Want a Completely Private Destination Wedding? Rent a Resort

If you’ve ever wanted a weekend-long wedding in your own personal enclave, buying out a resort, where you would have the entire property to yourself, might be the perfect option.

Buyouts provide couples and their guests with exclusivity, flexibility, and a host of other benefits. And they are often comparable in price to more traditional venues.

Almost anything can be customized at the resort, and the usual rules put in place to ensure the comfort of all resort guests can often be relaxed.

“When you buy out, you have the joy of all the people you love all together in one space and throughout a weekend together, connecting them more deeply and creating this unique sense of belonging,” said Alison Greer, 32, who had a buyout wedding Nov. 7, 2000 at Dive Palm Springs in Palm Springs, Calif. “There is no outside noise, and every face you see is someone you love.”

Inspired by the French Riviera of the 1960s, Dive Palm Springs is a boutique resort with just 11 rooms. For buyouts, it requires a two-night minimum stay. Guests pay the normal nightly rates for the rooms (which right now start at $215 a night for a King-size bed) and there is also a one-time site fee of $5,000. Wedding costs like flowers, cake, photography and D.J., are additional.

Ms. Greer, who leads the human resources department at MagicLinks in Venice, Calif., says she was a little self-conscious about what people might think when she told them she was buying out a resort for her wedding. “I’m not a millionaire or a movie star,” she said. “And the whole thing felt really overwhelming.” But despite those initial misgivings, Ms. Greer and her now-husband, Daniel Benesch, a 36-year-old graphic designer and photographer in El Segundo, Calif., have no regrets.

They discovered the property when Ms. Greer was researching Airbnbs for their wedding. One of the property owners she spoke to was Dale Fox, an owner of Dive who suggested the resort. “It’s an oasis in the desert,” Ms. Greer said, “And when Dave said, ‘Dive is for lovers,’ I knew it was perfect. When you go there you really feel it. Everything is so intentional and so romantic. We got to do a custom wedding and even design a custom ice cream with the chef.”

For the best results, Ms. Greer says, couples need to be clear about the experience they want and find the resort and staff that can make that happen. She suggests taking full advantage of what a resort has to offer and hiring a planner.

Ms. Greer and Mr. Benesch, who is known as Doogie, spent about $40,000 on a photographer and videographer, florals, planning and coordination, rentals and other expenses for the weekend event, with the majority of guests paying for their own accommodations. “The resort was the perfect size for us,” Greer said. “We have not regretted our decision for even two seconds.”

(The couple requested that all 17 guests take Covid tests before the wedding, and they reached out to all of them ahead of time to gauge their comfort level. Although the guests did not wear masks, all the vendors and staff did.)

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All weddings have their unique drawbacks. A buyout, like most destination weddings, has its own unique challenges including, number of people willing and able to attend; resort availability for specific dates; possible stricter cancellation and deposit terms; and difficulty in obtaining certain items.

Brandon Mercade, 37, a painting contractor, and Madison Mercade, 30, a system configuration specialist in human resources for SnapChat, who live in Redondo Beach, Calif., said none of those issues stood in their way when choosing to do a resort buyout for their wedding on Halloween weekend 2020, which they did at Mar del Cabo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They were the resort’s first buyout wedding during Covid. It was the only resort to which they had spoken that agreed to close the entire property for them, including all of the restaurants and other amenities. “We found this boutique hotel and it felt super personal,” said Mr. Mercade. “It would have been weird with other people there.”

Mar del Cabo has a three-night minimum stay for a buyout. The cost is $21,500 per night, for accommodations in the 48 suites. Other buyout benefits include a cocktail hour with guacamole bar and two-night stay for the couple’s first wedding anniversary, as well as massages and a romantic turndown for the wedding couple. The wedding is an additional cost. Face masks are required on the property except at outdoor events with food and beverages. Social distancing is observed and temperature and oxygenation level checks are done upon check-in. Free COVID-19 antibody tests are offered on-site.

Eighty-two guests attended their wedding on Halloween weekend 2020 and, Mr. Mercade, said, the property allowed them to enjoy the property like it was their own. “Just tell us what you want, they said, and we’ll do it, and they really did it. The manager was always there to help,” Mr. Mercade said.

The couple say they have no regrets. But they do have advice for other couples. When it comes to your contract, start simple. “It’s a lot easier to add things — like more time — than to take them away. And find a good wedding planner,” Mr. Mercade said. Their planner was extremely helpful with specifics, the couple said, like working with all of the local vendors.

The whole thing cost the couple “Just north of $100,000,” Mr. Mercade said, “plus the rooms and the flights.” The guests covered their own rooms, booking through a link created just for the purpose, which totaled about $60,000 in whole. And, the couple said, the resort worked with them when they ended up not filling five of the resort’s rooms.

Wedding guests tested and/or quarantined before the wedding, and friends and family considered high risk did not attend. “A lot of our friends were so excited to travel again and no Covid cases came out of our wedding. We asked everyone to stay on property. And, our welcome bags did include personalized masks and Purell bottles,” Ms. Mercade said.

Resorts around the world, including Dive Palm Palm Springs and Mar del Cabo, offer buyout wedding options from the super simple to the stunningly sublime all depending on your budget and your desires. Here are a few resorts and hotels to consider for a truly private wedding celebration.

W Punta de Mita, on a secluded beach in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico offers 119 rooms. Rates start at $369 per room per night plus a $240 per room daily food and beverage minimum (or purchase of all-inclusive meal plan). For buyouts, guests must book at least 90 rooms for at least 3 nights. Wedding couples receive perks like a complimentary guest room upgrade for the bridal couple and a romantic day-after breakfast. The rates do not include the cost of the wedding. Masks are only required when indoors, and they offer on-site antigen and PCR COVID-19 testing.

Casa Palopó, seated above Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, is a private home turned boutique hotel. Three of their suites feature their own infinity pools and two helipads. The cost to buyout the entire property is $5,555 per night, plus taxes and includes a family style breakfast, complimentary tortilla bar experience, and use of all hotel amenities. All fifteen rooms must be booked for a minimum of two nights. The wedding is additional and starts at $6,000 for 30 guests. Guests must be tested two days before the event and that can be done at the hotel. No masks required once negative results are received.

Plaza Beach and Dive Resort Bonaire offers 126 suites. This Caribbean, oceanfront resort even has a Padi 5 Star Dive Center called Toucan Diving on-site. Minimum stay and rates are seasonally based and can be either all-inclusive or bed-and-breakfast. Wedding package pricing starts at $3,000. The resort follows all local Covid regulations. Masks are not required as long as negative COVID-19 test results are presented up arrival. Covid testing is available on-site.

Jade Mountain in Soufriere Bay, St. Lucia is a highly secluded resort built into the side of a towering cliff with 29 “sanctuaries.” Each is totally open to the elements and offers en-suite infinity pools, giant four-poster canopy beds, private butler service, and sweeping views. The resort requires a four-night minimum for buyouts with rates from $45,000 per night, plus $166 per person daily to add an all-inclusive meal plan. The cost of the wedding is not included. Masks are required unless guests are seated at a table enjoying food and drinks. Rapid antigen and PCR tests can be administered on-site.

Caerula Mar Club in San Andros, Bahamas, the Bahamas’ least inhabited island, has a three-night minimum stay for buyouts, with rates starting from $32,000 a night. Originally built in the 1960s, the property was restored by Bryan and Sarah Baemler of HGTV fame. It includes six private villas and 18 Clubhouse Suites. Buyouts can accommodate up to 56 guests and include meals, nonmotorized water sports, transfers, event coordination, and other perks. Weddings are coordinated by a third party at an additional cost. Guests are not required to wear masks on property. Rapid antigen tests are administered on-site.

Habitas Tulum is a sustainable property tucked between the jungle and the sea and offers guest a choice between jungle, ocean, and pool rooms. It has a three-night minimum for buyouts. Rates are based on time of year and inclusions. For example, a 3-night buyout in June would be priced from $13,825 per night for accommodation only. They follow all local Covid protocol. They can provide Covid tests upon request.

Hotel Ranga is on the South Coast of Iceland, considered the country’s adventure capital, and is well-situated for viewing the Northern Lights when in season. A complete buyout includes access to all 52 rooms, daily breakfast, and exclusive use of all of the property facilities. A winter buyout, for the rooms only, requires a two-night minimum and is approximately $53,000 a night with weddings starting at $18,000. The property follows all local Covid regulations. The hotel can arrange for on-site Covid testing.

Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club in Brewster, Massachusetts, located on Cape Cod, allows guests to buyout The Mansion, a Victorian-style building; The Villages, a collection of cozy villas; or both. Weddings can be done on the beach, by the pool, on the lawn, or in the grand indoor ballroom. Minimum required stay and rates vary based on season. Guests are required to wear masks except for when they are eating and the resort follows all local Covid regulations at the time of the stay. On-site Covid testing is available.

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