Planning an intimate wedding away from home is attractive to different couples for different reasons. It can help cut down your guest-list tremendously (meaning, only close friends and family only), and it can also serve as a mini-vacation for everyone! But most importantly – it mark the start of a wonderful adventure for couples in a foreign land.

However, we often hear horror stories from brides who regret planning destination weddings. From chronic hangovers, missed flights, lost bank cards, and burnt-red skin… to unaccommodating venues and unreliable vendors, they are literally all categorized from A-Z in the Wedding Hall of Shame!

With wedding season nearing the end, we thought it’d be refreshing to chat with a bride who planned a beautiful destination wedding in Asia earlier this summer who went off without a hitch.

Photography Credits: Maxtu Photography
How was your experience planning a destination wedding?

“Planning a destination wedding was great, at the end of the day everything went fairly smoothly and everyone had a great time.  We knew early on that we would want a destination wedding and we picked it partially to ensure that we wouldn’t have to plan too much.  Honestly, I know I am kind of a ‘Type A’ person, so I knew I would either want to plan every detail of my wedding or I had to let it go, put it into someone else’s hands and plan very little of it. I wanted to enjoy the day, the process and the vacation more than stress about it, so right from the beginning I made sure I was ok with letting it go and letting the little things go.”

What was your biggest concern about your wedding?

“Rain.  We planned to have the wedding in a chapel (to maintain a little bit of tradition), but it was overlooking the beach and the whole reception was outside.  One of the first things my wedding planner said to me when we met in person was, “We need to come up with an alternate, it might rain”.  Luckily, everything turned out great, it rained at 7am and stopped by the time we finished breakfast.  The entire ceremony and reception was dry and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”

How did you select your vendors? Which vendors did you search for first?

“The first thing I searched for was a venue and a planner.  I was searching for venues that I liked, the right area, the right accommodations in the area, the right price – then I was looking for wedding planners that had worked in the venues that I preferred.  But the first vendor I was actually set on was my photographer. I was searching on Instagram for all things wedding in our destination – looking for ideas and venues and every picture that I loved happened to be from the same photographer – that’s when I knew I had to have him at my wedding and he definitely did not disappoint! Once I had it narrowed down to a few venues I liked, I contacted a bunch of planners that had worked at those venues before. I specifically chose planners that were not directly associated to the hotel or resorts but were a separate company or entity. I wanted the flexibility to pick vendors I liked versus cendors that the hotels always used! After that, the planner would suggest vendors and quotes and then I would shop around online to compare them.”

Were you able to communicate with them clearly on your wedding vision despite not being able to meet with them face-to-face?
“Almost everything went through the wedding planner and she corresponded with the vendors which made it really easy to have one point of contact – there were a few I chatted with separately about things I was particular about – style of photos for the photographer, general ideas for hair/make up.  I heard many also do skype calls and such if required, but I was fine with emails and WhatsApp.  In terms of a ‘wedding vision’, I think we were pretty laid back, I had accepted early on that I wasn’t planning every detail, so I was happy to go with the flow as long as everyone had a great time.

We arrived just less than a week before the wedding, which was great because we had a chance to meet with all the vendors face to face.  Because there was limited time before the wedding, almost all the vendors came together on one day to have a big group meeting and wedding rundown with us – this was really helpful because it gave everyone a chance to meet and coordinate with one another so we were all on the same page.”

How satisfied were you with everything on the day-of? Did everything go smoothly?

“Everything was great!  It was an amazing day and I think our family and friends had a lot of fun, which is all we really wanted.  There were definitely a few hiccups along the way – ex, the venue had misspelled my name on all the menus (and the planner didn’t catch it), but luckily I have some amazing action oriented friends that had it all fixed and re-printed before I even knew about it.  The vendors were all amazing, the weather held up, the venue was more beautiful than I could have expected and we had a great time.”

Would you recommend brides to do destination weddings? If so, what’s a piece of advice you would give them?
“Yes, absolutely.  It was great to be able to sit back, enjoy the day and watch it all unfold – instead of worrying about every little detail.  It was also really nice to be able to celebrate with our friends and family for the whole vacation – we really had the opportunity to spend some quality time with our guests before and after the wedding, rather than running around hoping to see everyone just that one night.  It was also nice to share a place that we love with our friends and family and watch them experience it.
In terms of advice … first and foremost: Let it go and enjoy the day.  I know everyone says this, but I think it is especially important in a destination wedding because you aren’t there to plan it.  I made a conscious choice to step back from my wedding planning and I think I enjoyed it that much more because I did.  Maybe I was lucky because I had great vendors and a good team, but at the end of the day the guests don’t remember what color the napkins are, they remember the time they had and if you are having fun (and not stressing about the details) then it is likely your guests are having a good time too.
Secondly, ask your photographer to come to your rehearsal.  This is actually advice a good friend told me – if your photographer can come to your rehearsal they can give you a better idea of when to pause, how to hold your bouquet, where to look, etc which will make a big difference when your photos come out. I actually didn’t have a chance to do this because I didn’t know to ask, but my friend gave me all the tips her photographer had suggested on her big day and I think it definitely made a difference.”

To sum it up, here are OUR top four tips to include while considering a future destination wedding:

Budget accordingly

Depending on where you plan on hosting your wedding, the cost of a destination wedding could vary. Although your guest-list might be shorter than what it could have been at home, factor in extra expenses such as welcome bags for your guests, transportation costs, currency exchange rates from your venues/vendors, additional activities for guests, wedding party costs, travel and accommodation costs, and any unforeseen on-site expenses. If you are nervous hiring local vendors and prefer hiring vendors from home, ensure to factor in their travel + accommodation costs for the wedding.

Plan a pre-wedding trip

There is only so much you can read on the Internet when it comes to research and reviews. Once you have selected a list of your top 3 venues or vendors, plan a pre-wedding trip with your fiancé to ensure your research is accurate! Don’t sign a contract with anyone until you have met them in person and are confident in their work – and that includes the venue, the photographer, the florist, the decorator and the planner! The last thing you need is the stress of the unknown one week prior to your big day. If you aren’t able to meet with them in person, schedule multiple video meetings so that you get a sense of their personality and demeanor beforehand. Plus, the trip will give you a chance to get a feel for the local vibes and find the wedding team that captures your heart entirely!

Give your guests an early heads-up

First and foremost – inform your wedding party of the destination before asking them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight on their end. Let them know what is expected of them in terms of finances and responsibilities … it’ll save you a whole lot of headache once you begin planning the details!

Whether your wedding will be in Australia or South America, give your guests ample enough time to plan ahead when it comes to travel and accommodation. Secure preferred rates with nearby hotels so that your guests won’t have to stress about lodging and transportation. Invite them to the rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch so that they feel wanted and cared for during their stay. When you are on your pre-wedding trip, check out some local activities and excursions for your guests so that it’s easier for them to plan their stay before or after your wedding. Make sure to also remind them to update their passports (if necessary) and that everyone is aware of any and all travel vaccines required for that specific destination! The more detailed you are, the more appreciative your guests will be.

Hire a planner

Even if you have a Type A personality and are the most organized person out of your entire social circle – HIRE A PLANNER! A certified local or destination wedding planner can help shoulder the burden of researching, securing and managing local vendors (especially those who don’t necessary speak English as their first language). She can help manage all the details that you may have missed when coordinating a destination wedding, and can easily be your “(wo)man on the ground” when you can’t be there (literally). When you are planning a destination wedding, you need to be twice as organized since you don’t have as much time to make your decisions or scout out the venues/vendors. You will have to be extra proactive and decisive throughout the planning process – which your wedding planner can really help with her expertise and knowledge of the chosen destination. Let her take care of any stressful tasks while you enjoy the fun parts (like sipping a margarita on the beach while taking the perfect ring selfie)!

Jess P