We are excited to kick off the week with our interview with Beth Bernstein and Heather Lynne Vickery of Greatest Destinations Weddings. Stay tuned all week for more travel and destination wedding features!
Photo courtesy of Olivia Leigh Photographie.
Tell us about Greatest Destinations Weddings. What do you specialize in?
Greatest Destinations Weddings is a Chicago-based wedding planning company focusing on Chicago couples planning a destination wedding. Our goal is to help couples assemble the best possible creative team (many of which they can bring with them from Chicago to any destination), streamline the planning process, and guide them each step of the way. Of course, we will also be on-site at the destination to handle every detail of the wedding and other festivities – wherever it is they choose to exchange vows. In essence, “Plan Here. Wed There.”
When did you launch Greatest Destinations Weddings and how did two planners (who are technically ‘competition’) come together to form such a smart business?
We met while collaborating on a project together in May 2011 and clicked immediately. We became fast friends and soon realized that we shared the same business philosophies, passion for perfection, and client-focused approach. (We often joke that we “share a brain.”) We traveled to the Cayman Islands in November 2011 for the Engage Wedding Business Summit and were inspired by meeting so many industry leaders from around the globe and realized we wanted to find a way to combine our talents while utilizing what we learned from the conference as well as make the most of the connections we made there.
We also felt like this was something that was missing from the Chicago market. Many couples here decide to get married somewhere else. Many destination brides will shop for their dresses here, use a local designer to do their invitations, and even hire a photographer to travel to the wedding with them, however, they are still left with planning the wedding themselves, relying on people they’ve never met (the venue manager, florist, etc.), and handling the day-of (or weekend-of) duties themselves. We want to make planning a destination wedding as stress-free as possible by guiding these couples and taking over many of these responsibilities, so they can actually enjoy the planning and the wedding itself.
Love the name! How did you come up with it?
Heather’s company, Greatest Expectations Special Events & Weddings, Inc., has been a leading planning company in Chicago for over a decade. Why not capitalize on the brand recognition of that company and build on it? And the name really says everything we wanted to convey to people when they first see or hear it.
What would you say sets you apart from other event planners or event planning companies?
First would be that while there are many companies that do destination weddings, it is not their primary focus. This is all we do at Greatest Destinations Weddings. And because we each have our own successful, independent businesses, we are taking a very limited amount of clients so we can focus on those weddings completely. It’s not about how many we do, it’s about how we do them. And we do them really, really well.
In your experience, what are some of the top reasons that couples decide to have a destination wedding?
Some couples want to go back to a favorite vacation spot, or where they first met, or perhaps play out a fantasy they might not be able to do in Chicago. (We don’t have many vineyards or beach resorts here…) Most often though, couples choose to have a destination wedding to create an intimate celebration that truly reflects them as a couple. Most destination weddings are smaller in scale and include those that are nearest and dearest to you. Not having to include your parents’ business associates or neighbors really makes the wedding about the couple and their commitment to each other.
What would be your dream destination to coordinate?
While we won’t lie and say we wouldn’t love to be somewhere warm and sunny in the depths of the Chicago winter, Europe is home to some of the most romantic places on earth. Paris is an obvious choice, but the English countryside or an island in Greece, are just as swoon-worthy. But truth be told, our dream really is to create the dream wedding for our couples. It’s not about us. It’s about them.