Planning a destination wedding

I am getting married abroad. I have found a couple of wedding planners in that are on the internet, but am nervous because I have no idea who these people are. Do you have any suggestions for planning a wedding so far away?

You’ve decided to take a bold move by planning a destination wedding. The good news is that most people who have had destinations weddings swear that they wouldn’t have had it any other way. The bad news is that they can be a bugger to plan.

A destination wedding is anytime you travel to a special place for your wedding. If it’s just the two of you, it’s called eloping. Or you might include a group of friends and family. It’s an appealing option if you want to do something different, “enforce” a small guest list, hold the wedding at a place equally (in)convenient for far-flung family, or just “get away!”

Another advantage is that destination weddings can be far less expensive than the traditional kind, though that depends on your destination and how much of the travel costs you pick up. In any event, you’ll find your money is going towards an entire weekend of memories in a great vacation spot, instead of one afternoon in a reception hall.

The etiquette of a destination wedding generally calls for invited guests to pay their own airfare. The bride and groom pick up the tab for the lodging, food, and beverages at an all-inclusive resort.

It’s smart for a couple to negotiate a discounted rate for booking multiple rooms and also acceptable for them to ask guests to reserve and pay for their own rooms.

Choosing a Location

“Whoa,” you say. “I don’t even know where we want to GO to have a destination wedding.” Aha. Well, that’s the fun part: Deciding! There are a couple of considerations in choosing a place:

“All well and good,” you say, “But how do I know which places have easy marriage laws? How do I know what neat places have good resources for destination weddings?”

How do you get information, whether that be finding a planner or chapel or setting up all the details yourself? Here are some suggestions:
◾Books. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many destination wedding books out there to help you, but there are some.
◾Travel Websites, Magazines and Guides. These places often might have some tidbits of information about wedding planning in that area, which could spark a great idea.
◾Word of Mouth. Just like getting a job, networking can be your best friend. Tell people what you’re up to. Help may surface from places you’d never considered. It seems everybody knows someone who did the same thing you’re contemplating, and might be able to give you some great information.

How To Plan It

Now that you’ve chosen a location, there’s still a lot of work to be done. And it may seem more difficult to do because you’re far away. On one hand, you’re right. But on the other hand, there’s less to do.

There are three different people that you can trust to your wedding details:

Wedding Consultant A popular option is to hire a wedding consultant familiar with the location where you wish to get married. This might be a consultant is located in the place where you’re getting married, or a travel agent or other person who has experience in planning destination weddings. Don’t assume that just any wedding or travel consultant can automatically meet your needs. A consultant who is wonderful for local couples may not be as adept in helping you long-distance. Luckily, in some locales there are wedding consultants whose primary business is working with couples from out-of-town. They are good about faxing, mailing photos, and taking other special steps to help you. There are also consultants who aren’t limited to any particular wedding location, but regularly handle destination weddings.

All told, these may be the most-hassle free way to plan a wedding, but it will add to your cost. For example, they may charge a flat fee, or a surcharge on the cost of all services which they contract for you. It goes without saying: get references for anyone you work with.

The facility The second option is to find a hotel or inn or bed & breakfast that offers wedding planning services for their guests. Many places have hosted weddings in the past, and may even have a concierge who helps with the wedding planning for a ceremony and reception right on site.

If you’re looking at a small wedding, a wedding chapel might be an option. Chapels often offer package deals complete with photographer, flowers, music, officiant, and even a pre-arranged license! Pretty well all you have to do is be there. Though this may be the easiest, inexpensive, most hassle-free way to approach the wedding, you also compromise your personal touch in the bargain. The ceremonies themselves can seem rather generic.
•Yourself
Not afraid to get your hands dirty? Good. You find the florist, the officiant, the ceremony site, the reception site, the cake, the musicians, the photographer etc. by yourself. This is probably the toughest way to do it, but you really get to make all the decisions. If you’re a control freak about details it might be the way to go.

Call an area’s Tourist Office to learn the legal requirements for marrying there. Concierges at major hotels can also help to facilitate the process.

If you go this route, try hard to find some sort of local contact–someone who knows some of the local businesses but who won’t profit personally from any referrals.

A destination wedding is a step away from conventional think, and really opens some doors to creativity. So be creative, and enjoy the fact that you’re not bound by tradition! One key to enjoying a wedding, especially one in a beautiful place, is simplicity. If the whole atmosphere is beautiful, then you don’t need to worry about elaborate floral arrangements. Nature has taken care of it.

Remember, this destination wedding will be a vacation for you, too. Don’t get so caught up in little details that you can’t enjoy the special spot you’ve selected. Do what needs to be done as early as possible (beforehand, if you possibly can!) and then free up the rest of your time for relaxing and enjoying the area.

Packing for both a wedding and a honeymoon can be challenging, to say the least. So if possible, see if you can get family members to bring some of the important items that might be too much for you to take. And if you’re shipping items ahead of time, be sure to allow plenty of time for them to arrive!

Also be sure that you have appropriate travel measures for transporting your dress, and plan to carry it on the plane with you if you can. Remember, you’ve got to carry anything that you positively can’t replace before you get there. So pack with care!

One last note on planning, you selected your wedding spot carefully. Be sure to build in time to let your guests enjoy it! Don’t fill your guests schedules with endless get-togethers and dinners. After all, it’s probably costing them a good chunk of change to attend, and they very well might like to count that as a vacation too.

Invitations & Announcements

If you’re wondering whether or not you should send an invitation to people you know won’t be able to make the trip, you should probably discuss it with those close to you, and use your best judgment. It’s perfectly acceptable to simply send announcements to those you reasonably believe won’t make the trip.

You don’t see too many announcements mailed these days, because most people use their invitation to “announce” their marriage. But they are a great way to let important people know you’ve been married! Announcements are very similar in appearance to invitations — just the wording (and the timing) are different. You send these after the wedding takes place. The format generally lists the place of your wedding, so rest assured that recipients will understand why they weren’t invited.

If you are having guests, consider a “Save the Date” letter. Invitations to traditional weddings are supposed to be sent 4-6 weeks before the event. But that isn’t really enough time to book a plane ticket or book time off. And you certainly don’t want your accommodations to be booked up by the you’re your guests try to reserve spaces. Avoid the hassles by getting in touch with your guests early. Send out an advance packet, if possible, about 3-4 months ahead of time. Include information about the location, special places to visit, closest airport, and climate. This gives people time to take advantage of special air fares. Be sure to include information about the wedding time and type of clothing.

When you have a destination wedding, you’re probably going to leave a lot of people out, but there are ways to include them. Perhaps you could arrange a reception at some point after the wedding. You can plan something very much like a traditional wedding reception (formal invitations, cakecutting, dancing, even wedding attire) or something more like a party. Or else videotape the wedding, and distribute copies to key friends and family.

Showers

What about showers? And gifts from others who are not invited? As modern wedding traditions have evolved, we have tied wedding gifts to wedding invitations. For example, etiquette holds that those who are invited to a shower should also be invited to the wedding. If you have a limited guest list, that can make showers (and other times you receive wedding gifts) feel awkward. However, please realize that many people give gifts simply because they are happy for you and that is their traditional way to celebrate the marriage of someone they care about.

Checklist

Requirements for weddings vary from location to location. So be sure to have each of these details ironed out as soon as possible. And when you think it’s all set, double check!
◾Location When? How big will the guest list be and who will be included?
◾Budget Take all aspects into consideration, including airfare, accommodations, food, photography, attire and the budgets of those you hope will attend.
◾Marriage License Requirements for obtaining a license can vary from handing over $5 to waiting in residence for several weeks before forking out big money. Find out first.
◾Paperwork What is needed? Birth Certificate (original, certified, copy), passport, divorce decree. Do they need to be translated? Will you need to send for it in advance, or can you do it when you arrive?
◾Medical Tests Are any needed? If so, what? And who performs the tests? Waiting period. From the time you get the license, how long do you have to wait until you can getting married? Can you get it in advance?
◾Ceremony Type What kind of ceremonies are performed, and what kind are allowed?
◾Witnesses Do you need them? Must they be citizens of the country you are getting married in?
◾Reservations Book early, and try to secure discounted group rates for your party. Many resorts and hotels are booked months in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.