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Planning a Destination Wedding

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.

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