Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. But for many people, it’s also one of the most stressful. Here’s what I learned from planning my own wedding: it can be as stressful or as easy as you allow it to be. There are tons of details to figure out, lots of logistics, and of course, you want it to be beautiful. But accepting that things can—and probably will—go wrong and focusing instead on everything that marriage means, will help you to keep things in perspective.
If you’re planning a destination wedding, things may be a little easier since you’re likely inviting fewer guests than if you’d had the wedding at home. But it can also be more difficult since you’re trying to manage an event remotely.
Here are 10 tips to help make your destination wedding planning go smoothly:
Definitely start your planning early to avoid any unwelcome surprises and to secure the best rates for travel and accommodations. Some experts recommend you start your wedding planning 9-15 months in advance, though all the necessary vendors can sometimes accommodate tighter timelines. Planning early will be less stressful for you and will give friends and family the chance to plan their calendars around your event and make the necessary arrangements.
Pick Your Destination Carefully
There are lots of things to keep in mind when choosing the location of your dream destination wedding. Obviously, it needs to be a place that you and your future spouse love. But keep friends and family in mind, too. If your mom hates super long flights, you might not want to plan a wedding on the other side of the world. Research peak season for your destination, and then avoid it! Peak season travel can strain everyone’s budgets. Also research historical weather data for your wedding month—you don’t want to plan a tropical wedding during hurricane season!
Plan a Trip to Your Destination in Advance
Don’t plan your big day at a venue sight you’ve never seen. Find the time to schedule a trip to your destination before the big day to make sure that everything is as you expect it to be. Sometimes online photos can be deceiving so you’ll want to see your venue with your own two eyes.
Hire an On-Site Planner
Planning a wedding remotely can be challenging, so hire an on-site wedding planner who can be your point person throughout the whole process. Look for recommendations and read reviews to find someone who you feel will understand you, your style and the type of wedding you want to have. And don’t be afraid to stay in very close contact with your planner. With so much technology right at your fingertips, it’ll be easy to see photos of the venue as well as the details like flowers, centerpieces and potential photo locations. Heck, you can even listen to a potential band or DJ via Skype or FaceTime.
Have a No-Gifts Policy
Your guests are already making some sacrifices to attend your wedding. The cost of airfare, hotel accommodations, potential childcare, food, drink and incidentals along the way adds up quickly. Let everyone know that their presence at your wedding is the biggest present they could give you, and that they need not spend more money on a gift. Your guests will appreciate this thoughtful gesture.
Provide Welcome Bags for Guests
Prepare welcome bags for all your guests. Your welcome bags should achieve two goals: they should make your guests feel welcome and be a sign of your gratitude that they’ve traveled to attend your big day; they should also provide all the information they need to know about the destination, resort and wedding day. To address the former, include a small gift as well as items they can use during their stay, like sunscreen, snacks and perhaps passes to local attractions. To get your guests up to speed on everything related to the destination and hotel, provide maps and brochures. To keep costs in check, contact the hotel and local tourism board for free materials they can provide. And don’t forget to include a detailed itinerary that lets your guests know the agenda for the days leading up to the wedding and the wedding day itself, as well as contact information for you and anyone else they may need to get in touch with. One welcome bag per couple is sufficient. If there are kids attending, create tailored bags just for them to make them feel like a special part of the festivities.
Be Prepared if Things Go Wrong
Many destination weddings are in tropical destinations, which can mean unexpected tropical storms. Regardless where your special day is happening, it’s wise to look into wedding insurance so that you’re protected in the event that anything goes wrong. But before you plunk down any money on insurance, check with your vendors to see what insurance they may have and what it covers. Sit down and talk to an insurance agent who will be able to advise you on the best kind of policy to suit your needs. Also, don’t forget to check with your venue about what your plan B options might be in the event of bad weather. If extreme weather threatens an outdoor party, find out if there are indoor options. Or perhaps they’ll even be willing to let you reschedule for later in the day or the next day.
Pay for Everything With a Credit Card
You’ll likely be conducting a lot of large transactions as you plan your wedding, so using a credit card makes a lot of sense. First and foremost, you’ll earn valuable miles or points if you’re using a card associated with a loyalty program—that’s a big bonus right there! You’ll also be able to take advantage of the insurance that comes with your credit card in the event that anything goes wrong. And you’ll get the best exchange rates. But, be sure to use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. You’ll want to pay off your credit card debt in full to make sure that you’re not paying loads in interest—most credit cards come with high APRs.
Understand Marriage Laws
Every country has its own marriage laws and requirements so make sure you know the law of the land before you arrive. You’ll definitely need to have ID on you, but find out if your passport will suffice or if you need your birth certificate or another piece of identification altogether. Also find out if you need to fill out paperwork in advance. In some instances, the marriage laws may be complicated, in which case you may want to consider having a legal ceremony performed at home and a symbolic wedding at your destination.
While destination weddings are typically cheaper than traditional weddings, the expenses still add up and most couples are eager to save money wherever they can. Consider honeymooning near, or even at, your chosen wedding destination. By staying put or not traveling too far, you’ll save loads of money. If you combine your honeymoon with your wedding and stay at the same hotel/resort, chances are you can book a combined package that will make a lot of financial sense.