We’ve been lucky to be a part of many destination wedding & events for some lovely people who plan and hold their wedding in San Antonio…even though they live elsewhere. And as you can imagine, it is a daunting task to plan a destination wedding! And honestly, who am I kidding?? It’s a daunting task to plan *ANY* wedding!! But picture all of the logistic and communication issues that we face when putting together all of the event details…they becoming totally exaggerated when we are nowhere near our venue or any of our vendor team. You have to rely on email, phone, video conferencing etc. And, despite the amazing advances it technology, NOTHING feels better than standing in your venue, in-person, and picturing the flow of your wedding, seeing the tables set-up, tasting your catering, and making sure that every detail is exactly as you imagine it.
So why do people do it? Couple of reasons – either they want a far-off romantic location with a very intimate guest count – Paris, Venice, Mexico, the Caribbean – those all sound pretty nice, huh? Or they are planning the event closer to where their families live. Which helps ensure that all of the important people in their lives can make the wedding since they won’t have to travel. But considering all of the obstacles, how do people do it – and do it well??
I had the privilege to speak with one of our couples, April & Danny, who recently hosted a gorgeous and well executed wedding here in SA – despite planning from out of state. I’d love to share some of our conversation with you. So if you are interested in planning a destination wedding in San Antonio, I hope this will educate and encourage you!
Derek : “Thank you so, so much for taking the time out to connect with us…especially when you probably thought you were finished with weddings for a while! So, before we just dive into wedding do’s and don’ts, do you mind if I ask what was the moment that started all of this – how did you and Danny meet initially?”
April: “I was a dietetic intern at Cleveland Clinic and worked with Pat Verdi (Danny’s Aunt). I wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving, so Aunt Pat invited me over to her sister-in-law’s house for dinner. While I seem like a very out-going person; I get incredibly nervous about meeting new people. Going over to a complete stranger’s house for Thanksgiving was completely out of my comfort zone. Anyways, I met Aunt Pat at her house so we could travel together to her sister in law’s house. I arrived early, so I helped Aunt Pat finish making mashed potatoes. We left. Once we got to Pat’s sister-in-law’s house, we rang the doorbell and waited. A handsome guy opened the door and asked if he could take the mashed potatoes from me. Of course, I said yes! (Later I found out his name is Danny). At dinner that night, Danny and I had great conversation….except for this: I’m embarrassed of this story, but Danny always tells it so I might as well share! One of our first conversations, Danny asked me if I was a fan of the Dallas Cowboy’s (they play on Thanksgiving.) And my response was “not since Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson.” Ugh! Talk about an embarrassing conversation! Luckily he continued to talk to me the rest of the night, haha. I know that conversation didn’t win his heart, but I’m convinced it was my famous Pumpkin Spice cake that ultimately did…or, it could have been that his grandmother – Josephine Verdi – was impressed with that fact that “she didn’t know people still made cake from scratch.” (Any time the family talks about how Danny and I met, she always brings up the cake!). Either way, I got his attention! That night, I left without his number thinking maybe he didn’t feel the connection. I called my mom that night and told her I met the cutest guy in khakis, sweater vest and a tie (it’s kryptonite for me!), but that I didn’t think he felt the spark. Little did I know, Danny called his Aunt Pat the next day and told her he thought I was a sweet girl and wanted to show me around Cleveland; he asked his Aunt Pat for my number. He called me a few days later and asked me to his company’s Christmas party. The rest is history.”
D : “History indeed…good for you! So where do things go from there?”
A : “About 3 years later Danny proposed. He got tickets to see Straight No Chaser, one of our favorite all-male acapella groups. He told me that we had dinner reservations downtown about 6:30pm at my favorite Mexican food restaurant. That day there was a huge snowstorm, so we were running late. We parked at Public Square. And even though we were running late, Danny wanted to walk around Public Square and look at the Christmas lights and giant Christmas tree (side note – being on time to concerts is very important to me – Aaah!!). After we walked around, Danny decided we should take a carriage ride to the restaurant. I found this odd since the restaurant was less than a half a block away, but hey, it was Christmas…and it was snowing…why not?! He sent me inside (I was freezing!) to wait for the carriage ride. A couple minutes later, Danny walked inside and told me that there was a guy taking pictures in front of the Christmas tree and he thought it would be nice to get a picture of us. Bracing the cold, we headed towards the giant Christmas tree. We got about halfway to the tree, and Danny got down on one knee in the middle of Public Square. He opened the box…but couldn’t quite get the question out! He asked “Will you?” a couple times before I replied with “you have to ask the question!!” Seconds later, Danny asked, “Will you marry me?!” Of course, I replied “YES!” A couple walking by saw the entire proposal and snapped a picture of us. We crossed the street and much to my surprise, he actually did have a carriage ride waiting to take us from downtown Cleveland to Playhouse square to see Straight No Chaser. After the concert we met with his cousins and parents at a Christmas party – they had a toast waiting for us!”
D : “Wow!! That’s quite a story! Being from South Texas, it hurts me to think of how cold y’all must have been. I’m glad you actually survived this proposal – personally, I stay away from all things snow (although it looks pretty on TV.) OK, so could I convince you to try something for me?? Can I ask each of you to describe the other?? I think it would be awesome to get to know you both from the other’s perspective, and I really think this is a great way for the readers to find some personal relatability to you guys. Danny is that cool to ask you to start?”
Danny : “Where to start, I can only take a guess as to what the answer to this is because I am sure I have a myriad of nuances that aren’t apparent to me but I know April can pinpoint them all. On the other hand, I know I see things in April she may be quick to refute but again it is hard to identify such perfections or in my case imperfections. I will say that without April I would not know what it means to avoid the dollar menu at any fast food place. It isn’t uncommon for April to say, “Eat healthy now or pay for open heart surgery later.” Without April I would not know the importance to eat healthy from all the food groups, not just a meal that consists of steak and potatoes. This is just one instance on how she makes me a better person. I think in any relationship there needs to be a certain balance or synergy. We often describe our personalities as April being the cautious thinker and me being the one wanting to take things head on. It’s kind of neat how our two personalities mesh well because in different situations April is able to give me factual evidence on why something might not make sense. This is good especially when planning. April knows how to plan and have great structure. Without April I would not know what having a plan means in my personal life. It probably seems April is the one doing all the work. She does a lot of the work but there are times she over thinks too much. Maybe it is not knowing what to wear, no other female has this problem, right! That being one silly example but no matter the case I am able to help move her along. We like to use the term Paraclete when describing what we are to each other meaning we like to be one’s advocate, encourager, and helper in any way possible.”
D : “Sounds like you guys compliment each other well. April, do you have anything to say about Danny?”
A : “Danny is certainly the more spontaneous of us two. I know he says I come ready with a plan; for me, that’s how I achieve optimal balance in both my personal and professional life and it helps me accomplish my to-do list. But….that does leave me burned out and Danny helps me “relax” by being more spontaneous – whether it’s buying a new couch on Sunday and having me help him move it to the second story of his house (it took ALL day!! and I was sore for the next couple of days) or whether it’s trying a new restaurant or going to see a movie on a Sunday afternoon. While he speaks highly of me changing his eating habits, he’s changed me too. Something I really admire about Danny is that he can strike up a conversation with anyone. And I’m serious! There has been multiple times when I’ve left him alone at a restaurant for five minutes, and when I come back, he has several people laughing and talking with him! While I’m in no way comparable to Danny, I’m getting better at meeting new people now which has helped me network for my job. I’ve also learned a better balance between work and play. Prior to Danny I was always working – whether I was bringing work home or staying late at the office. But now, I’ve learned to leave work at work and achieve better balance in my personal life – for that, I’m grateful to have Danny as my partner.“
D : “That’s awesome to find someone who you respect and can challenge you. And it sounds like you have quite a partnership now that you’ve discovered all of these amazing things in each other. But I’m interested in what drew you in to each other in the first place? Like, you are both beautiful people – I totally get the initial attraction! But why did you decide to choose each other for the rest of your lives?? Danny, are you up to taking the first go at this question?”
D : “For starters we both LOVE popcorn. Have you ever met a couple that needs a refill of popcorn before the previews are finished? (Sad, but true!) Getting a little more serious, there are numerous attributes I love and adore about April. Two qualities I love most about April she would probably say is mostly fallacy. April is extremely confident and charismatic. I would not say any of this right now if this were untrue about her. She came to my family’s thanksgiving while completing an internship with the Cleveland Clinic. Her and my aunt worked together and my aunt did not want to see someone have to spend the holiday alone. It would be easy for April to have said she already had plans or simply didn’t want to go. The moment I met her I knew there was something special about her and the way she was able to exhibit such maturity. She knew how to have an intelligent conversation with a room full of complete strangers. I didn’t have to think long before calling Aunt Patty to get April’s number. Even on our ‘first date’ there was something about her hard to verbalize that I admired so deeply. This could explain why the day we got engaged it was like someone had glued my mouth shut when asking that four word question, “Will you marry me?” I only made it to 50% and got the “will you….?” part. April moved 1500 miles from her hometown to spend the rest of her life with me, what is not to love about that? April is a dietitian at University Hospital where she works daily to reduce childhood obesity. She cares about people and I love that about her. Her neighbor Laura is 83 years old and has trouble getting around. April will take Laura grocery shopping (a six hour event) even though April will have to go back the next day to do her own grocery shopping. April is an exemplary caring person that I couldn’t look more forward to spending the rest of my life with.“
A : “There are so many things that I absolutely love about Danny – honestly, how could I be so lucky?! For starters, I love how driven and ambitious Danny is – he is a go-getter. When Danny first began his job almost 5 years ago, the financial markets took a turn for the worse. Most people said he was crazy because he entered into the financial business at the worst possible time – unlike other colleagues, he wasn’t given a book of business to start from. Instead, he had to build his own client base. I admire Danny for all the hard work and late nights be puts into making his business successful. Sometimes, I joke that he secretly golfs while “working,” but this past year he worked so hard that he was rewarded with a trip to Switzerland. Danny believes in working hard, but also playing hard – so I guess a late night of golf isn’t so bad! I love how Danny can make me laugh. I’ll admit that I’m probably the more serious of us too, the worrier in our partnership….so he balances me out. Whether I’ve had a bad day or it’s just the two of us enjoying a glass of wine or cold beer on a patio, he knows how to have a good time. He never takes me too serious (thank goodness sometimes!) and he doesn’t take himself too serious either. And lastly, I love how caring of a person Danny is. Sometimes Danny will surprise me at work and take me out to lunch – I absolutely love how spontaneous he can be at times. But probably the best way of knowing how caring he is to look at our dog, Samantha. Danny has always wanted a dog growing up. At the time, I was opposed to the idea of getting a dog because it’s a lot of work (I had two dogs growing up) and he works late nights. But one day, Danny asked me to come over after work and much to my surprise there was Samantha, the adoption lady and Danny with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen. Danny was beaming ear to ear. His face alone told me he found the perfect dog for us. And after seeing Sammy, how could I NOT say yes! He loves that dog so much – he has trained her very well to do tricks, he will stop at home to let her out and play with her if he has to work late, but his favorite time with Sammy is when he cuddles with her on the couch (and he’ll probably kill me for telling you that!).”
D : “You guys are wonderful. Thanks for sharing all of the personal info. So, let’s talk about the wedding a bit. Why a destination wedding?? And why San Antonio??”
A : “Although Danny and I both live in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up near San Antonio, Texas. We both agreed that we wanted the wedding in Texas. We also wanted the wedding to be near the airport and downtown so that our guests who would be traveling could get to our wedding and sight see via walking or a short taxi ride. We looked many venues near downtown and eventually ended up booking The Historic Sunset Station – it had all the charm and amenities we were looking for.“
D : “Are you happy with the choice?”
A : “Absolutely! After booking the venue, we called my grandparents to share the big news. We loved Sunset Station the moment we saw it. For those that aren’t familiar with this venue, it used to be a train station. That night on the telephone, my grandpa told us that he actually met his loved ones at Sunset Station when he was coming home from World War II. After hearing this story, we knew this was the right venue for us!“
D : “But, how did you choose the venue, or any of your other vendors for that matter while you were in Ohio? Did you have family here helping?”
A : “Yes, my mom was a huge help in planning the wedding – she did most of the in-person meet and greets and also attended several open houses for the vendors we were interested in. My twin sister, and maid of honor, also helped call different vendors – she even made spreadsheets so Danny and I could look at them and choose the vendor we thought fit our needs the best. This helped us stay organized and make pros/cons of all our vendors! Despite all this wonderful help, I didn’t want to burden any of my family or friends with day of coordination. And that’s when I talked to Moments and Milestones about booking a day-of-coordinator. It was my hope that my family and friends could take part in the day without having to worry about all the other background “stuff.” I wanted them to enjoy the day just as much we would.“
D : “That sounds like it was a really, really good choice – I’ve heard those guys are nothing short of amazing! 🙂 But anyways, would you have attempted to plan without your mom here…or at least some local help?”
A : “No – there is no way I could have pulled off such a flawless wedding without my family or the help of our coordinator!“
D : “I know every wedding is different, but for you guys – what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced during the planning season?”
A : “The biggest challenge was meeting all my vendors face-to-face. Sometimes it’s so much easier to have a one hour meeting to work on details and ask questions than email or call. Most of the time, I had to plan multiple vendor meetings when I visited my family. Between my availability and their schedule, it did create conflict. However, most of my vendors were easy to work with and found time to meet with me since I was out of the state. My mom also met with some of the vendors – she is more of the creative/DIY type of person – so she handled the cake, flowers, and picked out the linens, china and chairs.”
D : “Good advice. So, how were you all able to connect and get on the same page with style, vision, and budget, you know – all of those MAJOR details that make a wedding come together?”
A : “Danny and I worked together on setting the budget for the wedding. When it comes to budgeting, I think the most important thing is talking about it – set a budget, inform your family and vendors and stick to it. Chances are people are willing to work with you and/or you can find someone within your price range. And I worked with my mom frequently on my vision for the wedding. What helped my mom the most was sending her pictures of things I wanted for the wedding and letting her know what was on my “do not like” list. We make a great team – I have the vision and she helped me bring it to life! This really helped because she was able to meet with our florist, cake designer and venue to help pick out colors for napkins, cake, flowers, china, chairs, etc.“
D : “Well, I can attest personally that the wedding was a huge success – so kudos to you for handling things so well. Do you have any particular advice for brides-to-be who are planning a destination wedding?”
A : “When planning a destination wedding, the most important thing is to find good local help – both my mom and my day-of coordinator were a huge help. My mom worked with the vendors to work on my vision and the coordinator came in to help with the timeline and last minute planning.”
D : “Excellent. How about for all of the parents, or the “local help” who are teaming up with the brides and grooms…any thoughts for them?”
A : “Communication is key – be clear on what the vision, budget and style is like. I sent pictures to my mom of my vision for the wedding and she sent me pictures of projects she was working on to make sure it was what I had in mind. Tap into the strengths of those that are local – my mom is very creative and helped turn my vision into reality…I’m not the DIY type of person, so I used my mom’s strengths and creativity. The coordinator knew most of the vendors we worked with which was a huge help. She also helped with materials and decorations – like using the church arrangements as decorations for the venue which helped save money too! What really helps is know what you can and cannot do so you can ask for help. That’s the most important thing – pick the things you have the time to work on and ask for help with things you don’t or won’t have time to work on. You don’t have to do it all – so find the people that can whether it’s family or you hire someone. For us, it was important to have my family and friends enjoy the day with us and be fully present, so we chose to hire a coordinator that could help with all the background details. It was one of the best things we decided to do for us and for our family.“
D : “I totally agree. So April, obviously I know how you connected with us. And you know we were totally excited to both coordinate and photograph the wedding. But, obviously there were a ton of vendors who helped the day come together. Since you have the rather unique situation of planning from out of state, how did you guys go about finding your vendors?”
A : “Well, my mom attended many open houses. We found Moments & Milestones at the open house at Sunset Station. For venues we were interested in and wanted to see their work, my mom attended their open houses. Of course, once we decided on Sunset Station, they provide the catering, the bar service and linens.
And we asked other vendors – probably the most help we received in finding vendors was through Moments & Milestones. Because they are in the wedding business, they were able to provide us with a list of vendors, like our DJ – Lumen Events. We then contacted the vendors and set up appointments and did homework on our end to make sure they were a good fit.
We also asked our friends and family – I’m sure we’ve all put out the desperate Facebook posts. And don’t be afraid to! When I just didn’t know who else to ask, we sent posted to social media. I grew up near San Antonio, so I still have a lot of family and friends in the area, some of which have been married. That’s how we found Debbie from Oakleaf Florist!
You can’t rely on this, but we ran into a bit of blind luck – this is actually how we found our videographer. I was looking for a videographer and found a couple websites, but I just felt overwhelmed and lost. Then, I remembered seeing a video of a wedding on Sunset Station’s website and found the company who did that video on Facebook. I noticed one of my longtime friends had “liked” their page so I reached out to her and asked about her experience. Ultimately, we booked them!
Also, I can’t stress enough that you need to meet with your vendors in person to determine if they are a right fit for you. The reality is that there are a lot of vendors in the business, so never feel stuck with a vendor. If they aren’t the right fit for you, that’s okay…you will find someone who is.“
D : “These are wonderful ideas. Great advice. So, was there anyone on your vendor list who you feel really stepped up and hit it out of the park?? Who out of these vendors would you say is a must for any future brides and grooms out there?”
A : “So, I’m not just saying this because we’re talking, but I would say Moments & Milestones! This group was by far the best and easiest to work with. My mom had a good feeling about them the moment she met Derek and Aimee at Historic Sunset Station’s Open House. Something my mom found unique about M&M is how they used the time between signing the contract and our wedding to get to know us – and not just on a superficial level. Aimee called me periodically throughout our engagement just to check in – how cool is that?! Derek might have said it to me when we first met to talk about our wedding…but he mentioned how they would spend the next year just getting to know us, so that on our wedding day it felt like our best friends were taking the pictures. And that’s exactly how I felt! I felt like I’d know them forever and that we were just hanging out to get some really cool pics. Beside photography, Danny and I used M&M throughout our wedding for vendor ideas. They were always quick to respond and provided a good list which helped us find the perfect fit for us. Being from out of town, I didn’t have time to meet with every vendor – I needed just a simple list that I could make a couple calls and connect with 1 or 2 of them when I came to town.
The icing on the cake for us was our coordinator. I had considered hiring a coordinator, but didn’t know where to get a good one. Aimee happened to call me one evening and I asked if she knew of any coordinators she could recommend. (OMG sorry, I forgot that was a service you provided!). Anyways, of course I hired y’all. And that started about one month before our wedding and then you took over completely about 2 weeks prior to the wedding. My expectations were high because I needed a coordinator with a high attention to detail, someone who is highly organized, quick on their feet, able to adjust/adapt quickly, creative, and most importantly, likes to have fun! While this was a tall order, you far exceeded the expectations. As a Bride, you spend an entire year or more planning and planning your wedding, so you’d like to think that “You’ve thought of it all,” but I didn’t. And that’s where our coordinator came in – she managed and thought of it all! She helped to fill in gaps I didn’t even know were missing. She really helped me make the vision of the wedding I wanted into a reality.
And the day off – I’ll never know or understand all that she did to make our wedding day flawless. I don’t doubt there were bumps in the road that day, but I didn’t know about them. She handled it all and make it looked so effortless and easy. I heard from other brides that their coordinator became a burden by the end of the night because they were constantly asking questions. It wasn’t like that at all – we worked together a lot prior to the wedding so there were no questions the day of. She adapted and adjusted our timeline throughout the evening to make everything run smoothly.
She went above and beyond to make it not only a special day for Danny and me, but also for my family and friends. I heard from our bridal party and parents that she asked to get them drinks and/or water throughout the night, even bringing me and my guests’ water without asking. That’s a high level of customer service you don’t usually hear about. And trust me, I kept hearing how awesome my coordinator was! Needless to say, my friends and family were so impressed! I’ve heard from so many brides that there wedding day was a blur, so much happened so quickly that they miss it. I didn’t want that, I wanted to remember everything, all the details. And y’all made that possible – at one point, I stood back and just looked at all the details, our friends and family dancing and was so appreciative of the hard work that each of my vendors did to make this truly The Best Day Ever.“
D : “April, you two are very, very kind. And we were so sincerely honored to work with you and your families. Thanks for being good sports and taking the time to answer all of my questions.”
And there you have it. A very successful destination wedding. I hope you were able to get a few ideas from April & Danny’s experience. Please leave an encouraging word for April & Danny in the comments. If you have questions or need help or advice planning your wedding, you can leave us a comment or contact us directly – we’d be totally happy to help you in any way that we can.
Thanks a ton for reading. Cheers everyone…