There is business opportunity in overseas weddings…and Costa Rica is emerging as the new place to be.
It’s estimated that about 8% of U.S. weddings are held overseas, with Mexico being a perennial favorite due to its proximity and established tourist infrastructure.
But Costa Rica is now rated the top destination in Latin America by wedding website TheKnot.com. With 36% of the destination weddings in the region, it’s second only to Mexico in terms of numbers…and ahead of the rest by a large margin. Next up is Belize, with 17%.
All those weddings mean wedding planning businesses—as well as related services like photography, catering, florists, and more—have taken off. After all, putting together your own wedding back home is one thing. But planning one from thousands of miles away…without local contacts, knowledge of local marriage laws, or even having seen a location…is another.
Planners find and decorate venues, arrange food and drink, hire photographers and videographers, and book the officiant—who, in Costa Rica, must be a lawyer or religious official.
Thanks to continued growth in destination weddings, there is room for more wedding planners in the country, though veterans counsel that professional training, experience (often gained by working as an assistant first), local knowledge, and a network of trusted vendors are key to success.
Randy Gritz, of Celebrations Costa Rica has been planning weddings for the last eight years. She started out working with another planner but set up her own business three years ago. Randy, based in Escazu, a suburb of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, first arrived in the country 22 years ago to study Spanish and ended up staying.
Meghan Cox arrived in Costa Rica in 2008 to work for her family’s vacation business, planning custom trips for visitors. Part of her job required her to travel all over, which gave her a tremendous knowledge of the country. “We did a wedding for a long-time client. We got more and more requests and built the business from there,” she explains. In 2009 she started her own company, Our Costa Rica Wedding.
Canadian Larissa Banting was working as a publicist for a film shooting on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast 12 years ago when she met and fell in love with one of the local actors. That set the stage for her move to the country. She planned her own wedding (on the beach in Costa Rica) and those of several friends. So when the travel agency she was working for parted ways with their wedding planner, she grabbed the opportunity. Today she has her own firm, Weddings Costa Rica, based in San Jose, and has a staff of seven.
So what makes Costa Rica such a good wedding destination?
For one, it’s easy to get married as a foreigner and the rules for marriage are straightforward. It’s easy to get to from North America—there are plenty of reasonably priced flights to the country’s two international airports. It’s a safe and stable country.
And, most of all, it’s full of natural beauty that provides the perfect backdrop to a wedding day (not to mention a great little vacation for guests), with palm-fringed, white-sand beaches and lush rainforests being just two of many possibilities.
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