We chat with Nicole Bono, who recently planned a destination wedding in Greece, for insight on how to plan a successful event.
What is the scope of your business, as a travel advisor and as an event planner?
Bono Events International is a one-stop-shop business for all things travel design and destination events. We handle everything from a travel-only request to destination weddings, personal events, corporate events and retreats where we are able to take on all the travel planning needs for all parties involved. For example, for most of the destination weddings we have planned for 2022 we also do all of the guest travel management, handling their pre- and post- trips, of course, as well as the honeymoon for the newlyweds. We have worked over the world for our clients, facilitated by our incredible partnership with Virtuoso company TravelLustre. Our expertise is Italy, as I was raised in a truly bi-cultural environment, between New York City and Florence, Italy; both countries have always felt like home and Italy is the country I know the very best. Europe in general is also an area we know very well, having traveled extensively throughout, but we certainly do not stop there.
In 2021, we planned trips in Costa Rica, the U.S., Egypt, Aruba, France, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Maldives and many more. Our weddings for 2022 will take place in London, U.K, as well as Florence, Montepulciano, Norcia and Orvieto in Italy. We are also thrilled to be organizing the first LGBTQ wedding in Paestum, Italy. We take pride in being one of the very few in the industry offering comprehensive travel design and destination wedding services as a one-stop shop.
We think it is time for change in the industry, to reinvent the model, and we find that our clients really value working with and trusting one person to handle everything.
A project we are very proud to be launching is our “Women’s Retreats.” We began with one in Provence, France in fall 2021 and we are headed to Sardinia, Italy in 2022. We are combining travel with yoga, as well as inviting a mental health professional to provide for a true week of Travel Therapy, diving into all the senses of the destination while doing some cleansing internal work. We also love mixing up what we do because it keeps us creatively fresh. It is important to keep challenging yourself, and as an entrepreneur, it is also a personal mission of mine to keep pushing the boundaries of what my company can do.
When someone comes to you for a destination wedding abroad, what are some of the first things you do to qualify them and map out the event?
This is an excellent question — our intake process is one that we value because it is all about the first impression with the client. I always tell my couples during a consultation that choosing a planner is important and that they have to feel the right chemistry with me, if not, I encourage them to look elsewhere. A wedding planner becomes very involved in your life — you have to be ready for this. For a period of time, we become a part of your family, as well as being your therapist, accountant, designer and everything in between. The first consultation is like the first date, and before we even get there I have them fill out a survey so I can already view their application and be ready as to how to approach the conversation.
Many couples come to me knowing exactly what they want, and others have no clue. We are equipped to handle all couples regardless of what point they are in the planning and this is the reason why our first 30-minute consultation is complimentary. It is our time to chat through your ideas, thoughts and explain how we can help. Something I always like to do is ask each of them to use three adjectives to describe their dream wedding. I get a lot of context from this exercise, mostly so that I can find the harmony between the two so it becomes a wedding they both love. The destination itself is something I prefer to guide them on, although often couples approach me with a venue already in mind. Couples rarely take into consideration the travel logistics for their weddings and all of their guests. Where is the closest airport? How will guests get there? Does the venue have furniture or will we need to rent it? Is there a Plan B in case it rains or do we need to put down a deposit for tents? There is so much to think about, and it is our job, even from that first consultation to make our couples aware of all of these details. Another thing I always say to all of my couples is that “we are a team,” not only is this true, it is fundamental. The couple has to participate in the planning, we are there to take 85 percent of the workload off of them, but they have to contribute and be active members of the team, because it will only be personalized and bespoke if they let us get to know them.
What are some tips you can share to ensure all goes smoothly? How do you ensure the experience is “luxury?”
Teamwork: Always assemble a good team. What I mean by this is your fellow travel advisor tribe, vendors and your assistants have to be people who can work independently and think on their feet. We are like an army of firemen, putting out constant baby fires all day long to make sure that the whole place does not burn down and that the couple and their guests do not notice. Something always goes wrong, at every single event. You can be the best planner in the world, have thought of everything, but there is always something. It is important to have excellent crisis management skills and resourcefulness, a skill you really can’t teach. You must know how to communicate, have staff that speaks the local language if you do not, and be efficient with your time. For the client, the ultimate luxury is not knowing about these things that are happening behind the scenes, and having someone take care of all of that for you so that you can enjoy your own wedding. It’s about having a planning team that is always two steps ahead and attentive to every single detail. If not, what is the point of hiring someone like me? True luxury is having a flawless day, where your wildest dreams come true, you are in a gorgeous place, you are surrounded by all your closest friends and family, and every detail is thought of for you and you do not have a worry in the world.
Are people looking for Instagram moments? Is that part of what you plan for?
Everyone wants that “Instagram moment,” and of course, certain moments are planned for but the best pictures are always candid. Who you choose to take on that role, that is finding an excellent photographer, is arguably the most important decision you can make as a planner. If a moment is not immortalized in a photo, it is as if it had not happened. The photographer has to not only be skilled at their craft but also in directing the couple as well as all the guests for those less-candid moments. Can they “man the crowd?” Is their English fluent enough where their vocabulary can articulate to everyone what they need? Are they present yet also invisible? I am blessed to have found excellent photographers who embody all of the above. I also always encourage my couples to not skip out on a proper videographer; couples often think that it is redundant or they want to cut costs. However, I can guarantee that it is always their biggest regret after the fact. Pro Tip: Some photography teams also have video capabilities, which can help keep costs moderate, as they often offer a package including both.
Is now the right time, and a safe time to be thinking about planning a destination wedding?
Yes. 100 percent. First of all, 2022 is nearly impossible because most venues are booked to the brim with all the destination weddings that have been postponed from 2020/2021 to 2022. If you are thinking of a destination wedding for 2022, get on it now. International travel is happening, and it is possible. There are regulations, challenges, but that is why it is important to work with a team of wedding planners, like myself, who are also professionals in the travel industry. I’m also quite confident that this is a time more than ever to expand your list of services, get creative, and network with all your industry colleagues. I would highly suggest to couples that it is time to start thinking about 2023, which is not far away at all in wedding planning terms. If you are recently engaged, first of all, congratulations! Second — if your dream is a destination wedding, hop on a complimentary consultation, listen to the facts, explore your options, and then make a decision. It is no longer the time to rule out a destination wedding right now because of COVID-19. Travel is back, it is happening, and it can be a reality for you, especially with an expert team of event planners & travel designers by your side.