Ben and I’s one year wedding anniversary is this Sunday, which blows my mind because this year has FLOWN by!! It literally seems like yesterday we were packing to head to Cancun for our wedding weekend, and we had NO IDEA the magic that was in store for us there. My friends and family are still talking about our wedding and how amazing it was.

Growing up, I was definitely the little girl who played dress up everyday and was always the bride and made my little sister the groom, duh. I pictured an obscenely large church wedding like Lady Diana then an elegant party outside in a tent like in Father of the Bride. NEVER did I picture my “dream wedding” as a destination wedding….mainly because I wanted a poofy dress and a destination wedding means you have to have a flowy dress and be married in the sand right? WRONG!

While I am working on a full rundown of our wedding weekend for our Anniversary since I didn’t have a blog last year, I wanted to share why we chose a destination wedding to help those brides that are on the fence. We did look at multiple wedding venues in Atlanta, but in the end the decision was very easy. Below I am sharing some of the most important things to us when it came to hosting a wedding and how a destination was truly the best decision for us. For a full post on our destination wedding check out Our Wedding 1 Year Later.

Quality Time with Guests
Yes, I know this is something every bride wants and it isn’t realistic right? Well, this was something that was extremely important to us. As a “retired actor” my friends are spread out across the country following their dreams. My mom is from Scotland and my dad is from Ireland so I also had a lot of family traveling from overseas. My family is very close and crazy, we truly wonder why we don’t have a reality show.  After my grandfathers funeral my family spent 11 hours in the pub….11 hours! Most wedding venues give you 5-6 hours total if you also have your ceremony there. I knew I would be dragged to some random bar in my wedding dress and I would be so annoyed!…I can’t sit in a bar for 11 hours.

I wanted to try and make the entire “wedding weekend” as seamless as possible which made us go through all options of a small wedding in Scotland at my grandfathers house to renting a house in North Georgia where everyone would stay and all events would take place there. Well, then we got to thinking logistics; who would buy the all the food? Toilet paper? Cook the food? This whole idea got very stressful and expensive quickly.

Am I asking my guests to “pay” for my wedding?
Get over this. People travel to weddings every year and most times they are traveling to some town they have no desire to be in, staying in a crappy hotel, renting a car and barely seeing the bride and groom. So when we did the math, we realized if our guests paid a little more money, they could travel to our wedding and a enjoy a gorgeous tropical location at the same time! 

Literally by the first night, my bridesmaids boyfriends were thanking me for inviting them and that it was the nicest place they had even been. Winning! 

Budget Friendly 
My family is not poor by any means but I was realistic when it came to our budget and wedding venues. After how hard my parents worked to give me everything I ever needed and wanted growing up, I couldn’t just hand them the bill to the entire affair. I also would much rather save the money towards our first house then put $30,000 into a wedding, which was our decision and everyone is entitled to theirs. Destination weddings are a very budget friendly option to you as the bride and groom if you know your family and friends have the means to travel. Yes, we were definitely disappointed when some people said they couldn’t attend due to the location or cost but in the end we had 68 people travel to Cancun for our wedding which was astonishing!

The view from our hotel room. That square structure was our initial ceremony site.

Living with Chronic Illnesses
This was a huge factor for us obviously. Living with chronic illnesses is a full time job. Some people barely see 1 doctor a year while I usually see 4 doctors every 6 weeks as well as have a Benlysta infusion every 4 weeks, but everyone has busy schedules we know this. One of the hardest parts of dealing with a chronic illness is the uncertainty of how you will feel from one day to the next. I was very worried that putting so much stress and effort into one day was going to send me into a flare. So the idea of the all the wedding events in one place took our a lot of stress factors….and no designated drivers needed! Guys, we don’t even drink a lot, but my family is Irish so…that’s life.

All Inclusive
I am going to say that again, all inclusive. The crazy things is, I had never been to an all inclusive resort before. We had been on cruises so we understood the idea, but our resort in Mexico surpassed anything we could imagine. Outstanding food, flowing alcohol, attentive and friendly staff, nightly entertainment! This meant that when most of our guests arrived on Thursday, they did not need to leave the resort until it was time to head home on Sunday or Monday. Our welcome cocktails, rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception were are held on the resort grounds! (All wedding weekend details coming on January 28th!)

We didn’t truly realize how amazing this weekend would be until we were at the bar in the pool, yes the bar IN the pool like 2 hours after we arrived and more friends and family started joining us! It was like going on vacation with all the people you love in your life!

My brother snapped this action shot within hours of the first group arriving!

Destination Wedding Travel Agent
So I had no idea this existed until I started researching destination weddings. I used a company called Ever After and worked with the most fabulous woman ever, Debbie. Debbie is based in New Jersey and is a firecracker so she fit in perfectly with my entire guest list. Debbie handled everyone’s travel arrangements; resort accommodations and airfare which for most she was able to bundle to get the best deal and transportation to and from the resort (Ben and I decided to pay for this as a Thank You to our guests.) Debbie was paid by the resort for booking the rooms with them so it was FREE for us. YES…FREE! Meaning Debbie got the phone calls and emails from all 68 guests about how and when they wanted to get to Mexico, not ME! We loved Debbie and wanted her to come to our wedding she was so amazing and helpful to everyone. There are plenty of other companies, Ever After is just the one that worked for us.

Finding the Resort for You
This was something that had me very stressed once we decided to do the destination thing. How could I know if the food was good or if the rooms were clean? I was asking our guests to trust us completely! Well, remember Debbie? She also helped with this! We gave her our budget per night for our guests. We wanted to stay in a range that was realistic for everyone but also wanted to be on a level of high quality. So we talked to Debbie about location and where we could get the most for our money. That was Mexico. Then she asked what were looking for in venue location options and overall experience. I knew I wanted a smaller modern boutique resort with options for a wedding not on the beach. I did not want my ceremony on the sand. The Finest Resort was that and so much more. This resort had location options for all of our events, as well being a smaller resort, we never stood in line for anything and never felt that the resort was even full when it was. Some people visit the resort before hand to test it out but we didn’t have the budget for that and also didn’t want to. We read a lot of reviews and Debbie has been there before which we trusted. Everything about the resort is 5 stars. The staff, the food, the décor….it was only 2 years old when we went which helped but truly, I have never met nicer people in the guest services industry. We were extremely lucky, but also thank you Debbie!

Not only was my wedding day truly the most amazing day of my life, but I could say the same thing for the entire 6 days we spent at The Finest Resort in Playa Mujeres, Mexico. It was everything we wanted our wedding to be. Truly and experience our guests and I will never forget. We will definitely return one day on our own to The Finest to sleep on the beach more or enjoy a Miami Vice in the pool just the two of us, but I have a feeling we will feel like we were missing not someone but 68 someones.

No matter what type of wedding your are having, you have to do what works best for you. Don’t let anyone elses opinion, except maybe the groom, sway what you want or who you want to invite for that matter. You only get one of these, hopefully, so you don’t want to regret anything.

I hope this is helpful to anyone planning a destination wedding or any type of wedding! Look out for my full wedding details post coming out on our 1 year anniversary, January 28!

Oak Avenue Photography