Ultimate Destination Wedding Planning Guide to a Resort Wedding Buyout

Everyone is familiar with a resort wedding or hotel wedding. Whether or not you’re having a destination wedding, planning one at a resort is always a popular option.

Because not only are they naturally built for events, but you can also stay onsite! And this makes both your getting ready location and your wedding night plans very easy.

But if you are having a destination wedding, choosing to have a resort wedding is even more popular.

Because all your guests will need accommodations anyway.

And having the option to house everyone together can make for a really fun wedding.

But, there’s a special kind of resort wedding that not many couples think about and that’s the resort wedding buyout.

I’m a big fan of the resort wedding buyout! So, I wanted to share more about this type of destination wedding venue and give you the ultimate guide to help you figure out if a resort wedding buyout is right for you.

The Resort Wedding Buyout

Pool area of the Mauna Kea beach resort wedding on the Big Island by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Emily Piraino Photography)

So, first, let’s talk about what a resort wedding buyout is…

It’s when you literally buy a resort or hotel out. Meaning you are reserving every single room.

Which means no other guests.

By buying out every single room you are, in a manner of speaking, owning the hotel for those dates.

It’s just you and your guests taking over a hotel for a period of time.

The Benefits

Everyone photo with the married couple and guests at a wedding in Hawaii by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Christie Pham Photography)

So, why would you do this?

Buying out a resort comes with a lot of benefits and the first is privacy.

With a buyout you don’t have to worry about other guests watching or crashing your wedding.

You don’t have worry about disturbing other guests, or about noise.

Because you know it’s just you and your guests and that’s it! Which also means your wedding will feel very intimate as well.

Another benefit is flexibility.

Because you don’t have to worry about other guests, you have a lot of control.

Control with regards to what you’re planning, how late you can party until and more.

Because the hotel is only catering to your group, they don’t have to worry about making sure the rest of their guests are happy. They only have to make sure that you’re happy.

And that allows for much more flexibility and control than a resort would typically allow.

Some rules can be bent, and others can go completely out the window.

And with the hotel only having to worry about you and your group, this also means much more focused attention. And that is always nice.

Because you’re all staying in one place, it also makes it easy from a planning perspective for both you and your guests.

Because everyone knows where they’re staying, there’s no thinking or research required.

It also makes it easy to plan all your other events as well. You could literally do everything onsite and never leave. Or if you organize an off site event or two, shuttling will be easy to coordinate.

But the biggest benefit is that you get to be with all your guests for the entire wedding weekend.

This allows for more time together not just for you, but for your guests as well.

Because casual meet ups are easy and doing spontaneous things together is easy.

And as spending quality time with your guests is one of the biggest reasons (if not the biggest reason) to have a destination wedding, having a resort wedding buyout really helps to create opportunities to have that time.

How it works

Boho wedding reception with long farm tables at a glamping wedding at Autocamp Yosemite by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Mary Meck Weddings)

Now that you know what it is and what the benefits are, let’s talk about how a buyout works.

So when you buyout a resort, you’re reserving all the hotel rooms or accommodations (sometimes it’s not a room, but a tent or an airstream or a cabin).

Typically you’ll either be paying for all the rooms upfront and having your guests reimburse you or you’ll pay a deposit and have your guest book their room directly with the hotel.

The mechanics of this can vary, but the idea is that you’re blocking off a whole hotel for a specific number of nights.

You can think of it like a really big hotel room block.

The contract will be similar, but it will be for the entire hotel vs. just 10-20 rooms.

The cons

Wakiki beach Oahu destination wedding in Hawaii by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: What a Day! Photography)

While I am a big fan of buyouts for all the reasons mentioned above, there are some very clear cons that you need to know about before you dive in.

These cons are also why most couples don’t do buyouts. And thus also why most don’t know too much about it.

So the biggest con is also a benefit. Having the hotel to yourself means booking all the rooms. But booking all the rooms, means you’re on the hook for EVERY single room.

This means if you don’t fill every room (for whatever reason), you still have to pay for it.

And for many couples, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Paying for something you’re not using, isn’t fun for anyone.

The benefit you get from paying for that empty room is privacy, flexibility, time (and all the benefits we talked about). But those benefits have to be worth the cost to you.

Because it’s very hard to find a hotel whose number of rooms, style, location, price, etc… fits your needs exactly.

You’ll likely end up at a resort with more rooms than you need. Or you’ll have to be willing to adjust your guest list to fit a smaller room count so you can fill it completely.

Either way, it requires a bit more work and coordination and potentially more money to make it happen.

By putting all your guests in one hotel means you’re also taking away their options.

And for some guests this can be a big con.

With most destination weddings, couples will provide multiple hotel recommendations or room blocks and then let their guests decide where to stay.

This gives their guests flexibility to choose where they want to stay, but more importantly how much they want to spend. Because there are costs associated with being a wedding guest.

And with one hotel, you’re forcing your guests to choose this one place and pay the amount required.

And that means you have to have a plan to help alleviate the costs.

Because it’s not nice to force someone into a choice without doing something to help with that forced choice.

It’s similar to the rule of thumb that applies to your wedding party expenses. By choosing this hotel and dictating that everyone stay there means you have to help cover those costs.

For example, if the room rate is $400/night, you’d could cover $150 a night, making it only $250/night for your guests. And that is obviously much more approachable than $400.

But what that means is that your venue cost will be much higher than normal. So your budget needs to be large enough to accommodate those extra costs.

How to start planning a resort wedding buyout

Bride and groom kiss at their Anguilla wedding at the Frangipani resort in the Caribbean by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Savanah Loftus)

So if the cons don’t scare you off and you’re excited about the idea of taking over a resort, then let’s start planning!

It really is a fun way to have a destination wedding because it gives your guests a shared and exclusive experience.

It’s unlikely to be something they (or you) will experience again and that makes it special and fun.

I promise you’ll love it!

What you need and what to know

Elegant floral grand entrance to the wedding reception on the lawn at Calistoga Ranch by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Emik Nikora)

In order to start thinking more seriously about this and doing research, you need a few things first.

You need your base foundation before you do anything. And when I say your foundation, I mean your vision, guest list (with likely multiple lists), an idea of location, timeframe and budget.

If you haven’t thought through those items yet, download our free guide here, it will help to walk you through each of those pieces.

Once you have that, then you can begin searching.

So, first, it’s important to know that resorts tend to fall into two main sizes:

Small – which hold less than 50 people (25 rooms or less)

OR

Large – which holds 200+ people (100+ rooms).

This means that hotels that specifically hold somewhere between 50-200 guests are much trickier to find.

And of course for many couples, your destination wedding is likely to fall in that range. For most of my couples about 50-100 guests is the sweet spot.

So, what this means is that finding the right resort will be harder because they’re just less of them.

But the upside of that is you won’t have tons of options. And not having tons of options can be quite helpful in making wedding decisions.

What to look for

Bride and groom enjoying the sunset by the lake at their mountain wedding at a private estate in Tahoe by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Anita Martin)

To start finding the right resort for a buyout you need begin by narrowing the field.

Yes, I know I just said you’ll have less options.

But there are still lots of options in that guest count range and you want your search to be targeted.

So, with your guest count and hopefully some type of location (even if your location is all of California, that helps), that will begin to focus the search.

And when you add your timeframe, budget, style and the vision you have for the wedding, that will really narrow down your options.

So what are you looking for?

You’re looking for resorts that are either more boutique-type resorts or larger resorts that have a capability of doing a partial buyout.

A partial buyout is when you take over a whole building or section of the hotel. This isn’t quite the same as a full buyout, but it can function the same just depending on the layout of the hotel.

The bonus with a partial buyout is that it will cost you less than a full buyout. But it’s important to know that these types of hotels are even harder to find.

While your location will help to narrow your search, you’ll be paying attention to the room rate ranges to narrow it even further. Because remember, you’re reserving all the rooms.

So, you’ll want to choose a hotel with a room rate that reflects not only your budget, but your guests’ budget as well.

All you have to do is pretend to book a room for the dates you’re aiming for. You’ll be able to get an idea of the room rates in that timeframe.

You’ll also be paying attention to the style and vibe of the resort and event spaces. Because you want to be married in a place that fits your personalities and style.

In addition, you’ll want to make note of the rules and restrictions mentioned.

Every resort and every location will have its own rules and while you will have additional flexibility beyond those rules, understanding where the starting point is helpful. Because how far you can push the rules is partially related to where the rules begin.

What comes next

Happy lesbian couple and their mixed wedding party in the tulip fields at their Amsterdam wedding by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Danielle Coons Photography)

With all your searching and criteria helping you to narrow the field, you’ll likely end up with only a few choices.

And while that can seem like a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing.

Lots of options = lots of stress.

Less really is more in this case.

What you’ll do is reach out to the ones that have made the cut and find out more. You’ll be exploring availability, pricing, event spaces, capabilities and rules and all the details around a buyout.

You’ll also be finding out if a buyout is even possible. Because not all hotels allow buyouts or like them.

So having the conversation with them is the next step, followed by a site visit. And hopefully from there, one will emerge as the winner.

However, if after your search (or after your conversations) you have zero choices, then you’ll have to expand your criteria and search again.

*PRO PLANNING TIP*: Keep track of the resort options that fall outside of your criteria, but that you like for one reason or another. Create a maybe pile as you go along because if you to need search again, you’ll already have some options to kickstart you.

When you expand your search you’ll need to adjust either your location, timeframe, budget, or guest count. Or all of them!

If it’s your location, expand your radius, or include additional towns or areas. There might be something just outside of what you were looking at that would be a good option. Or perhaps something in a completely different place that you also have a connection to.

If it’s your timeframe, consider a timeframe that’s less in demand and also less expensive. You may be able to have your wedding at a resort you wouldn’t normally be able to consider purely because of the timeframe you choose.

If it’s your budget, consider increasing what you’re willing to cover. By doing so you could look at resorts with room rates that are a little higher.

And if it’s your guest count, consider downsizing so you can explore smaller resorts. Or take a look at some resorts that are bigger than what you need. You need to feel comfortable covering that extra cost, but you will also give yourself more options to explore.

Additional resort wedding buyout planning notes

Quiet moment shared between the newlyweds at their Tilden Park wedding at the Brazilian room in Berkeley by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Christina Sours Photography)

There are a few extra notes I want to leave you with as you’re exploring the resort wedding buyout for your destination wedding.

First, it’s important to know that every hotel is different.

Each will have different amenities and will operate differently.

So, don’t be surprised if you come across a resort that has a restaurant or spa attached to it that is also open to the public. In other words, someone not in your group could eat there or be onsite.

Part of the conversation you’ll have with the resort is about these types of details.

You’ll want to discuss how they handle things given a buyout.

They might be fine closing it to the public during your timeframe or they might need you to buy it out as well. If so, this is separate from the room buyout and separate from the events. And this will add to your costs.

However, depending on the layout of the resort, you may not need them to close it to the public as it won’t really affect your group.

It will really just depend on the hotel itself.

Second, if the idea of having extra empty rooms is throwing you for a loop, know that you can always use them for other purposes.

Perhaps you save two rooms specifically for getting ready so you don’t have to mess up your room. You could designate one for the small after party. You could use another purely to store wedding stuff. Or you could turn one into a communal hang out room.

You may also have destination wedding vendors (like your planner!) coming in as well. And since they will need somewhere to stay, why not put them up in the same hotel? If you have an empty room and you’d have to pay for a room for them somewhere, you kill two birds with one stone.

Extra rooms can serve a purpose and gives you some flexibility in case you need more rooms than you originally planned.

As long as you don’t have too many extra rooms, I wouldn’t stress too much about it.

And last, but certainly not least, hire a destination wedding planner!

We can make the search for your resort wedding buyout a much faster and more curated process than if you did it on your own. We’ll also be able to guide you on what you could do, what makes sense and what your best options are.

If you’re looking for a seasoned pro, we’d be happy to help! Contact us today and let’s get started planning your destination wedding!

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