Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Destination: Wedding Barbara Harrison’s story of fulfilling her daughter’s fantasy wedding

As long as she’s already on the hot seat, let’s blame Martha Stewart! It’s gotto be her, or Vera Wang, or one of those other mavens of thematrimony machine who has all of our daughters wanting weddings worthy ofa Walt Disney ending, or at least an expensive video to record the event forposterity. (That’s in addition to expensive photographs which aren’t enoughanymore!).

Our daughters may start life with the froufrou and fuss of girly-girl fashion but,somewhere around 13 or 14, many begin espousing the fundamentals of feminism and freethinking.They throw off the pink and other pastels and develop a preference for bluejeans and the inevitable black everything else.

Then,with the high price of college behind us, when our daughtersare finally fairly independent, suddenly there’s a fiancé, and the beginning ofwhat will be a fierce flow of finances right out of our pockets and into therising fortunes of all those who were smart enough to get on the wedding-industry bandwagon in the beginning.

How do we resist? It’s that same sweet face of years-gone-by tugging atour heartstrings. This time, however, she ’s not asking for a BarbieTM bridefor Christmas; she wants the whole kit and caboodle in human size at 500times the price of both Barbie and Ken together in full wedding regalia!

And, who came up with the ever-growing trend of destination weddings?No doubt some bright MBA graduate who realized this is just one more wayto add to the more than 50-billion dollars the weddings business makesannually in the U.S. It’s a multifaceted industry that sells a lot more than justwhite dresses and blue satin garters. The bizwiz must have imagined themagnitude of money to be made if the honeymoon were expanded to includethe entire wedding party!

There are many packages advertised for destination weddings in placesranging from Hawaii to Halifax, Nova Scotia with the best deals availableduring the resort’s off-season months. (When is the in-season in Halifax,Nova Scotia?) The most popular destinations are in the Caribbean, but evensavvy hoteliers in Europe and Asia are advertising to brides in the U.S. withdeals on three-to ten-day wedding excursions.

So where did my daughter decide to have her destination event? Vail,Colorado. On Presidents’ Day Weekend, the busiest weekend of theresort’s ski season! It also happened to be Valentine’s Day Weekend, a time ofyear when flowers are at a premium and prices are the highest they will be the entire year.

The challenge was to try to keep the cost within a reasonable budget, but ifyou’re like me, you may not know how to even begin to budget something likethis. I could never have imagined what weddings can end up costing. Thosebridal magazines that take up half the racks at the grocery store checkoutcounters feature billions of things the bride has to have and to hold.

First, the bride has to have a vision. Hopefully that vision isn’t Versailles ifthe only venue available at your destination is more like Howard Johnson’s.If that’s the case, one of you better be very creative or find a wedding plannerwho is. Most advertised wedding destinations have sprouted a whole gardenof self-appointed wedding planners and coordinators who are either connectedwith or list themselves with hotels and other wedding venues and vendors in the region.

We chose Sandi Hoffman with Gala Events in Bethesda whose pictures ofparties she had given were stunning and ran the gamut from simple to over-the-top extravagant. She understood that my daughter wanted something somewhere in between.Her dream included the simple hospitality of home, but with the boundless beauty of BuckinghamPalace (is that possible?).

Our planner interpreted that vision but found little available in the rentalplaces in Vail or even Denver to pull off the look that my daughter wantedand actually needed given her choice of wedding gowns. It’s nice if the venueprovides an appropriate backdrop for the bride’s dress. (Scarlett O’Haracould look out of place floating in at a pizza and beer bash, and conversely, awhite pantsuit might not look great for the bride walking down the aisle of St.Patrick’s Cathedral.) The truth is, taste is individual and anything goes as longas the bride is happy (and it fits into the budget).

My daughter chose the dress she wanted and I lucked out because it wasavailable at Neiman-Marcus at a price more reasonable than what the grandesdames of wedding dresses are getting for their collections. Incidentally,the designers insist that the dress be the first decision after the date is set.They say they need at least six to nine months to make the dress just for you.Interestingly, after meticulous measurements are taken of the bride’s figure, thegown still comes in regular sizes and usually requires beaucoup alterations,sometimes at very expensive prices, to make the dress actually fit. (And we goalong with the deception!)

Kudos to Neiman-Marcus for making the dress delivery (in a refrigerator-size box) seem so effortless. Sales associate Ruth Waterman and ManagerMartha Slagle helped us to pull together reasonably priced outfits for the flowergirls, ring bearer, and others, then to ship everything to our destination, sowe weren’t carting everything through the security backup at the airport.

You can’t take everything with you, but you will certainly try. In our case,we forgot combs and bobby pins to attach the veil to the tiara, and Vail isnot the place to talk tiaras. Fortunately, we had our own senior stylist from theFrederic Fekkai Salon in New York (lucky for us longtime friend RonaldBraso was a guest at the wedding and came to the rescue). Finding someoneto do the bride’s all-important wedding day hairdo could have been a nightmare.

The biggest hassle had to be all the shipping. We sent everything including the flowers,ahead to the hotel. We could hardly get into our room when we arrived with the scores ofboxes piled in our way.

We found that purchasing most of the table accessories -- from candelabra to candy dishes--wasmore affordable than renting and shipping to and from our destination. That, along withthe good deal on roses I was able to get her in spite of the high demand forValentine's Day, helped to keep the final cost from rivaling the national debt.

Whatever the cost, money could not buy the feeling of pride I had in mydaughter as she finally made that walk down the aisle of the chapel in Vail.The look on her face reflected a happiness that money could never buy. It wasfilled with the same appreciation and the anticipation for all the good timesto come that I had seen so many times when she was a little girl.

My daughter thanked me from the bottom of her heart, and so, in turn,let me thank Martha, and Vera and all the other mavens of matrimony, whohelp keep these moments a part of our lives.


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