Weddings — San Francisco December 08
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Karen Palmer

FAR AND AWAY Destination wedding planner extraordinaire Alison Hotchkiss dishes on her new book—and on creating the perfect celebration away from home.

Alison Hotchkiss, founder of Alison Events, is a natural-born planner.

“Even when I was a kid, I was planning ski trips, trips to the movies, you name it. When my friends came over, I’d have a list of activities for us to do,” she laughs. Th ese days, Alison Events is one of the Bay Area’s premier resources for couples looking to book destination weddings—combining Hotchkiss’ lifelong love of travel with a passion for producing intimate, special celebrations. To date, Hotchkiss has planned weddings in more than 30 cities around the world.

For brides looking for expert advice, Hotchkiss’ fi rst book, Destination Weddings: Th e Ultimate Guide to Planning a Destination Wedding from Afar, will be published by Chronicle Books in the spring of 2009. Th e user-friendly guide is chock-full of planning tips and advice for jet-setting couples and their guests.

We chatted with the globe-trotting planner about everything from the hottest locations to the top destination planning do’s and don’ts.

What can readers expect from your book? It has straight-up, yet creative planning tips.

I emphasize having fun with the process and thinking outside the box. Th e book is really interactive, too: Th ere are workbooks and quizzes to help each couple fi nd their personal style.

Are there misconceptions about having a destination wedding as opposed to staying close to home?

Planning a wedding afar can be cheaper than planning it at home. Couples don’t factor in the cost for the guests to fl y to and stay at a location. Th ere are so many amazing hotels all over the world that are in remote places, but they are still the same price as staying at home.

What’s the very fi rst step if couples want a far-off wedding? Narrow down your locations to a few diff erent cities or countries before you even go to a planner.

What are some of the most common mistakes couples make when planning a destination wedding?

If you have a smaller budget, then you need to be realistic. Just try to put yourself in your guests’ shoes. You can fi nd a mom-and-pop place that can host all your guests or a couple hotels close to each other in diff erent price ranges. You could also have a Friday or Sunday wedding to cut costs.

What are some of your top tips for a celebration afar? Pay with credit if you can. You not only get miles, but you also then have a safety net in case the hotel goes out of business or you need to cancel. But also don’t forget to have cash on hand.

When you’re in other countries, you have to respect how they do business.

Also, don’t forget that with today’s limited carry-on baggage and strict customs rules, you have to factor shipping into your budget. Linens can cost just as much to rent as to ship! Try to divvy up what you want to bring with friends and family.

Should couples use a travel agent? Consider using one if you’re doing a block of rooms larger than 10, because they can often get better rates. Your planner should also be able to negotiate for you.

How can brides and grooms be stress free on the big day, even if they’re far from home? Try to arrive two to four days before your guests so you can adjust to the altitude or just come down from your stressful lifestyle. Th e mood you project sets the energy for your guests.

What are some of the hottest wedding destinations? Tulum, Mexico has some beautiful small boutique hotels and plush resorts. Costa Rica is also a favorite, and in Harbour Island in the Bahamas, you get crystal-clear Caribbean water and the low-key island attitude.

Domestically, you can never go wrong with Palm Springs, and Hawaii is safe, clean, and easy to get to. We’re currently planning a winter wedding in Utah, which I’ve been dying to do for years! Everyone is getting hot toddies and Ugg boots when they arrive.