As a wedding photographer in Saratoga Springs, NY, a high percentage of the weddings I photograph are destination weddings. In addition, I have been hired to go to other locations to photograph destination weddings.
All of this has made me aware of many of the little considerations you might want to take into account when planning your own destination wedding.
Visit the area
I highly recommend you visit the area where you are planning your destination wedding at least once.
It would actually be ideal if you could visit it more than once.
In addition to helping you feel more comfortable, meeting with local wedding professionals in person will faciliate their understanding your needs, preferences, and expectations especially if there is a language barrier.
If you are working with a coordinator at the venue, make sure they understand both your vision in addition to your
budget- budget being the key word here
During your visits, make sure to check out the hotels, restaurants and other local businesses--you can then let your guests know where to eat and shop. You can also let them know what to expect in
terms of expenses for meals, etc. so there are no unpleasant surprises on their end.
If you can’t visit more than once, it helps to arrive several days to week ahead of time so you can take care of any final details, have a hair and makeup trial, and generally relax a bit before the big day.
2. Timely Matters
Did you know that by being flexible with your date, you could possibly save a substantial amount of money by avoiding peak tourism weeks?
You could literally book your event a week later and save big. Many of the most popular destination wedding locations are also very popular tourist locations.
Find out before making a final decision on a location what the peak dates are for tourism.
During peak tourist season, rates for everything will naturally be higher. You might not care so much, but your guests definitely will! Additionally, it may be more difficult to book room blocks during the most popular weeks.
Hotels will need to be reserved well in advance for you and your out of area guests-sometimes by as much as a year ahead of time. Also keep in mind that on the off season for any destination location the weather might not be ideal.
You would not want to book a destination wedding in a tropical location during peak hurricane season.
3. Research local marriage requirements
I highly recommend that you investigate local marriage license requirements well in advance of your event. Requirements for a legal marriage vary from county to county- even state to state. Some countries even have a residency requirement. In England that requirement is seven days. France has a 40 day requirement. If you want your marriage to be legal, you cannot emit this step. Calling the local City Hall is a great first planning process.
4. Use local wedding vendors
Seriously consider using the local wedding vendors for your event. While you may be tempted to bring someone in from your home state for entertainment, photography, etc., it may not be the most cost or quality effective decision.
Local vendors are used to working in their local venues. The bands/Djs know what equipment they need to bring specific venues to get the best quality sound for your entertainment. Likewise, the local photographers know all the best locations/times of day to ensure beautiful photos.
In addition, bringing in out of town vendors will require expensive travel fees on your end. They may even require special work visas, depending on the country you are getting married in.
5. Take good care of your guests
When planning your destination wedding, be sure to consider the comfort of your guests. This entails more than providing cute Welcome Bags. This entails booking room blocks and group rates at hotels. At the very least, consider providing a detailed listing of different hotels in different price ranges to accommodate all budgets.
If you have guests arriving by plane, it would be great if you could help them navigate transportation from the airport to their hotel. If you don't want to be responsible for actually getting them from the airport to the hotel, perhaps you can introduce people so they can coordinate arrivals to share taxis. A wedding website or private social media page would greatly facilitate this.
Inviting all of the out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner and day after brunch is thoughtful and considerate. Consider planning a fun group activity such as a bowling dinner cruise as an "ice breaker" for your guests.
If your destination wedding takes place in multiple locations, you may also want to provide shuttle buses to and from your venue so people do not to rent cars and drive around in an unfamiliar location. It is also a good idea to put together a simple little guide with your recommendations for local restaurants and
salon/spas, as well as other local businesses. it will help them really enjoy their time in a special location.
6. Money matters
Weddings can be expensive in general, but sometimes destination weddings can really add up. Be sure you can factor in possible extra/hidden expenses. Be sure to ask lots of questions so you are not surprised with the final tally. Some venues charge additional fees for setting up the ceremony site with chairs or decorating the reception site. Other things to consider are hidden taxes and gratuities, pressing or steaming your dress/suit, and transportation for guests, to name a few. Make sure you get everything in writing before the event.
7. Choose an appropriate attire
Carefully consider your wedding destination when choosing your attire. If you are getting married in a tropical location with high humidity, you will want light weight, breathable fabrics made from natural fibers.
If you are hosting a winter wedding, you might want to have heavier fabrics in addition to appropriate outerwear for outdoor photos-who doesn't love a real faux fur ?
Here in the Adirondacs, I always suggest to my brides that they invest in a good pair of snow boots if they are getting married in the winter. Some of my brides even bring thermal underwear to wear under their dresses for outdoor photos in the winter. Regardless of where you are holding your destination wedding, these tips will help ensure you have a fun and stress-free event.
About the Author : Susan Blackburn is a Wedding and Portrait Photographer based in Saratoga NY. She believes in capturing authentic and timeless memories for her clients that express their individuality as