Although spring officially begins in March, here in Toronto we still have a few more wet and cloudy days before the warm weather arrives. We can’t help but to daydream about white sand and clear blue water and the sunshine on our skin. And while we can’t be on vacation all the time (unfortunately), there are times in our lives when we just need an escape. Leaving the usual weather and scenery of home behind for a place with beauty and inspiration can be very romantic, which is why many people are choosing to have a destination wedding. But how do you know if a destination wedding is the right choice for you? Here are some things to consider.
Picking a Location
If you are someone who has never wanted the traditional wedding at a reception hall, where is it that you imagine yourself getting married? A beach resort in the Caribbean? A winery in California? A restaurant in Paris? A mountain resort in Banff? Think of a place that has meaning for you as a couple, or even just somewhere you both always wanted to visit.
There are many factors in deciding where to have your destination wedding. It is important to realize that the further away and more expensive the travel to your wedding, the fewer people who will be able to attend. Ask yourself if the most essential people will be able to make the trip. If there are friends or family members who you know will not be able to attend due to expenses or obligations at home, will you be ok with them not being there? Some people choose to get married at a destination but then have a second reception close to home, where all the people who were unable to attend can celebrate. Whether the second event is a full sit down dinner, or just some appetizers and cocktails, it is nice for people to see photos and videos of the wedding and feel that they are a part of your day.
Another factor in the decision of location is the expense of throwing the wedding. Look at your budget and work within it. A swanky reception in New York City is going to be a lot more expensive than a resort wedding in Cuba. The most common type of destination wedding for Canadians is a resort wedding at an all-inclusive resort in either Mexico or the Caribbean. The reason for its popularity is because it is usually much more affordable for the couple. Most of the resorts have planners on staff who specialize in weddings and they will help guide you through the whole process.
Booking a Venue
You are going to want to book the location about 10 to 12 months ahead of time, especially if you are going during the high season. Make sure you know the expected seasonal weather and don’t book during hurricane season. You will need to get an approximate guest number, to be sure the venue has room for everyone. A good way to get an estimate is to take a look at your guest list and divide it into 3 categories. The first category is made up of people who probably won’t be able to attend, so count 25% of this group. The second category is made up of people who might be able to attend, count 50% of this group. The third category is made up of those who most likely will be coming. Count 90% of this group. Put the numbers together and you should have a rough idea of how many people will be attending. It is important to send out ‘save the dates’ about 10 months in advance, so that people can plan for the trip. It can be helpful to set up a wedding website for your guests, where they can find out all the information on the location, accommodations, travel information and anything else that is important for them to know for the trip.
Once you have booked the wedding it is recommended that you visit the place you will be getting married. If you are planning for it to be at a resort, make sure you like the resort and the people who will be helping with the wedding. If you are not at a resort, make sure you visit the place you will be holding the reception to make sure there are no surprises. Pick the spot you would like the ceremony, whether it is on the beach or on a mountain top. And if it will be outdoors, have a backup spot in case the weather does not cooperate. It’s also nice to travel around the area so that you can tell your wedding guests which sights to see or excursions to go on. If you are selecting a wedding package with a resort you can go over the music, the décor and the menu they will be serving. Most places have a wedding photographer who comes with the package; some are great and some not so much. Take a look at their portfolio to see if you like their work. Some people choose to bring a photographer from home on the vacation with them, so that they can have their own personal photographer for the entire day or even throughout the whole trip.
- When choosing the dress, shoes, and suit, think of the climate and dress accordingly. You aren’t going to want to be wearing stiletto heels on a beach, or a wool suit in 35-degree heat.
- Think about the time of day you will have your ceremony. It may seem like a good idea to hold it at 1pm, but you and your guests might be a lot more comfortable in the cooler morning or evening temperatures.
- You do not need to pay for your guests to attend. People are expected to pay their own way, but most couples then decide to decline wedding presents, as the trip is expensive enough for your guests.
- Research local legal requirement for marriage. In some countries you can legally get married after being there for 24 hours, others require paperwork which can take up to 6 months to process. Some couples choose to symbolically get married at the destination, and legally get married in their home country.
- Do not spend a lot on flowers or decorations. You have chosen the destination because of its beautiful scenery or architecture, so it likely does not need a lot of work to look great.
- Do not plan or organize your guests’ entire trip, it is also their vacation and people like to do their own thing. That being said it is nice to have a least one organized event prior to the wedding, whether it be welcome drinks or a rehearsal dinner. You can also give people the option of taking part in different excursions throughout the trip, but they should not feel obligated.
Consider the Honeymoon
Since you have already spent the time and money to visit a beautiful place, perhaps it makes sense to extend the vacation into a honeymoon. The week of the wedding will be very busy with lots of time spent with family and friends. Some couples stay at the location for a second week just the two of them, when they can finally enjoy some alone time. You could also choose to change resorts, such as switching from a family friendly place to a romantic adult only spot. Or you might take a trip to somewhere close by, like a wedding in Italy with a honeymoon in Spain.
After going over all the information, you should have a better understanding on what it takes to plan a destination wedding, and if one is right for you. A big plus for many people is the lower costs associated with an all-inclusive resort wedding, while a big con is many of your guests may not be able to attend. You have to decide what is important to you as a couple, and what kind of a wedding suits you best. In the end it is your special day, and you deserve to have the wedding you’ve always dreamt of, whether at home or away.