Why try an All-Inclusive?
They make budgeting easy.
Wedding planning isn’t just time-consuming; keeping track of the cost of every detail down to the number of sweetheart roses in your bouquet can be downright mind-boggling. That’s not the case with an all-inclusive resort, where rooms and wedding packages in a variety of styles and at different price points let you choose a look, plan your stay and determine your spending — all for one set total.
Your guests will appreciate the upfront pricing as well; they can park their wallets for the duration of their visit, raid the mini-bar with abandon and take in live entertainment without paying an extra penny. What’s included varies from resort to resort and even within the same resort by packages. But most all-inclusives include all meals and snacks; alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages; and activities like pool games, theme-night parties and sports equipment from kayaks to sailboats.
Janice Shortier, president of destinationweddingstore.com, based in New Haven, Connecticut, likes to steer couples toward all-inclusive resorts, saying the trip can turn out better for friends and family. “It’s a great equalizer because everyone can have the same experience,” she says. “The last thing you want is for a guest to have to watch what they eat and drink to save money.” Even better: no awkward moments at the pool bar trying to figure out whose turn it is to pay for the margaritas.
If you’re not sure if a resort you’re considering does all-inclusive pricing, ask. Some boutique properties, like the elegant Calabash Cove, on St. Lucia, and chic La Samanna, on St. Martin, aren’t traditional all-inclusives but offer packages that include food and alcoholic beverages in the per-night room rate. You’ll also find the option offered a lot in Europe; called Full Board or the American Plan, it includes three meals per day in the room rate.
There’s one for every style.
These days, all-inclusives come in every size and shape, from exclusive hideaways like Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch, a 23-cabin escape (and a member of Relais & Chateaux), to sprawling cities-by-the-sea such as St. Lucia’s 331-room Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, which offers dozens of choices for dining and drinking, plus villa-style rooms complete with butlers and private plunge pools.
Dana and Greg Trinks of Fairview, New Jersey, wanted to hold their May 2011 Dominican Republic wedding at an intimate hotel but didn’t consider an all-inclusive because they thought all-inclusive meant big — and probably impersonal. But when Shortier suggested they take a look online at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana’s thatch-roof cottages, pretty gardens and quiet beach, they were pleasantly surprised. Further research into the specifics — the couple had established a no-buffet rule when they started looking — sealed the deal. “When we realized we could have the experience we wanted at an all-inclusive, we were excited,” says Dana. “They even let us personalize turndown service each night by delivering meaningful quotations we’d had printed to our friends and family, and they allowed us to decorate the public areas with photos and other mementos for the duration of our stay. We never could have done that at a larger property.”
Dominique and Matthew Richardson of Amherst, New York, had different criteria for their December 2011 wedding. They were slipping off to marry alone, so they didn’t need to worry about guests. But the pair did want diversity — a place where they could enjoy lots of activities during the day, dine in a different restaurant every night and still find a perfect nook in which to say their vows. They found what they were looking for at the 529-room Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. “We loved the energy and all the choices in everything from entertainment to wedding sites,” says Dominique. “For most brides, it’s all over so fast, but we had a whole week to celebrate. Everyone in the resort made it a point to congratulate us the whole time we were there. It really made it special.”
They make planning simple.
If the thought of one-stop wedding shopping appeals to you, you’ll also appreciate that all-inclusive packages let you limit decision making to as few choices as you’d like. “The options are all there; they’ve just been refined,” says Sharon Little, U.S.-based planner for Couples Resorts, which has four outposts in Jamaica.
Most all-inclusives offer a wide range of extras: special lighting, extra flowers — even day-after, trash-the-dress photo shoots. Excursions, after-parties and other events also take on no-hassle status when they’re part of the program. At Grand Velas Riviera Maya, in Mexico, wedding groups (up to 40) can reserve a section of Chaka or Frida restaurant for the rehearsal dinner without extra cost, while at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, in the USVI, couples can marry barefoot on the beach or aboard a 53-foot sailboat. One of the most popular packages at Couples Tower Isle, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, includes a ceremony and party on the resort’s private island; that’s what appealed to Angela and Chris Brindisi of New York City, who held their Dec. 10, 2011, wedding here. “Marrying at Tower Isle gave us the best of both worlds,” says Angela. “We had the run of a big, fun resort with lots of activities, plus a private island for the actual wedding. Even our rehearsal dinner was special — all 26 of us went on a catamaran cruise.”