, Florida.

The co-founder of Disney Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons, and organizer of many other wedding promotions, she notes several trends in destination weddings.

Romantic wedding locations

Caribbean destination weddings are hotter than ever, according to Grinnals. Mexico, Florida, Hawaii, Napa, Las Vegas and places with scenic mountain views are also popular destination wedding sites.

The Cayman Islands are among Rebecca Grinnals' favorite locations for Caribbean weddings. Destination wedding planners tailor Cayman Island weddings to each couple. "Brides and grooms can choose accommodations, from villas to condos, to match their budgets."

Inexpensive destination weddings

With limited finances, brides and grooms have to find innovative ways to decrease wedding costs. For example, cute cupcakes instead of an elaborate wedding cake are trendy and budget-friendly.

"One of the fastest ways for couples to control the price of wedding is to shrink the size of the guest list," says Rebecca Grinnals. Destination wedding budgets are less expensive because people willing to travel to the destination result in a shorter guest list than a big Saturday wedding at home.

A Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine study reports the average size of a destination wedding is 48 guests. When couples return home, they often throw a casual after-party, which is more affordable than a traditional sit-down wedding banquet.

Destination wedding ideas

How can you plan a destination wedding that matches your interests? Rebecca Grinnals provides several examples, ranging from getting married on a ski lift to getting married underwater in scuba gear.

"Some couples incorporate elements from the culture of their destination wedding sites, such as rum drinks and steel band music for a Caribbean wedding," she says.

"Other brides and grooms add foods and customs from their own cultures. In the Cayman Islands, for example, it is easy to arrange an Indian wedding because Indian chefs, priests and henna artists live there."

Beach wedding reception at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Beach wedding reception at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Photo: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Destination weddings make it easy to plan dramatic wedding getaways, according to Grinnals. "Couples can ski down a mountain, take off in a hot air balloon or sail away on a yacht."

Green weddings are also a huge trend, with eco-friendly bridal gowns, party favors and organic food.

Destination wedding photography

Brides and grooms can choose a local wedding photographer and videographer or bring their own. The latest wedding photography trend is live web streaming, which broadcasts wedding ceremony images and sound live on the Internet for friends and family who cannot attend the destination wedding.

OurCaymanWedding.com works with Cayman Island wedding planners to provide real time video streaming from the beach, gazebo, garden or other wedding location. Personal wedding websites and e-invitations invite viewers to watch by clicking on a link. After the wedding ceremony, the edited video on demand can be replayed online.

Online wedding announcement

"Brides and grooms are immersed in technology," says Rebecca Grinnals. She notes the popular YouTube video of a groom interrupting the wedding ceremony to change his Facebook status from single to married.

For destination weddings, many couples download music onto an iPod to play during the ceremony and reception. Brides use social media for wedding planning, like e-mailing photos of shoes to bridesmaids for their comments. Couples read vows from a BlackBerry.

Another high-tech wedding trend, according to Grinnals, is an official "tweet of honor" who informs Twitter friends about events, as they happen, at the wedding. "Brides and grooms also like the instant gratification they get from an iPod fully loaded with wedding pictures."

Custom wedding maps

"Grooms are more involved in planning destination weddings," says Rebecca Grinnals. "Because it involves a gathering of their buddies, they help organize activities, like golf, after the wedding."

She recommends websites like WeddingMapper.com that provide free wedding websites and custom wedding maps, which couples can use for save-the-date notices or destination wedding favors. Besides the location of the marriage ceremony, the map can show hotels, restaurants, local activities and entertainment.

Bridesmaids dresses and flowers
Bridesmaids dresses and flowers
Photo: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Colored wedding gown

When it comes to wedding apparel, Grinnals says that brides are adding colored accessories and even wearing colored wedding dresses. Some choose a traditional wedding gown for the ceremony, and then switch to short and flirty dress for the reception.

For island destination weddings, "trashing the dress" is a new trend, according to Rebecca Grinnals. "The day after the wedding, a photographer takes a picture of the bride and groom jumping into the ocean in their wedding outfits. It's a great way to relieve stress from months of wedding planning."

Destination wedding and honeymoon

Destination honeymoons, following destination weddings, are another trend. "Many couples choose to island hop or resort hop," says Grinnals. "They get married at one island or resort, and then move to a more secluded location for their honeymoon."

The Cayman Islands are ideal for a combined destination wedding and honeymoon because couples can get married on Grand Cayman and honeymoon on Little Cayman or Cayman Brac, just short flights away.

Weddings website

What is Rebecca Grinnals' most valuable destination wedding planning tip? "Find a destination wedding planner to look after the details so you can enjoy a stress-free wedding."

Bride with flowergirl
Bride with flowergirl
Photo: David Wolfe

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism makes finding a destination wedding planner easy with its CaymanVows.ky website, which Grinnals helped develop. Besides wedding planners on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, it provides information on caterers, wedding cake bakeries, florists, photographers, videographers, limousines, horse-drawn carriages, spas and hair salons.

Cayman Island wedding favors include Icoa chocolates, Cayman Sea Salt and Tortuga Rum products.

Legal Requirements

The weddings website also includes information on legal requirements for getting married in the Cayman Islands. Couples can marry the same day they arrive if they have a non-residents marriage license and a letter from the authorized marriage officer who officiates the wedding.

Besides required documents, CaymanVows.ky website information includes the cost of a marriage license in the Cayman Islands and where it can be obtained (Government Administration Building in George Town).

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism publishes a wedding brochure with a list of authorized marriage officers and their addresses.

Wedding photos online

The Real Wedding Stories section of the website is a wedding photo gallery, with stories about couples who got married in the Cayman Islands. Real wedding photos give future brides and grooms ideas for planning their destination weddings.

An idea for destination beach weddings, for example, is the Unity Sand Ceremony. The bride and groom pour different colors of sand into a keepsake glass vase to symbolize the merging of their lives.

Bride and groom kiss on Cayman Islands wharf.
Bride and groom kiss on Cayman Islands wharf.
Photo: Rebecca Davidson

The interactive weddings web site also features a quiz, which helps couples find their unique wedding style, from elegant resort to barefoot beach weddings. It suggests venues suitable for each wedding style. Cayman Island venues range from beachfront villas to the Grand Old House restaurant, a former coconut plantation house.

Wedding guests

For destination wedding guests, the CaymanVows.ky web site provides information on Cayman Island villas, condos, hotels, resorts and other accommodations. It also includes information on flights to the Cayman Islands and things to see and do in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.


Engaging Concepts: www.engagingconcepts.com

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism: www.visitcaymanislands.com

Cayman Islands Destination Wedding Planning: www.caymanvows.ky

More information on destination weddings:

How to Get Married in the Caribbean

More things to see and do in the Cayman Islands:

Cayman Islands Chocolate Lady

Tortuga Rum Cake

In the Cayman Islands You Can Visit Hell

Camana Bay Grand Cayman