Alison Hotchkiss, the creative director of Alison Events and the author of Destination Wedding Planner, took some time out of her busy wedding planning schedule to offer CasaSugar readers some words of advice on planning their weddings. If you, or a couple you know, are planning a destination wedding, I highly recommend Alison's new book to help lend a guiding hand in your planning process.
CasaSugar: Congratulations on the book! I love the tone and the fun look of this planner.
Alison Hotchkiss: Oh thank you! I thought that the imagery and the lighthearted tone would encourage people to enjoy planning their weddings.
CasaSugar: What was your experience with working with Chronicle Books [the publisher of Alison’s book]?
Alison Hotchkiss: It was fun to work with Chronicle. They were really open to all of my suggestions and it felt like a very collaborative project. It felt really good, and they treated me like family. Chronicle is very supportive. They’re very cool people over there. I feel very happy to have them as my publishing company.
CasaSugar: How did you get started as a destination wedding planner?
Alison Hotchkiss: I’ve been an avid traveler since childhood, and my initial goal was to be a meeting planner, since my understanding was that they could travel all over the world. So a couple years after doing that I fell into the right situation helping with someone doing day-of event wedding planning. I realized there was a need for destination wedding planners; there were only a small number of us. The cover of my book shows the first wedding I planned. The bride on the cover is Emily Nathan, who got married in Kauai. I gave that wedding 150 percent of my energy, and I realized how much I loved it. That was seven years ago. So now, I’ll travel pretty much anywhere, but my specialty is tropical locations or mountainous locations. I love going somewhere new and learning about the place, the culture, and making new friends. It’s a blast.
To hear about some things a couple should consider when planning a destination wedding,
CasaSugar: What would you say are some of the most important points of advice for a bride who’s starting to make decisions about her destination wedding?
Alison Hotchkiss: I think it’s important to narrow it down to one specific area if possible. Often couples will come in and say, “Somewhere in the tropics.” We try to help couples to determine what they really want for their destination wedding, whether they want their weddings to be activity-based, culture-based, etc. We ask couples to sit down and make a list of what the most important things in the wedding are, and then offer help in narrowing it down even further. Oftentimes weather is a consideration; the time of year will narrow the choice by determining what month is best for the location.
If people are on a budget, that cusping month (such as in May/June in Mexico), can save hundreds of dollars on your room rates in June, and the likelihood of a tropical hurricane is much less, though the weather may be sweltering hot. You have to just be flexible.
CasaSugar: What are some of the most fun weddings you’ve planned? What would you say the elements are that are universal?
Alison Hotchkiss: I think the idea of a destination is making it about a long weekend or a holiday for people and less about it being one day. We often find that we turn it into a four-day weekend starting with a fun cocktail reception, and then plan activities for the next day. Instead of rehearsal dinners we’ve had rehearsal barbecues down on the beach, and we’ve done the wedding brunch the morning of the wedding instead of the day after the wedding.
You don’t want to overwhelm your guests and feel as if they have to do everything, but it’s great to have options and have lots of fun things to do and experience and the culture and the local community.
I would say Costa Rica was one of my favorite weddings, and we also did a wedding in Sundance, UT, and those were both really fun. One was centered around surfing, the beach, and the tropics . . . it was a really laid-back group. The other wedding, in Sundance, consisted of people skiing, drinking hot toddies after skiing, and sitting around the fire.
People also have to consider, “Who are your guests?” Be mindful of who your guests are. Are they elderly? Are there kids coming? Do you have teenagers? Have babysitters services available if you need to, and if there are teenagers, find cool teenager things to do, have a movie night. If there are elderly guests, make sure there’s always a chair for them, and have a waiter dedicated to making sure they’re comfortable. I think that people get a little caught up in the planning and forget about all of the people who are attending. You have to remember your audience.
Alison has a lot more advice for brides, so make sure to check back on Monday for the second half of this interview!