Planning a Destination Wedding from A to Z

By: Deborah Elias, CSEP, CMP
Elias Events

Airfare – Whether you are paying for just your own travel or helping to pay for others, it is highly advisable that you contact airlines going into the locale of choice and negotiate group rates.  It may also work in your favor to work with a travel agent to help secure the best flights and hotels.

Budget – This is probably the single most important thing to do when planning a wedding.  Sit down with anyone who will be helping to pay for the wedding and establish a budget. Consider in investing in a financial services program such as Quicken, which will help you keep track of expenses.

Contracts – It is very important to keep a signed copy of each contract in a wedding binder.  Make sure that dates, amounts, locations, times, appropriate dress, phone numbers, a detailed listing of the services provided and both partied signatures are listed on the contract.  Most contracts are standard but never sign something you are unsure about.  If you have a lawyer handy it is always good to have the contract looked over.

Dress – Go through Bridal magazines and cut out examples of dresses you like and take them with you the store.  But have an open mind and try on other dresses. You may end up with a dress that is totally different than the one you thought you wanted.  Dresses typically take about four to six months to arrive, and usually need altering, which can take another month so allow for the time when ordering.  Also, don’t check your dress; take it on the plane with you.

Etiquette – In an era where anything goes, there are still something you should never do!  Do not put your registry information on your wedding invitation.  This information should go on shower invitations or by word of mouth.  If you don’t want children at your wedding, simply address the invitation to the parents alone.  Do not put the words “No Children” on the invitation.  You should always send out Thank You notes as soon as possible.

Flowers – Not just for the bouquets anymore, flowers are a wonderful way to dress up the church, reception and could also be a favor to give to each guest.  Check with your florist about what flowers are in season during your wedding. You can save a lot of money by choosing seasonal flowers.  When talking with your florist, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample of items such as the bouquet and table arrangements.  In the wedding is in a tropical location or one that has lush landscapes, don’t spend a lot of money on flowers.  Incorporate what is already provided by Mother Nature!

Guest List – Start working on your guest list as soon as you decide to get married.  You will need to have a good working number to determine location and how much you will need of everything.  Always make sure that both parties double check the list.  The guest list should fit your budget.

Hostess – Since the majority of guests coming in for the wedding, it is very nice gesture to have incorporate plans and items that will help your guests have a great time.  Planning agroup outing that is fun and casual, and definitely get a hospitality suite where the guests can congregate.  Wonderful gift baskets or room amenities, which are personalized, are also a very nice touch.

Insurance – Between Mother Nature and the unstable world we live in, you never know what circumstance could arise to put a damper on your plans.  With so much uncertainty, purchasing insurance is a good way to protect yourself and your investment.  There are a number of reputable companies selling insurance at low cost.

Jewelry – This is a great gift to give your bridesmaids.  Find jewelry that will compliment their dresses, but will also be something they can wear after the wedding.  The ladies will appreciate a gift they can use again and will always have something to remember your special day by.

Kick the Habit – Before you wedding would be a good time, to kick some of your bad habits.  A great one to stop would be smoking, especially if you want to have pearly whites for the wedding day.

Legalities – Every country has a different set of laws for getting a marriage license.  Some may require a set amount of time before one can be purchased.  It is advisable to get an official marriage license in the United States.

Music – This is a wonderful way to personalize you wedding. Ceremony music doesn’t always have be the same ones you have heard over and over.  Ask your musicians about options and choose music that suits your personality.  For the reception, always let your DJ or band know which songs you prefer to have played and especially those you don’t.

Notebook – It is always good to keep a notebook of your wedding contracts and other material.  Three ring binders with pockets are great for this.  Cut out pictures of flowers, cakes, dresses, etc that you like and put them under the appropriate sections.  Take these with you when visiting vendors and deciding on selections.

Officiant –Most wedding destinations have a listing of officiants who are used to working with foreigners.  Since you won’t get to spend a lot of time with you officiant, contact them in advance to determine the exact format of your wedding.  Since they usually perform a number of weddings, they are a good resource of ideas and suggestions on ways to personalize the ceremony.

Photography –The good photographers are worth their weight in gold and book quickly,especially during the popular months. Give them a detailed listing of the shots that you want. Know you style!  It is quite the norm to book your photographer where you live andpay for them to fly to your location.

Quit – Stressing that is.  If you find the whole process of planning a wedding overwhelming, there are professional coordinators who will help.  Different planners offer a variety of services, so you should have not problem finding one to suit your needs.

Reception – Destination weddings are usually less formal in nature.  Keep this in mind when deciding on the theme and design of your reception.

Saving Money – There are so many different ways to save money.  Changing the day to one other than a Saturday is the best one.  Most venues and vendors will be less expensive on an off-peak day or off peak season.  Be creative and flexible!

Timelines – Set up a timeline of events.  If you are looking for help, most bridal magazineshave detailed timelines. Give a schedule of events to all your vendors and wedding party.

Unwind – The wedding weekend can be quite stressful, especially in dealing with travel.  It is highly advised that you travel early and book yourself some down time for rest and relaxation.

Vendors – In planning a destination wedding, it can be very stressful and time consuming trying to book all your vendors, especially if you are going someplace that you don’t speak the language.  Most countries have what are known and Tourism offices.  They are designed to help you with the plans and will give you lists of reputable vendors to work with.  Most vendors have websites, which are helpful to see their work but it is also great to get references.  Hotel concierges are a great resource as well.

Website – Use the Internet to your advantage.  It is a wonderful source of information and ideas.  If you are computer savvy, set up your own website or event a blog with all the details of wedding.  After the event, post photos for your guests to enjoy.

X – On you wedding day, have extra personal items in case of emergencies.  Put a kit together of hose, lipstick, scissors, hairspray, and other items you might need.  Your Style – Whether you are having an island wedding or one at a Scottish castle, try to infuse elements into the event that reflect your personal style.  You want the guests to leave knowing that it was definitely your wedding, your way.

Zippadeedooda – You are getting married!  Have a blast and enjoy your special day.  Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you forget what this day is truly about.

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