Problem-solving a destination wedding at an all-inclusive

An all-inclusive resort can be a terrific location for a destination wedding, but problem-solving may be required in the planning process.

At a panel discussion at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld conference on Thursday, travel agency owners Geoff Millar of Ultimate All-Inclusive Travel and Jesse Morris of We Book Travel brought up a few sticky scenarios that can arise during a wedding booking and asked sales executives from all-inclusive resorts — April Dawn VanWagner, USA team leader & business development manager for Club Med; Garth Laird, vice president of trade sales for Unique Vacations; Heidi Verschaeve, vice president of sales, North America, for Sandos Hotels & Resort; and Andrea Wright, vice president of travel industry sales for Playa Hotels & Resorts — how they would deal with them.

The destination wedding includes both adults and children.

Millar said that you want to avoid adults saying, “The kids kept me up until 4 a.m.” and the kids saying, “I’m bored.”

Verschaeve of Sandos Hotels & Resorts said that 85% of Sandos’ destination weddings have at least one child in attendance. She said her solution to this issue in Playa del Carmen was to create an adults-only section at the family resorts in 2012.

“The adults can get their quiet time away with their own facilities and entertainment,” she said. “But then they can also get together on the family side of the property.”

Wright of Playa said that the Hyatt Ziva Cancun features Turquoize, an adults-only haven within an all-ages resort.

Another option, Wright said, is holding a wedding at a family resort that is adjacent to an adults-only resort, a common layout in the Caribbean and Mexico. “We can offer that in many destinations,” she said.

Wedding guests want to keep partying, but reveling at all-inclusives often stops at 10 p.m.

“Do they have to stop the party at 10 or 11 p.m.? Not necessarily,” Verschaeve said. She said she speaks from experience, as she got married at the Sandos Caracol in Playa del Carmen, where the day started with a Mayan ceremony, moved to the rooftop terrace and ended in the disco, where the party lasted until 6 a.m.

“It is an option without bothering the other guests who want to sleep,” she said, adding that the Sandos Cancun has a soundproof ballroom.

The bride is asking the travel advisor wedding questions, and it’s not the advisor’s area of expertise.

Morris called this the “biggest area of heartache and pain for me, when I’m asked questions about how weddings should work.”

Laird of Unique Vacations, the sales rep for Sandals and Beaches resorts, noted that wedding planning can be very stressful for the bride.

The solution? “You turn that customer over to us directly so that we can answer every single question,” he said to advisors. “You still get the benefit of the booking and all the commissions and structures that come with it, but we’ve taken you out as the middleman. We try to make it as seamless as humanly possible in the execution.”

Wright of Playa assured the audience that once the rooms are booked and the dates secured, the bride is “turned over immediately” to the wedding team at the resort. She added that Playa pays commission on the “extras” purchased directly with the resort. 

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