If your dream wedding involves visions of jet planes, exotic shores, vibrant local cultures and sunkissed sands, then you need an experienced destination wedding guru! Sifting through paperwork, permits, passports and planning can be overwhelming at best, so we sat down with JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions to get some great details that will help set our luxury brides on the path – or plane – to successful wedding bliss!
Here’s what this acclaimed industry expert had to say:
TBC: We know that you are an avid planner-of-weddings, with a long-standing presence in the luxury wedding industry, but what is your official title?
JG: I’m the Owner and Event Producer/ Event Planner at Elegant Occasions. We now have offices in New York, Rome and Los Angeles.
TBC: You’re so accessible! We love that. What services does Elegant Occasions provide and what are you most known for?
JG: We are full-service event planners and producers, and have been in the Industry for 22 years! I am known for my destination weddings, and most specifically for my work in events in the Caribbean, Mexico and Italy (where we have offices). Additionally, I also plan tented weddings- locally, and at my destinations.
TBC: So when did you first discover your love of weddings? What inspired you to take steps to actually pursue wedding planning as a career?
JG: I discovered my passion for weddings when I would be on vacation and would actually seek out the wedding schedule to see what time weddings were taking place on the beach! It was my obsession to see two people in love and to witness the vows they made to one another. My parents were travel agents, so my love for travel began at a very early age as well.
TBC: Apparently the marriage of the two – your love for weddings as well as destinations – was inevitable! Can you tell us a little about your background, and what led up to this becoming your full-time career?
JG: I was a corporate planner who handled planning for many of the large pharmaceutical companies in the Northeast. When I started to have children (I have six!), I needed a hobby and thus, the business was formed! The hobby turned into a full-time career, which now supports all six of my children. Being a single mom has its challenges. I tell people that my life is controlled chaos. However, my children are my greatest achievement.
TBC: What an accomplishment! Your children are so blessed! So, we know destination weddings are what you’re known for- where have you planned them, and where will you be this year?
JG: I have planned weddings all over Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, Ireland and throughout the Midwest. I’ve been in Mexico and Italy multiple times this year.
TBC: What percentage of your weddings are destinations, as opposed to other locations?
JG: Seventy-five percent of all our events are destinations.
TBC: How does one discover where the best places for food, drink and entertainment are at a destination location? Where do you like to go, personally- your favorite hot spots?
JG: At a destination location, the best things to do is to eat where the locals eat. I love to just ask the chef to prepare what he would for his own family! I do not like the tourist locations- they are not at all authentic. For instance, when I land in Jamaica, I have my driver take me directly to my favorite Jerk location- which only locals visit.
TBC: In all of your traveling and planning, what are a few historic/scenic sights that are an absolute must-see?
JG: I find Italy and Ireland to be the most historic countries. For scenic, however, I love the mountains of Lake Como to the shoreline of the Amalfi Coast. The vistas are beyond breathtaking! In the Caribbean, Canoun Island has the most beautiful of vistas atop their highest point.
TBC: Which destination locations have the best shopping to check out?
JG: Milan is the place for shopping in Italy. In the Caribbean, St. Thomas has the best deals.
TBC: The Wedding World looks to you for inspiration and to see what’s trending in the industry. What are some of your favorite ways to keep your celebrations culturally rich with signature local foods, drinks, party styles, favors and the like?
JG: I love everything from the welcome parties we create right down to the finishing touches of the final event. I love to incorporate the local flavors of the region- we always shop at the local markets and utilize local artisans. They are our best resources to lend authenticity to the taste and overall decor of an event. As far as entertainment goes, we always hire local artists who really represent the culture of the region.
TBC: Can you name a few of your favorite properties to work with, and let our brides know why they should choose one of these amazing locations?
JG: I love working at the Viceroy properties, as well as at the Orient Express properties. They offer more boutique venues, so my clients can buy out the resort and make their affair more exclusive.
TBC: What are some of your best-kept-secrets for brides getting married in these locations? Are there particular places they simply must not forget to have pictures taken? Are there any sweet little romantic traditions they should know about?
JG: If the couple marries in Bermuda, they simply must have a kiss under the Moongate! If they wed in Venice, a gondola ride on the Grand Canal is a must. And in Rome, dinner for two atop the rooftop garden of the Hotel Forum is not to be missed!
The most romantic sunset, hands down, is Cap Juluca in Anguilla. When the sky turns that amazing blue-to-amber hue, you can feel the warmth spread over your body. You just close your eyes and know completely that you are, indeed, in paradise.
TBC: When deciding whether to have destination nuptials or not, what are a few things that discerning brides should take into consideration?
JG: When planning a destination wedding, brides must be aware of the legal issues to actually become married, if they want the ceremony to be legalized in that specific location. They should also be aware of the rainy season and avoid hurricane season. Another huge issue they should be conscientious of are the sound ordinances imposed by properties for the end time of the event. Many properties (unless you are doing a buy out) have an 11:00 pm sound restriction, and any amplified music must be turned off after that hour.
TBC: What do you feel are a few of the common misconceptions that people have about destination events?
JG: The biggest myth is that destination weddings cost less than local weddings! They usually end up costing about the same amount, but you get three days of events for what you would pay locally for a five-hour party. Everything considered, you do get more value for your money.
TBC: Well, now we’re curious! What’s up next for JoAnn Gregoli and Elegant Occasions? Can you share the scoop on any new projects you’re launching?
JG: Right now I am in the middle of relaunching our corporate division of Elegant Occasions. This was the part of the company where it all started for me, and I wanted to build that division back up again. Plus, I am now expanding and have recently opened an office in Southern California!