T-Minus 1 Month
I can not believe my wedding date is so rapidly approaching. It's just 23 days until 45 of my nearest and dearest will board a plane to Varadero. My ears are ringing with the same message: "We are so excited for your wedding in Cuba!"
Congrats on your engagement!
On Christmas Day 2014 my boyfriend of eight years proposed to me on the observation deck of the Las Vegas Stratosphere.
Fun fact, according to WeddingWire.com a third of all engagements occur between American Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
As every newly engage couple can attest, the questions following words of congratulation are, "So when is the wedding?" and "Where is the wedding going to be?" Being a travel addict, the answer was obvious; we'd definitely be having a destination wedding.
Where to wed?
When you commit to a destination wedding, the world becomes your oyster. The globe becomes something of a catalogue. There's Bali and the Bahamas, California and the Cayman Islands; Florida and France, Martinique and Mexico. So how do you decide between Cuba and Costa Rica? (Those were our final two options.)
Here are seven reasons we opted for Cuba, and some strategies for how to decide where you want to go:
1. Elimination: where did we not want to go?
We asked ourselves questions like, where had people already vacationed? Where have they already travelled to for a destination wedding? This immediately ruled out a few popular destinations: Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
2. What were we looking for?
My fiance and I wanted a destination with a hint of exoticism and heaps of culture. Some outdoor recreation was also a priority. I loved the idea of a hilltop ceremony shrouded by a leafy green canopy in Costa Rica. He loved the idea of Varadero's white sand beaches and the old town of Havana. And I had to admit, I liked the sounds of that too.
3. What could our guests afford?
We knew most of our family and friends could justify a seven day winter escape. After all, more than a handful make a winter habit of it. We wanted a resort experience that offered a comparable price point to Mexico. Working with a destination wedding specialist we quickly discovered that Cuba offered a competitive price.
Ultimately we didn't opt for the glitziest luxury property, but one that had a quote we felt would be most appealing to our guests. Plus, guests who want to upgrade have the option. A private level of the resort offers ultra-modern furnishings and concierge services.
4. Travel time
Last January, when we were shopping the destinations, Bali was hot. Well, Bali is always hot; I mean to say it was trending...and possibly still is. However, we had to consider that seven days was a big enough ask and that Indonesia would demand a longer transit. We have family attending from eastern Canada, and a long flight crossing multiple time zones would have likely dissuaded them from attending. We decided to stick to a destination that could be reached without a layover. Not only does it give you more time at destination, but long travel days are tough on family members travelling with tots or those with health concerns.
Here's the skinny: couples are offered incentives that depend on the number of guests who book. For example, the operator could offer one free guest (flight included) per 15 persons booked or for every 5 rooms occupied for a full 7 days.
Further, a minimum number of attendees will qualify couples for various wedding packages. Typically the packages cover the costs of the ceremony and some decor.
How lucrative each of these incentives are will of course be a consideration.
6. How difficult is the process of being legally married?
Requirements vary from country to country, be sure to check ahead before settling on a destination.
For example, if you're deathly afraid of needles, knowing that Mexico requires a blood test before you wed would be helpful. There are also other implications. For us, documents have to be prepared by the Canadian embassy in Havana. That means we need a few business days for paperwork to travel from Varadero to Havana and back. We originally intended to depart on Saturday but that would have meant getting married on day 5 (or 6) of our holiday. We opted to travel Monday through Monday so we could wed on Thursday. Of course if you're opting for a symbolic ceremony this is less of a concern.
7. The beaches
We might be distracted by the stress of such an important life event, but most attendees see this is a holiday. How could we deny our guests fantastic beaches?
The final verdict
Once we settled on Cuba, something we didn't anticipate happened: an ease in diplomatic tensions between the US and Cuba. Shifting policies have Canadian travellers a little apprehensive about sharing the island with our neighbours to the south. This has been a blessing for us. Our friends and family echo the same sentiment: we need to go now before it changes. I guarantee impending change, or at least the fear of it, was the persuading factor for a few attendees. Thanks Barack!
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