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How to: Plan Your Destination Wedding
Location, Location, Location
This might seem like the easiest part of your planning, but there are loads of factors to consider. While the destination has to be special to you and your partner, you also have to think about your guests. If it’s too expensive, you’ll be getting married with very few of your nearest and dearest there. Travel time and accessibility are also issues, particularly for the elderly. People are more inclined to say yes if it’s a short flight or an easy journey, compared to two connecting flights, then a ferry ride and a final trek up a hill, with your luggage strapped to a donkey.
Every country has different requirements when it comes to being lawfully wed, so make sure you know all the rules, so you don’t end up going home as nearly-Mrs-so-and-so. You may have to do the official bit in your city and then have a simple service at your wedding destination.
Perhaps you fell in love with Croatia when you travelled there, but that was two years ago, now you need to look at it through bride’s eyes. If time and budget allow for a trip, take it. Imagine the peace of mind if you can visit venues, meet vendors and do food tastings in person.
A Method to the Madness
List people love this part of the process: start your To Do list today! Planning a wedding takes a lot of organisation, planning a destination wedding takes even more. Give yourself anywhere from a year to 18 months, so that you can research, coordinate and book everything for your Big Day. Don’t forget about passports, visas and vaccines.
The Big B
Nope, that doesn’t stand for Bridezilla, it’s Budget. Destination weddings are often small, which can reduce your tab, but regardless of where you get married costs can quickly escalate. Ultimately, a wedding is as expensive as you make it, so establish your budget and stick to it.
Set a Date
The earlier you decide on a date for your nuptials, the more organised you can be. Here are some factors that should influence your decision:
- The weather. There’s little you can do to combat Mother Nature, but you can research and then avoid abysmal conditions like monsoons and the scorching heat of mid-summer.
- The season. Peak time is busy and expensive, while many restaurants and resorts close during low season. Consider the shoulder seasons for your date.
- The calendar. Check for local events, so that you don’t plan your wedding on the same weekend as a national, or worse, international festival.
The Guest List
These are notoriously hard to create (but here's a great guide to help!), but you need to be realistic from a financial and mental health perspective. Close friends and family often turn this into a holiday, and they’ll be with you for 3-7 days, so pick wisely and spend a glorious week with everyone you love. They’ll need plenty of notification to apply for annual leave, save up for flights and arrange passports and visas. Use a spreadsheet to organise guests’ information like arrival/departure dates, contact numbers and hotels. Although this isn’t set in stone, it’s generally accepted that if your guests are making an overseas trip for your wedding, it may not be considered polite to expect or ask for additional wedding gifts. If you decide that you don’t want them to spend extra money, let them know there is no gift registry because their presence is present enough (you’ll still probably get some gifts from immediate family, and hey, the friends at home who couldn’t make it too!).
When you have the confirmed guest list, look at airfares and see what group rates you can organise. Be flexible so that sporadic flight schedules don’t impact on things like your rehearsal dinner. Provide all the information about transport, to and from the airport, and arrange for people who arrive at similar times to share taxi fares or car rental costs.
Book well ahead, so your dream setting doesn’t turn into a second-choice resort. Investigate your décor options at the venue, but often your exotic destination is picturesque enough. And remember that with all weddings, but especially destination weddings, flexibility is key. Getting an overseas event organised is incredibly difficult and bound to have a couple of slip ups- which frequently have to do with the wedding venue. Remember that the venue is simply the background to the main event that is your wedding, and treat it as such.
Provide a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Ask about minimum stays for guests making a short trip, and inquire about discount rates for block bookings.
Many people shun using wedding planners, but the extra expense may well be worth it when you wed in a foreign country. There are language barriers and currency conversions, and you’re unfamiliar with the area, people and customs. A wedding planner can secure cheaper rates and make suggestions for photographers and hair and makeup artists. If you don’t use a wedding planner, make sure the vendors are trustworthy by asking for a list of satisfied clients.
Communication is Key
This is vital when you’re getting married away from home, so you can keep tabs on your wedding planner or vendors. You also need to communicate with your guests and the easiest way is to create a betrothal blog. Include information like transport options and times, accommodation, restaurants, activities, maps, contact numbers and your wedding schedule.
When you check in to your flight, arrange that your dress and the groom’s suit be taken as hand luggage. The last headache you need is for your suitcase to go missing. You should also recommend this to the rest of your bridal party.
Your guests have spent a lot of money getting to your wedding, so a small token of your appreciation will go a long way. It can be a simple welcome letter, a handy phrase book or sunblock and thongs for your beach wedding. If your budget allows, throw a small welcoming party so you can spend time (and share the excitement!) with your friends and family.
Action and Attraction
The more exotic your location, the more eager everyone will be to explore, but find a balance between being a tour guide and enjoying yourself. Plan fun activities you can do together and then leave them to sightsee and enjoy their holiday. A nice touch (and again it’s budget dependant) would be to organise a surprise, like a boat trip, to show your gratitude.
Take a Timeout
Dealing with guests (and family!) for an entire week can take its toll. Factor in some down time where you can relax, so that you get married looking your absolute best.
Don't Forget The Honeymoon
You’re planning a wedding and you’re effectively organising a holiday for you and your guests, but remember you have a honeymoon to look forward to. Whether you’ve chosen the beaches of Brazil, the snow in Switzerland or the food from France, this wedding is about the journey and the destination.