Planning a wedding is one of the most fun, and often stressful, times of your life. With so many moving parts it can be hard to keep up - especially if you are planning your wedding a destination away from home! To keep you on track and organized check out our Top 10 Destination Wedding Planning Tips:
1. Choose the Best Destination for YOU
When choosing the location of your destination wedding make sure to choose a destination that's "you" a place that wedding guests will arrive and say to themselves "this is so them!" A wedding is such a personal celebration of both you and your soon to be spouse, and if you are planning something as detailed as a destination wedding the biggest detail of them all, the location, should be spot on!
When choosing your destination, start by making a list of places and things that you love. Do you love food & wine? Maybe look into wine country. Are you both big adventure junkies? How about a mountain wedding. Do you love to travel and try new things? Maybe a destination in Europe. Or are you both beach babies who can't get enough surf & sand? Then head to the beach. Whatever you do you want it to feel authentic and you want it to be a destination that both you and your guests will enjoy.
2. Keep the Season in Mind
Once you've chosen your destination you need to start thinking about the best month and then the best day. One big thing to keep in mind when making this decision is the season and/or the weather of your destination of choice. Although it might be summer here in the USA it could be winter in a below the equator location - so take the time to do a little research. Also keep in mind whether that season is peak or off peak for the destination - in peak season the prices are likely higher and there are more tourists, while the low season might have less tourists it may also have undesirable weather. Rule of thumb is to aim for what is called a shoulder season, which is the season between peak and off peak seasons.
3. Visit the Destination Before Your Wedding
If at all possible, it's important to visit the destination before your wedding. Not only will this help with knowing what to expect upon arrival but it will also give you time to scout venues, vendors, local restaurants and activities and to get an overall feel for the destination. If you don't have time time and/or cannot afford a trip before the big day then rely heavily on online research, reviews from other brides, bridal forums and suggestions from others who may have been to the destination. The more research you do before hand, whether in person, or online, the more smoothly things are likely to go on your big day!
4. Know When You Need Help
Planning a destination wedding can be completely overwhelming, and in fact can nearly take over your life if you let it. With a to do list including things like venue inspections, vendor contracts, hotel room blocks, transportation, rentals and activities (just to name a few) - plus a potential language barrier it is perfectly normal to need a little help. Look into companies that specialize in destination weddings, and ones who have done weddings at your location before. A full service wedding planner will help you with all of the details allowing you to relax a bit - if budget is a concern consider a local planner who can assist you vendor selections and act as a day of wedding coordinator to ensure your big day goes off without a hitch!
5. Make Sure You Understand the Local Marriage Requirements
Depending on the destination there might be a legal aspect of your wedding ceremony that is different than what you would expect here in the states. For example some destinations require that you arrive to the country a certain number of days before your ceremony (in France it's 40 days!), some require birth certificates and/or proof of dissolution of prior marriages and even blood tests. Best thing to do is that as soon as you choose your destination - look into the legal requirements to ensure you have the time and ability to meet them.
6. Make Your Guest a Priority
Traveling isn't for everyone, and if your guests are planning on making the trip to celebrate with you it's not only a financial investment but also one of their time. In order to make things as smooth as possible for your guests follow these tips:
- Make sure to give them enough notice so that they can start to save and plan their travel
- Consider hiring a travel agent (it's free) to book your guests travel and coordination the room blocks
- Have a few hotel options that meet multiple budgets and traveler needs
- If you are having a bridal party ask them as far in advance as possible so that they can begin to save (keeping in mind that they will have even more costs than just travel alone)
- Make your guests feel prepared by creating a wedding website with information on the destination, things to do, places to see, what to pack and an agenda for your wedding festivities
- Welcome your guests with a welcome bag filled with local goodies and travel itinerary - many likely have come a long way so it's important to greet them warmly
- Stay connected - make sure that you have designated 'point people' who can help answer questions and coordinate guests and provide guests with multiple contact numbers so they can always reach someone to ensure they stay included
7. Arrive Early & Stay Late
Arriving a few days early allows you to get settled in and relaxed before guests start arriving. It also allows you time to meet with your coordinator and vendors so that you can get the business aspects out of the way so that you can enjoy as much time as possible with your friends and family once they arrive.
The same goes for the time after your wedding - the last thing you want to be doing is stressing about getting packed up the day after your wedding. Make sure to book your departure a few days after your big day so that you can see your guests off and then enjoy a little down time with your brand new spouse before you depart. This will keep the laid back relaxed feeling and newly wedded bliss going as long as possible!
8. Get Travel Insurance
The last thing that you want to worry about is travel delays, injury or illness, major weather snafus or lost luggage. The small investment in travel insurance, if nothing else, will provide you with peace of mind just in case anything happens before or during your travel. Many insurance companies also offer wedding insurance which is designed to help you recoup some of wedding related costs should you need to change or cancel anything.
9. Consider Throwing an Afterparty at Home
Lets face it, not everyone is going to be able to travel for your destination wedding. In fact some of your closest family and friends may not be able to make it - and instead of letting that get you down why not extend the celebrations to when you come home as well. Best way to do this is throw a post destination wedding at home reception, or what we like to call an 'Afterparty Reception.' This is when you invite all of the guests, including those who could not make it to your wedding, to celebrate with you at home.
Now this doesn't have to be extravagant - it can be as simple as a backyard BBQ - it's just a way for those who could not make it to your big day to still share in the celebration.
10. Get Moving!
Not to stress you out...but you need to get moving! Planning as far in advance as possible is the biggest tip of them all! Many times the earlier you book the more you save...so what are you waiting for?!
If you still have questions check out our Complete Destination Wedding eGuide.
Or if you are looking for a destination wedding expert in the South Pacific connect with our destination wedding experts here at South Seas Adventures or Contact us today for a complimentary consultation and to learn more about our wedding guest travel services.