One of the best parts of my job is planning destination weddings. It brings new challenges and experiences; and I love handling the planning and communication for my clients.
Where you choose to say “I Do” sets the tone for the entire wedding, and a destination wedding provides the perfect opportunity to create an ideal paradise you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Why would you want to be responsible for something that you have never done before?
Planning such an event presents a separate set of challenges that are unique to the travel and wedding experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pull off your dream day; simply hire an experienced professional.
Now, as an experienced destination wedding planner, with over 15 years of experience, I think back to my first few years of traveling and what I learned. And I think to myself, gosh, why would a bride NOT want to hire a planner for her destination wedding. While I could write a huge book on why, why, why, here are some of the highlights I will share:
An experienced destination planner is going to:
Save you SO much time and money by educating you on the smart ways to spend money and still achieve your dreams.
Have relationships with locations all around the world; some of the exclusive spots
can’t be found online, even to this day (that is why they are so unique).
Help with the travel plans for your guests; it’s just not as simple as getting a passport, airline ticket, and hotel. Transportation to some of the islands must be thought out and very strategic. Some places do not allow cars, and you must take a ferry to arrive at certain times.
Have plans for the weather; not just the rain, but the wind, where and when the sun is setting often determines where your guests will face for a sunset ceremony.
Handle shipping supplies for decor and design ahead of time. Trusting a planner to put the vendor team in place to get the items there for you is imperative. Running to Target or Hobby Lobby simply is not an option. There are some locations where we have to ship items 60 days in advance to go through customs, and then we pray nothing breaks (which it always does).
Coordinate guest communication and welcome items once your guests arrive on the island or at the unfamiliar location. You don’t want all of your guests knocking at your door or calling your hotel room when you are there to relax too.
Save you money by knowing the right questions to ask the location about hard goods, lighting, AV, hair/makeup, etc.
Invest his or her time in you and your guests’ experience. I truly say it’s an honor when a couple hires my team and me to plan their destination wedding. So much faith and trust has to go along with that.
Here are a few tips I share with all of our destination couples:
*Purchase travel insurance.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. While your planner, your coordinator and your mother-in-law may want to control certain elements of your big day, you can’t always predict the weather or what may get lost. Heaven forbid it be your wedding dress, and speaking of wedding dresses…
*Do NOT ship your dress.
I’ve taken it upon myself to carry my brides’ dresses with me on airplanes. It’s worth it. Sure, it may open up personal and awkward conversations with other passengers, but it will save you the stress of worrying about whether or not it gets lost. I’d rather humor a stranger for a couple of minutes to have that peace of mind.
*Keep passports up-to-date.
If you’re traveling out of the country, everyone will need a passport. That includes children, even infants. Although you may not buy an airline ticket for a small child, they will still be required to have a passport. Also, you want to ensure that your passport meets a foreign country’s requirements for travel. I knew a bride whose mother almost missed her daughter’s wedding because of this. Go online to the United States Postal Service website (www.usps.com) and find a location that can ensure your passport and all other documentation is up-to-date.
*Plan for your mobile data usage.
You don’t want to incur outrageous charges because you posted a few selfies on Instagram. Pick a resort that offers WiFi to you and your guests. I also recommend downloading WhatsApp before you leave. It’s a convenient service that allows you to exchange text messages over WiFi networks.
*Tell your bank that you’re traveling.
With the rise of security breaches and identity thefts, banks and credit card issuers are doing everything they can to protect their account holders. If your bank sees charges at a resort overseas, they will likely suspect fraud and freeze your card. Most major banks ask that you let them know when you’re traveling and have even set up ways for you to notify them online. After that, you can spend freely.
*Carry on all medications, and prepare for allergies.
I strongly suggest not putting medications in luggage you’ll have to check, (refer to Tip 1). Also, bring extra over-the-counter medications, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. I had a bride whose allergies were hardly an issue at home, but after a few days of being at a resort, she developed a slight reaction to the vegetation in the area.
*Be mindful of your guests’ travel needs.
Take a look at where your guests are traveling from, and how they will get to their destination. Will they have to change planes or travel overnight? How will guests travel on and off the resort? What handicap accessible options are provided? There are several variables to consider, but a good planner will facilitate everyone’s needs.
*Prepare for bugs and wildlife.
Islands are known for animals and insects we don’t typically see in the U.S. You may need to check your shoes, clothing and hotel suite, especially the sink and bathtub, for any unexpected and unwanted multi-legged visitors. Also, while it may not smell so great, apply bug spray as often as necessary. A mosquito on a tropical island isn’t the same mosquito that’s in your backyard.
*Ask about the water.
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t drink the water,” when you’re traveling to some areas of the world, but what you may not consider is how food is prepared. I had a health-conscious bride who loved snacking on fruit, and she fell ill because she wasn’t aware that the fruit had been washed with local water resources.
Your special event shouldn’t be spent stressing over the “what ifs” of what could go wrong. By hiring an experienced planner, you can prevent your dream day from becoming trouble in paradise.