A study done by the XO Group Inc. in 2012 showed that 350,000 US weddings took place somewhere outside the United States. In 2011, nearly 1 in 4 (24%) couples had a destination wedding; this has grown from 20% in 2009. There are perks to planning a wedding away from your home town including: planning a more initiate wedding, tailoring it to reflect both of your personalities, and of course tacking on a bonus honeymoon at the end. No wonder destination wedding are on the rise.
Planning a trip for the two of you is fairly easy and straight forward, especially if you know where you want to vacation. However, when it comes to planning a destination wedding (think vacation and wedding all rolled into one), there are many additional factors to consider.
Wedding Guest List
One assumes that planning a destination wedding is the ultimate key to a smaller guest list. Often times this thought process can back fire and you can find yourself with more guests than originally planned. The same XO Group Inc. study mentioned above found that, on average, 86 guests attend a destination wedding. That doesn’t sound so intimate anymore, now does it? The key to a destination wedding guest list is remembering that the people who really want to be there will attend no matter where the wedding takes place. Try to consider those guests that might not be able to get the time off work or have the budget to travel to your wedding. Plan a small party for them when you get back.
Give your guest options. Each guest will have a unique budget allotment for the trip. If you do some homework for your guests around costs, they will more likely be able to attend. Although it may be fun for everyone to stay at the same resort, this can be unrealistic. Find a range of accommodations to suit every budget type and one that is close to where the bride and groom will stay. In addition, not everyone will rent a car, make sure you look into airport transfers companies, cabs, and local transit that all guests can access.
Local Marriage Requirements
Research marriage requirements for the wedding destination country. You will find that some countries have a residency requirement that includes a specific period of time before the marriage that the parties must be physically in the country. Examples include:
- Certain Caribbean destinations that require a 24 hour waiting period
- France has a 40 day wait period
- Ireland requires that you apply in person to the general register office to give notice of the marriage along with a three-month waiting period before the ceremony can take place.
Of course, you can always have the legal ceremony at home with your family and then have a symbolic ceremony at the destination. Nobody needs to know that you are already married!
Destination Wedding Venue Competition
A rise in the popularity of destination weddings means a rise in demand. Don’t limit your choices – give yourself ample time to successfully plan a destination wedding. Venues like a local barn in town can be booked up to a year in advance. Well known and idyllic locations are equally difficult to book when you are competing with brides from all over the world.
Once you have chosen your date and location, make sure you send out save-the-date cards and invitations as soon as possible. That way your guests can request time off work and start saving to make sure they can attend your fabulous tropical affair.
Marriott Resorts has come out with a neat infographic for those that have a hard time trying to decide which fabulous destination to host a wedding, like Mexico or the Caribbean. Try out the fun interactive Marriott Resorts Matrimony Quiz for yourself.
Acknowledge Your Guests
Guests will travel a long way to attend your wedding, so make them feel special. A nice way to do this is to either make a welcome package or a written letter signed by the bride and groom, which guests can find once they arrive in their hotel room.
Another way to help guests plan their trip (and not become a 24-hour travel planning hot line yourself) is to create a wedding website. Guests can find all the pertinent information: hotel, transportation, and food options; maps of the local town; or local activities and excursions. You may even want to plan a few meetup times that you can post on the site. A welcome cocktail hour the day after everyone arrives is always a fun option, maybe a beach volley ball competition in the middle of the vacation, or perhaps a celebratory pool party/BBQ the day after the wedding! Try to set a relaxed and casual vacation vibe by sending the message that everyone is not attached at the hip. You could even explicitly state, “Feel welcome to go about your day and enjoy your vacation. Here here are a few fun activities we have scheduled to bring everyone together!”
Expect the Unexpected
For an outdoor destination wedding in sunny weather, check the weather at the time of year you plan to hold a destination wedding and make sure that your venue has a contingency plan for all types of weather. You want your guests to enjoy their trip and not pass out before the ceremony begins under a scorching sun. Make sure guests are comfortable and see if the venue will include personal touches like having ice water, cold towels, fans, misters and extra sun screen to accommodate guests. In a tropical location like Mexico or the Caribbean, always plan for sun. However, confirm a potential back up location in case of rain. You don’t want to end up inside a banquet hall and be disappointed.
Don’t Plan From Afar
If the venue you choose has a wedding planner, or you prefer to choose a private outside company, I highly suggest you do so. The wedding planner will know the ins and outs of planning a wedding for that particular area. Also, they can get assist with potential language barriers or will have contingency plans should anything go wrong.
Now that all my wedding planning is out of the way and the wedding is a sweet memory,want my honest opinion of what I would do if I could do it all over again?
I definitely would have followed through with our original plan of a destination wedding! You might think that planning a wedding from a far is hard, but the reality is when you go with a resort that hosts weddings all the time, like the Caribbean and Latin America Marriott and JW Resorts, you are dealing with experts that intimately know their venue. The only thing that awaits you are carefree white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, a cold drink or two, and romantic sunsets!
I hope this list gets you thinking about the steps towards planning a successful destination wedding. It can be a lot of work and organization, but think of the bonus honeymoon at the end that will make the effort worth every minute!
This post brought to you by Caribbean and Latin America Marriott and JW Resorts. The content and opinions expressed above are that of Love & Lavender.
Bride and Groom: welovepictures
Beach Shot: Love & Lavender