Getting married abroad is a dream for a lot of engaged couples. (They're the best if you ask me!) But destination weddings require that you take some things in consideration, that are not required when getting married in your hometown. As destination wedding photographers with almost 10 years experience we know a thing or two about the planning that comes into a destination wedding. That's why we've put together a list of the best tips for planning a destination wedding.
6 Destination Wedding Tips by a Photographer
1. Consider the weather at the destination you've picked to get married. Are you tying the knot on a snowy mountain in Austria? Then a dress with sleeves might be something to consider. Read more tips for a winter wedding.
Then again if you're tying the knot on the beach of a tropical island your guest will certainly appreciate it when you supply them with ice cream, parasols, fans or flip flops. And at a wedding during an extreme heat wave I saw plenty of guests who loved the bride and groom for supplying everyone with little water filled spray bottles. Most importantly, make sure that there's plenty of drinks for everyone. And to keep them cold maybe serve them half frozen or add frozen fruit to the beverages you're serving. Grooms will probably be glad they brought an extra shirt. And if you want you makeup to last throughout the day no matter the temperature: Hire your make up artist to stay the entire wedding and plan time for a couple of touch ups.
2. I'd always advise anyone getting married to hire a wedding planner, but if you're getting married abroad I would say it's a necessity. Hiring your own vendors is always a lot of work, but when you're getting married in another country you might not even be able to meet with some of them. Let alone that you might not even speak the same language (both literally as well as figuratively). Some couples bring all their vendors with them from home, but some vendors can't be as easily flown in as others (for example furniture hire companies for chairs, lights and other furniture as well as caterers are less likely to be flown in).
Not all destination wedding planners are equal. Of course there's a difference in service level, experience, skill and price, but that's not all. Before you make the choice of who is going to be your weddingplanner there's other circumstances to consider. For example, are you set on a certain location for your wedding? If you are, you probably want someone who specialises in your destination of choice. But if you've only decided on Europe, or only decided on a destination wedding but have no clue on an exact country, you'll want a destination professional who has vast experience with travel and working in many different destinations.
Then there are things to consider that are out of your hands. For example, if you're getting married during a global pandemic you might end up changing locations during your wedding planning proces. If that means you need to find an entire new vendor team, that will likely cause a huge amount of stress. It really helps if you can stick with your vendor team whatever destination you decide on. But most of all, you'll be really glad when you've chosen a planner who will be able to move with you as you change your wedding destination (as they'll be the one coordinating everyone's changed travel plans and any changes in your vendor team) and who'll be able to make your vision come to life wherever you decide to go in the end.
Like all wedding specialists, wedding planners come in many shapes and forms. Some wedding planners have specialised themselves in weddings at certain locations. There's those who specialise in a continent or region like Europe, North-West Africa or The Caribbean. Or they work in a particular country like Italy, France or South Africa. There's even planners who have niched down to a city or area, for example New York, Paris, Greater London, the French Riviera, Tuscany, the Italian lakes or Disney parks. Then there's planners who specialise in a couple but very particular locations, like the ones who state they 'work in Paris, the south of France and Lake Como'. Other planners simply state they 'work worldwide' or are a 'destination wedding company'.
Different couples need different things. So when you choose a wedding planner make sure you've answered the question of where you might get married. Is your destination set in stone no matter what? Or is it your priority to create your vision and are you not too bothered by the exact location? Do you need a planner that is flexible and experienced in planning weddings all over the world or have you set your heart on an old world charm venue in the heart of Europe? When you've answered this question for yourself, it will be easier to eliminate and nominate potential wedding planners.
3. Decide whether you're ok with getting married symbolically or if it's super important to you to get married officially and legally during your wedding abroad. Your wedding planner will be able to research this for your thoroughly, but if you're planning your wedding by yourself then start researching this as early as possible if you want to go the official route.
Most of my clients opt for a ceremonial wedding so it's entirely up to them how they want to get married. Without being limited by the rules around weddings in the country they get married in. For example, people are often unaware that a lot of countries have strict limitations as to where a wedding may take place (for example, in The Netherlands you could only get married inside and in venues that were appointed by the municipality until a couple of years ago), saying your nuptials on top of a mountain is perfectly accepted in the USA and Scotland but most countries won't regard it as legal. A lot of countries require the ceremony to be performed in an official language of the country, which often makes for a boring almost emotionally meaningless ceremony. Which is why the majority of people who plan a destination wedding in Europe decide on a 100% ceremonial wedding.
4. Before you go shopping for a wedding dress, think about how you are going to take the dress with you. In the past airlines were super accommodating to helping you transport your dress, they would hang your dress in the front of the plane as long as you made a call to their customer service beforehand. But with the popularity of the destination wedding rising, this kind of accommodative reaction from airlines has become the exception more than the rule. Especially budget carriers like EasyJet, Ryan Air and Transavia will tell you to "simply" get your dress in a cabin case that is within the margins of the allowed sizes of the particular airline. Or they'll ask you to book your dress a seat on the plane. Less low-budget orientated airlines like Delta, British Airways, Air France are likely to be more helpful when calling their customer service about how to bring your dress to your destination wedding. So this is something to consider when shopping for your wedding dress.
If you want a sleek modern dress, (jump)suit or form fitting outfit, you'll probably be all set with a steamer or a wedding planner or bridal stylist if you ask them to take care of any creases. Flying first class or if you're already chartering a private plane for your guests might potentially already solve any potential dress shipping problems. Or if you're getting a designer dress, your dress designer might be able to use their other store locations or network to ship your dress to your wedding for you. But in general, the bigger the dress the more sure you'll need to be of how you're going to get your dress at your wedding. Nowadays, there are plenty of amazing wedding dresses that you might call destination wedding dresses as they don't take up that much space. Although I'd always advise you to go with your dream dress and organise things around that dress, if you happen to stumble upon a dress that coincidentally is both your favourite aa well as destination wedding friendly it doesn't hurt of course.
5. Consider who you're inviting. First of all, because not every guest will be enthusiastic about your plans to marry abroad. They might not want to cover travel costs or find it hard to get time off from work. To give guests ampel time send them a save-the-date or invitation as soon as possible so they can take your wedding into consideration while planning their vacation, other days off and, if necessary, travel prices.
Secondly, who are the guests? If you want a grandparent to walk you down the aisle, and they can't walk 6 flights of stairs because of bad knees or a recent hip replacement, Santorini or the Amalfi coast might not be the place for your destination wedding. These two destinations have a lot of venues that aren't accessible by car, and require climbing a lot of stairs. Similarly, if you're inviting a lot of small kids, don't chose a waterside venue (where they need to be constantly watched).
6. Take travel delays into account. Maybe you're fine with moving your ceremony by a day, if half yours guests are delayed by a canceled flight. But what if your best man/wedding photographer/mom/bff is so severly delayed that they'll miss your ceremony? Will you be ok with that too? To avoid this, make sure the most important guests and vendors arrive well in advance. In fact, our team always arrives at least 2 nights in advance, so we can check out the locations in advance, shoot lots of details and the venue beforehand and make sure we had a good night sleep the night before the wedding even when travel delays made us arrive hours later than originally planned.
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