Destination Days

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It’s not always the case that a bride, groom and their guests are the only ones heading to a destination for their big day. Sometimes floral designers and event planners are hired to come along for the ride and create a dream destination wedding. Pros who do just that say their experiences can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding and memorable. Florists’ Review talked with two experts in the business, Christina Matteucci, executive director of David Beahm Destinations in New York City, and Sean De Freitas, owner of Designs by Sean in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to find out just what it takes to make those destination wedding dreams come true.

DAVID BEAHM DESTINATIONS

The stage was all set for a beautiful outdoor wedding in Barbados. The team from David Beahm Destinations, the destination arm of the New York-based event company David Beahm Experiences, had tended to every detail, even shipping thousands of stems – tulips, Hydrangeas, peonies and roses – in two 24-foot-long temperature-controlled containers.

Then came cocktail hour – and one of the island’s notorious squalls. “The squall hit during cocktail hour, and it didn’t stop and it didn’t stop and it didn’t stop,” says Christina Matteucci, executive director for David Beahm Destinations.

The bride, whose heart had been set on an outdoor wedding, hadn’t even considered the possibility that it might rain. Thankfully, Christina had. An hour before the ceremony, the team cleared out the hotel and set up for an indoor ceremony, just in time. And later, when the squall finally ended, the reception carried on outdoors, so the bride got part of her wish after all.

“You always, always have to have a plan B and even a plan C,” Christina says. “The bride didn’t want to talk about the possibility of rain, but we did. Even when your client says it’s not going to rain, you have to create that scenario just in case.”

Part of what saved the day for that bride and groom was something that Christina says is key no matter where you are – building solid relationships.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to make friends with the teams you are working with,” she says. “You can’t come in and just bulldoze your way through it. It’s so important to create those partnerships. They are going to save your hide when something pops up.”

Christina has staged other weddings and events in places like Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Utah; and Tuscany. She says David Beahm Destinations usually tries to use a mix oflocal vendors and suppliers and then ship in goods from elsewhere. “We aren’t here to steamroll local communities,” she says. “Part of the charm of a destination event is that you are there, in that unique community, so we utilize local talent and supplies to the extent that we can and then supplement where we need to.”

One of the biggest challenges in planning weddings in overseas destinations comes with shipping. Customs can always create delays, which can be disastrous for flowers sitting on a hot tarmac. Christina says she has a solid relationship with her hard-goods expeditor, who has a good relationship with various customs agents. That helps make for smooth sailing.

With flowers, temperature is always a concern as well. In the Barbados case, Christina says the bride didn’t want tropicals, so all of her flowers were shipped in. And because of the warm weather, she says the team waited until just before guests arrived to “blitz the rooms” with flowers so that they wouldn’t fade too quickly.


David Beahm Experiences’ staff traveled 2,000 miles to the Caribbean island of Barbados to create this magical nuptial décor for a wedding at Sandy Lane resort. Photos by Julie Skarratt Photography, New York, N.Y.

“We aren’t here to steamroll local communities. … we utilize local talent and supplies to the extent that we can and then supplement where we need to.”
– Christina Matteucci

Another challenge can be simply the destination itself. For a wedding in Steamboat Springs, for example, Christina and her team were hustling in a city that sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet. It made the work a little tougher, but her crew rolled with it. “It was a lot of heavy work, and you’re busting it, so keeping my team hydrated and rested was key,” she says. “It’s all just part of the adventure.”

DESIGNS BY SEAN

A few years ago, Sean De Freitas, owner of Designs by Sean, a Fort Lauderdale event décor company, was hired to do the design and flowers for a wedding in the Bahamas. The bride had specifically requested peonies for her bouquet, but the night before the nuptials, the peonies had petered out in the island heat.

Faced with a looming disaster, Sean did the only thing he could think of – he had a new shipment of fresh peonies flown in. Problem solved.

“We had to do it,” he says. “It’s not something you can prepare for. Things happen with weather and travel, and so you just have to be ready to react.”

Though many of the events and weddings that Sean does are local – “It’s a destination for them but not for me,” he says – he occasionally gets hired to take on events in other destination locations. Beyond the Bahamas wedding, he also has traveled to Ashville, N.C.; Alaska; and even Ireland for clients.

In some locations, Sean has had to use whatever flowers and hard goods were available nearby. In Alaska, that meant heading out into the wilderness to gather some of what was used for the event, and in Ireland, he was limited to using the local flower markets and grocery stores. While that can be limiting, Sean says it also can be liberating. “The fun is being challenged on different things,” he says. “When it’s a big wedding, you can’t take those risks because you need the quantity, but in many cases you can, as a creative person, go there and design on the fly.”

“From a florist or producer perspective, you have to think ahead about what could happen. … you have to have a backup plan.”

In other scenarios, Sean will have flowers shipped to the location. But that comes with its’ own set of difficulties. For example, flowers might be cheaper to buy in Florida and ship to New York than they would be to purchase on site, but then you’re taking a risk that a flight could be delayed or canceled.“From a florist or producer perspective, you have to think ahead about what could happen,” Sean says. “In any event, you have to have a backup plan.”

Doing destination weddings can be a little more challenging in part because floral designers don’t get to meet with the clients as much as they would if both were local. In fact, sometimes Sean gets to meet clients only once before the big day, if at all. As a result, he says he likes to make sure that brides see at least a sample tablescape or arrangement in advance so there are no surprises.

“Everybody’s interpretation of what they want is different,” he says. “What we think we see and what we actually see – and what someone else sees – is very different, so it’s better to show them an example so you don’t have anxiety and they don’t have anxiety.”

Sean also says that showing an example of his interpretation of what a bride has in mind – and not just duplicating a Pinterest idea that’s been sent in – allows him to be creative while also making his clients happy.

“I like when they say, ‘Put your own style on it,’” he says. “You want them to be involved but not be control freaks because that takes away a lot of the enjoyment. It’s creative. You want to expand on something and put your own expression on it.”

Designs by Sean was contracted to design this floral décor for a client’s rustic/modern wedding at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. – 750 miles from the company’s home base in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Photos by Natalie Watson Photography & Company, Nashville, Tenn.