Something blue

Couples are increasingly swapping a UK ceremony in favour of a destination wedding and honeymoon combo, which can mean big business for agents, says Jessica Alexander

Ask any bride or groom about their wedding and the most common response will include something about the day passing too quickly.

Speaking as a 2023 bride myself, my answer is no different, but I did at least get to prolong the celebrations by having a destination wedding; a trend that shows no sign of slowing with one in four British couples opting for a wedding abroad last year.

And the benefits don’t end there. Alongside the high chance of brilliant blue-skies and dreamy backdrops, there’s the added bonus of the budget typically stretching further abroad, having the support of an in-house wedding planner, plus the prospect of combining nuptials with a dream honeymoon.

Leah Marshall, Director of Sales at Unique Vacations UK Ltd. confirms this demand, saying: “We saw a 12% increase in destination weddings booked through Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd. (UCHL) in 2023.”

Marshall attributes this increase to several factors, including the cost of UK weddings increasing year-on-year and a shift in wedding trends.

“The pressure of living costs in recent years has given many couples the idea to get married abroad,” says Marshall.

“Rather than spending their life savings on a UK wedding, which often comes with added pressure to invite extended family members, many couples are now opting to have a smaller affair abroad.”

Mathilde Robert, Managing Director for Planet Weddings, agrees that demand is increasing. She says: “The desire to get married abroad will continue to grow for the foreseeable future as it offers good value for money, and provides couples with a perfect backdrop for a stress free event.”

Big business

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Aisle To Isle Package At Sandals Royal Curacao
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Ktima Wedding Venue, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

Weddings are traditionally a very lucrative sector with many couples willing to splurge on their big day. This offers great potential for agents to upsell beyond the wedding day, plus agents can get creative by offering clients something unique and memorable.

Pre-wedding celebrations can range from a beach BBQ to a private boat hire, plus there’s commission to be made on wedding extras on the day.

Robert says: “The commission for booking a wedding abroad is excellent and add-ons can include anything from photography, videography, flowers and the cake.”

Plus there’s the added bonus that for every wedding abroad there is typically a wedding party that will also be looking to book packages, which, she says, averages 30-plus people.

“A wedding invariably includes not just the couple’s travel arrangements but the whole wedding party,” says Robert. “Through our sister company Planet Holidays we can also supply agents with flights, accommodation and transfers.”

Meanwhile at Sandals Resorts, wedding couples can benefit from additional savings when they book extra guest rooms, plus all Sandals Resorts are all-inclusive Sandals Resorts & Beaches has launched a new Aisle to Isle wedding programme for destination weddings which includes a range of eight new wedding décor inspirations plus new wedding packages.

It sounds like a win/win but with high expectations and the occasional ‘bridezilla’ to deal with, is it worth it for agents? Robert says ‘yes’!

“Agents can be rest assured we will look after their clients’ every request. Our experience and knowledge means we are well equipped to help couples.

“We have our own dedicated wedding co-ordinators in resort and agents have someone on hand to help them every step of the way, down to the hundreds of emails.”

She adds: “For the clients, booking through an agent and a fully bonded specialist provides added peace of mind.”

Trending destinations

Planet Weddings has added venues across Greece and Italy for 2024 to accommodate demand, but says Greece still tops the list with Rhodes, Santorini, Zante and Crete firm favourites for couples, followed by Paphos and the western coast in Cyprus, then Sorrento, Amalfi and Lake Garda in Italy, Portugal, Croatia and Malta and Gozo.

Further afield, the Eastern Caribbean islands of Barbados, St Lucia, and Antigua are all proving popular for weddings at Sandals Resorts in 2024.

“These destinations are typically very popular with British guests due to their beautiful scenery, with clear waters and white sands which make for an idyllic wedding backdrop,” says Marshall.

The Maldives also tops the list as one of the most romantic places to say “I Do” with trump cards such as white-sand beaches, over-water villas and private island experiences.

Heavenly honeymoons

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Rumah Pohon Treehouse, Nusa Penida Island Bali Indonesia
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The Cliffs of Cinque Terre Manarola, Italy

Luxury is deemed a top priority for couples when choosing a honeymoon destination, according to African-based travel company Go2Africa, which surveyed honeymooners’ evolving trends and preferences.

The research found that 49% consider luxury to be important with one in 10 UK adults saying the budget for their dream honeymoon would be £5,000 plus per person.

The survey found the top most desirable honeymoon spots to be the Maldives followed by the Caribbean, Italy, Seychelles and Bali. Other wish list destinations included South Africa, Mexico and Malaysia.

Maija de Rijk-Uys, Managing Director at Go2Africa, said: “The survey found that half of respondents aged 25-34 would even be willing to cut costs on other wedding-related expenses to enhance their honeymoon experience.”

Meanwhile, a twin-centre wedding and honeymoon is proving to be a popular trend for 2024.
“We are seeing interest for twin-centre Caribbean honeymoons,” says Marshall.

“This is a perfect idea for wedding couples looking to get more for their budget, as they can have their ceremony in one destination and island-hop to another location for their honeymoon.”

That was certainly true when choosing Rhodes and Santorini for my twin-centre Greek wedding and honeymoon. And I couldn’t recommend it enough!