The Shakedown recently got back from a mind-blowing destination wedding where we were fortunate enough to provide rockin' dance tunes for guests in Mexico. As you can imagine, it took a lot of planning to make the whole weekend pop off like it did. The weekend was a smashing success, even in a far away land. Hopefully more to come. However, our trip was a breeze mainly because of Kimberly Richmond and her crew at Runaway Bride Destination Weddings. For anyone considering a destination wedding, Kimberly is a wonderful resource for making your experience a stunning blast for everyone from the guests to the vendors.
- First, give us a sense of how you got into planning destination weddings. I think you've got a unique background story behind how you named your agency.
Well I guess you could say I’m a bit of a “Runaway Bride” myself. The idea for the company was born eleven years ago when I was planning my own destination wedding from afar. I was living in Boston at the time and planning my wedding in Mexico. I searched high and low to find a U.S. based planner who could help me plan a wedding in Mexico- and was unsuccessful. I ended up hiring a local planner who I quickly realized was not up to the task- so I fired her and took on the planning myself. During the process I realized how much I enjoyed what I was doing and what a tremendous need there was for someone like me (bi-lingual and bi-cultural). Unfortunately I ended up “firing” the fiancee too, but through the process I realized this was something I was destined to do. Once I had gotten enough experience under my belt- I took the “plunge” and Runaway Bride was born.
- Someone's thinking of having a wedding in the States or maybe abroad. Why are you an advocate for abroad?
I’d say that the number one advantage to having a wedding abroad is cost. This always surprises people, but a DW typically costs about 50% less than a wedding at home. Vendors in the more popular destinations such as Mexico or the Caribbean (for example) are about half the cost and your money also goes a lot further. Another advantage is cutting down on your guest list (which also helps with cost), but this also means that the people at your wedding are truly people you WANT to be there. Many times with wedding at home, people feel obligated to invite every Tom, Dick and Harry- which could mean a lot of people at your reception that you may not even really know or care about. A DW is also more of an “experience” vs. an “event”. You get to spend 3-4 days with your closest friends and family vs. 4 hours at an event where you’re so busy with other obligations (pictures, etc.) that you don’t really even get to enjoy it!
- What are some of the countries and destinations where have you overseen weddings?
The job and our clients have taken Runaway Bride to some pretty amazing places. We’ve done everything from the colonial towns in Central Mexico such as San Miguel de Allende to the shores of Lake Como, Italy. We’ve done castles in Ireland, beaches in Tulum and jungles in Panama. Most recently we’ve started getting into the U.S. market ... including a recent wedding in The Hamptons and several upcoming weddings in D.C. which is where I am based. As much as I love exploring new destinations- I also enjoy planning a wedding that doesn’t require a passport for me to get to!
- Are there common aspects that get overlooked when someone begins thinking about a potential destination wedding? What are some pitfalls you've seen?
That’s a great question, because destination weddings aren’t for everyone and there are definitely some major factors to take into consideration. The number one factor is realizing that by having a DW, you’re automatically eliminating many people from coming (which could be both a good and bad thing!) But for those couples who have older family members such as grand parents, etc. having a DW many mean that these elderly relatives may not be able to travel and be there on your special day. The second thing to take into consideration is that by having a DW you are relinquishing having full control over every single aspect of the planning process. So for those “control freaks” out there... I’d say a DW may not be for you.
Planning a wedding in another zip code means that you’re not going to be able to have 100% control over every single aspect and are going to have to place great trust in the professionals that you hire. The third thing to think about if you are having a wedding outside of the US; is that you need to understand and respect the culture and traditions of the country you’re getting married in. This is so important! You can definitely incorporate American traditions into your wedding, but it’s important to understand that a wedding outside of the US is going to be different. You have to embrace the culture of the country in which you’re getting married and be respectful to the way they do things, etc.
- What are some of the key aspects of a destination wedding that you oversee? Many of these aspects might be unique to a destination wedding as opposed to a local/domestic wedding.
Runaway Bride is a boutique company offering bespoke services. We tailor our services based on what our client’s needs. We can help with everything from the very basic destination/venue selection to more of “A-Z” services. The majority of clients that hire us want the full scope wedding planning. We do everything from contract negotiations, vendor selection, managing budgets, creating timelines, assisting with group activities, pre planning trips and being on-site for all events. Our services differ from those of a domestic planner in that DW’s typically consist of four days of events whereas a U.S. wedding is typically a four hour event. There are a lot of aspects to manage from guest transportation to/from the airport to putting together welcome bags to managing vendors to ensuring that every event goes off without a hitch. Destination planners really wear many hats ... in addition to our job we also inevitably end up being a “concierge” of sorts for wedding guests.
- What are some locations that couples might not have thought about that you recommend? Why?
The first destination that pops into mind is San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I think that when most people think of Mexico they think beaches and margaritas, but the country has so much more to offer. San Miguel is a colonial town in the mountains of Central Mexico. Think horse drawn carriages, cobble stone streets and century old churches. We’ve steered several clients here who had never even heard of the town before speaking to us. We love everything that is unique and boutique- so the more “off the beaten path” the destination the better. We love steering our clients towards “hidden gems‘ before the rest of the world discovers them!
- Obviously someone having a destination wedding is trying to differentiate the whole experience for themselves and their guests. Once they've picked a spot, how do you help make a client's wedding experience stand out from other weddings in other ways besides just a crazy location?
I think that they’re already differentiating themselves by choosing to have a wedding in another country. That said; I’m all about personalizing every experience. We help clients come up with unique (personal) touches throughout the wedding weekend ... doing things that guests will never forget. I love incorporating the local culture and “flavor” into the weekend. We’ve also partnered with local charities- enabling guests to feel like they are giving back to the community. Visits to historical sites such as ancient pyramids and ruins- are a fun, educational way to introduce people to the destination as well.
- For planners or other wedding vendors who might be undertaking an international wedding for the first time, any advice?
Be patient and have a sense of humor! It’s important to be able to go with the flow. Anyone planning a destination wedding should adopt this mentality- as you cannot be hands on or as in control as you would be if planning a hometown wedding. Mexico, for example, is unique ... including their concept of time. In the Caribbean they call in “island time” and in Mexico it’s simply referred to as “manana”. Vendors don’t have the “24 hour response time” mentality that many of us are accustomed to in the U.S. Exercising patience and understanding that this is standard operating procedure is key.
Additionally, I would encourage couples to understand and incorporate the culture into their festivities. Mexico has such a colorful heritage from its cuisine to its music to its local Hire a local trio to play during cocktail hour. Include some local handicrafts in your welcome bags. Not only will all of these elements really tie in the local culture and give your wedding a unique flavor, but they are things their guests will talk about for years to come.
The other thing to keep in mind are the legalities of making if official in another country. Depending on the destination there are a lot of steps to this and while the hotels and wedding planners are well versed and will help couples every step of the way- it’s important to know what it involved.
- Where in the world do you want to plan weddings that you haven't already? Which locations are going to be hot in 2018?
I’d love to continue our growth in Europe- Portugal being #1 on the list! Bermuda is another destination I’ve been flirting with too. As far as hot spots in 2018 we’re predicting Hawaii, Italy and Mexico.
- Any parting advice for couples looking to globe-trot?
1.) Remember to go with the flow!
2.) Do your research about the destination (weather, culture, traditions, etc.)
3.) Be patient and keep an open mind.
The daughter of an award-winning travel writer, Kimberly Richmond was "bitten" by the travel bug at an early age. Having been born in Mexico City, she embraced a bi-cultural lifestyle. Since earning a B.S. in Travel and Tourism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (including a year abroad in Oxford, England) she has been globetrotting ever since.
Thanks to a successful career with: Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts as Director of International Sales and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts as International Sales/Marketing Manager, she established herself as an expert in the travel industry. As Director of Marketing and Special Events for Saks Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, she planned and executed hundreds of large scale, lavish events for high profile clients including: the NY Jets; top designers such as Donna Karan and Stella McCartney, and celebrities Ellen Pompeo, Bethany Frankel, Julie Andrews and Patti LaBelle...to name a few.