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Planning a Destination Wedding? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you are considering planning a destination wedding (and I so hope you do!), there’s a lot of things to think about, a few more logistics to organise in advance, but so much more to enjoy too. Whether you’re within a few hours drive from where you usually reside, or you have guests coming from further afield (so that you are the destination, or if you’re planning the whole wedding overseas, there are many (often overlooked) advantages to planning a destination wedding.

Reasons to Consider a Destination Wedding – Pros and Cons

Destination Weddings can actually be Cheaper

There are a few great advantages to having a destination wedding, affecting even the most significant aspects of wedding planning, but there are a few downsides too. Depending on your destination of choice, it might have a positive impact on your wedding budget – a destination wedding in Bali, for instance, is going to be much cheaper to cater, than one in Auckland or Sydney. Of course, this will depend on one of our couples planned a very budget conscious wedding in Samoa, whereas others will have spent massive budgets on a destination wedding in Samoa. It will all come down to what you choose, and how many guests you have. Some of the wedding venues I visited in Rarotonga even offer essentially a ‘free’ wedding if you have around 30 guests staying at the hotel. See Planning a Destination Wedding in Rarotonga if you’re interested.

While you will of course have the flights, accommodation and travel insurance for most destination weddings, many couples consider it part of their honeymoon, so if you were planning on heading overseas, it may be a great way of doing both.

Destination Weddings often have Smaller Guest Lists

This can be a positive or a negative association with destination weddings – you can either take the opportunity to reduce your wedding guest list, or you may feel disappointed about those who can’t make it. There’s a variety of reasons why people may not be able to travel to make your destination wedding, including:

  • Budget constraints – even to nearby Rarotonga or Fiji, it all adds up for wedding guests.
  • Childcare – some couples won’t be able to travel with children, and others may not want to travel with young children.
  • Pregnancy – countries like Bali can present additional risks to pregnant women such as sanitation/food poisoning, or even Zika virus, and of course they won’t be able to travel internationally toward the end of pregnancy.
  • Old age or medical needs at home – some of your elderly relatives and friends may not be up for the trip, while others have medical needs and can’t travel.
  • Work or other travel commitments – many guests will have work, school, or even other travel commitments they can’t escape.

On the other hand, although usually I would advise that it’s not essential to invite all partners, if you are asking guests to attend a destination wedding, this may be a difficult consideration, and you may end up inviting a few more ‘plus ones’

Destination Weddings are a great option for those with family all over the world.

If you and your fiancé are not from the same country, or even the same city, you may be struggling to decide whose hometown is to play host to your nuptials. Where half the guests will be travelling already, a destination wedding can be a great solution. When we planned our wedding in 2015, we were inviting Blair’s family in Seattle, mine from the UK, and most guests from Christchurch, so we thought a destination wedding (rather than getting married in Auckland where we live) would be a real adventure for our guests. With so many visiting New Zealand from far and wide, so we really wanted to make it more than a one-day experience. With a (nearby) destination wedding our guests could soak up as much of their holidays with us as possible. It also enabled us to introduce our guests and extended families to each other over a few days, instead of just an afternoon in Auckland.

While remaining in New Zealand, we settled on a destination-wedding appropriate Coromandel venue (a couple of hours from Auckland). Guests were invited to arrive two days before the wedding and to stay another night after, during which time we had organised a pre-wedding winery trip, two evenings together including a classic Kiwi BBQ, and a boat trip (actually cancelled for weather – eek!)

Destination Weddings – from a Guest Point of View

In the few years prior to our wedding, we had attended a destination wedding (well, it was a destination for us) at Sheen Falls Lodge, in Ireland (our Kiwi friend marrying an Irish lady), and also a festival-feel wedding in the South of England (for our friends whose families and friends were from all over the US and UK). We had the best times both making our way to each of the weddings, combined with holidays in Europe and seeing family in Seattle on the way home both times (I think), and attending the weddings themselves. For the wedding in Ireland, we travelled in a group after organising to meet in France, so we had a great group of friends to enjoy the trip with, and for the one in England, although we didn’t know any other guests besides family, the couple had organised for all guests to stay with them in the village for a few days prior, so we made great friends.

Nowadays, it’s a bit more difficult as we have a 1 year old and a 2 year old, and even travelling to a wedding in New Plymouth recently was hard work, but if most of your friends are before babies, and have the funds to travel, it really is an amazing experience as a guest – so long as you’ve organised it well.

Destination Weddings can feel more Unique than well-known local venues

If you’ve reached the age and stage where it feels like there’s a wedding every weekend for a while, you may also have associations with lots of local wedding venues – if they’ve been used by friends recently. While it’s perfectly natural to find wedding venues through actually attending a wedding there, you may not feel that it’s as unique as you’d like. By travelling further afield, you widen the pool of available wedding vendors and venues, and make it far less likely your guests have already been there too.

Destination Weddings are more susceptible to postponement

As the past couple of years has taught us, nothing is certain anymore. None of us would ever have guessed that (in New Zealand) we’d have been unable to travel and return home for two years, let alone have international guests come and visit us, and it’s hard to plan a destination wedding at the moment without at least considering that. We talked to a couple who have had to postpone their destination wedding: and while many having weddings close to home also postponed theirs, there’s certainly another level of logistics involved with travel.

If you’re Planning a Destination Wedding, you need to be Organised

It takes good organisational skills to plan any wedding, but if the one you are organising is overseas, you may even be dealing with language barriers and timezones. Generally speaking, it’s advisable to engage a wedding planner to help with an overseas wedding, and many are included with wedding venues, but you’re also going to have to stay on track yourself.

Decisions like the guest list will need to be organised well in advance, and to be able to find and book wedding vendors you love, you’re going to need to set aside a good chunk of time for wedding planning, possibly including zoom calls. Once you’ve found your wedding venue, ask for as many galleries of previous weddings they’ve hosted as possible, as you will be able to identify vendor styles you like, as well as things like floor plans, food and decoration.

Hiring a planner or coordinator isn’t foolproof, they have lots of weddings, and you do still need to make most decisions yourself. You’ll need an excellent wedding planner book (the little white book is ideal with its countdown diary, checklists and timelines), and an eye for detail. Don’t worry, it’ll keep you on track, and together with our email series following purchase, we’ll have you planned to perfection in no time.

Fiji was the destination, COVID had other plans!

Originally planning to have their Wedding at the Outrigger in Fiji, Michelle and her Hubby to be, wanted the small destination wedding. However, due to COVID-19 they are now getting married in NZ and are increasing the guest list to be surrounded by more friends and family on their big day! We asked Michelle a series of questions about planning a wedding during a pandemic, read on to hear more about her Wedding planning journey!

When did you first get engaged? June 2019  

What was your original wedding date? 16th October 2021 

What were the first things you organised for your wedding? Venue and photographer. Because weddings are so popular in Fiji, you have to book early to get a date you want. Once the venue was chosen, we booked in the photographer we wanted too before they were booked out.

How many people did you plan on having, what was important to you about your day? Initially it was only around 50-60 people, however, that quickly grew to 80 as we realised there was people we had missed. To us having our friends and family with us on our big day was most important. 

Somewhere along the way, Covid obviously arose, if your date was arranged pre covid were you worried that it might be impacted once covid hit, or did it still seem far away at that point? Covid hit about 8 months after we got engaged and 6 months after we had paid deposits for Fiji. At the time we didn’t think much of it, but in August last year we realised that it wasn’t going away, and a few friends had lost their jobs. So, at that time we made the decision to push our wedding out until June 2022, giving people more time to save so they could come over to Fiji, and allow for Covid to calm down or ideally be gone by then. 

When did you decide to call off the overseas Wedding? In June this year as Covid in Fiji became out of control and my mum became sick, we made the decision to cancel Fiji and move our wedding home to NZ. Having our family and friends at our wedding is the most important part for us and having it here in NZ allows for more family and friends to attend.

How far into planning your Wedding did you have to cancel? Did you loose any deposits? Lucky not too far through. Because our wedding was still a year and a half out when Covid hit, we had only arranged some of the larger things. Some of the smaller parts hadn’t been planned. We are extremely lucky that our venue has given us our full deposit back. Our photographer and makeup artist have put our deposits into credits so that we can have some nice photos taken when we do go over to Fiji (hopefully for our honeymoon).

Had you sent out save the date or Wedding invitations? Yes, we had done two lots of save the dates. Thankfully we have decided to not to change our second date, so we don’t need to do some more. But We had designed a wedding website, so we have had to update all the information on there.

How did you feel knowing that you weren’t able to have an overseas and/or destination Wedding? It was more important for us to have all our family and friends at our wedding, and although we are gutted, we are excited that we know we will be getting married next year. 

Did you immediately look for Wedding Venues in NZ, or were plans ‘up in the air’ for a while?In the back of my mind (from when Covid hit) I was always looking at NZ venue options just in case Because I’m from the South Island and my fiancé is from the north island, we always wondered where in NZ we would get married. In May i asked a few friends if they were to get married again or married, where would they do it, and that gave me a few locations we hadn’t even heard of. Within 3 hours (yes, 3 hours) of deciding to cancel Fiji, we had chosen a new venue to go look at and 3 days later we paid a deposit for that venue. 

What did you do (or plan to do) on your original wedding date? It’s actually our groomsmen’s birthday on our original date so we are heading off on a holiday with him and his family. 

Did you change your mind about anything in the interim or change anything about your day, apart from Locations! Maybe size etc I’ve pretty much changed everything. We are going from having a smaller beach wedding to a larger “winter” wedding. My colour scheme, decorations, wedding dress and guest list are all very different to our original plans. Thankfully I had only found but not ordered by wedding dress. 

Besides your postponement, has Covid affected anything else in your life? A week after we decided to postpone our wedding, we found out we were pregnant. I was told from a very young age, due to medical complications I have, it would be very unlikely for me to fall pregnant. We hadn’t been trying long but I believe the reduced stress and slower pace of life due to Covid lockdowns allowed for that to happen naturally. We are now excited to have a 1-year-old at our wedding next year and to be there on our special day. 

What advice would you give to anyone else who’s planning in a pandemic? Is there anything you’d do differently, or anything you’ve learned along the way that you’d share with others?Don’t stress over things you can’t control, be patient and trust your gut. Don’t try and organise a wedding around what might happen. Plan your big day based off what you really want and if it gets postponed then it wasn’t meant to happen on that day. I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and for us we obviously weren’t meant to get married in Fiji but have everyone around us here in NZ. Most vendors are aware that Covid makes things unpredictable now and are very flexible to work with you on making your big day possible. 

If you loved this, see our beautiful Fijian destination elopement feature (preview below).


If after reading this, you would like to share your own Wedding Planning experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic, send me an email at megan@forgetmenotjournals.com, I’d love to hear from you!

Destination wedding, not giving up hope!

Avid travelers, Stacey and her hubby to be have their heart set on a Bali Wedding. Having locked in their dream location pre COVID and paying their deposit, there was no way of knowing that just a few short months later, the world would shut down due to the pandemic. But they’re not ready to call of the destination wedding just yet! We asked Stacey to share more about the journey so far.

When did you first get engaged? We got engaged in December 2019 while travelling through India.  

What was your original wedding date? 10th April 2021 

What were the first things you organised for your wedding? We really didn’t expect to find a location so quick! We always knew we wanted to get married overseas both being big travellers and so had started looking at a number of overseas locations that we both really liked. When we found our dream location in Bali, we locked it in and it came as a package with everything we loved and a number of great suppliers. Covid was just becoming talked about and we really did not know much about it nor that it was about to shut the world down only a few months later.

How many people did you plan on having, what was important to you about your day? We had planned on roughly 80 people joining us. There was a number of important things to us.  Being able to enjoy the location, relaxing, the food and enjoy being away with all our closest loved ones to not only celebrate the day but also be able to enjoy the getaway.  

Somewhere along the way, Covid obviously arose, if your date was arranged pre covid were you worried that it might be impacted, or did it still seem far away at that point? We booked just before covid really started to be spoken about on just how large it was becoming in China. We didn’t expect things to escalate as much as they did and once, we started hearing more and more post booking we definitely started to become more worried. Once the world fully shut down was, we’re reality really set in, and we started to think a wedding overseas in a years’ time may be really something that wouldn’t happen. 

When did you decide to call off the overseas Wedding? We still haven’t called of the wedding. Our passion is travelling and one day we really hope to be able to travel again. We are currently in a situation where we need to start making decisions on how long we push the day out for and are both really struggling to make the call. At this stage we have postponed until Sept 2022 but there is flexibility to push out more. In saying that with everything happening we really don’t see the world starting to open up again anytime soon. 

How far into planning your Wedding did you have to cancel? Did you loose any deposits? We continued to plan to keep positive about everything (everything was included in the package, so it was all about making decisions as payment had already been made) we continued to try keep a positive mind. If we do cancel, we will lose 50% of the total cost and when you take into account the cost of a wedding that is a substantial amount of money to lose and have nothing from. 

Had you sent out save the date or Wedding invitations? We had sent out save the dates to give everyone as much notice as possible being overseas. 

How did you feel knowing that you weren’t able to have an overseas and/or destination Wedding? We were devastated to not be able to move forward and as hopeful as we are that it will happen one day it is really tough to actually make the decision on whether to continue waiting or to cancel. 

Did you immediately look for alternative venues? Maybe a Wedding in NZ? or were plans ‘up in the air’ for a while? Our plans are very much up in the air still. We were always going to do the legal piece in New Zealand just the 2 of us and really make something special. Plans around whether we do that while we wait to be able to get to Bali eventually or whether we cut the losses and cancel to then just do something much smaller in New Zealand are very much running through our minds. 

What did you do/or plan to do on your original wedding date? We had a lovely weekend away just the 2 of us. It was so important to us to always try and stay positive as frustrating as everything was but to really make the day something we would still always remember. 

Did you change your mind about anything in the interim or change anything about your day, apart from Locations! Maybe size etc N/A at the moment but will need to downsize if we do cancel. 

Besides your postponement, has Covid affected anything else in your life? Covid definitely changed the way we were used to doing things as being very avid travellers not being able to do something we loved was hard! It made deciding when to start a family and plans all change. We really wanted to start a family and had hoped to once the wedding had happened along with just enjoy the final year of travelling as just the 2 of us. Obviously covid impacted that and we made the decision to start a family sooner. Ultimately it has been amazing, and we are now very lucky to be pregnant with our first little bubs. 

What advice would you give to anyone else who’s planning in a pandemic? Is there anything you’d do differently, or anything you’ve learned along the way that you’d share with others? I think the biggest thing is understanding the pandemic and how quickly it can change things while also trying to make alternative plans that could work as well. Make sure you read the fine print and know what you are getting into with each provider to ensure there is flexibility with dates when it comes to outbreaks. We have really stuck to what we want for our special day and are being patient and completely understand this won’t work for everyone but don’t let outside influences try to change what you want to do for your day. If it comes to the time that we need to make the call, we want it to be because we are ready to not because everyone has said so. It has really led us to think about how we can include family and friends that cannot make it due to travel restrictions. If you have really close friends and family stuck overseas really think about the ways you can include them from afar via online, maybe sending little favours for them to get to make them feel included. 

We hope Stacey gets her dream wedding soon, check out this beautiful Bali Destination Wedding for more inspiration (preview below)


If after reading this, you would like to share your own Wedding Planning experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic, send me an email at megan@forgetmenotjournals.com , I’d love to hear from you!

Bride Tribe II: Hannah Carson – Bali Destination Wedding

bali destination wedding

Hannah, you know exactly what many girls are going through, or are about to go through, which makes your advice so valuable. You’ve now just got one week before you jet off to Bali for your destination wedding

How are you feeling?


I’m really excited now, I think it’s only just hit me. I still don’t feel like I have done enough in terms of the wedding itself, and I still keep running through everything in my head, but I think I need to now just relax and realise the hard work is done and enjoy it all!

Let’s go back to the beginning… can you tell us about the proposal?

Marco and I lived out at Muriwai Beach for a few months and absolutely loved it. We hadn’t visited in a while so we organised a doggy play date out there with a couple of friends, we had been wanting our dogs to meet for a while now! We were going to visit The Tasting Shed for a drink afterwards so we dressed quite nicely for the beach, even though I did tell Marco I thought his blazer was a bit OTT! We arrived at the beach and apparently our friends were already down on the beach (Marco called to confirm when we arrived). We were walking down and I couldn’t see them.  Zoe (our dog) has this cute little bag that hangs off her collar that her poo bags (excuse me!) go in, Marco asked me to get a bag out even though I hadn’t seen her “get busy”. In it was a note, I opened it and it said “Will you marry me?”, I turned around and Marco was on one knee! Everything after that was a blur.  We think I said yes! We popped in to see his mum on our way home to tell her the news. I walked in to see every member of my family and my best friend there – that gave me the biggest fright of all! I was the last one to know!  It was the best day of my life!

bali destination wedding

How did you decide to have a Destination Wedding?

It was really important to Marco & I to have a small wedding as we are quite private with our relationship. We wanted to have only people we are really close with to share our day with us.
I originally felt so much pressure as soon as we got engaged, to have a big wedding here in New Zealand and I hated that feeling.
We had a trip to Bali already planned for a few weeks after we got engaged (Marco totally tricked me by proposing before the holiday!) and when we visited Uluwatu we knew that was where we wanted to get married. We didn’t even need to verbalise it to each other as we both knew straight away. We have always loved Bali and it just felt right.

 

Did Planning a Destination Wedding make it Easier or Harder?

That’s a tricky question! I think a bit of both. I think it makes it easier in terms of using a wedding planner, as we didn’t really have a choice to not use one. She has dealt with all our vendors for us and has been really amazing.
I also think some things have been harder, like organising the few days around the wedding and trying to organise 30 people’s holidays. Some people have leaned on us for more direction while others were happy to do their own thing.
I have had so much fun organising it all though and I think the fact that we are getting a holiday at the same time has made me that much more excited.


Who would you recommend a destination wedding to? 

Someone who knows what they want (and can dictate that over emails!) and who doesn’t want every extended family member (that you haven’t met or barely know!). If you want a small wedding, it makes it that much easier.
I think you also need to be slightly relaxed and also realise that not everyone is going to be able to make it and if you’re okay with that then I would recommend it.
bali destination wedding
How did you find Organising your Guest List – especially with a Destination Wedding?

It was extremely difficult. We needed to stay true to ourselves and what we wanted for our wedding, and we are so happy that we did. There have definitely been hard moments, and we know we will have offended some people. The hardest part has been with friends’ partners. I think a few people have been disappointed, but if we didn’t know someone we didn’t invite them, as there are so many other people we are closer with that also aren’t coming. We can’t have everybody. We think people may understand better when they see photos, and see how small a wedding it actually is.

 

Have you had a lot of Wedding Planning help from family or your bridesmaids? 

I’ve done it all myself but I am a control freak so I’m quite happy with that! I also had a bit of help from the little white book!


Is there anything you wish you knew going into the planning? 


I’m sure this is the one thing you hear continuously – wedding budgets!!! I normally consider myself good with budgets, and organising other events I normally always stick to them. I think weddings are especially difficult because when you see a better or more expensive version of something, you say to yourself well we are only getting married once, so then you go for the more expensive option. I think when you set a budget you need to realise it is going to be about 20 – 30 % more than that.

What’s been the hardest part about planning your wedding? 


The hardest part for me has been putting my trust in my wedding planner when I am used to having full control. Also, having to envision a lot of things as I’ve had to make decisions from New Zealand without seeing things in person. But I hope that it will make for more surprises (good surprises) on the day.

 

What, if any, expectations or pressures do you feel as a bride? 

 

I felt a lot of pressure when we first got married to do the traditional, huge wedding and in hindsight it did upset me a lot. Marco & I had to step back and really evaluate and imagine our dream day. Once we had that vision, we had to stick to it and I’m so glad we did. It is so easy to get swayed by everyone and do what you think people think you should do. But you need to find out what it is you want and create a plan from there. 

 

What have you saved, and what have you splurged on? 

 

We have saved on our cake, by getting a small two-tiered cake. I suppose we have also saved on wedding party expenses as we only have a Maid of Honour and Best Man. We have splurged on our venue and our outfits!

 

Is there anything you considered not having whatsoever?


I really didn’t care about having a cake! But we ended up getting a small one because people say that you can’t have a wedding without a cake, so I guess I just did what is expected here. But it wouldn’t have bothered me to not have one as we have a dessert being served too.

 

Is there anything that in hindsight, you feel like you could do without? 

The cake!

You’re also a bit of a beauty guru with your blog Beauty by Hannah, can you share any tips?

My biggest beauty tips that I would give a Bride-to-be are to nourish your body from the inside out. When your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs, your hair, skin and nails will also be receiving them and they will naturally glow. A great skincare routine is also key in the lead up. If you have no idea where to start, visiting a professional is a good place to start or doing some research online can be a big help. Brands like Paula’s Choice and The Ordinary have great active products that won’t break the bank.
 

What is the one moment that has stood out about planning the wedding? 

 

I think trying on my dress when it was finished and being so happy with it just made me so excited. I have thoroughly enjoyed it all though.

 

What is the most important detail for you in your wedding? 

 

That I get to be with Marco and that everyone has an amazing time. Having my family and best friends there.

 

If you could only choose one thing – the best dress, the best location or the best food to have at your wedding which would you choose? 

 

I almost want to say dress, but you could still have a beautiful wedding dress without spending much money, so I’ll go with location!

 

What are you most looking forward to on your wedding day, or after? 

 

I think I am most looking forward to the reception and relaxing with Marco, family and friends and everyone having a good time! 

 

We spoke about a bit of a fear that you have for after the wedding, and I feel like that’s something a lot of brides will go through… 

 

Yes, I think that there may be a horrible void and emptiness –  I’m scared of not having anything to plan! But after I spoke to you I feel so much more positive about that, because as you said, we will have such incredible memories. If I arrive home and feel like that at all I have a few things I can through myself into to distract me!

If you’d like to keep up with the last couple of weeks of her wedding journey, you can follow her on instagram.

An Stunning Alternative Fiji Elopement by Van Middleton

If you have been thinking about eloping or celebrating your wedding day in Fiji, today’s alternative love story will make it a done deal! This intimate elopement is not your average resort wedding, with gorgeous couple Belinda + Eddie embracing Fijian culture and local community before taking a swim fully kitted out in wedding gear! The stunning images by Van Middleton and this breathtaking film by Asher King will wow you all the way to the islands and back, and I’m now desperate to get by passport renewed for a Fijian adventure! Enjoy xox

Who Just the two of us (Belinda + Eddie)
Where Savusavu, Fiji

We splurged on… an amazing destination elopement. We wanted to do something that was just for us, to celebrate our love for each other and to minimize stress during an otherwise extremely challenging time in our life.

We shared our experience with our family and friends when we returned, in a quiet and special way. Our photographer and videographer made it easy for us to share our experience with those with love.

Our advice to engaged couples is to not ask for too many opinions when planning your special day, choosing your dress, or any other detail of your wedding. Find your inner voice, work our what you want together, and stick to it.

CREDITS

Photographer Van Middleton
Videograper Asher King (see the film here)
Planner Filo at Namale Resort & Spa
Hair + Makeup Felice (arranged via Namale Resort & Spa)
Brides Dress Martina Liana
Brides Shoes Grace Loves Lace
Groom Jacket, shoes, pants and shirt from Calibre
Music Local Fijian choir
Earrings Nicole Fendel
Church St Andrews Parish, Savusavu