The Best Parts Of Having a Destination Wedding

A couple kisses beneath a giant palm tree on their wedding day. A tropical view is one of the best parts about having a destination wedding.
Kissing beneath the trees at Now Sapphire Resort in Mexico.

As soon as Arthur and I began planning our wedding, it was a given that we would have a destination wedding. After looking at tons of countries and possible locations, we settled on an all inclusive resort in Mexico. I really think Mexico is the best in the business when it comes to all inclusive packages. 

Cost Effective

I got a lot of pressure, mostly from my family to have a “normal wedding.” There were a lot of people who could not make it to Mexico, and I was told over and over to consider them. At the end of the day, I couldn’t have a New York wedding. Weddings in New York cost upwards of $25,000. Shocked? I’m serious! It is not at all unusual for couples in New York to go into debt to pay 45-100 thousand dollars for their big day. I do not know a single friend who paid anything less than $30,000. 

Definitely nacho average bride.

I couldn’t see myself spending that much money for a wedding that we didn’t want. A destination wedding even with airfare and hotel wound up costing a fraction of that price. Not to mention, we got so much for what we spent. For starters, a week long trip to fucking Mexico. If you’re concerned about cost I highly recommend visiting with a travel agent who specializes in destination weddings. Often, they can find great deals. These almost always include your room free and upgraded. In addition, many resorts will throw in a deal like every fifth room booked is free. 

Our wedding set-up

I know a woman who had a wedding in St. Lucia. Every detail from her rehearsal dinner (which took place on a catamaran during sunset) to a steel drum band to DJ and everything else cost only $12,000 for 45 people. 

All smiles on the big day.

Remember – destination weddings tend to be small because there will be many people who cannot travel, or travel on the dates of your big bash. Zika Virus was a concern for many of the young friends we invited. So, you will wind up paying much less than a typical wedding of 150 people or more.

My best friend, Amanda, as my maid of honor!
Thinking about when we can join cocktail hour

I was OK with a smaller gathering. Originally, I wanted to elope in Vegas and not even have a wedding. I despise how “goo-goo” women go over their big day. However, 60 people (our total number) is actually a HUGE turn out for a destination wedding!

Arthur and I with our best man and maid of honor

Making Friends Before the Big Day

By the time our actual wedding reception rolled around, everyone knew each other. Seriously – all of the guests who were strangers at the beginning of the week acted like they had been friends or family forever. I’ve always loved bringing people together. Few things make me as content as being with a big group of my loved ones.

Being surrounded by people who love me and have my best interests in mind is so joyous. To have all of those people get along and act so warmly and loving toward each other was the best wedding gift I could have ever received. How many opportunities in life will you have to spend a week with so many of the people you know and love? This is hands down one of the best parts of having a destination wedding.

Tip: The night before the wedding I made my guests play “Getting to Know You Bingo” in the hotel lobby. Guests had to find a new person to initial each box that corresponded to their new friend. An example would be, “find someone who has never been to Mexico before” or “find someone who would love to have a shot with you” and “find someone who met the groom in college.” It was way more successful than I ever expected. Each Bingo box gave the guests a way to start a conversation with someone new. I can thank teaching for this hit!

Arthur and I as our guests play “getting to know you bingo”

Young, old, it didn’t matter. Everyone got along so well. It was a great way for everyone who is important in my life to get to the know the other people who were important to me as well!

Week Long Party

At the end of our wedding, I gave a speech to our guests. As I looked around at the dozens of people who were in attendance, I began to cry. I knew in that moment that there would be few moments in my life going forward that would ever compare to the joy that I felt during that entire week in Mexico. 

A group of girls who are best friends celebrate an impending wedding at the bar at Now Sapphire resort
My girl gang since high school arrived for the party!

So much planning goes into a wedding – nearly a year or two full of effort. I couldn’t stomach the idea of all of that zipping by in a matter of four hours. Instead, we were able to enjoy the company of those we loved most for an entire week. What made it so special is that everyone was so relaxed. 

Our friends enjoying gator watching

In a typical wedding, you barely get to spend time with your guests depending on the number. People travel far and wide and drop serious money to be acknowledged for maybe a total of ten minutes if they are lucky. Having a week with my guests meant I was able to enjoy quality time with each of them in a way that wasn’t rushed.

Cigar rolling class at the resort

We enjoyed meals together, pool time, and WAY too many evenings shutting down the nightclub. I was out until at least 1:30 in the morning the night before our wedding!

You’re only young once. Few people have the foresight to know that life will change in the near future. I’m glad that in this respect – I was. Growing up changes things. I knew after my wedding that everyone would continue on with their busy paths in life, and seeing friends would be a special occurrence. I made sure to spend every moment of that week partying like a rock star with my friends. The first thing in the morning there would be a mimosa in my hand! 

60 of our friends and family flew out to Mexico to watch us say “I do”

Since we would all start drinking so early, this would ultimately lead to more and more fun as the day went on. I’ll never forget performing choreographed dances in the club with my friends or several of us hanging onto the same raft in the pool and telling other guests that it was our dinner table.  

Vacation for All

People were not only coming to Mexico for our wedding day, it was a vacation for them as well. Our guests spent anywhere from a long weekend to two weeks at the resort. Everyone was able to enjoy all of the activities that the resort had to offer. Some even took day trips and excursions and that way were able to see more of the country. To see the tension melt from the shoulders of my guests who work so hard day to day was a treat in and of itself.

Double the Honeymoon

Being in Mexico allowed us to feel like we were on a honeymoon for the entire week. Our resort really treated us so special. The day after our wedding we were given a private romantic dinner right on the beach complete with bottles of wine and an exclusive menu. We also received a couples massage! The chance to relax on the beach and let loose in the sun as we celebrated our love was a great way to start a marriage together immediately following our wedding!

Blissfully in love on our wedding day

The best part? We had a real honeymoon to look forward to a few months later.

It Was Just So “Us”

When I look back on our pictures, we couldn’t have done it any other way. These photos of us in the lush Mexican nature surrounded by bright warm colors is just who we are as people. The joy in these shots and the joy I have looking back on them makes me feel like I made the right choice. We eat, breathe, and dream about travel constantly. Planning our wedding was also like planning a vacation. It was doubly exciting to plan the wedding for this reason. It was not only a special day for us, but a week long getaway with friends.

This backdrop speaks far more true to who we are than a wedding hall would have.

Unique Opportunities

I’ve always been an odd duck. I don’t like to do what everyone else does. By having a destination wedding we had some unique opportunities during the party..like jumping in the pool in our outfits!

I jumped in the pool with my wedding dress on, along with most of our guests and my husband!

Are you considering a destination wedding? Reach out to me if you have questions or need advice! Leave a comment below!

How I Really Feel About Jaco, Costa Rica

The Controversy

There is no place more controversial in Costa Rica than Jaco. 

A police car in Costa Rica

Jaco is the closest beach town for tourists coming from the San Jose international airport. It’s about an hour and a half to two hour drive. That close proximity, to many, has been its downfall. For years Jaco was a dirt cheap destination for travelers looking for debauchery. Those looking to buy drugs, or a good time with a hooker could certainly find both in Jaco. 

Courtesy of Costa Rican Star News

These types of travelers never left, and on their heels came investors and retirees from the United States. The result of both types of folks flocking to Jaco? High rise condos, English signs everywhere, shitty American food, and crime. In addition, the high price of the area catered towards those with an American salary have in many ways pushed the local people out, and suppressed the culture. It has made way for a new wave, hybrid, Costa Rica meets trashy American ethos. 

This has been the case for years now, and every year it gets worse. 

Jaco’s Unconventional Appeal

I first visited Jaco four years ago looking for great nightlife and experiences at cheap prices. My husband (then boyfriend) had visited with friends, and considering it was the only town I had heard of in the country, I went. I stayed for one week with my girlfriends, and I fell in love. As someone who lives in New York City and had very little travel experience at the time, Jaco felt like the most exotic and exciting place one could visit. 

Four girls raise their glasses while sitting in a pool in Jaco, Costa Rica
Jaco loving and living

Truth be told, I’m an urbanite. I love the chaos, grittiness, and edgy feeling of big cities. I’m also a writer, and a creative in this way, and so naturally, I enjoy places that are a touch unsettling and dangerous. It’s where I draw my best ideas from, and it excites me. Who the hell finds the inspiration to be creative in a place like the fucking Maldives? No true, self respecting, author – that’s for sure. 

Who the hell finds the inspiration to be creative in a place like the fucking Maldives? No true, self respecting, author – that’s for sure. 

The truth? I loved seeing the prostitutes walk around at night and try to pick up men. It was thrilling ducking into sketchy little makeshift bars with my friends in the dead of night while the rain poured down around us. I liked walking around the graffiti covered streets, trying to find a place that looked good for a drink. I laughed while piling into a small taxi, buzzed at the end of the night with four of my friends and no one giving a shit if we wore seat belts and smacked our heads against the car windows as a result. All of this thrilled me. 

Courtesy of Costa Rica Star News

So, with the image I’ve painted, why in God’s name would I choose Jaco for a family vacation? 

Simply put, because Jaco is so much more than its hookers and giant Walmart. 

All That Jaco Offers

Jaco has the opportunity for adventure:

It’s beaches are more than perfect for lounging and relaxing.

Plus, it’s a great place to learn to surf, or to practice surfing if it’s a skill that you already have

Surf lessons availability for all shapes and sizes

It’s absolutely beautiful, and the sunsets are world class. 

It’s a great central location to take day trips from:

It is family friendly. I never met a single local or employee who didn’t dote over our son. We were never made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of his sometimes less than perfect behavior.

Sitting on the table to eat breakfast is excellent manners.

No one seemed to think it was weird to bring him to late night dinners or live music venues. 

If you walk around in the day or night, you will see tons of other families around grabbing gelato, having meals together, and playing at the beach. 

What I’ve learned is, whatever you go looking for, you will find. If you are looking for the sinister and more dark aspects of travel – such as sex tourism – you will find it. If you are looking for places that feel like America, but are actually in Costa Rica, sure you can find it. There are hamburger joints with English menus aplenty. 

However, if you want to interact with locals and learn about Costa Rican culture, there is plenty of opportunity for that as well. 

I love that Jaco has a bite to it, but is also really friendly and approachable. When one thinks of art in Europe, we think classical paintings. We met some really wonderful people from Jaco who are always up for having a conversation, and are never without a smile. However, nearly every one of them has some form of well done, badass looking tattoo and often more than one. It became a rarity to meet a Jaco local who did not have tattoos. Every tattoo I inquired about told a story of childhood memories, hopes, dreams, or was a tribute to a loved one.  

Courtesy of www.tattoodo.com

When one thinks of art in Jaco, the mediums are largely street art and body art. One of the best examples of this is when engaging with the locals. Jaco could easily be viewed with the same romantic intrigue as Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Birmingham in the UK, or Berlin, Germany. It’s only Achilles heel was perhaps its accessibility to the wrong kind of tourists who took an interest in its low costs. By the way, Jaco is no longer inexpensive. My husband and I both having gone years ago (on separate occasions) were surprised that a roundabout 23% tax was imposed! So, prices in Jaco are now comparable to that of New York. 

I have few qualms with Jaco. I have few qualms with any destination that I visit, truth be told. However, I think it will be a while before we return. There are so many other places we would like to visit for starters. Second, the now sky high prices of things like dining experiences and excursions will prevent us from returning as our family grows. I hope someday, however, to return to Costa Rica and perhaps see a new part of the country. I would hate to think I will never return. After all, it holds a special place in my heart, click here to see why.

Tropical drinks adorned with star fruit!

Would I recommend it? I think it depends on what you’re looking for. It has a great mix of beaches, accessibility to other parts of the country, local excursions, and great food. It’s a beach town with the “grit” of a city in many respects. 

Finding beauty in Jaco, Costa Rica

Is it safe? That depends on your version of safe. Jaco is relatively safe if you practice precautions. I wouldn’t walk around at night, especially alone. I would take a registered cab instead. Have a plan before you go out at night and don’t wander aimlessly, unless you are on the main strip. In the populated areas of Jaco there are always many people and families around. For a more in depth look at Jaco and Costa Rica, check out all of my other posts on the country!