Bride Ideas: Villa Rentals, In the Know

First published in Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine, Spring 2008

For intimate weddings away – or even big parties, if you do your homework – a private villa may prove just the right alternative to a resort wedding. But how should your search begin? We've pinpointed the top five most important questions to ask when considering a villa rental.

1. What are we using the villa for?

Do you envision it serving as home base for family members, or do you plan to hold events there? "In most cases, you'll have to rent the villa for at least a week, so if you're on a budget, it's in your best interest to utilize your villa for more than one thing," suggests Mary Walsh, marketing assistant at Wimco Villas, which specializes in villa rentals in Caribbean locales such as St. Barts and Turks and Caicos, as well as European getaways like Italy.

2. Where is it located?

Determine if you want seclusion of if you'd rather be in town. "The location should be beautiful and romantic, but it should also have fairly good access to services and the airport," says Kit Burns, president of Doorways, Ltd., which rents villas primarily in Italy, France and Spain. Also find out if there is a village or restaurant within walking distance for your guests.

3. What time of year do we want?

When you go will impact price, availability, weather and the atmosphere of the locale. "Because of holidays and school breaks, there may be more crowds during certain weeks," says Deborah Moncure, owner of Villas on Bluefields Bay in Jamaica. "Also, here in Jamaica, you might see more afternoon showers in the summer and fall." Burns points out that European villas may not have air conditioning, which could matter during warm summer months.

4. How much room do we need?

Decide who will be staying there. For small groups, "renting a villa gives your group the opportunity to stay together and bond rather than being spread out in a hotel," says Walsh. If you'll be holding an event there as well, ask how many guests can be accommodated for standing and seated events.

5. What amenities are included?

Perks like daily maid and laundry services may not be standard for villas. "Make a list of amenities that are important to you, like Internet access or a pool, and ask about them up front; never just assume your villa will have them," advises Walsh. Different villas offer different services: For instance, Bluefields offers gorgeous furnishings as well as a staff of cooks, servers and nannies, while Doorways' Villa Buonvisi in Tuscany gives guests free wine from the estate's vineyards throughout their stay.