Since 2020 wasn't exactly the year for exotic escapes and overseas adventures I'm guessing that many couples may fancy the idea of combining their upcoming wedding with a long-awaited holiday! A change of scenery, different food, new experiences .. these sound utterly wonderful right?! So let's look at how you can make this happen in 8 simple steps ...
Just a quick point to make before we get going; a destination wedding doesn't need to be any more difficult to organise than a wedding in your home country, in fact in my experience (my husband and I got married in Greece) it was fairly stress-free. Saying that, I WILL share the one or two pitfalls we encountered so that you can be sure to avoid them!
Step 1: Brainstorm a Location
Think back to your favourite holiday as a couple. What did you love about the country? Was it the culture; the food; the climate; maybe the architecture? Let your past experiences guide you towards somewhere that will deliver on what is most important to you. Could your ideal destination be somewhere you've already been together - a country or even a particular venue that conjures up happy memories?
Or maybe you have a dream destination on your bucket list and this is where you can see your big day taking place. This option comes with the added benefit of needing to do a recce! Or at least I would certainly advise you to. My husband and I knew that we wanted to get married on a Greek Island and we THOUGHT we wanted to get married on a beach. So after doing some research online we decided on Rhodes and made an appointment with an in-country wedding planner to look at some venues. After looking at two or three beach venues we realised this wasn't for us after all and instead we instantly fell in love with a tiny, secluded chapel for the ceremony and a boutique hotel for the reception, both at the top of a village, a long walk from the sand, but with beautiful views of the Aegean sea nonetheless. I know if we'd chosen our venue online it would have been the wrong choice so the recce was absolutely worth it.
Whether you choose a destination you already know and love or somewhere brand new here are some things to consider:
Check for any current travel risks and warnings. Is there political instability, an increase in crime, or an outbreak of a disease that would make the destination a poor option?
Understand passport and visa requirements. Make sure your guests are told well in advance about any travel forms they will need to fill out.
Research your wedding date to see if any huge cultural or sporting events may be taking place during your wedding weekend.
What weather conditions can you expect at the time of your wedding? Be sure to take this into consideration when choosing your bridal/grooms-wear and include this information on your wedding invitations so guests can pack accordingly.
Step 2: Set a budget
The average cost of a UK wedding in 2019 was £32,000 so it's perfectly feasible that a destination wedding could be more affordable. In fact, it's highly possible that by going overseas your dream wedding could become a reality.
When setting your budget for a destination wedding the first things to consider should be:
Venue and number of guests
These two often come hand in hand and it's up to you which one dictates the other. When my husband and I did our recce to Rhodes we were ready to invite every single friend and family member to join us out there for our wedding but when we fell in love with our boutique venue we decided to delete half of them off the list!
There will inevitably be friends and family who won't be able to attend a destination wedding and it can be a little tricky judging the number of guests who will RSVP 'yes'. The last thing you want to do is end up with more guests than can fit into your venue! The way we got around this was to send out 'save the dates' to family first and once we had a feel for how many would attend we sent out another batch to friends. I would say that the expectation of being invited to a destination wedding is less than that of being invited to a local wedding so if you'd prefer your special day to be relaxed and intimate, a destination wedding could be a great choice!
Whether or not to hire a Wedding Planner
Working with a planner can actually help you to stay within your budget! If you're unfamiliar with the area it would be easy to veer off course and find yourself looking at venues and other elements of the wedding that are way off budget. A knowledgable planner, on the other hand, can recommend venues, florists, photographers, and other suppliers that fit with your tastes and budget. They will most likely end up saving you money in the long run, which will cover the expense of hiring them.
The time of year and day of the week for your wedding
If you're looking to trim your budget or make the wedding more affordable for guests you may want to consider out-of-season dates, school term-time dates, week days or a Sunday.
Step 3: Decide what kind of Ceremony you would like
There are few countries where legally binding ceremonies can be conducted for foreign nationals, but this doesn't need to scupper your plans. Many couples choose to complete the legal paperwork in their own country before their destination wedding. Not only does this avoid the need for documents to be translated and registered at home on your return, it also leaves you free to have a personalised ceremony written for you by a Wedding Celebrant of your choice.
You may wish to research Celebrants who are based in your destination country or you may prefer the idea of choosing someone local to you who you can get to know during your planning. There are many Celebrants in the UK, myself included, who offer their services for destination weddings and would happily talk you through the process during a free consultation. Choosing the person who will write and deliver your wedding ceremony is an important decision so be sure to do your research and book as far in advance as possible to ensure you get your first choice.
Step 4: Find a knowledgable Wedding Planner
Your planning will certainly be made easier if you find a planner who is familiar with the destination. They could be based in the destination country or your own country but what is important is that they have good knowledge of the area and close relationships with local venues and suppliers. If you don't speak the local language, finding a planner who speaks it fluently will helps things to run a lot smoother!
Some Wedding Planners will help with others aspects of your destination wedding too such as accommodation options for guests, local activities and in my husband's case, organising a destination stag do!
Step 5: Send out 'Save the Dates' early
I would recommend sending 'Save the Date' cards to your guests at least a year before your wedding as many of them will consider combining the travel with their annual holiday, which they could be planning a year in advance. This would also be a good time to share a link to your wedding website or app so that guests know where they will find any updates regarding the arrangements.
Step 6: Find accommodation options for your guests
Guests will feel most comfortable if they are staying ether at the wedding venue or in close proximity so that there is no danger of getting lost on the way to the wedding! The wedding party should, if possible, stay at the venue or where the two of you are staying, to make getting ready on the day a lot easier. For your guests it's a good idea to provide some accommodation options that cover various tastes and budgets. Maybe scope out 2 or 3 hotels as well as some self-catering options. You could either check these out in person during your recce or speak to your wedding planner about their recommendations.
To help your guests out further you could upload info to your wedding website regarding flight options, airport transfers, local travel info, recommended restaurants, top things to see/places to visit and weather info. Plus, don't forget to let your guests know about any get togethers you're organising such as drinks the night before the wedding or a beach bbq the day after!
Step 7: Book your suppliers
Before you go into too much detail on your Pinterest board it's a good idea to find out what will be available in the local area at the time of your wedding. What flowers will be in season? What colours are prominent at your venue? What is the local cuisine and what fresh produce will be available? Using local suppliers will give your wedding authenticity and make it an extra special experience for both you and your guests. No-one wants to fly across the ocean to attend a wedding that resembles one they could have attended back home!
That said, there's nothing to stop you from choosing certain suppliers from your home country if you know they're the perfect fit. And there can be advantages of doing so, for example, choosing a bridal hair dresser and/or makeup artist from back home will mean that you can arrange consultations and trials without any difficulty.
Step 8: Coordinate your Honeymoon
Why not consider extending your trip as your honeymoon, or part of it. The chances are there'll be plenty you haven't had time to do and nearby cities you haven't yet visited. Or if you do fancy honeymooning in a different country, have a look at where you can get to quickly and easily. After all the excitement of your wedding you'll want to relax immediately and a series of connecting flights to take you half way across the world won't seem like fun! We had always loved the idea of a honeymoon in Madagasgar but when we looked at the route from Rhodes we realised it would take two days and cost as much as the wedding! Well not quite, but it was certainly steep, and in fact we were able to get to the Amalfi coast in just a few hours, where we could start relaxing and enjoying our new phase of life as Mr and Mrs!
If you'd like any further advice I'm more than happy to chat so please do get in touch.
Natalie Davies, Certified Celebrant, Rose & Grace Ceremonies
All photography by https://www.alisonwonderland.photography