Here is an interview with Carla, who has kindly agreed to answer a few question on how South Pacific Weddings work. The piece will certainly help you with your wedding. She is based in new Zealand and; is literally full of interesting facts and information for you, the couples; wanting to get married in Fiji.
Anais : For how long have you been working for South Pacific Wedding?
Carla : South Pacific Weddings is a division of our general travel agency (World Travellers King Country) and I purchased both businesses off the previous owners in February 2014. I have been working in the general Travel Agency since 2006, selling worldwide travel including the South Pacific and the destination in the South Pacific that I have travelled to are Fiji (3 times), Samoa (where my husband and I honeymooned), Rarotonga, Vanuatu and Tahiti over this time. So I took over South Pacific Weddings from Denise Knutson in February 2014, Denise was running this division of the business from home since she created the idea about 10 years ago. Over the previous 8 years working for Denise I assisted with lots of the wedding groups and it was something that I always thought was exciting, not knowing one day it would be my job. The Bride and Groom put a lot of trust in me to be part of organising their special day so I take this very seriously.
But as I have visited most of the Resorts we deal with (some on more than one occasion in my travel career) I know them fairly well and am confident with the South Pacific Wedding process, however every wedding is slightly different.
How did you become an event manager / wedding planner?
As above I just took over the business from the previous owner. As Denise used to work from her own home and I was starting my family around this time it worked perfectly for me to step out of the general travel agency and work from home on South Pacific Weddings. As
we deal with clients from all around New Zealand and even some from Australia, we don’t often meet our clients with all correspondence being via e-mail and phone,
so working from home suits perfectly for this job.
What are South Pacific Wedding specificities?
Our specialities include organising the wedding itself and liaising between the bride and groom and the Resort to convey their wishes for their wedding day.
I prepare a document which we work through individual to each couple with everything from the flowers to wedding cake, hair and make-up, photographer and music, meals etc.
I also prepare a document to accompany their save-the-date cards and one to accompany their wedding invites which gives their wedding guests information about how I can assist them to book their own travel arrangements including, flights, accommodation and transfers.
Our main destinations we use are Fiji, Rarotonga and Samoa and occasionally Vanuatu. We also can deal with any Resorts at each destination, however we have a few in each location which we deal with frequently and recommend, however we make sure that the wedding destination/Resort will suit each and every couple’s individual wishes.
This varies greatly, Denise was organising approx. 10-12 per year however since I have taken over the business this has dropped off slightly to approx. 8-10 per year.
What are your favorite part of the job?
Dealing with the bride to organise each and every part of her perfect wedding day, and then hearing how well things went – it is very special to be a part of this for so many couples.
How many guests can your client have?
Basically any number from 2-300, it all depends on the location/resort they choose, but we do have options to cater for all wedding sizes and one of the first questions we ask our guests is how many guest they anticipate attending and we recommend a venue based on this J
What budget would you recommend for a couple who want to get married in Fiji?
Again this can vary greatly and can be tailored to suit each couple, from a very basic wedding ceremony itself costing approx. NZD$1200.00 to something more elaborate including and all-inclusive for NZD$10,000 to include a reception celebration for 50 guests. As this is a very personal thing once again we can come up with some options to suit each and every couple who enquires. However quite often this is totally doable for the bride and groom, but it can be the cost to the guests that may stipulate whether the overseas wedding goes ahead.
If the event is outdoor do you offer options if it’s raining?
Yes there will be a back-up wet weather venue organised by the Resort and in consultation with the bride and groom, they will decide on the day which venue they will be setting up dependant on the weather forecast.
What are the common timeline? (schedule)
Generally the wedding is booked 12-24 months in advance to secure the location as many resorts only allow one wedding per day so that this is exclusive for the bride and groom. Then within this timeframe we organise all the finer details of the wedding itself.for the wedding day itself then this varies on what the bride and groom would like.
The sun sets in the South Pacific at approximately 6.00pm, there is no twilight so it is dark within a few minutes of sunset. I therefore suggest their wedding is at approx 3.30pm (which runs for approx. 20-30 minutes) followed by photos and pre-dinner drinks and canapés (while the bridal party is off having professional photos)
and then the wedding reception to commence at 6.30pm with dinner ready at 7pm.
Can you tell me about your different packages? What extra do you offer? (firework, celebrant…)
There are far too many options to list as every Resort has different packages to offer, but as an example Mana Island in Fiji have a package for approx. NZD$5000.00 that includes the following…
Choice of Beach Wedding or Chapel Wedding venue hire including – Personal Wedding Coordinator, Marriage License, Wedding Venue Set-up, Celebrant/Church Minister, Bouquet and button hole, Choir and Serenade
4 Nights Accommodation in the Deluxe Ocean View Bure for the Bride & Groom – including Sparkling Wine and Fruit Platter upon arrival, Breakfast per Adult per day, Maximum 2 Adults.
Wedding Reception for 20 people, to include – Set Menu or Nightly Theme Buffet, Three hours beverage package, Wedding Dinner Set Up, Wedding Cake (1 Tier)
There are always extra items that can be added to these packages for additional costs, such as flowers, photography, hair and make-up etc etc the list goes on.
Do you offer different options for the decoration / set up?
Yes they can cater to suit what each bride has in mind, also depends on venue chosen – beach, gardens, chapel etc.
Do you do organise wedding rehearsal?
they can have a rehearsal if they like, some resorts allow this free of charge and others add a fee for this.
Do any of your packages include honeymoon?
Yes some do, there are also great incentives that some Resorts offer for the bride and groom for a free honeymoon if their wedding guests book a certain number of nights etc – e.g Plantation Island Resort offer a free 3 night honeymoon at Lomani Island Resort (which is the sister property next door which is Adults only) if the wedding guests book 15 rooms nights for a minimum of 5 nights (75 nights total).
Do you do a contract with your clients? Is there a deposit is required to book with South Pacific Weddings? When is the final payment due?
No I don’t have a contract with my clients as such with my clients, however some of the Resorts have a contract with the Bride and Groom. Yes the Resorts charge a deposit (again varies between Resorts) and I charge a coordination fee is $300.00 and this forms part of the initial non-refundable initial deposit required. This fee covers the extra items I provide for then to include producing the newsletter
and the double sided flyer with a booking/quotation forms,
providing copies of my photos we have taken ourselves of the resort to include the interior of all room grades, resort facilities, wedding venues etc, providing copies of menus and beverage lists, wedding vows and other information, producing the detailed wedding day planner
that will list all the items relating to your wedding day with costs etc, handling the forms required for the marriage licence application etc. Final payment for travel arrangements of the guests is not due until approx. 65 days prior to departure and the wedding balance is normally due between 1-2 months prior to wedding date.
What is your refund or cancellation policy?
Deposits and non-refundable but as balance is not due until much closer to the time it is just the deposit which is non-refundable. Some of the Resort have their own cancellation fees for example Sheraton Samoa require the bride and groom to sign a contract which outlines minimum revenue required from the wedding group and this is payable should the wedding not go ahead. Again
terms and conditions from each Resort as to how they deal with this does change but if a contract is required by the Resort all of these terms
and conditions are outlined in there for the bride and groom to check and make sure they are happy before going ahead to sign and send deposit.
Is there any story you wish to add?
No story, however more info can be found on our website. We have dealt with many situations and group numbers – one of the largest groups that Denise dealt with prior to myself purchasing the business was Jerome Kaino’s wedding in Samoa.
And a bride who recently got married in Rarotonga left that testimonial :
“First of all we just want to say a massive thank you for all your help, organisation and booking of travel that you did for us! It was so great to be able to do it all through one place and you made it so easy 🙂 You have been so lovely to work with, friendly, happy and made the whole experience of planning a wedding enjoyable and smooth sailing.
We had the most amazing time in Rarotonga and Aitutaki and everything ran so smoothly from the flights, transfers and accommodation to the wedding. It was such a nice relaxing feeling to be able to hop off the plane and know that everything was planned.
Pacific Resort were fantastic in all regards and Leilani (wedding/guest relations) was an absolute star.
We didn’t have much to do with Veronica but we met with Leilani almost daily and she did everything she could to make sure that our day was perfect. She was incredibly calm and always with a smile on her face. She even told me if I needed her at any time of the day to ring reception and they would put me through to her home. She took her job very seriously and she was very passionate about what she does. The wedding planner document that we had worked on and that you had supplied the resort was awesome and Leilani constantly referred to this and made the whole wedding set up and organisation of the day run really well.
Thank you so much again Carla for everything! As I’ve said before I don’t think I could have done it without you. You made the whole wedding planning a breeze. We are extremely impressed with your
professionalism and how organised and amazing you were and we will definitely be recommending you to other friends and family looking at getting married in the Pacific Islands. All the feedback from our guests was nothing short of amazing and everyone had a beautiful time. Thank you for making everything fun and easy and we also will be using you in the future for our future travel arrangements.
A wedding is one of the most important things in a couple’s life and you have helped us have the most perfect magical wedding and we will remember this always :)”
South Pacific Weddings website : www.spweddings.co.nz/
Mana Island : http://manafiji.com/
Plantation Island resort : http://www.plantationisland.com/
Wedding at the Sofitel, Nadi by Anais Photography
Phone : +61 04 35 83 07 92FJ : +679 93 210 24