20 FEB 2018: Destination weddings have been on my mind as I just returned from my daughter’s wedding.  There wasn’t a palm tree, rum punch, sandy beach or bathing suit in sight.   This wedding featured bikes, winter coats, warm coffee, Danish traditions and snow speckled trees.  The destination – Copenhagen in the middle of winter.  Different?  You bet, but still as memorable as a Caribbean destination wedding.  

The “I do” industry can be very lucrative for travel agents but it requires thinking beyond just the traditional wedding and honeymoon destinations.

The most recent extensive survey on Canadian weddings was conducted by Wedding Bells Magazine in 2015 with 2,000 brides.  It reported there were 157,125 couples that tied the knot in 2014 and this was expected to increase to 160,324 in 2015.   Of those, 22,445 would be destination weddings – an agent commission and fee bonanza for those who tap into this market.  
 
The average cost of a wedding according to the survey was $30,717.00 with millennials and higher income earners spending the most.   

THE WEDDING MARKET

The survey also pointed out interesting trends and tidbits that agents should pay attention to on weddings in general and destination weddings in particular.

•    18% of couples had a wedding planner (2014)
•    Average cost of a planner was $3,535
•    Average age of the bride is 30 years old – groom is generally two years older
•    Brides spend 4.3 hours per week on average on wedding related media sites
•    92% of couples prefer a Canadian based wedding website
•    80% go on Pinterest for wedding related information/suggestions
•    42% of brides use a wedding app
•    Average wedding is 129 guests (not destination weddings)
•    The number one month for weddings is August

BE SOCIAL & GET HELP

The statistics show social media, wedding apps and a Canadian website are critically important if you want to obtain your fair share of the market.  Agents need to tell clients exactly wedding planning tasks they can do.  

Don’t risk your reputation if you don’t have the experience or knowledge.  If something major goes wrong the power of social media nowadays dissatisfied clients could hurt your business.  Alternatively if you do a great job word can spread very fast that you are a dynamo destination-wedding specialist who should be hired.

Canada’s major tour operators like Sunwing Vacations, Air Canada Vacation and Transat Vacations can be an excellent resource.  These and other operators have a specific destination wedding division or department that agents can work with to organize their client’s weddings.  

Many agents also work directly with independent wedding planners or specialists at the resort or a local operator.   Operators have come a long way in putting together many different kinds of packages that can cover everything from the wedding ceremony itself, marriage licenses, wedding reception, floral and photographer arrangements and the numerous other details.  

WEDDING NORMS NO MORE

Mention you are having a destination wedding especially when it’s winter time in Canada and people automatically assume it will be held in the Caribbean or Mexico.  It makes sense –people can use the wedding as an excuse for a winter getaway as well.  What’s not appealing about celebrating the union of two people in a tropical paradise?   

According to the survey one in four people getting married between November and April have a destination wedding.  

The standard church wedding with all the bells and whistles still occurs but there are many new trends in weddings. For destination weddings more focus is put on the destination, the experience than all the frills.  

Invitations may be digital, photography could be done by wedding guests and more spontaneous, fancy receptions may be replaced by casual BBQ’s or beach buffets.  

For my daughter’s wedding there were about 20 people who flew over for the wedding – family and friends from both sides.  Even smaller number of guests can be very lucrative for an agent.  You still have airfare, hotels and car rentals for some of the wedding guests (some stayed in an Airbnb place).   

For my daughter’s generation they are doing away with many of the norms to do traditional things for themselves.  The bride and groom made their own wedding rings and many of the flower arrangements for the wedding lunch and reception - the groom even made the wedding cake!

Limo? Forget that – Copenhagen is bike central.  For some a Christiania bike is used for the bride and groom’s first ride.  The “Just Married” sign is still used and many arrive by bike to the wedding ceremony.   The reception was at a well-known Danish restaurant – appetizers, wedding cake and drinks.  Simple but memorable.
 
My daughter’s wedding is just one example of how couples are looking beyond the standard destinations for weddings.  More destinations are going after the weddings and honeymoon market.  Couples choose a destination beyond the climate because it may have been where they met or has significance in their relationship.  

As more people have the opportunity to fly anywhere in the world, agents should have destinations on their radar that would suit a particular couple’s needs, interests and budget.  
 
It is important for agents dealing with couples who are marrying for the second time (or more) to be more open to new destinations, as they have probably travelled more extensively than a younger couple.

SAME VOWS, SAME-SEX

Canada legalized same-sex marriages in 2005 with the Civil Marriage Act.  It was the fourth country in the world to do so.  

According to the 2016 Canada Census, there were 72,880 declared same-sex couples and of those 33.4% were legally married.  This increased from 45,000 in the 2006 Census with 16.5% married.  

This is another market segment for agents to tap into while keeping in mind that some Caribbean destinations would not be a suitable.  Look for destinations more open and progressive when it comes to same-sex unions.  Europe would be a natural choice with many countries having legalized same-sex unions.
 
Destinations weddings are for agents who have attention to detail and know how to thoroughly ask the right questions and where to get the answers.  It’s not for everyone.  But for those who pursue this market it can be incredibly rewarding not just financially but emotionally as you assist the bride and groom plan their dream destination wedding.

For my daughter’s wedding palm trees were not required – just two people in love.


Ryall20Feb

Caitlyn and Sabs on Christiania bike

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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