Planning a destination wedding begins with how you’re going to get there – Pauline Blacoe of ShineTravel.ca is here to help
There are a ga-jillion ideas, questions and options available to Brides planning a wedding and even more when it comes to a destination wedding. That’s why I approached destination wedding and honeymoon guru Pauline Blacoe of ShineTravel.ca to help organize your thoughts and answer some of the common questions to kickstart your planning.
A little about Pauline – she’s been an award winning Travel Agent and Certified Destination Wedding/Honeymoon Specialist for the past 11 years. Whether you’re looking for resorts in Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Fiji or Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, she’s been there and can point you to the destination that’ll make your long-awaited vacation dreams come true! She has specialist training in the following: Jamaica Travel Specialist (only 50 in North America, 4 years in a row), Sandals and WeddingMoons, RIU Resorts, Couples Resorts, Jewel Resorts and Melia Resorts.
Let’s ask the pro…
VBP: What are the typical group sizes and largest groups you have handled?
✈ Pauline: Typical group sizes are about 12 rooms, but the largest group I’ve had was over 40 rooms.
VBP: How are your fees/commissions paid?
✈ Pauline: Commissions are paid by the travel supplier AFTER the group/clients travel.
VBP: Do you work with the wedding coordinators at the resort regarding the wedding planning as well? Or do you handle the travel only?
✈ Pauline: It depends on the resort and how qualified their coordinators are in terms of planning weddings. It also depends on the individual bride and how involved she wants me to be – I’ve been to quite a few of my destination weddings as the day-of coordinator as well.
VBP: Do you have a price-match or beat policy?
✈ Pauline: I always ask each bridal couple to bring any other quotes to me and I will do my best to match or beat while offering a special incentive.
VBP: What are the advantages of booking our wedding with an agent vs online travel sites?
✈ Pauline: Personal service, availability almost 24/7.
VBP: Is there a “prime time” for destination weddings which may be more expensive times to travel to the Caribbean?
✈ Pauline: Prime time standard travel is Feb./Mar. as well as March Break, Easter Break and Christmas Break. Rates are typically higher during that time, and therefore most bridal couples prefer to travel outside of those timelines. So NOW there is indeed a prime time for Destination Weddings where wedding dates and resort/travel packages sell out quickly – April/May is THE busiest followed by late October/November.
VBP: How much of a deposit is required to secure our group travel?
✈ Pauline: Typically the non-refundable deposit is $200/person, but sometimes Transat has group specials for only $50/person. From there typically, the final payment is due 60 days prior to departure, unless the supplier (ie. Sunwing) have an EBB (Early Booking Bonus) contract with a particular resort. This could mean you’ll need to pay in full by a particular date sometimes up to 6 months prior to departure. I supply a payment plan as well to my groups for anyone who wants to make payments up to the final payment.
VBP: Can our group have their rooms together or will we be spread around the resort?
✈ Pauline: When booking as a group, most suppliers will ensure that all rooms are together however nothing is confirmed until check-in at the resort.
VBP: Are there free wedding/honeymoon upgrades and bonuses available?
✈ Pauline: Depending on the resort, some do offer free weddings based on the amount of people who are traveling with the group. Sometimes with larger groups, the resort will include a cocktail/rehearsal party.
VBP: Are there countries or resorts you would recommend that specialize in destination weddings?
✈ Pauline: Most Caribbean islands now specialize in Destination Weddings. But the most popular (due to availability and pricing) are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico. Saint Lucia is the most sought after destination (then Jamaica) but sometimes not within budget, so couples choose to go there for their honeymoon instead of the wedding.
VBP: What should travelers do if they have an after-hours emergency while traveling?
✈ Pauline: We also stress the importance of purchasing travel insurance, that would cover them for ANY emergencies or issues while traveling.
VBP: Are there cancellation fees?
✈ Pauline: Each supplier has different cancellation fees for their contracts. Here is one example:
1. 45 days or more prior to departure the applicable deposit is non-refundable.
2. 22-44 days prior to departure: 50% of the total cost, incl. taxes, fees & surcharges per person.
3. 21 days or less, prior to departure: 100% of total cost, including taxes, fees and surcharges, per person.
I’d really like to thank Pauline for taking time out of her busy schedule this time of year to offer her expertise! When you start interviewing travel agents remember that there are no dumb questions – that’s what your wedding vendors provide for you, specific information and service so don’t be shy. Ask agents about all details like airport transfers, tipping and travel safety concerns or travel advisories/warnings that may have been issued. These are things they know and you need to know!
You can reach out and contact Pauline below for more information on her travel services. Happy travels!