**Updated September 2019**
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! 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. Embrace the challenges and try to enjoy the details without getting too stressed or overwhelmed. Planning a destination wedding in Punta Cana can seem like a challenge since you don’t get to be there in person, but it will be so worth it!!
First, let me start by saying that destination weddings are not for everybody. Taking a trip can be stressful, and having a large group makes it even more complicated. Not everyone loves traveling. They may not be able to afford it at the time. Or maybe they just can’t get the time off work. Whatever the reason, understand that not everyone will be thrilled about the idea of a destination wedding.
As hard as it may be, try to accept the fact that not all of your family members or friends will be able to attend your destination wedding in Punta Cana. It will be sad when you first find out that they can’t go, but it is not the end of the world. Be happy with the people who are able to attend and focus on them!
Next, be flexible and roll with the punches on your wedding day. Know that your ceremony may not start at the exact minute you planned, and that’s okay! Know that you (or your future husband) may forget something at home. Don’t worry! Your vendors are professionals and they’ll make sure that everything still flows smoothly throughout the day.
Now I could list a hundred different other things that could go wrong on your wedding day, but I’ll save that for another post. That’s not why you’re here. Just let me tell you, as the bride, you’ll understand the stress when you start trying to coordinate everything and everyone.
That is why it’s so important to remember that having a perfect day means that things are going to fail. And “if something can fail, it will”… like our dearest friend Murphy already knows.
I know some of you control freaks are already losing your minds but just relax, take a deep breath, and keep on reading.
Even if (or when) things go wrong, you can still enjoy it and have a wonderful time!!
The Weather in Punta Cana
Let’s start here 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 in Punta Cana in September will be the worst thing ever, all I have to say is: It’s just a matter of luck! Mother nature has a mind of her own.
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 it’s after. If it happens, it is essential that you keep a positive attitude!
Instead of getting upset, ruining your makeup, and thinking your day is completely ruined, come out into the rain and smile for the photos. 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! But don’t let a little rain ruin your day.
Happiness is a matter of perspective.
Consider Having an Unplugged Ceremony
The bride and groom obviously play the lead roles on the wedding day, but 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 and enjoy the day by being fully present, without having to constantly be on social media or take pictures/videos with their phones. Remember there is already somebody taking care of that.. and most likely, they will do a much better job than the person holding the iPad, blocking everybody’s view.
So have you ever heard of an Unplugged Ceremony?
Basically, an Unplugged Ceremony is the only way to ensure that all of your guests are paying attention and are fully present during your wedding ceremony. How? You’ll ask that they refrain from using their cellphones 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, not on Instagram counting likes of the photos they recently uploaded.
So you are probably wondering now… how exactly do I do this?
Easy peasy. Have one of those lovely signs at the entrance of the ceremony. The ones you can buy on Etsy or Amazon (although we highly recommend you get it from Etsy) that will notify your family and friends that phones or tablets are not allowed during the ceremony. An awesome photographer is already making sure the photos are going to be beautiful, emotional, and breathtaking, and none of that will be possible if there’s a little screen covering each person’s face.
Trust Your Wedding Crew
Let’s talk about all the people working to help you get the wedding of your dreams. The professionals. The wedding planner, makeup artist, florist, officiant, DJ, the photographer & videographer, etc. etc. The list of people involved in your destination wedding goes on and on.
And they will be working with you on your wedding day, and the next day at somebody else’s wedding, and the day after that and so on. These people know what they’re doing. Trust me! I consider myself to be one of those crazy people who decide to be there every day for the couples, watching them making good decisions in pursuit of their happiness.
Because we (the experts) know what we are doing, it is important you trust us. Trust your wedding planner, your vendors, and anybody else that can make your life a little easier on your wedding day. We are here to help!!
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… I’m not telling you to buy every possible 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 $500 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… or if you trust us, we can give you another option.
Don’t get me wrong, this is only a recommendation, you will choose according to what you want to do, and not according to what your photographer says. But anyway, I would like to explain how a First Look works, and what it is exactly.
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.
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 will then turn around, see her, and share 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.
So 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 need more time.
We’ll take group photos, family photos, and then photos with the bridal party. Next comes the romantic part where your guests will head to the cocktail hour and the newlyweds are left alone for a couple’s photo session.
Just so you know, 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. This is important for you and your new husband to keep this in mind when planning your day. But don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to mingle with your guests during the reception.
There is something you should know when it comes to the photo session: there is no such thing as someone that looks ugly in photos! 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.
This is why it is vital that you and your partner can interact freely in front of the camera. If you’re relaxed and having a good time, it will show in the photos. 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 there are loads of hotels in the Bavaro/Punta Cana area and they all 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.
If you’re getting married at a resort, this means that 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.
One step at a time, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
About Hotels and the Number of Weddings
Saying “I Do” in Punta Cana can be a wonderful thing if you choose the right place and make sure it’s 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, Huracan Café, La Barcaza or Sanael Wedding Boat 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.
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 once, and this may allow you to get married at the time and place you wish for. Just a 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 with the wedding department to make sure that they have availability at the place and time you prefer.
If you were already done planning your wedding and found out that the available ceremony times were from 11am to 3pm, you may not be so happy… 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.
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.
Planning a Destination Wedding and Your Resort Hidden Costs
Since we are on the subject of resort weddings, we would like to mention that some hotels will charge you a fee to bring your own decorations (yes, you read that right). Any time they offer a service and you get it from someone else, they’ll charge you a fee since you are not buying from them. There are a lot of hidden fees when planning a resort wedding. And these are the kinds of details that you need to speak to your coordinator about to prevent misunderstandings.
The ones 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, videographer, hair and makeup artist, etc. Since their own vendors are not being hired, they charge a fee so they can still make some profit off the event.
These fees can go anywhere from “not so bad” ($200-$300) to “nearly impossible to pay” ($1000+) for a wedding photographer.
We won’t mention the name of these last ones because we don’t like to criticize any company or chain, but it is highly important that you talk to your wedding planner before booking your wedding in a hotel so you know exactly what you are getting into.
You can always check their fees before making a reservation. Please keep in mind that resorts change their pricing often so it’s best to check with a wedding planner to confirm.
If you choose to get married at an outside venue, like Huracan or Kukua, they do not charge outside vendor fees so you won’t need to worry about this.
Dress, Shoes, Flowers for Your Wedding Day
Now that you have chosen a place to have your dream wedding, you are probably thinking about decoration and color palettes. But first, let’s talk about your dress.
As you and I 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.
It is of great significance that you choose a dress that you will feel comfortable in, can walk freely in, and if possible, 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.
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.
In terms of bouquets… Your coordinator will tell you this, but if she doesn’t, let me tell you now. 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.
Now that you have chosen almost your entire outfit, it’s good to remind you of a few details that only a photographer can see to make your photos even better than you could imagine.
Essential Accessories for Your Getting Ready
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.
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, the pictures and the cocktail hour are over, finally comes the reception.
Things you should take into consideration:
- 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 candles plus 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.
- We would like to ask your parents and bridal party that 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 your speech in front of a group of people. The emotion fades quickly and their faces look blue in the photographs. If we add a microphone to their other hand and a glass of champagne to toast, you will understand why we’d ask this. 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 more to know about the reception.
If you can afford them, there are a number of services that the guests and you and your hubby 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 Dancer” show or the “Hora Loca”.
This last one 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 group of the “Hora Loca” also known as the Crazy Hour.
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.
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, that can add a fun touch 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 Trash the Dress, and it is usually done the day 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.
When it comes to choosing a time for the Trash the Dress, it’s always best to do it at a different time than the wedding. So 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) when 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, and the photographer will work out another schedule that will get you amazing pictures 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 special someone in the decisions so that you 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.
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