Archive for the ‘Wedding Tips’ Category

Tips to Planning a Budget Destination Wedding | Puerto Rico Destination Wedding Photographers

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

This last September we had the privilege shooting my kid brother’s wedding, as well as planning some of the logistical aspects of the wedding.  If you do it right like Steve & Kara (click here to see their engagement pictures), you can potentially have a beautiful beach destination wedding for less than you’d spend on a local wedding.  Of course, you have to consider that any destination wedding will be significantly smaller than having a local wedding because most people won’t be able to fly to a tropical island.  If you’re wanting a more intimate wedding with close friends and family, that might be exactly what you’re looking for anyway.  we decided to share what we learned while helping them with their wedding.


1.  Keep it in the U.S. (territories)
For some people this might not be a big issue, but Steve & Kara planned a destination wedding in a short couple months and found out that some of their family members didn’t have current passports, and there wasn’t enough time to get new ones before the wedding.  They had originally planned a Jamaica beach wedding but the passport problem forced them to scratch Jamaica off the list.  They considered Florida, but that would have been pretty expensive (and less unique) so we suggested that they look at U.S. territories that don’t require a passport such as Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.  VOILA!  Problem solved.  They decided on Puerto Rico.  The only I.D. we needed was a driver’s license.   Despite being much further away, plane tickets from Washington State to San Juan, Puerto Rico were actually quite a bit cheaper than flying to Florida, and of course the other costs are lower in Puerto Rico as well.
2.  Sign the marriage license BEFORE you leave.
Get the marriage license out of the way before you leave, that way all the legal stuff is taken care of and you can just enjoy the trip.  You can even file the legal wedding license before you go, and keep the “decorative” license to sign while at the wedding.  Another great thing about this approach is that you can have a non-certified friend or family member officiate the wedding ceremony, since the legal aspects of the marriage will already be fulfilled.
3.  Rent beach houses!
This is awesome because you get a place to stay and you have a ceremony site.  We got 2 houses for family on the beach that were right next to each other.  You can even split the cost between family members.  Additional guests can stay at a nearby hotel if the house(s) aren’t big enough for everyone. We stayed at Casa Caribe Del Sol and Casa Caribe Del Mar, which was also where we held the wedding ceremony on the beach.  We would highly recommend staying at these properties!
4.  Consider staying away from tourist areas.
Steve & Kara got beach houses in Patillas, Puerto Rico which was well away from the main tourist area (San Juan).  The cool thing about the location is the fact that we almost always had a “private” beach because the locals didn’t use it that often.  Most of the time we could look down the beach in both directions and we were the only ones out there.
5.  Wing it.
Try to plan as much as possible before you leave, but if you do an unconventional beach wedding away from tourist areas you might have to wing it with some aspects of the wedding.  Have open expectations knowing everything might not go exactly as you planned, but that’s part of the adventure.  Steve and Kara planned for the flowers and reception dinner AFTER arriving in Puerto Rico.  They were able to find a restaurant called Caribe Playa about a 3 minute walk down the beach from our beach houses, and because we weren’t in a tourist area they were able to cater a private wedding reception right on the beach at their restaurant.  They also found a local florist just by driving around and asking the locals where to find flowers.  The florist created some beautiful bouquets from local Puerto Rican grown flowers.  Again, I think staying away from the tourist areas helped ensure that people could do things last minute for us, and for normal prices rather than “wedding” prices.
6.  Bring your photographer.

Preferably bring Stone Castle Photography No, definitely bring us!! We travel to destination weddings for quite reasonable prices and don’t charge an absurd markup over our local wedding prices. Bringing your photographer ensures you can have a good connection with your photographer, won’t have any language barriers, and can be protected from scams or bad business practices that can target tourists. When we do destination weddings, the contracts and payments are handled here in the U.S. where you’ll still receive all the same consumer protections as if you went shopping at your local Costco. I’m not sure how issues would be handled if you had a problem with a photographer in one of the U.S. territories, or an entirely different country…but I’m pretty sure things wouldn’t go very smoothly and you’d probably be out of your investment if things took a turn for the worse.

And putting aside all the legal stuff, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of trying to communicate with a customer service rep over the phone who speaks english as a second language. now imagine dealing with that your entire wedding day, not even being sure if they’re understanding what you want from them. Doesn’t sound like fun to me, and frankly I’d be terrified leaving the most important images of my life in the hands of someone that I can’t even fully communicate with. You only have ONE shot at getting great wedding pictures, don’t leave it to chance.

Click here to get more information about having us shoot your destination wedding, or email us at

7.  Bring your officiant and (cup)cake artist.
Steve and Kara had our brother-in-law, Tyler officiate the wedding and my beautiful wife made cupcakes, in addition to helping me 2nd shoot the wedding.  Having a formal wedding cake wasn’t high on Steve and Kara’s list of priorities so they were happy with having wedding cupcakes.  If a normal cake is more of a priority you can consider trying to find something locally.  The beach house owner told us that Puerto Rico is known for having great bakeries practically on every street corner so you shouldn’t have a problem finding someone to make you a great wedding cake if you decide to go that route.
8.  Use your natural surroundings.
Steve and Kara did the traditional “sand pouring” part of their ceremony, but rather than using colored sand they used sand from the beach.  Steve had coarse sand and Kara had fine sand.  They poured and mixed the coarse and fine together to signify the 2 becoming 1.  And they’ll forever have a beautiful and unique memento straight from the very site they said their vows.  We were also able to create an “aisle” going from the beach house down to the beach using only round rocks we found on the beach.  Get creative and you can come up with some pretty cool stuff that won’t cost anything and will make your wedding more special.
9.  Enjoy your honeymoon!
You’re already at your honeymoon location.  You can leave the family and head to the tourist area or another part of the island away from your friends and family.  You get to spend the days before the wedding with family and after the wedding you can take off and let the fam enjoy the rest of their vacation at the beach houses.  You can even catch a boat or flight to a nearby island, or leave on a cruise.  The possibilities are endless but whatever you do you won’t have to travel far for your honeymoon.