I recently saw a blog post by a new wedding planner to Costa Rica espousing the fun idea of having a wedding on New Year’s Eve. It is one date that we always receive a lot of requests for – and the one date we steadfastly turn down. The one date to which we say ‘no, no, no’.
Yes, you read that correctly…weddings on New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica are not a great idea. While it’s a popular date in North America, Costa Rica isn’t New York or Toronto or even Poughkeepsie. Different country, different continent and much different culture. What works ‘up North’ doesn’t necessarily apply down here.
After nine years and over 500 weddings planned in Costa Rica, I’d like to share with you the different reasons why New Year’s Eve is a date we (planners, vendors, hotels) avoid booking weddings on…
1) Holidays – most of Costa Rica has the Christmas/New Year’s week off, as do many North Americans, making it the most popular travel date of the year.
2) Costa Ricans flock to the beach – San Jose and the Central valley, where half the population is centred, head to the beach leaving San Jose as a ghost town
3) beaches are packed – see points 1 & 2. Remember that beaches are public by law so you’ll find people camping, playing soccer, drinking (so… drunk campers playing soccer). Not exactly the atmosphere for a quiet, intimate wedding.
4) peak rates at hotels and villas – see points 1 & 2. Lots of travellers to the beach means accommodation is in high demand, which translates into higher rates (Economics 101 low supply+high demand = higher prices). Not only are rates raised by upwards of 20% for the Holiday week, there is often a minimum stay required of 3 or more nights. Prepare to pay a lot more for your stay.
5) New Year’s Eve parties – most hotels host their own parties for the big night, with a ticket purchase being mandatory if staying at the hotel December 31, regardless if you attend or not. Most parties run at $100+ per person.
6) hotels are busy – see points 1, 2 & 5. Hotels are usually at full-capacity and are busy with their own New Year’s Eve party so they are not in the position (nor are they able ) to host a wedding during this time. One hotel charged a New Year’s Eve client a extremely high site fee to the cover the loss they’d incur by not hosting their annual big bash for the locals.
7) vendors are busy or on vacation – December is crazy month for weddings and parties so florists, cake makers, rentals, musicians, planners are all running on fumes by the end of the month. If they aren’t busy with New Year’s Eve parties, they are likely to be on vacation. I know of one NYE wedding at a beach villa that saw the rentals dropped off a couple of days before and picked up a couple of days after the wedding since the shop’s employees were on vacation for New Years. The client incurred extra rental costs and had to deal with having tables, chairs, glass ware, dinner ware, etc. on the property for a number of days.
#8 vendors can’t get rooms – a large number of vendors live in San Jose, the capitol, so working a wedding at the beach requires travel and overnight accommodation. See points 1,2 & 4. Finding an affordable hotel room for New Year’s Eve is impossible. One photographer said they’d never book a NYE wedding again, having spent a month’s rent just to have accommodations for a couple of nights to cover a small wedding on December 31.
9) it’s going to cost you a lot more money – accommodation costs more, vendors have to charge more just to cover their stay and there are numerous parties going on already so vendors are in demand. It’s not unusual for vendors to charge triple their normal rate as there is so much work for them to choose from.
If you absolutely must get married on New Year’s Eve at the beach, it is possible. However, be prepared to pay a lot more and to not have the same environment at the beach nor the level of service from vendors that you would on another date. On the other hand, you’ll get a lot of free fireworks as Costa Rican looooove their pyrotechnics on New Years.