At Indy Get Married I consider a lot about what you can do with a destination wedding and the options available for your dream day. But equally important, we should talk about some pitfalls to avoid ensuring you and your guests have the best experience possible. As you’ll come to find, when planning a destination wedding, you’ll have to tweak your planning approach slightly to deal with the “destination” part of your destination wedding. Some of these maybe you have thought of already, some may surprise you.
1. DO the Research
Chances are your destination is unique in that it has a variety of options available to host your dream wedding. Indoors, outdoors, religious, spiritual, modern, antique, historical, and romantic are but a few words that can describe what is available to you. Really think about what kind of ceremony and reception you want. Think about if you want to take advantage of the incredible natural scenery for your ceremony or maybe just for pictures. How formal or casual do you envision your reception? What kind of vibe do you want for your wedding day? Is music and dancing important? Do you have any special details or traditions you want to incorporate?
Your biggest job is dreaming about what you want. Take the time to look through pictures of other weddings and elopements in your desired location. See if you love the vibe but envision something different there.
2. DO Consider Incorporating Location Rich Traditions
“When in Rome, do as the Romans!” the saying goes. Well, in your case… hunt down the traditions of the culture you’ll be a part of.
Part of getting married in any location is embracing the incredible culture. The rich history together with a romantic atmosphere is just the perfect combination to host your dream wedding day.
There are so many incredible traditions that could add a layer of uniqueness and memorable moments for your wedding day.
3. DO Have A Plan B
I cannot say this enough. Destination weddings are usually in gorgeous environments, but things happen… weather happens. You probably won’t end up needing to use Plan B, but I still encourage clients to have a backup plan in case the weather decides not to cooperate. Pick a backup indoor option you’d be equally happy with, and you can run out during a break in the weather for the perfect pictures outdoors.
4. DO Personalize Your Wedding
Not talking about monogramming here or having your names and wedding date projected onto the wall or floor during your reception. We are talking about drawing out the parts of your personalities, your likes and loves, favorite memories, quirks that make you both you, and the story of how you two met and incorporate them throughout your wedding day in subtle ways.
What sets your wedding day apart from everyone else is the fact that you both are not like everyone else. We love the Pinterest pictures and magazines and inspiration, but we cannot encourage you enough to incorporate details into your wedding that are uniquely you. This can mean wearing your cowboy boots under your dress or using embossed ostrich images on your menus because you love ostriches or wearing a colored dress instead of the traditional white one, or maybe the groom (a fan of Star Wars) has a little Yoda-inspired boutonniere.
Do not be afraid to express yourselves on your wedding day! You will find it’s those small details that are uniquely you, this will be what everyone remembers the most!
5. DO Include A Wedding Website or Blog
For a destination wedding, this is really going to help you and your guests stay on track during the planning process. Things like destination information, suggestions for accommodations, a map, sight-seeing suggestions, food and drink options, car rentals, suggested clothing, and packing information all are great to include in one centralized location you and your guests can refer to quickly and easily during the months leading up to your wedding. Have a separate section for your wedding day information that includes addresses, a time guideline, attire suggestions, and anything else you think your guests would need to know.
This can be a private page on Facebook (bonus: guests can upload pictures directly there so you and others can share/tag each other), a blog, or a wedding website. The point is to give all the relevant information where your guests can access quickly and efficiently. It will take the stress off you and decrease the nagging questions especially as the date gets closer!
Now for the Don’ts….
1. DON’T Pick A Tough Location for Guests
I’ve told you to indulge your adventurous side, and I’ve conducted ceremonies in truly unique locations. However — and this is a big qualified, however — we are in no way suggesting you drag your 90-year-old grandmother up the side of a mountain for your ceremony.
The bottom line is you need to consider your guests when choosing your location and balance that against your dream locale. Consider the number of guests coming, their ages, and any limitations they may have. Do you always need bathrooms easily accessible? Can your guests handle a rougher terrain walk or is it better to choose someplace easily accessible by car with a shorter distance to walk? If you’re inviting kids, is your choice kid-friendly? The people who are coming to support you love you and are sacrificing to be there (financially, taking time off work, dealing with kids on time zone adjustments to name a few) so it would be very considerate of you to make them comfortable too.
2. DON’T Be Last Minute
I’ve been a part of the “wedding in a month” thing. It can happen. BUT, if you’re planning a large event, time is of the essence. You’ll want to coordinate venues and details to host the number of people that are coming, but more than that, your guests need time to ask for vacation, coordinate childcare and save up money for your trip. A fabulous wedding can be put together last minute no problem, but you don’t want your family and friends stressing about putting their affairs in order to accommodate your wedding.
Instead, give them a good lead time to get their ducks in a row. We recommend a year in advance for larger partied weddings. Send out a save-the-date to give them the heads up for airfare, time off work, etc. This gives you plenty of time to gauge interest which will, in turn, help you narrow down venues and the smaller details of your wedding day. Six to four months before is a great time to send the official invitation, then consider a wedding blog or website for the finer points, and travel information in the final three months.
3. DON’T Micromanage Your Friends & Family
A destination wedding will involve some additional details, apart from your actual wedding day. You’ll need to host a welcoming gathering of some kind, a rehearsal, and usually, guests will host an after-wedding brunch the next day. In addition to these events, some couples seize the opportunity to plan out the entire trip for themselves and their guests, right down to the food choices and sightseeing tours. This is great if you’re the type of person up for the task and your friends and family are ok with you taking the lead. BUT know that there will be a point where your guests will want to explore on their own, have their space, and have a chance to experience the location on their own terms.
Offer suggestions, not requirements. Phrase your overall trip with an outlined itinerary, giving a variety of experiences, activities, sightseeing, and entertainment as suggested things to do and see while they are in there. Consider having a unifying event the day before — something very casual and easy that everyone can float in and out of that is centered on fun. Or simply leave the day up to them to explore.
Your guests will really appreciate your flexibility and generosity in allowing them space and opportunity to experience on their own terms.
4. DON’T Give Out Cumbersome Wedding Favors
We know wedding planning etiquette calls for wedding favors to be distributed to your guests as a small token of “thank you” for attending your wedding. In fact, this practice dates to European aristocracy where small trinkets containing candies and sugar cubes (very much prized at the time) were given out to guests by their hosts as both a sign of thanks for their attendance, as well as a demonstration of their wealth. Some cultures have a tradition to give out specific wedding favors to guests; Italian and Greek cultures for example give out a cluster of five sugar-coated almonds (almonds representing the bitterness of marriage, sugar representing the sweetness of it, the number five representing health, wealth, happiness, luck, and blessing). Modern weddings see everything from these classic cultural traditions to more elaborate gifts like personalized frames and votive holders to potted plants, emblazoned shot glasses, and skeleton key bottle openers (just to name a few).
However, when planning a destination wedding, wedding favors can be a little tricky.
The last thing your guest wants is a cumbersome item that will break in their luggage, be hard to pack, make a mess, or even not pass inspection in the security line! If your heart is set on giving out something fragile that would be cumbersome while packing or break during travel, consider instead surprising your guests with the item shipped directly to their home. If you want them to have some token in hand on the day of your wedding, consider providing them something they can enjoy at your wedding or on their trip. Some ideas to get you started that will incorporate the location’s vibe or you’re wedding, enhance your guests’ experience rather than burden them:
5. DON’T Forget the Wedding Planner and Officiant.
Give yourself the gift of a stress-free wedding planning process and hire a wedding planner and officiant. A Wedding Planner can help you with anything from styling and conceptualizing your wedding day, to matching you with the right vendors to execute your vision, to on-site coordination the day of your wedding to make sure everyone stays on task (and take the heat off you so you can enjoy your wedding day!)
Contact me today so I can help you have the destination wedding you’ve always dreamed of!