Destination Bride: The Search for Vendors

Selecting vendors in a foreign country isn’t easy, as our bride-to-be discovers.

Marisa and Nate’s wedding invitation, courtesy of Piece Design and Events

First, let me say how much I appreciate the thoughtful discussion you all carried out in the comments section of my last post. You reminded me of a big reason I love living in Washington: This city is full of smart, independent-minded, and inspiring women. So, thanks. (By the way, Nate and I decided that we will walk down the aisle together.)

Now on to a more practical topic: finding and choosing wedding vendors in a foreign country. The obvious downside to putting together a wedding in a faraway place is that unless you have a crazy huge travel budget, it’s not possible to meet every florist, photographer, and deejay in person. The bright side, I’ve learned, is that taking away the ability to spend entire weekends interviewing vendors forces you to make decisions quickly and just move on. There are also plenty of online resources to help with research. I seriously have no idea how anyone planned a destination wedding before the advent of Google.

Some resorts provide all wedding services on-site, or require couples to use their preferred vendors, which I guess would eliminate the decision-making process entirely. However, our venue, Ceiba del Mar, let us choose who we wanted. Though we weren’t required to use any of the suggestions, the wedding team at Ceiba did provide lists of recommended photographers, florists, and the like. The lists were a great starting point, and by reaching out to several of those vendors, I was able to get a feel for pricing and typical deposit policies in the Riviera Maya. But the most helpful resource by far has been the Web site Best Destination Wedding, a massive online forum for people currently planning destination weddings, and for brides and grooms who have already had their weddings and can now share firsthand insight. It’s an awesome place to vet vendors, since the forum is packed with reviews. All of my vendors—the company providing the decor and the flowers, my deejay, my photographer, and my hair stylist—got the stamp of approval from not only Ceiba’s wedding team, but also from reviewers on Best Destination Wedding.

The vendor I researched the most was our photographer, since Nate and I decided early on that photos were one of the most important elements of our wedding. After reading rave reviews of the company, looking through the gorgeous online slideshows, and corresponding with the incredibly responsive studio manager, Melissa, we chose Del Sol Photography.

The vendor that didn’t require any research was our invitation designer, since one of Nate’s closest friends from college has her own invitation business, Piece Design and Events, based near Cleveland. Because she’s a friend, I did worry about offending her if we had to ask her to change the designs she came up with. But that concern was totally unfounded. We told her we wanted invites that were casual, bright, and far from traditional—and she executed our vision perfectly.

Okay, one final thought for today. Even with thorough research, it’s still impossible to plan for everything. That’s why we decided to get wedding insurance. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I started reading about it in destination wedding books and magazines—all of which recommended getting it. We chose a plan that cost about $300 from Travelers insurance. It’s not fun to think about disaster striking, but if our vendors cancel last minute or our photos somehow get ruined, we will at least be able to recoup some of the costs. (Besides, have you seen that adorable dog, so worried about protecting his bone, on those Travelers commercials? How could I resist that?)

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.