More couples marrying abroad are opting to take the kids along too. Dinah Hatch offers some tips for travel agents
The next time a couple with kids in tow walk into the shop, you might find they drop a whopping great commission in your lap by booking a full-blown wedding and honeymoon package – for bride, groom and assorted children.
So it pays to know exactly where to send them. Fortunately, the trend for family wedding parties has not passed the travel industry by, and there are now plenty of options that will bring a smile to both the couple and the kids.
It's always worth flagging up the all-inclusive options with families, too, as it can be an unwelcome shock to get stung for a bill on top of all the holiday costs.
Almond Resorts, which is offering free packages to couples marrying or renewing their vows when they spend at least seven or 10 nights in a deluxe room or higher category, offers kids' clubs and a vast array of family activities and entertainments at four Caribbean properties:
- Almond Casuarina Beach Resort, Barbados (new opening)
- Almond Beach Club and Spa, Barbados
- Almond Smugglers Cove, St Lucia
- Almond Morgan Bay, St Lucia
Kids' clubs are free as part of the all-inclusive package and offer four programmes, from newborns to 16 year olds.
UK sales and marketing director Peter Hopwood says: "Almond Resorts has been conducting weddings for more than 10 years, and has seen a consistent increase in the number of guests in our wedding parties with average size growing from eight to 12 people.
"As well as UK couples realising that this is a cheaper option than a big wedding party in the UK, this is also partly due to the other trend that has emerged - the rise in the number of second marriages taking place at our hotels, with couples electing to bring their children along to share in their special day."
Sandals Resort brand Beaches says its wedding packages have inbuilt features that help make the wedding couple's children feel included. The Sandals Sand ceremony, for example, sees couples symbolically mix two vases of different sand in a third, empty vase, and the children can help.
Other Beaches ceremonies that work well to bring two families together include the Unity Candle, where kids help light the wick, and the presentation of a flower from the couple to their new stepchildren.
Beaches is also offering a free 'familymoon' package when five rooms or more are booked at the same resort through the weddings group department for a minimum of seven nights.
But if mingling sand and lighting candles doesn't float your clients' kids' boats, Big Bird and Elmo from Sesame Street just might. Beaches has various characters from the hit children's TV show hosting activities around their resorts.
Older kids get to hang out at an Xbox 360 Lounge, while teenagers are entertained by the DJ Scratch Academy. And, for the ultimate 'me time', clients can pay extra for a 24-hour professional nanny.
And just because the kids are in tow, why compromise on luxury? Some of the world's poshest hotels have wised up to the importance of giving the kids just as good a time as their parents while on holiday.
Mauritius, ironically once pigeonholed as a hideaway resort for honeymooners, has seen an upswing in family bookings, with five-star hotels laying on all sorts for children.
The island's Mövenpick Resort and Spa has won a clutch of awards for its family-friendliness, thanks to an excellent mini club for threes and over, a teens' activity programme, on-site pottery classes and a children's pool with slide.
The hotel also has special rooms for families, with a separate children's bedroom of 11sq metres just off the main room, which is 55sq metres, allowing plenty of space for everyone.
The children's room has all the gadgets they could wish for, including the ubiquitous PlayStation. On the wedding day, restless kids can file off to their clubs while mum and dad have their pre-nuptial massage.
But the ultimate in keeping the kids happy has got to be Cosmos's wedding offering in Finnish Lapland. The operator offers three- or four-night stays, and couples can marry in a lantern-lit snowdome, having arrived through snow-laden forests by a sleigh pulled by reindeers or huskies.
Cosmos offers three nights at the Hotel Levintunturi from £787 per adult and £616 per child on a full-board basis. The price includes flights from Gatwick, Manchester or Birmingham. A snowdome wedding package with sleigh and reindeer costs £1,545. (0871 423 8518, cosmos-holidays.co.uk)
Virgin Holidays offers seven nights at the all-inclusive Almond Resort in St Lucia for a lead-in price of £1,387 per adult and £569 per child, based on two adults sharing a deluxe garden view room. The price includes flights, luxury wedding package and transfers. (0844 557 3860, virginholidays.co.uk)
First Choice offers seven nights at the four-star Holiday Village in Turkey from £570 per adult, £290 for the first child, and £330 for the second child, based on two adults and two children sharing. The flight departs from Gatwick on September 7. Wedding packages at this child-friendly resort cost from £655 and include all the administration, planning and certificates, plus the ceremony, location, flowers, wine and cake. (0871 200 4455, firstchoice.co.uk)