DID YOU KNOW... almost 25% of all weddings are destination weddings... They are an affordable, alternative way to have the wedding of your dreams and Sonya Scott of A Perfect Day! is transitioning her wedding business from planning local weddings to destination weddings. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her new venture and how she can help brides like you.
You have been in the wedding business for 13 years. What made you get into the wedding business?
I’ve always loved weddings. As a minister’s daughter, I had access to many weddings at an early age. Even as a preschooler, I was hanging a slip from my head and staging weddings with my playmates. Watching soap opera weddings with Mama was a major event, and my Barbie and Ken were in a constant state of vow renewal.
I always knew I was supposed to work in the wedding industry, but wasn’t quite sure how. After attending college and graduate school, then working for years in totally unrelated areas, I realized that I could combine my love of list making, care taking and deadline meeting with my love of weddings to help busy couples plan their big days.
I took the Association of Bridal Consultant’s Professional Development Program and the rest is history.
You are in the process of transitioning from local weddings to destination weddings. What made you decide to change directions?
I’m at a stage in my life where I want my weekends back. I still love helping to smooth the way for couples during the planning process, but I’m no longer able to commit to specific weekends over a year in advance.
Through ABC’s partnership with Sandals and Palace Resorts, I have years of experience in booking romantic travel, so being a destination wedding and honeymoon travel advisor seemed like a perfect fit.
As a destination wedding planner, will you be helping the couples on the front end and set them up with a planner at the resort or will walk them through their entire journey?
I have planned destination weddings and gone along on the trip, but I mostly help couples before they travel. I guide them in choosing the best resort for their budget, interests and style, and then hook them up with their resort planner. The benefit of this level of service is that couples receive professional guidance at no charge, and they pay the same or less as if they booked themselves. Of course, I stay in touch with the couple throughout the process to make sure they and their guests are meeting deadlines, and I confirm details with the resort and couple before they travel.
How long do you typically work with a bride?
Destination weddings are generally planned six months to one year out. Many couples who choose destination weddings don’t start out that way. They spend time exploring a traditional wedding and change course once they realize the benefits of a destination wedding.
What trends do you see with the current brides?
Destination weddings themselves are a growing trend and the guest count is getting larger. When I started in the wedding business, 13 years ago, destination weddings accounted for about 10% of US weddings, and most of my couples traveled alone. Now, destination wedding are up to almost 25% and most couples take at least some guests.
What destinations do you find to be the most popular right now?
Most destination weddings are on the US mainland in the mountains or on beaches. One of the most popular locations is in the Smoky Mountains, which I can actually see from my home.
Mexico is popular because it’s easily accessible and affordable. However, because a blood test is required, most couples have a civil ceremony before traveling and a ceremonial marriage in Mexico.
Jamaica is also very popular because the couple only has to arrive two days before the wedding.
The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico aren’t terribly popular for destination weddings, because they aren’t hot spots for all-inclusive resorts. However, since US citizens don’t need passports, it can be one less headache and expense for guests who aren’t frequent travelers.
What times of year do you find are the busiest?
That all depends on the location. Cold weather locations are most popular spring through fall, avoiding winter, but warm weather locations are most popular fall through spring, avoiding summer.
The Caribbean and Mexico can be affordable with nice booking bonuses in November and early December. Hurricane season is pretty much over and it’s not a big time for travel.
What size wedding do you find to be the average for a destination wedding?
My typical Caribbean wedding is around 10 guests, give or take a few, but they can be just as large as weddings held locally. Destination weddings held at the beach or in the mountains are often 50-75 guests.
What do you love most about helping destination brides?
I love to chat with a couple and find out what they’re looking for both in a honeymoon and their wedding. As a wedding planner and travel advisor, I’m uniquely qualified to help them avoid pitfalls and stumbling blocks they don’t even know exist.
If you could plan a dream wedding, what would it be?
The perfect wedding would be at an all-inclusive resort with turquoise water. If enough guests book at an all-inclusive, extra amenities would be thrown in, such a spa services, a welcome party, private cocktail reception, etc.
It would be in February because 1) that’s a tempting time for guests to escape to a tropical climate and 2) it’s a great time to take anniversary trips for the rest of your lives. As for the time of day, I’d choose late afternoon so the water will still be beautiful and the celebration could continue for hours.
Attendants’ dresses would be soft turquoise and flowers would be hot pink. A steel drum band would play Canon in D, because how fun is that?
For the reception, I’d go with sand colored linens, white chivari chairs and hot pink tropical flowers. Following a cocktail hour with more steel drum music, a plated dinner would be served.
Unless I had a large number of guests, we’d just hit the resort night life scene after that, because, since we’re at an all-inclusive, drinks and entertainment would then be free.
I just spent Christmas in the Bahamas visiting my family and I can tell you that it is very easy for me to picture that wedding and how fun it would be.
It’s always fun to learn a little about the people behind the business…
What do you like to do when you are not working on weddings?
I enjoy walking my Maltese-ish rescue dog, Rocco and I channel my dark side by watching the ID (Investigative Discovery) channel. I'm also a huge South Carolina football fan. (Go Cocks!)
What’s your favorite restaurant?
What are the five presets on your car radio/ipod?
Even though I live in Tennessee, I’m a (South) Carolina girl, so my favorite playlist is my Beach Music anthology. I also enjoy Oldies from my youth such as Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and (dare I admit it?) Barry Manilow. Yes, I’m a Fanilow.
I totally understand your love for Beach Music. I'm a Carolina (North and then South) girl myself and I grew up to beach music.
If you weren’t a wedding planner, what would your dream job be?
Hmmm. That’s a hard question. Would it be cheating to say destination wedding planning is my dream job?
For a bride on a budget, what is the #1 thing a bride should not skimp on?
Don’t skimp on food. If your guests are hungry, they’ll leave early in search of sustenance. Beautiful décor won’t matter as much if no one sticks around to enjoy it and a great photographer won’t matter as much if the party breaks up and there’s no one to photograph.
If you could tell the brides one thing about your business, what would it be?
You’ll pay at least as much booking direct with a resort and they’ll keep the built in commission as profit. Without a travel advisor you’ll be the point person for all of your guest’s travel questions, so it’s really a no-brainer to use a professional.
Thanks Sonya, I learned so much today. Even though she is located in Knoxville, she is a destination wedding planner so she can help you no matter where you live. For more information, be sure to check out her website and follow her on social media.
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