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Planning a Destination Wedding

Grace Bay Beach, on Turks & Caicos’ Providenciales (a.k.a Provo), fulfills any bride’s dreams of a seaside wedding. Sugar-soft sands stretch for 12 miles, clear turquoise waters envelop the island, and low-rise, upscale hotels line the shore. During a scouting trip with my son Matt and his fiancée Christina, we discovered that planning a destination wedding is its own type of adventure.

The first thing we learned, much to our surprise, is that at some resorts—not all we contacted-- the resident wedding planner can be difficult or impossible to reach. One never returned emails or phone calls, one cancelled at the last minute and one (we’ll call her “Jane”) simply lied. Among Jane’s fabrications: confirming a specific tasting menu that we selected four days before our arrival for a resort that had been closed—including the kitchen—for nearly a month.

Not only wasn’t Jane anywhere to be seen when we arrived, but the Somerset, the property she was to have shown us, had been basically closed for more than a month, including the restaurant. The newly arrived resident manager, Peter, explained to us that he’d been brought on to revitalize the resort, including food and beverage. He graciously showed us some rooms, but didn’t yet have any information about events.

Wisely, Christina had arranged to meet with a few outside wedding planners, those not working for a specific hotel. Each confirmed that it’s not uncommon for in-house organizers to be so overwhelmed with events that they don’t return emails or phone calls. So don’t take the non-responses personally; we didn’t, although the behavior surprised us. Instead, before our arrival, we contacted several properties’ general managers who connected us with the food and beverage directors for tours and, when possible, tastings.

Interviewing more than one outside event planner proved valuable as each came up with a different vision as well as a different price list. Planner A, for example, saw the reception and dinner taking place in a contained space surrounded by bushes; organizer B thought the casual flow of seating around the pool to be best.

Instead of utilizing the restaurant’s existing linens, table lanterns and chairs, money-saving suggestions by B, planner A recommended renting linens, lights and chairs. It may be that A sought the ideal—the perfect chairs, lights and linens—but B understood Matt and Christina’s need to spend money on what they deemed important and save where possible.

The long weekend proved hectic, but informative. And in between meetings we had time to relax on Grace Bay’s glorious beach and swim. Whether or not Matt and Christina end up getting married on Provo, the island remains one of our family’s favorite Caribbean escapes.

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