Destination Wedding Planning 101 with Candice Coppola
This week, our QC Event School tutor, Candice Coppola, provides us with an inside look at the life of a destination wedding planner. Candice is the creative force behind Jubilee Events, a renowned Connecticut-based event design and planning boutique specializing in artful weddings, events, and occasions.
If you love adventure, travel, and planning weddings, a career as a destination wedding planner could be a natural fit! Just ask QC Event School tutor Candice Coppola, who recently returned from a trip to Fiji where she conducted a site visit and organized details for a client’s upcoming wedding.
We caught up with Candice to find out what exactly is involved in a career as a destination wedding planner, including challenges, highlights, and her top tips for aspiring planners!
You just got back from a trip to Fiji—tell us what brought you there and what was involved with the planning process for the trip.
Yes, I did! We are excited to work with a client who is hosting a destination wedding in Fiji, and they’ve enlisted our help in designing their wedding day. They are creating a unique wedding weekend for their guests and want to provide them with a one-of-a-kind experience, so they flew in their entire wedding team (designers, planner and florist) so we could do a site visit and experience the property they chose. It was a great trip and really helped all the professionals involved, as we begin to develop how their wedding weekend will function and look.
As a destination wedding planner, are you responsible for providing accommodation recommendations/options and other travel plans for wedding guests?
Yes, absolutely! You can always enlist the help of a trusted travel agent, but as a clients’ destination wedding planner, you are expected to assist and facilitate accommodations for their guests. Often times, we recommend our clients seek out two or three options in varying price points to give their guests a choice as to where they’d like to stay. It’s also important to ensure accommodations are nearby wedding activities as well as local hotspots, so guests can explore!
We tend to work with travel companies to arrange flights, but we always provide our clients with spreadsheets that we collaborate on together to manage guests’ travel. These spreadsheets include things like where a couple or family might be staying, as well as their arrival and departure times/flights. This helps us to see who is arriving when and where they’re staying.
As part of your trip to Fiji, you conducted a site visit in Savusavu. Why is the site visit so important, and what was your experience like?
A site visit is so important, and for several reasons:
1. It allows you to explore the options available for events surrounding the wedding and the wedding day itself. While pictures and videos can paint a picture of a location, there is nothing like seeing it in person to understand how it can work best. Once you are able to walk into a space, you’ll be able to immediately understand how it functions. You’ll also be able to point out the pros and cons of the space, troubleshooting issues that might arise before the wedding day.
2. You’ll be able to meet with local vendors in person prior to the wedding— which is really pivotal! As you may have noticed, planning a destination wedding isn’t easy. Between time differences and cultural differences, you might often find it challenging to get someone on the phone or return your email in a timely fashion if planning a wedding outside of your local country. When you’re able to visit a location, you can sit down with your team and hash out your questions and find solutions to issues. You’ll also be able to interview potential creatives and vendors, like a local florist or photographer, if your client can’t fly in someone. We also try and do an excursion or two that the client is looking to host for their guests (like a boat cruise) to see how it works, if guests would like it and if it is feasible.
3. Inspiration! As much as I read about Fiji and their customs (and I live on an island myself), nothing came close to experiencing the island for myself. A site visit gives you the opportunity to find inspiration from your local surroundings— perhaps local artwork, entertainment, customs, architecture or even flowers will inspire ideas for the wedding weekend, which you can then pitch to your clients.
Adventure is a main ingredient of a destination wedding planner’s career, so which element of this trip was the most fun and exciting? Alternatively, which element was most challenging?
Yes, adventure certainly is a main ingredient of a destination wedding planner’s career! I love traveling and exploring new places, so having the opportunity to visit Fiji for the first time was definitely a highlight. In this industry, you often bring back inspiration from your travels and draw upon it for other events— and I’m looking forward to incorporating what I experienced in Fiji into other weddings!
On site visits like this, the most challenging part is usually being away from your office and other clients. We had very little access to a solid wi-fi connection, so it made “being present” during the work week very hard. You often have to put your life (and work!) on hold during these trips and unfortunately, they are far from a vacation!
Do you provide clients with popular destination suggestions?
Yes, of course! You might find that clients come to you wanting a destination wedding but are unsure of what their options are. We typically ask a variety of exploratory questions to better understand what their objectives are and how much money they’d like to spend.
While planning and traveling, do you ever have to deal with different regulatory bodies?
Occasionally. You should always be mindful of local laws, including immigration laws and customs, when you travel for work.
Finally, what top three tips can you offer an aspiring destination wedding planner?
- Specialize in Specific Destinations: It’s much easier to garner business and also work as a destination wedding planner when you specialize in specific destinations. Clients will begin to seek you out if you are an expert on European destination weddings or Caribbean destination weddings. Narrowing your focus better helps you to market yourself and appeal to your ideal client.
- Enlist the Help of Locals: Don’t be afraid to reach out to a local wedding planner to discuss hiring their company to help facilitate what you might need. Local knowledge is always the best knowledge, and by partnering with a local firm, you’ll have access to so many things you may not be able to find on your own. They also have established relationships with other local vendors, which can be extremely beneficial to both you and your clients!
- It’s Not a Vacation: I can’t stress this enough— destination wedding planning is definitely NOT a vacation! It is a lot of hard work— and sometimes, it can be more challenging than planning weddings locally. You often work longer hours while on location and clients (along with guests!) tend to think you’re “on call” for anything they might need. With that said, the best part of being a destination wedding planner is the freedom to travel and see the world— experiencing new and exciting destinations. All that hard work pays for itself with every new stamp on your passport!