Welcome and congrats on your engagement!
I am just going from experience....
1. You need a TA. Especially one who has done a destination wedding or two. She will help you narrow down your choices as she is familiar with the properties, locations, countries, etc. Mine priced out the resorts I wanted her too, but also recommended ones she knew were coming back in our price range. The one we ultimately chose was from her suggestion and was never on our radar.
2. I don't believe they up the prices due to group bookings and your TA is paid from the tour operator themselves, you never have to pay her anything.
3. For our group price, it was NEVER cheaper anywhere else, ever. People tried but realized how good of a price we got. We stayed at the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya which is listed as a 5* for a 7 night all inclusive package (hotel, flight, transfers, taxes) and from Toronto they paid $1465 and Calgary $1565. The transfers to these locations if the people lived elsewhere were very cheap!
4. Going for a group booking also has perks depending on your airline. We booked with Air Canada Vacations. We got a free upgrade to first class for the bride/groom which has great perks - one being more luggage and at higher weights per bag (perfect for all that wedding stuff!) We also got every 17th person booked for free (minus taxes), so in the end I got 2 free packages totaling around $2000 back to us.
5. The TA handled everything - all the bookings, questions, mishaps (flight changes, etc.), connectors for people, hotels if they needed, she sent all our travel documents, reminded people to pay, let people do payment plans, etc.
6. Finding the TA was hard! Noone ever called us back. I am in Calgary but ended up using a TA in a small town in BC. We did everything on the phone or thru email. She was fantastic and came recommended from a friend. If you want her info just let me know.
7. I recommend you start with a country, then area of the country, then start looking at resorts, Make a list of must haves so you can narrow the resorts down. Also request their wedding information because some resorts look great, but their weddings not so much or vice versa. I had my TA help me initially with some resorts to get info, but when it was time to book the date with the resort I did that all by myself. This process is very overwhelming and will leave your head spinning, but this is where a good TA can help!
Edited by calgarybride2015, 03 February 2015 - 06:27 AM.