How To Thursday: Destination Weddings

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hello Guys,

I know destination weddings are not for everybody...but there are some couples who would actually prefer to say their vows on an island. Some couples do it alone or with a small group of friends who are willing to travel! Here are some tips for those couples who are interested or are planning a destination wedding!

1. Residency Requirements

Many countries have lengthy residency requirements for couples who want to marry on their soil. European countries are notoriously tricky for this, while many Caribbean and Southeast Asian nations, which trade on their reputations as romantic vacation destinations, are more lenient. Always check with the embassy or tourism bureau of your chosen country beforehand. A simple way to get around these laws can be to have the symbolic wedding ceremony in the country of your choice, while having the civil ceremony at a courthouse or registrar’s office back home.
2. Documentation
You’ve packed the gown, the tux, the print-outs of your vows. But…you’ve neglected to bring your birth certificate! Some – though not all – countries require special documentation like original birth certificates, documentation of previous divorce, etc.  Sometimes those documents need to be certified by your embassy, sometimes they need to be translated into the country’s own language. Again, check with your embassy or with the local tourism bureau, and plan accordingly – those wishing to marry in Thailand, for example, should budget for a week in-country before the wedding.
3. Wedding Planner, a necessity 
Planning a wedding is difficult enough in your hometown. Trying to do so via email and Skype across thousands of miles and a language barrier is a train wreck waiting to happen. That’s why almost all experts recommend hiring a LOCAL wedding planner to navigate the murky seas of florists, caterers, officiants, etc. Plan to dedicate about 10 percent of your total budget for hiring a planner.
4. Considerate
Unfortunately, destination weddings all too often create financial tension for friends and family. While you might not mind plunking down a year’s salary for one magical day, your future in-laws and potential bridesmaids and groomsmen may not be in a position to splash out thousands on plane tickets and hotel rooms. But they’ll no doubt be hurt if not invited.
What to do? Well, you could elope, of course. (Just kidding…sort of.) Seriously, there’s no universal solution to this one other than a) announce your plans well in advance so guests have time to save and plan, b) pay for hotel rooms and other expenses for members of the wedding party, and c) consider having a very small wedding, followed by an at-home reception for your larger circle.
5. Pick your location

  • Decide on a place. Think of a place that is romantic and meaningful to your relationship, or be impetuous and spin the globe and plunk your finger down anywhere. Let your imagination run wild for now and eliminate unrealistic destinations later in the process. Choose a first, second and third choice.

  • 6. Money, Money, Money!
    Set your budget. Factor in how many guests you want, how much money you'll need for travel and how much money you'll need to start your new life afterwards. Set a realistic price range, one with some wiggle room either way. This will narrow down your choices while "shopping."
    7. Who would want to come?
    Make a guest list. This is important for destination weddings. Figure out each guest's probable schedule and location. You want to plan your wedding to accommodate your high priority guests.
    8. How can I make it cheaper and more convenient for my guests?
    Shop for packages. Look for all inclusive destination wedding packages in that area. To avoid headaches look for a package that helps you with transportation, marriage licenses, reception venues, bridal consultants, accommodations for guests and group discounts for guests. Compare prices and inclusiveness, as well as recommendations, ratings and references.

  • 9. Test the Waters
    Get a feel for the place. Do this in order to guide your guests once they get down there. Go down a bit ahead of time and walk through what the guests will have to do, including checking in to the hotel, finding a place to eat, getting to and from the airport and the hotel and where the wedding is held.
    10. Stay Informed!!
    Keep updated. In the months leading up to your wedding after everything is sorted out, be sure to double-check all reservations and services. Send thank you notes to everyone that has helped you and ask any question you can think of.

  • Helpful resources:
    • The Knot: US-based wedding info clearinghouse, with dozens of extremely useful articles on the planning, etiquette  and logistics of destination weddings.
    • US State Department: Helpful info for American citizens regarding foreign wedding requirements (some info will be helpful for non-US-citizens as well).
    Stay Beautiful My Loves,
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