After being invited to attend 2 destination weddings this year, I decided to write a post about the true cost of destination weddings last week. Destination weddings have their pluses, often appealing to couples who want a beautiful backdrop away from home and also to those who want a smaller affair and don’t want to break the bank whilst tying the knot on home soil.
On average, destination weddings have been reported to be more cost-effective for the couple but more often than not are a much larger investment for guests and often require a little more thought and appeal to attend. With this is mind, unless you are choosing to elope with just the two of you, it is imperative for couples to make preparations to help make attending a destination wedding a little easier, with little considered touches and forward planning.
Joined by recent Nu Bride; Emma who had a beautiful destination wedding in Barbados this year (coming soon!) Here are some little tips to get you on your destination wedding way.
Get a Planner
Please. My biggest advice would be to invest in a planner. Either before or after your wedding venue search. It is imperative you get a planner who knows the island/country (and if relevant – language) who can coordinate things for you from the other side of the pond. Some venues have their own recommendations often attached to the venue, or look for independent planners who specialise in destination weddings in your chosen country. For example; Once Upon a Destination, Pierre Carr Sarah Haywood White Avenue Linen and Silk Weddings to name a mere few.
Bear in mind, some cultures aren’t as prompt as we are on emails so be flexible with how you communicate (or simply leave this to your planner). Set boundaries around communication expectations up front, including time differences, so you don’t find any delays stressful. It is easier to schedule frequent Skype sessions to answer all of your questions at once?
Notice Notice Notice
Give your guests as much notice as possible. Whilst you will be budgeting for your own wedding and adapting your lifestyle to save, many guests still have their own commitments to juggle. Giving them as much notice as possible will not only help them arrange time off, but to help them budget and see if attending is financially feasible. Generally advice will say you need to give 3 months notice for a wedding invitations, ignore this for destination weddings and give a year as and absolute minimum!
Sites: Sign up to wedding website like Squarespace, Wedding Site or Getting Married and keep guests updated with lots of useful information. You can also re-direct guests back there when they start to ask you questions you’ve already answered!
Save the date: Consider sending save the dates as soon as possible and offer informal information via telephone or email to gauge interest.
Real bride Emma says:
Try to give your guests as much notice as possible. We gave a years notice and then gave 3 months RSVP deadline, so guests didn’t feel pressurised to make any quick decisions.
One of the least helpful things you can do is provide guests with inaccurate or not enough information for them to make a firm decision. There is nothing worse, after committing to an event is to suddenly have unexpected and rapidly growing costs, because not enough realistic information was given. You don’t want people begrudging spending more money. So don’t just give information about international flight and accommodation costs. Consider offering further information about rough budgets; the general day-to-day living costs, travelling around the country once they are out there. Currency, weather, language barriers etc. A great travel guide or agent will be able to assist you with this.
Real bride Emma says:
We gave our guests immediate notice after our engagement (just under a year), rather than sending invitations out we first personally called everyone to invite them, but manage their expectations of the costs and also that their was no expectation or pressure for them to attend. We felt this was gave more of a personal touch. We also sent out an information document which included information of Barbados, various holiday website and hotel links so they could research what they could get for different budgets, general costs of food and drinks for spending money. We set a long timeframe on the RSVP date, so this gave people time to work out if it was feasible for them.
This is divided down the middle in the wedding community, especially when it comes to asking your wedding party (bridesmaids / groomsmen) to travel. Some couples choose to pay all travel expenses for those with pivotal roles to be there. It’s a generous and appreciated gesture.
As for your guests – should you pay? Some feel if you are choosing a destination wedding then you should host your guests; re – pay for them! Ouch.
Others and more commonly – feel that it is up to the guests to choose to attend or not and to incur the associated travelling costs. There are no written rules – do what you feel is right for you and what is reasonable in terms of budget. Do bear in mind that destination weddings are a significant investment for guests and wedding party members – so expect a smaller guest list (Secretly that might be what you are hoping for! ) and don’t take offence if your nearest and dearest have to so no.
Real Bride Emma says:
We knew there would potentially be some people we would love to be there who couldn’t make it, however this is something we knew we had to sacrifice when choosing a destination wedding. This is why we are organising a post wedding celebration party back in the UK, for guests who couldn’t attend Barbados.
A popular choice….If the budget allows, consider a post wedding party or dinner back on home turf, find a way to include guest who weren’t able to attend by sharing images and videos’ of the day. It also doubles up as a great reunion for those who were able to celebrate with you!
Easy Bookings & Holiday Sales
Make it easy for your guests and connect with your wedding or honeymoon specialist such as Sandals, Perfect Weddings Abroad, Beaver Travel they may be able to offer generous discounts to group bookings taking the headache away from you or your guests having to research good deals.
Alternatively – keep up to date with holiday sales and inform your guests of when to try to book to save money.
Real bride Emma says:
If you have the opportunity to go to the destination pre-wedding to have any necessary meetings I think this really helps, we were lucky that my husband, Harlan proposed whilst we were on holiday in Barbados which gave us the opportunity to visit venues, have various meetings whilst we were in the country. This helped give more confidence in our decisions with choosing venues etc.
Pre wedding prep
Any destination wedding planner will be able to advise you on the best time to visit your chosen country in the preceding dates up to your wedding, this will also be guided by legal obligations to be in the country for a certain number of days pre-wedding.
Allow enough time in the destination prior to the wedding day to organise all the last-minute bits, such as flowers, cakes, meeting with your wedding conductor, signing legal paperwork.
Time to Relax
Most of the last-minute planning meetings that we have months ahead on home turf, have to be done days before your destination wedding day. This may feel stressful, so ensure you make time for pre-wedding relaxation before the wedding day and holiday hosting obligations descend!
Check with your local registry office if you have to give notice of intent to marry or sign legal paperwork in your home town too.
Some international marriage certificates are not recognised by UK law – so double-check why’s and what for’s so you are clear about legal expectations.
Wedding Fashion Transport
Check with your chosen airline, most will allow you to carry your wedding dress and suits on board and even hang them up so they don’t get creased!
Social Butterfly – Welcome Your Guests
Having a destination wedding requires much more hosting from the couple. It is a fantastic and very welcomed idea to arrange meet and greets for your guests when they arrive.
There is nothing like feeling a little discombobulated when you arrive in a country that is unfamiliar. Seeing a friendly face and showing how much it means to you that your guests made the effort and expense to attend, can be shown in the smallest of details, such as meet and greets or even welcome hampers.
Psst… We were given a little welcome bag when we arrived for a destination wedding, which including sunscreen, mosquito spray, a little bit of local rum and location information. It was such a lovely touch.
There are some great ideas about how to keep international travellers happy via luxury wedding planner; Meghan Fay from Extraordinary Days Events
Consider the expense for guests travelling and if you would like to ask for wedding gifts or not. If so, consider opening a traditional luxury or alternative gift registry, or honeymoon fund, so guests don’t have to worry about transporting gifts internationally.
The Night Before
Pre-wedding events can definitely make guests feel welcome and well-looked after. Ideas such as a rehearsal lunch or dinner, or a drinks reception a day before the wedding are a good starting point. This ensures guests are settled in and give them a chance to relax and get to know each other.
Spend Time Together
On any wedding – it is so challenging to get a moment with just the two of you after you are married. If you are combining your destination wedding with your honeymoon this is even more challenging and all the more important to consider, as you will more than likely be in the same vicinity as your guests and hosting them. Plan ahead and dedicate dates in your timetable for just the two of you.
Allow some time after the wedding day just for you two, which can be hard on destination weddings when you have so many family and friends you want to also spend time with and host.
Happy DW planning!
Stunning Destination Photography: Bandele Zuberi