Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Planning A Destination Wedding

Deciding to plan your wedding in a foreign location can be a really fun way to celebrate your special day. But where do you begin? Here are a few simple tips to help you get started.

  OK I know this is starting off with the nitty-gritty.  But this is all something that will need to be considered when planning and budgeting for a destination wedding. So here goes, let's get this out of the way. Every state/country/island has their own requirements and licenses that are necessary to be legitimately married there. To check out some of the latest regulations at your destination of choice visit  And be sure to follow up to determine if there is additional red tape once you are back in your home state/country that will need to be taken care of. (ie blood work tests & additional costs/fees) 

  Make sure you check the seasonal weather in the month you are planning to be wed.  You don't want to spend months planning your event only to have to deal with weather issues like hurricanes or extraordinary heat/cold. 
  Check out the local events. Make sure it's not spring break season as flights and hotels will be more expensive. 

Visit the Location
  As romantic as a destination wedding sounds, its always a good idea to add to your budget a plan to visit the location ahead of time. You don't want to show up a few days before your wedding with 50 guests in tow only to find that the photo on the resort's website is outdated or your dreamy resort is partly under construction.
   It is also a good idea to consider using a local event coordinator. They will be able to refer you to local vendors with whom they have worked with before and know how to get special deals for you and your guests on food and hotel. If they are familiar with working with out of towners (which should be one of your requirements) then all the better. They should be familiar with local customs, and speak both english and the local language. 
   When visiting, plan to meet with as many vendors as possible. It's always a good idea to see them face-to-face. You will feel better knowing who they are ahead of your big day. 

  Decide how much you and your fiance will be spending on your wedding. Stick to your budget. If you are spending more in one area, know that you will need to spend less in another area. Destination weddings are a great way to help trim your guest list and keep the budget in check. Just don't forget to pad the amount and add room for incidentals (forgotten tooth brush etc). Don't forget to ask about additional fees the hotel may have (ie transportation fees and departure taxes.) Check out special deals for dining and consider using local markets for picnic lunches and local restaurants not on the resort. (also be aware of the safety of the area. Some locales although beautiful at the resort are not safe for travel beyond.)
   Whenever possible, always use a credit card when traveling international. Credit cards shop for the best currency rates and can help save you money. And speaking of money - having all your money cash leaves too many opportunities for theft to occur. Credit cards, if lost or stolen can be replaced. 

Your Stuff
   Don't forget when planning everything out, that you will have to bring it all with you. So consider shipping some items ahead of you or buying things local. Special linens and paper goods that are nicer then the standard stock white linens the hotel offers can be easily shipped back and forth.
  Very important items like your dress, shoes and jewelry should be in your carry-on, to be sure of it's arrival. Having to replace your dress three days before your wedding day will cause more stress then having to forego fancy table linens. 

Guest List
  When planning your guest list, try to keep it simple.  You can't assume that because your wedding is far away that your guests will not come. Choosing a really great location is enticing for many guests to want to go so don't be surprised if they all show up.  (Plan on at least 70 percent to be coming).

  Mailing out your Save-the-Date cards six months in advance is a great idea. This will give your guests a chance to plan ahead their vacation time,  search out good deals & begin to budget for the trip.  

Who Pays
  Typically guests should expect to pay for their own travel expenses. But to help out your guests, pricing out airfare and hotel should be researched ahead of time for them to give an idea of what they could be spending.  Many hotels will allow for special rates if there is a chance they can book a block of rooms out. Call ahead to see if any of the local hotels can give you and your guests a deal. (Can't get the deal if you don't ask.) It's also a good idea to search out 3 different price points for your guests to choose from.  Be sure to check on the transportation arrangements. (IE if the hotel offers pick ups at the airport to hotel.)
  Also consider hiring a travel consultant if you are concerned with the logistics and finding great rates. (especially if you have guests traveling from different parts of the world.)
  While the guests are paying for their own travel arrangements, it is expected for the bride & groom to pay for tab for food and beverages. Having your wedding at an all-inclusive resort can help with the cost. 

Rehearsal Dinner  Questions
  Now normally, your entire wedding party is invited to your rehearsal dinner, but do you have to invite everyone else? In a destination wedding situation, it is proper etiquette to invite all your guests since they have traveled far to see you. This will have to be included in your budget if planning this.  But in the end, if this is not realistic for your budget, simply just invite the wedding party and your closest family to the dinner. But extending and invitation for cocktails after the dinner is a great way to keep your guests included and show your appreciation for coming.

Showers & Gifts 
  Inviting guests to your shower and not your wedding is considered very poor etiquette. But the exception to the rule is the destination wedding. Just be sure that the person planning the event/shower politely informs your guests that the actual wedding is a very intimate affair and only a small number of people will be attending. 
  When planning your gift registration, be sure to leave out that information in your invitations. Instead assign a family member or someone in the bridal party to help spread the word. Also know that guests may not want to bring the glassware they bought all the way to another country and worry about how you will get it back.  Expect to receive gifts delivered to your home instead. 

Special Thanks
  Make sure to show your guests how much you appreciate them travelling and giving up vacation time to be at your wedding day. It's always a good idea to have a special party favor that they can cherish.  Also if everyone is staying at the same hotel, arranging a special gift basket at the front desk at check-in is a great way to start off their trip! Creating a themed welcome basket to have in their rooms for arrival including maps, coupons and  a list of local activities available will get things started off for an event they will never forget!

Have fun!
   Things may not all go exactly as planned. Things can happen. But staying positive and having a great energy will allow your guests to do the same. The wedding day is about you and your fiance and not the color of the flowers or the appetizer that wasn't quite what you ordered.  Just roll with it. You will be laughing about that on the plane ride home.

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