Planning a domestic destination wedding

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When Stephanie and Don Galzarano decided to have their October 2012 wedding in their hometown of Pittsburgh, it required a fair amount of planning typically reserved for destination weddings in exotic locales. Especially given that couple lives in Chicago and were expecting guests from around the country and the world.

“Neither of us had lived [in Pittsburgh] in over a decade,” says Stephanie. “We did a lot of research on the Internet and asked old friends who still lived in the area.”

Though the term “destination wedding” may conjure up images of the Caribbean, Mexico or Hawaii, and a study on destination weddings released in 2012 by The Knot found that 70 percent of destination weddings actually take place in the continental United States. Still, domestic brides can take a few cues from faraway fêtes when planning their lower-48 events. After all, even if they’re not exchanging their I Dos on a white sand beach, couples need to consider factors such as weather, timing and travel to ensure their wedding is affordable, convenient and enjoyable for guests, according to Krisha Friede, a destination wedding expert with Bursch Travel in Monticello, Minn.

The Timing

Friede advises clients to first consider the time of year they’re planning to get married. While weather may not be as much of a factor with a wedding in the U.S., flights and hotels are still more expensive around holidays and spring break. “You have to play those factors in,” she says, “even in your own backyard.”

In particular, weddings on holiday weekends, specifically Memorial and Labor days, often seem like a better idea than they are. Although many guests enjoy the standard three-day weekend, Friede points out that they can pay quite heavily for that third day with increased travel costs.

The Accommodations

But convenience should trump affordability when it comes to the couple booking a block of rooms at a hotel. “Some guests may choose a more inexpensive option, but the bride and groom should think about the convenience factor,” Friede says.

It’s common for destination weddings and receptions to take place at a resort, where guests are able to stay and enjoy a semi-vacation. The same scenario can benefit guests celebrating at home.

A hotel that doubles as the reception location and lodging accommodations means guests won’t need to risk driving after a few cocktails — although Friede notes that a shuttle system can also simplify their experience.

The Galzaranos booked a block of rooms at the hotel where their reception was held, as well as at two additional hotels within a quarter of a mile away. They also provided a trolley to the church, and then back to the reception venue following the ceremony.

The Sites

Because the couple wanted family and friends who traveled near and far to have a complete weekend, and be left with a positive impression of the city, they planned a few events at iconic places. The eve of the wedding, the two hung out with guests at a local bar; the day after the wedding, they invited everyone to lunch at Primanti Bros., a well-known Pittsburgh sandwich shop.

“That way they would get to see the bride and groom but also a bit of Pittsburgh,” Stephanie Galzarano says.

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