2021 “Summer of Love”Extends into ‘22!
Updated: Sep 15
Destination weddings are on the rise as America is still playing catchup from the record number of wedding ceremonies delayed during the lockdown of 2020. We’re living proof!
By Les Heintz
Editor's Note: Wedding photos by the amazing Lisa Ziesing & Meg Lucks of Abby Jiu Photography.
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In May of this year, I was standing in the hallway of a wedding venue on the eastern shore of Maryland waiting to walk my daughter Natalie down the aisle. After two cancellations due to the pandemic, Natalie and her fiance Scott were just a few moments from finally exchanging their marriage vows.
There was some commotion ahead of us. The wedding party was moving into position to enter the make-shift chapel. Suddenly, one of the wedding planners darted around the corner. She stopped in front of me and Natalie and looked right at us like she was caught by surprise. Then she did something I didn’t expect.
She started crying!
“I’m so sorry,” she said as she dried her eyes. “It’s just been too long since we’ve seen one of these!”
As we walked down the aisle, I looked at my daughter and then scanned the guests. People are always happy at weddings, but this was different. These guests were not only happy for this young couple. They were also happy to finally just be together!
OK, I’ll get off my soapbox. But I’ll bet real money that this same kind of experience is being replayed across the country and around the world.
When it comes to rescheduled weddings, the estimates vary but all the numbers are high. One report says almost 80% of weddings planned for 2020 were either delayed or dramatically scaled back. Another report says 1.5 million US weddings planned in 2020 were pushed into ’21 or ’22.
“With the backlog of weddings, this Fall is going to be crazy,” says Katey Clark, Wedding Planner and Co-founder of Lemon & Lime Event Design. “We normally plan 12 to 15 weddings a year. This Fall alone we’re working on 12!”
Micro weddings at hotels are another big trend as are mini destination weddings. But the definitions of “micro” and “mini” can mean different things to different people.
I would consider Natalie and Scott’s wedding a quasi-destination event. It was a compromise location made shortly after their engagement in 2019. Their first choice was the Florida Keys. We settled on the Chesapeake Bay. It was closer and more manageable but still offered a water setting and a unique “destination” location.
“When you talk to someone about a destination wedding, it always involves a beautiful setting,” says TravelAnne co-founder (and Mother of the Bride) Anne Heintz. “Beach settings in Florida and the Caribbean are very popular, especially right now when people want to be outside. Same for scenic mountain destinations.”
Florida offers a ton of options. It is, after all, almost completely surrounded by water. Two of our favorite destinations are The Breakers and Eau Palm Beach. The Breakers is… well… The Breakers with all it has to offer. The Eau is somewhat more intimate while still offering a 5-star experience.
In the Caribbean, The Bahamas and Jamaica are popular because they are easily accessible. If you’re willing to travel a bit further, Anguilla, St. Barth’s, Nevis, Antigua and St. Lucia are wonderful choices.
If a mountain setting is your cup of tea, there are a lot of choices. Vermont, Virginia, the Carolina’s, Colorado… and of course one of the most popular… Napa Valley.
“We are seeing an increase in inquiries and confirmations; especially this year,” says Christie Ingram, a senior sales manager for Four Seasons Resorts in Nevis and Punta Mita. “As more and more US Citizens are being vaccinated, they are eager to travel and celebrate.”
Ingram says wedding coordinator Paula Mendez Pallares recently attended the ENGAGE event in Palm Beach Florida. Destination weddings were definitely the topic on trend.
“This reinforced the concept of petite milestone celebrations like destination weddings as people look to make deeper connections through smaller more meaningful events.”
There are certainly challenges for a destination wedding in these crazy times. We cut our guest list in half, which made for some awkward phone calls. The “save-the-date” cards were mailed in 2019 for what was expected to be a big wedding in 2020. By spring of ’21, state and local regulations required a much lower number.
That said, we were able to adjust. About 95% of the quests were vaccinated. The service was held in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows which when opened qualified as “outdoors.” Plus, a lot of the reception was outside as well.
It also helped that a week prior to the wedding, the state of Maryland lifted most of its restrictions including the use of masks indoors.
“Dealing with the changing guidelines was somewhat like shooting at a moving target,” says wedding planner Clark. “But after so many wedding delays, seeing the restrictions lifted was welcome news. Everybody was thrilled to be back and getting these couples married. We were cetainly ready!”
For what it’s worth, I would not be surprised to see a dramatic uptick in destination weddings over the next few years. It just makes sense. Smaller more intimate weddings are likely to become a sign of the times. Making it a destination wedding adds to the experience and gives the event an “extra-special” feel.
“COVID helped show us that there is nothing wrong with a smaller wedding,” according to Clark. “Once COVID comes down, destination wedding will probably become more popular than ever.”
As for our experience on the Chesapeake Bay, it was the kind of moment we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. While I would not consider 120 people an intimate experience, people were spread out and able to share fellowship and personal moments.
During the ceremony, there was a reading before Natalie and Scott exchanged their vows. The theme of the passage focused on faith, hope and love… with the most important of the three being love.
The passage has great meaning in our family. It was also read the day Anne and I were married. But on this particular day in May of 2021, of those three words… faith, hope and love… the one that stood out for me was “hope!”
Weddings are about hope… something that for many was missing since March of 2020. A year later, we’re starting to find our way. People are getting out, they’re traveling and coming together again.
As Natalie and Scott walked up the aisle, and later celebrated with family and friends, you could see the joy on peoples faces. They were truly happy for this young couple, but there was also something else at play.
Most of the guests traveled some distance to attend the wedding. They flew in the night before and spent two nights in a hotel. They were genuinely happy to be gathered together. They were also thrilled to be doing something “normal” again!
I would be lying if I said planning this destination wedding was easy. There were two cancelled dates and numerous stressful discussions. But through it all, Natalie was determined and resolute.
“I want my family and friends to see me exchange vows with this man,” she said after the second cancellation. “We’re doing this!”
Little did any of us realize the full impact of those words… or for that matter what they would mean to our wedding guests 10 months later.
Hope is a funny thing. We don’t realize how important it is until it’s almost gone. But it doesn’t take much to get it back. In this case, it started with two simple words from a young couple.
**Les Heintz a media consultant and independent television producer based in Washington, DC. He is Executive Producer of multiple television series. He is also Co-founder & Executive Editor of TravelAnne.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesHeintz57 or email Les at Les@TravelAnne.com
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