Lisa James asks some travel agents for tips on how to book the perfect wedding abroad - and why it's worth making the extra effort...
As any travel agent knows, honeymoons and overseas weddings are among the most important bookings you can make.
If you get it right, the happy couple will have a wonderful experience, and you’ll have a client for life. Get it wrong and the consequences don’t bear thinking about.
Yet many agents sell dream weddings and honeymoons – and make a decent commission. We asked some of them to share their secrets.
One of the most daunting aspects can be which destination to suggest. Some couples know where they want to get married, but some have no idea.
Agents suggest starting with a blank canvas and building up the booking by asking clients their likes, dislikes, the time of year they want to travel and whether they want a religious ceremony.
Danny Waine, marketing director at Perfect Weddings and Honeymoons in Chasetown, Staffordshire, said time scale is also an important consideration.
He said: “In Austria or Italy, for example, the paperwork takes more than three months, so if they want to get married quicker than that, we suggest Cyprus or the Caribbean.”
Many agencies now have a dedicated weddings specialist, such as Natalie Bennett, consultant at Off Broadway Travel, in Old Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
She has just booked a short break in Cyprus for a couple to choose their wedding venue. They booked their own flights with easyJet, but Natalie booked their hotel, meaning the agency got a bit of extra business on the back of the wedding booking.
She said: “We have shortlisted four hotels for them to see, and they will be met in resort by a Planet rep.
“You wouldn’t get married in the UK without seeing the hotel, so why should it be any different when getting married abroad?”
These days, with bigger wedding groups, it’s not unheard of for an agent to be asked to co-ordinate 30 or 40 bookings. This means good commission can be earned, but is not always straightforward, as guests have different requirements when it comes to budget or length of stay.
The key, say agents in the know, is to take the bride and groom’s booking first, then deal with the guests.
Ionian Weddings marketing director Andreas Palikiras, based in Twickenham, said: “Couples, especially brides, tend to get bogged down with the fine details, such as the colour of the flowers, and forget the most important thing, which is securing the wedding day. Then everything else falls into place.”
Bennett agrees: “The bride and groom are most important, so you need to get their booking right. Arranging the other elements is just like booking a normal holiday.”
Large bookings are easier if the whole wedding party are booked as one group, but this is only possible if they all fly in and out at the same time and stay in the same hotel.
This is a good option to offer, as group weddings often come with a discount, for example, one free place for every 10 booked.
Every honeymoon couple that books with Rendezvous Travel in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, is asked whether they want to open an account so guests can contribute towards their holiday.
Director Gabi Birbeck said: “It’s popular because more people live together these days, so they don’t want to ask for kettles and toasters on their wedding list. As the money comes in, we deduct it from their balance.”
If there is any money left over, the couple can use it to upgrade their holiday or can have it as spending money in local currency.
Rendezvous Travel has also sold several revitalisation holidays for the parents of brides.
Birbeck added: “Invariably, it is the bride and her mum who book the honeymoon. We now make a point of saying to the mum: ‘Are you thinking of booking something?’
“The bride’s mum can then add it into the whole of the wedding package and her husband never knows.”
- Check out our weddings abroad guide, sponsored by Sandals
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