**Updated August 2021**
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to destination weddings in Punta Cana! I’ll walk you through everything you need to know when planning your special day!
The first (and most important) thing to understand about getting married is that your special day does not have to be perfect! There really is no such thing as a perfect wedding. Things can (and do) go wrong. If you can accept this from the moment you get engaged, your life is going to be so much easier! And the whole wedding-planning process will seem like a breeze.
While planning destination weddings in Punta Cana can be tough since you don’t get to be there in person, it is so worth it!! Embrace the challenges and enjoy the details without getting too stressed or overwhelmed. After all, you’re preparing for the best day of your life. And you’ll only get to do this once. So enjoy the ride!
Let’s start planning the wedding of your dreams!
Work With A Wedding Planner
Although DIY is all the rage these days, a destination wedding is a whole different beast. You will be working with people from across the globe, and there are many things you won’t understand about this said place. There could even be a language barrier. Save yourself the hassle by working with someone specialized in destination weddings.
Your wedding planner is there to help you, so give them a chance to help. Their job is to make you happy after all! They’ll make all the phone calls for you, choose local vendors to cut costs, and maybe haggle a price or two on your behalf. Unless you’re willing to put up with all this yourself, you definitely need a planner.
The Guest List
First, let me start by saying that destination weddings are not for everybody. All of your intended guests may not be thrilled about the idea of traveling for a wedding. Taking a trip can be stressful, and having a large group makes that even more complicated.
Some of your guests may not be able to afford a week in the Caribbean. Or maybe they can’t get the time off work. Whatever the reason, understand that everyone you love may not be able to attend your destination wedding. And that’s okay! Be happy with the people who are able to attend and focus on them. And remember, ultimately, this day is about you!
And Speaking Of Guests
They can be a messy affair. Managing a group of up to 500 people can be stressful, to put it mildly. You should take a few preemptive measures to relieve some pressure from yourself.
Firstly, save-the-dates must be sent with a lot of time in advance. A year, if possible. Not everyone has money to spare for a wedding on demand, so you should allow them time to save up. More importantly, you want to be absolutely sure they have time to attend.
Then, discuss travel expenses and accommodations. Depending on your financial situation, your guests will likely have to cover this expense themselves. In that case, you need to make it absolutely clear what costs are associated with the trip. Otherwise, you’ll encounter ugly situations and confusion during your trip. Be clear and concise. Don’t deviate from your budget.
And finally, assign a dress code depending on the venue. Indoors and outdoors are very different in tropical weather. While gorgeous heavy gowns are perfect at your resort, maybe your guests will prefer white tuxedos and light dresses for a beach ceremony. The last thing you want is someone complaining about your venue choice!
Consider Having an Unplugged Ceremony
While the bride and groom obviously play the leading roles on the wedding day, each of your guests will play an important role as well. Everyone has to keep up with their role for the day to run smoothly. Aside from being on time, your guests can fulfill their role by being fully present at your ceremony. The goal is to have everyone focused on you without being on social media or taking pictures/videos with their phones.
An Unplugged Ceremony means that no one will be using their cell phones or tablets during the ceremony. Without these, their only option will be to watch and listen to the beauty that is right in front of them. That’s right. No texting, taking photos, making videos, or scrolling through social media. Everyone is paying attention to you, instead of staring at a screen. Pretty cool, right? Basically, this is the only way to ensure that all of your guests are fully present during your ceremony.
You are probably wondering now… how exactly do I do this? Easy peasy. Set up one of those lovely signs at the entrance of the ceremony. The ones you can buy on Etsy or Amazon that notify your family and friends that phones or tablets are not allowed during the ceremony. You can also add a note in your wedding programs or on your wedding website to let guests know your intentions ahead of time.
Remember there is already somebody taking care of the photos… and they will do a much better job than the person holding the iPad, blocking everybody else’s view. An awesome photographer will make sure the photos are beautiful, emotional, and breathtaking. And none of that will be possible if there’s a little screen covering each person’s face.
Or Maybe A Distance Wedding Is For You
Although things are getting better, not all of us can get together to enjoy a wedding ceremony. Some people still prefer to stay at home, and others aren’t comfortable exposing themselves like that. For that reason, it’s likely you’ll want to have a Zoom wedding, as they call them these days.
It allows everyone on your guest list to experience the event, even if they can’t afford – or prefer not – to travel for any reason! And it doesn’t even have to be entirely online – you can have a traditional wedding at the venue and stream it for those at home who couldn’t join you.
Talk to your videographer about the possibility. It might come at an additional cost, but it’s an option you always have available.
The Weather in Punta Cana
Let’s start with the most common question and your biggest fear: “What happens if it rains on my wedding day?”
In Punta Cana, we are used to seeing rain throughout the year, but it is far from consistent. Some months are wetter than others, but there is no “rainy season” like you may expect. It usually rains at night or very early in the morning, and then it’s sunny during the day. And even when it does rain during the day, it will likely be for 10-15 minutes and then right back to blue skies! That’s not always the case, but it happens more than you can imagine.
So if you think that getting married during hurricane season is the worst idea ever, all I have to say is: It’s a matter of luck! Mother nature has a mind of her own, and you can experience amazing weather any day of the year.
My best advice: Don’t look at the weather app on your phone. You’re just going to stress yourself out, and it’s predictions are usually wrong anyway.
But because you’re coming to a tropical country (and you know, weather happens), you may just encounter rain on your wedding day. Maybe it’s before the ceremony, maybe after. If it happens, it is essential that you keep a positive attitude! A little rain won’t ruin your day, but a bad attitude will.
Instead of getting upset, smearing your makeup, and feeling like your day is completely ruined, come out into the rain and smile for the photos. Remember that rain on your wedding day is good luck! And some of our best weddings have been on rainy days!! We’ll do the work to make sure your photos turn out amazing, rain or shine!
Happiness is a matter of perspective.
On Your Wedding Day
We’re told from a young age that our weddings must be perfect down to the little details. We dream of beautiful, impossibly neat ceremonies where nothing ever goes wrong. But to be honest, many things can and will go wrong. It might rain, you may face delays, or you might forget a line from your vows. You may even forget something back home! I could spend all day listing every single thing that could go wrong, but to be honest, does it matter?
There is no such thing as perfect, and that’s fine. You’ll probably have to deal with many inconveniences during the day, but that’s part of the experience. So long as you and your guests have a good time, it’s a great wedding.
Don’t worry so much about what went wrong. Instead, celebrate what went right! Remember your wedding as the beautiful experience it will be, not as a micromanagement project. Your vendors and planners will take care of all the little things – but you? Enjoy the moment!
Trust Your Wedding Crew
And on the topic of your wedding crew, you really should let them do their jobs. You, more than anyone, know that the entire event runs thanks to several people – all of whom are there specifically to make your wedding as great as it can be! You’ll work with a florist, a DJ, videographer, photographer, officiant, makeup artist… Many hands are involved here.
It might sound like yet another reason to stress about the little things, but it’s actually the opposite. Let them handle everything. They’re the professionals you entrusted with your special day, so let them do their job. Trust me, I’m one of them! We work tirelessly to provide excellence every single day for many couples. We know what we’re doing!
Trust us and you won’t be disappointed. We’re here to help you, not make your life harder! We want to see you smile!
Details, Details, Details
Destination weddings (and all weddings really) are entirely about the details. The dress, the flowers, the rings, the cake, the decor. Of course, all of these are important. But with details, I’m not only talking about the stuff… And I’m certainly not telling you to buy every accessory there is just to fill up space. It’s more about the details involved in every action throughout the day – the ones that make beautiful moments. Real moments.
The little butterflies you’ll experience walking down the aisle. The hug you’ll give your dad right before he “gives you away.” The gentle squeeze of you and your future husband’s hands while you’re exchanging vows, staring into each other’s eyes. These are the details that are really important. These are the ones you’ll remember most.
So instead of buying your groom a $1000 watch, consider writing him a heartfelt letter to read before the ceremony that will touch him deeply. This is the type of action that will make that first moment when you see each other much more emotional.
But when will you see each other for the first time? Well, that is up to you… It could be when you walk down the aisle. Or if you trust me, I can give you another option.
Having a First Look Before the Ceremony
You’ve probably known since you were a little girl that one of the most important moments in a wedding is when the bride walks down the aisle. Everybody stands up with tears streaming down their cheeks as they see the bride for the first time. Your groom’s legs will melt like ice cream, and he’ll be fighting to hold back tears of his own. Your heart will be racing and you’ll feel like a queen.
But here’s the kicker: these emotions can be spread throughout the entire day if you and your partner decide to see each other before the ceremony. This is what we call the first look.
What is a First Look?
The first look is a private meeting between the bride and groom (and the photographer) right after the getting ready and before the wedding ceremony.
As a general rule, the groom is not allowed to see the bride until she reaches out to him from behind. The groom then turns around, sees her, and shares that priceless reaction with his bride and the camera… It’s a moment to be alone before the ceremony which, by the way, gets rid of a big part of the stress you will both be carrying.
The first look allows you to start the whole process of getting married much more relaxed. You’ll have a few minutes to enjoy each other’s company (chat, giggle, and/or cry) before you’re standing up in front of all your family and friends professing your love to one another.
Having done this lots of times, I can say it’s a fantastic experience for the couples, not only because they are able to relax together before the ceremony, but also because the photos are absolutely amazing. The photographer becomes a spectator and is able to capture every detail of the moment without interrupting the couple at all. It’s truly one of the most intimate moments of the entire day.
The best part is that the bride and groom can feel like themselves, expressing their true feelings (which usually are tears of joy) without so many eyes of family and friends watching them.
After this magical moment, the ceremony takes place (maybe Unplugged, maybe not) and the wedding begins.
No! Not really!
After this comes the fun! Photo sessions and then lots and lots of memories being created.
The Photo Sessions
First comes the part when the wedding planner tells us that we have 5 minutes to take portraits of 50 people. And we say yes, although they know as much as we do, that this yes actually means no, and that we’ll need more time.
We’ll take group photos, family photos, and then photos with the wedding party. Next comes the romantic part where your guests head to the cocktail hour and the newlyweds are left alone for a couple’s photo session.
You and your groom will not be in the first part of the cocktail hour. You will be taking the romantic couple’s photos while your guests are at the cocktail hour. Keep this in mind when planning your special day. And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to mingle with your guests during the reception.
Before your photo session, there is something very important you need to know: There is no such thing as someone that looks ugly in photos! So go ahead and remove that from your vocabulary and get those negative thoughts out of your head. There are people that feel uncomfortable in front of the camera, bad photographers, and people that don’t really know how to capture other people’s best angles and expressions.
If you’re relaxed and having a good time, it will show in the photos. This is why it is vital that you and your partner can interact freely in front of the camera. Being able to keep it fun, light-hearted, and natural will make your wedding photos look as beautiful and spontaneous as you are. After all, that’s what these moments are for: to enjoy them!
If you choose the wedding ceremony time wisely (and I hope you do) then you can count on having the best light of the day during your couple’s photo session.
How to Choose the Time to Get Married in Punta Cana
Well.. this generally depends on where your wedding is taking place since all of the hotels in the Bavaro/Punta Cana area offer different ceremony times. Just to give you an idea, there are more than 50,000 rooms currently available and thousands more are added every year. So that means a lot of people are getting married in Punta Cana!
If you’re getting married at a resort, there will likely be other couples getting married on that same day. Getting the best location and the best time can become an impossible mission the longer you wait. We advise you to organize your schedules beforehand and book your ceremony time as soon as possible!
As a general rule, getting married an hour and a half before the sunset is the ideal time to have soft, natural light during the ceremony and the photo session.
Some websites, like TimeandDate.com, provide information about sunrise and sunset times in Bavaro/Punta Cana throughout the year. Check your exact date and try to schedule your wedding ceremony according to the sunset time listed. Again, usually about 1.5 hours before the sunset is the best time.
Saying “I Do” in Punta Cana can be a wonderful thing if you choose the right place! Just make sure your venue is up to your standards.
If it’s within your budget, we highly recommend having your wedding outside of your all-inclusive resort. Outside venues like Kukua Beach Restaurant, Jellyfish Restaurant and Huracan Café are some of our favorites.
They offer the most flexibility and individualized service. And you won’t have to share your wedding day with anyone else!
About Resorts and the Number of Weddings
If an outside venue is not an option for you, that’s completely fine! I love resort weddings too. Just consider that some resorts have 6 to 7 weddings a day, and you may not get your first choice for the location or ceremony time. Some resorts, like the Hard Rock or Majestic Hotels, have more than 500 weddings a year (if not more). Imagine the availability at the time of making your reservation.
Other hotels have different locations where simultaneous weddings can take place at the same time. This may allow you to get married at the time and place you’re dreaming of. Heads up: you might see one or two other brides walking around the hotel when you are headed to your ceremony.
This is why it is necessary to keep clear communication with your coordinator and explain your requirements. Always check to make sure that they have availability at the place and time you prefer. The photos you are used to seeing with the orange and golden tones are usually during the sunset times, or the so-called Golden Hour, so your photos will look very different if you get married earlier in the day.
If you already finished planning your wedding and then found out that the only available ceremony times were from 11 am to 3 pm, you might not be so happy…
But don’t worry, not all hotels are wedding factories! A lot of them offer personalized service and do an amazing job. But the way I see it, none of them do it as well as the off-resort venues that I mentioned before.
Visit The Venue At Least Once
No matter which option you choose, you have to see it for yourself at least once before the wedding. This is an additional expense you’ll have to take on, but it’s worth every penny.
Some venues might look different in pictures, and you might be unpleasantly surprised when the big day comes. The only way to avoid these issues is to see them for yourself before booking. And if you’re not completely satisfied, you can always pick a different venue.
Better to be safe than sorry, after all!
Your Resort Hidden Fees
Since we are on the subject of resort weddings, I would like to mention that there are a lot of hidden fees when planning a resort wedding. The fees that will hit you the hardest are the vendor fees. These are charged whenever a couple brings an external vendor into the hotel, like a photographer, hair and makeup artist, etc. Some resorts will even charge you a fee to bring your own decorations. (Yes, you read that right).
Any time the resort offers a service and you bring someone/something else instead, they’ll charge you a fee since you are not buying from them. That way, they are still making a profit. These are the kind of hidden fees that you really need to speak to your coordinator about before booking your resort wedding. That way you can prevent any misunderstandings and you’ll know exactly what you are getting into.
These fees can go anywhere from “not so bad” ($200-$300) to “nearly impossible to pay” ($1000+). You can always check their fees before making a reservation, but keep in mind that resorts change their pricing often, so it’s best to confirm pricing directly with a wedding planner.
If you choose to get married at an outside venue, like Huracan Cafe or Kukua, they do not charge outside vendor fees so you won’t need to worry about this.
Your Wedding Dress
Now that you have chosen a place to have your dream wedding, let’s talk about your wedding dress.
As you know, there are dozens of different kinds of wedding dresses. From ball gowns to sheath, to a mermaid or short-style.
Many brides tend to forget they will be having a beach wedding when they go dress shopping. They go for an incredibly beautiful dress, but extremely thick for hot weather and hard to carry in the sand.
Choose a wedding dress that you will feel comfortable in! One that you can walk freely in. And if possible, one that is made of a material that doesn’t reflect light. That way you can avoid the hints of blue from the sky. Go for a warmer tone of white.
And don’t forget about the hanger. I have seen so many weddings where the bride has a stunning, detailed beautiful dress… and it’s on a plastic hanger.
It’s so so hard to give justice to a dress when it’s displayed that way! A simple wooden hanger or even a personalized one with your name on it will make the photos of your dress come to life.
Together with the dress selection, comes the wedding shoes. I’ve seen brides walking down the aisle with heels… in the sand. And this is not only dangerous to your own ankles, but you can actually trip and fall before you say I Do! Let’s try to avoid that kind of show, and wear some nice barefoot sandals. You will thank me later.
If you really want to wear heels, you can still get those shoes you love! Just wear them during the reception, which usually happens away from the sand, in a location with hard floors.
Be sure to set out all your accessories for the photographer during the getting ready session. And your groom should do the same! Here’s some more tips for how to prepare for your getting ready.
Flowers for Your Wedding Day
In terms of bouquets… be aware that Caribbean weather is so hot that flowers will start to die before they have even fulfilled their purpose. And it happens so fast you won’t believe it!
If you go for a bouquet made of real flowers (which is always the best option) make sure you have the air conditioner on in your room or you keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. This way, they’ll still look perfect when the time comes to walk down the aisle.
Essential Accessories for Your Getting Ready
Within the range of accessories a bride can have, I would like to put some attention on the veil. It will not only be a great addition to your hairstyle, but it’s also versatile when it comes to photos.
But let me be honest. Long veils and beaches don’t really get along… especially if it’s a windy day. Your veil will be flying around and pulling your hair quite a bit. That’s why we recommend a shorter veil, birdcage style, or go for something completely different like a flower crown or a nice headpiece.
If you are not sure of what accessories to use, think about what would make you feel comfortable on the beach. Everything you buy should be beach-friendly.
Planning an Unforgettable Reception at your Destination Wedding
Now let’s get back to our wedding timeline. When the ceremony, pictures, and the cocktail hour are over, the reception finally comes.
Make sure that you have enough lighting during the reception. This is essential for the photographer to get good, clear photos. Anything you do to add lighting to the reception will make your photos that much better. The professionals hired to work for your wedding will have their own lights, but LED lights for a table are not the same as lighting with candles or hanging lanterns… If you can get string lights, even better!
That being said, we love candles! And we’re sure you love them too! But because we don’t want to see you frustrated on your wedding day, you should know that adding candles and wind from the sea equals blown out candles. No exceptions. The only way to solve this is to use candles with bubble bowls or windproof candle holders. Most of the resorts use flameless candles, just in case you want to check with your wedding planner.
Speeches During the Reception
Here’s a tip for your parents and bridal party: under no circumstances should they write their speeches on a phone. Or even worse, on a tablet.
People don’t really know how hard it is to unlock a phone and find their speech in front of a group of people. The emotion fades quickly… Plus their faces look blue in the photographs. If we add a microphone to their other hand and a glass of champagne to toast, you’ll see how complicated it becomes. Technology has many advantages, but when it comes to speeches, there’s nothing better than a piece of paper and a pen.
Shows, Fun, Party Time!
There’s so much more to know about the reception! If you can afford them, there are a number of services that you and your guests will enjoy, especially if the group of people is not too big.
Depending on the group that attends your wedding, if you have lots of young guests with alcohol running through their veins, there will probably be dancing all night. If the group is a more relaxed one, you might want to cheer them up with a “Fire Show” or the “Hora Loca”.
The Hora Loca, also known as the Crazy Hour, will put every single last person on their feet to dance. No exceptions! Kids, adults, and elders will be dancing to the fun music and the animation from the “Hora Loca” crew.
The Fire Show will not make everybody dance, but it will keep them entertained for 12 very intense minutes or so, in which all the lights go down and the only thing left is the fire and the dancers trained to do acrobatics through the flames. Plus you’ll get some really amazing photographs!
Some of the accessories that most brides would like to bring like the Chinese Lanterns are banned in Punta Cana. But you can always bring some less dangerous objects like Sparklers or “Thank You” and “Just Married” signs. These can definitely add a touch of fun to your memories!
Fireworks are also an option for some resorts. They might not be the cheapest, but what better way to end a perfect and unforgettable night?
At this point, the wedding ends, and everybody is happy. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the fun!
Wake Up Early for a Trash the Dress at Sunrise
There are others that decide to do one last amazing thing called a Trash the Dress, and it is usually done a day or two after the wedding.
Just so you know, Trash the Dress doesn’t mean tearing the dress apart like some people might think. It might get wet, it might be covered in sand, but nothing more than that… and in the end, you’ll get better pictures than you could possibly imagine. Unforgettable, fun, and without a doubt, a very special memory that only some people dare to try.
It’s always best to have your Trash the Dress session at a different time than the wedding ceremony. If your wedding was in the afternoon, you’ll want to have the Trash the Dress session early in the morning. Around 7 am or 7:30 am is best because the sunlight is soft and the beach is empty.
If you are not willing to wake up that early, it probably means you had a great time the night before. I get it! The photographer will work out another schedule that will still get you amazing pictures. Maybe after a nice cup of coffee, around 9 am or 10 am.
Thank You For Reading All The Way Through
To finish this complete post about your wedding in Punta Cana, I would like to wish you and your partner the absolute best. I love weddings, and I love LOVE. So no matter what your budget is, and if you hire us or not, I’m happy to help you through the process.
I recommend you plan everything slowly, and one step at a time. I would also suggest that you include your fiance in the decisions and go through the whole process together.
And the most important thing I want for you is that on your wedding day, you can relax and smile.
That’s the only way to make your wedding day, a truly special day.