General Wedding Planning, Wedding Advice

How to Plan a Destination Wedding That’s Perfect in Every Way

Couple in front of Eiffel Tower

Whether you want a relaxed beach wedding on an island paradise or to say your vows in the snow on a remote mountain-top, a destination wedding takes some extra planning.

(5 minutes to read)

There’s something so special about a destination wedding, where people travel for your big day and are totally unplugged from the realities of their everyday lives. It creates a strong bond between you and your guests, and everyone will remember your wedding for the rest of their lives.

However, there are challenges and extra things to think about that you wouldn’t have at home.

Be considerate to your guests

The great bonus—and downfall—of destination weddings is that there naturally will be fewer people in attendance. Families with kids are less likely to come due to the expense, and sometimes international travel is a barrier to those who are elderly or less able.

As a courtesy to guests, try to give them ample time to prepare, save money, book leave, and plan for your wedding. Send out your save-the-date a least a year beforehand so you have the best chance of them attending.

You may have to mentally prepare yourself for people that you want there being unable to come. A destination wedding is a huge time and money commitment. If you really want someone there and you know they have limited financial means, you could consider paying for their flights.

Kiwi bride Louise at island destination wedding

Kiwi bride Louise at her amazing destination beach wedding. Bridesmaid dress from Baby’s Breath.

Weather and dates

You cannot predict the weather, but you can make an educated guess. If you’re planning a sunny beach wedding, you’ll want to avoid hurricane season. But you also need to consider your New Zealand dates—is this in school holidays? Can you use a public holiday to help people avoid using annual leave?

You also want to consider what’s happening in your destination that week. For instance, if you’re getting married on a small Island, you may want to make sure there isn’t a huge conference there that week. It’ll make accommodation harder to find and maybe more crowded than you anticipated.

Local marriage requirements

The process for a Kiwi marriage outside NZ is very simple. An overseas marriage is generally valid in NZ, and civil unions are valid as long as they are carried out in the UK, Germany, Finland, Vermont, or New Jersey.

Every country has slightly different rules and regulations, so you need to check the specific laws in the country you’re intending to marry in. You may need to apply for a certificate of no impediment from the NZ Department of Internal Affairs, which takes between three and five weeks to arrive.

Travel to your destination

You need to think about how you’ll travel to your destination because it has luggage implications. How much will you need to carry with you? Wedding gowns can be cumbersome, will your airline allow you to take this as carry-on? Also, general weight restrictions come into play here, how much luggage can you take? If you want to ship things over before the day, some countries may take up to a month to receive freight.

Local suppliers

You’re not going to be familiar with suppliers at your destination. How do you know if they are any good? Makeup artists, hairdressers, wedding celebrant, caterers, the venue and decorations are all important aspects of your day. If they were suppliers in your home town, it would be easy to find word-of-mouth reviews you can trust, but how do you do that if you’re unfamiliar with the country?

Couple in front of sunset

Google only does so much. If you can’t visit your destination before the big day, try to plan Skype sessions with your suppliers to ensure nothing is lost in a translation. Some crucial people you may want to pay to come—it’s not uncommon for people to pay for their photographer to come.

You may have to compromise on some things you really want- island venues may have a lot of frangipanis but no roses or a remote mountain resort may not be able to offer the menu you want.

Do you need a wedding planner?

If you are planning a fully-fledged wedding somewhere overseas, you will probably need a wedding planner. They’ll know suppliers who you can trust, who suits your style of wedding, and will do an excellent job.

They can also help with all the bookings and co-ordination, which is very helpful particularly if you don’t speak the local language. If you skimp on a wedding planner, it may create big problems later on. Many resorts offer in-house planners as part of their service.

It may cost more than you think

When dreaming about your destination wedding, you’ll account for flights but maybe mentally cut off 50 people that won’t be able to attend. You think it will be cheaper. But most of the time, it’s not. More people will come than you expect. You also have all the same wedding expenses—bridesmaid dresses, suit, venue, food, and all the same last-minute expenses as you would at home.

Kiwi bride Paula at destination wedding India

Even a wedding in India costs a lot. Photo credit Rohan Mishra Photography.

Give yourself extra time before and after the wedding

Think about how long before the wedding you need to arrive. Do you need time to recover from jet-lag? Do you want time to have a hair and makeup trial before the big day? Plan to arrive at your destination about five days before the wedding.

While your guests are coming, you might want to prepare a few extra activities for them. Kids club, snorkelling, street tours, a trek in the mountains, yoga class…. Let the destination dictate the adventure. This is a big adventure for them too, make sure they enjoy it.

With a bit of extra thought, your destination wedding planning will be a breeze. It will be an amazing day, and if it gets stressful, simply stop and imagine the day. Standing on the beach, a warm breeze in your hair, the sound of waves lapping at the shore while you say ‘I do’ to the person you love. It’s worth it.

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