A destination wedding is whereby a couple decides to have their wedding at a location away from home. This is a trend that is slowly catching up with us as a country. The slow move is because of our deeply rooted African tendencies. We tend to believe that a wedding has to be held at a central location that allows everyone easy access to the venue. At times this belief makes a couple forget about the beauty that they want exhibited in a wedding and they end up choosing a location that does nothing for them, but that shouldn’t be the case. More and more couples are stepping out of this norm and choosing to have destination weddings that make them relish their wedding day!
So, how do you plan for a destination wedding?
- Pick the Perfect Spot
The location of your wedding determines not only the mood, but also the travel, time and budget required to pull it off. You want your guests to walk away from your wedding weekend saying, “That was so them!” Your wedding elements should say something about your personal style and your passions.
- Get the Timing Right
Unfortunately, the best weather in popular vacation destinations tends to coincide with tourist season, which means more crowds, fewer hotel and venue availabilities, and higher charges. If you choose to marry during high season, you’ll want to reserve hotel blocks and venues immediately and send out save-the-dates 10 to 12 months in advance so guests can book their flights and accommodations before prices peak.
- Pre-Visit the Location
Take at least one planning trip and if you can handle it, two or three is ideal. On the first trip, you’ll need to scout and secure your key venues — ceremony and reception spaces, hotels for guests, a rehearsal dinner venue — and local suppliers such as caterers, florists and photographers. Next, you’ll need to schedule “tastings” with your caterer, see sample bouquets from the florist, plan a hair and makeup session with a local salon and organize activities for your guests.
- Consider the Extra Expenses
If done right, a destination wedding can cost no more — and maybe even less — than hosting the same party at home (depending on where you live). Still there are extra expenses you’ll need to factor in for any destination wedding, including importing key vendors and décor, additional activities for guests and travel costs for you and your immediate families (including the planning trips, not just the big day).
- Research Local Marriage Requirements
The legal side of tying the knot in a different country can be complicated. Many countries have a “residency requirement”, which means you must reside in the country for a certain length of time before your ceremony. Although this is usually just a few days, it can be longer. For example, France requires you to arrive at least 40 days before you marry!
- Get Help
If you’re hosting a wedding in a distant locale, you will need to entrust at least part of the planning to someone else’s hands. A wedding planner can shoulder the burden of researching and securing local vendors, dealing with logistics like tent rentals and lighting and handling any last-minute fires that may start in the weeks leading up to the wedding. They are also the one to get everyone where they need to be on-time. Many resorts include a coordinator in their wedding packages. Otherwise, set aside about 10 to 15 percent of your total budget for a local planner. Generally speaking, a local planner is your best bet, as the can be your person-on-the-ground when you can’t be there.
- Remember: You’re on Island Time
Kindly note that many tropical islands run on “island time”, that means that things happen when they happen. So don’t mistake a vendor’s laid-back attitude for incompetence. Avoid the temptation to micromanage from afar. Schedule regular check-ins and then trust your vendors to work their magic.
- Vet Vendors Carefully
It’s important that you’re comfortable with all your vendors. You’ll be leaving a lot in their hands, so it’s important you trust those hands are capable. Make at least one planning trip to meet with potential vendors. You can also let your wedding planner meet with potential vendors on your behalf and brief you on your options, as well. Another option: Bring pros you trust from home to handle critical aspects such as the wedding photography, hair and makeup, and design, and even work with local vendors in a supervisory capacity to avoid any communication mishaps. Kindly note: You’ll have to cover their travel and lodging expenses.
- Forewarn Your Friends
Tell your bridal party about the destination before you ask them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight. Don’t be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don’t attend.
- Mind the Weather
Ensure that you understand the weather patterns of the destination beforehand.
- Take Care of Guests
Try as much as you can to ensure that your guests are well taken care of.
- Dress the Part
Don’t forget to consider the climate when choosing your wedding dress — and deciding on everyone else’s attire. Also, if you’re exchanging vows outside, you may want to reconsider a long train that will easily get muddy or grass-stained or three-inch heels that will stick in the mud.
- Organization is Key!
You need to be twice as organized as a local couple and pre-think everything, because you won’t have much time to make up your mind, especially if you can only do one or two planning trips. So do your research, set up appointments and form a clear vision of what you want before you go. Then go for it and have your perfect wedding at your dream destination!!
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