Planning a destination wedding may be easier than it seems if you follow a few simple tips. There are several important steps involved just like planning a local wedding. A destination wedding is ideal for those who will have guests coming from several different parts of the world. The first and most difficult step is to pick a location. It is very important to take your guests into consideration because many people will not be willing to travel to an exotic island or a foreign country. In this case, there are several locations within the United States that you may choose from. This is probably the best choice if you find out that no more than a few friends will be able to attend.
Before deciding on a location you should do some research on the places that you are considering. Your budget will also play an important role in your choice. An important advantage to a destination wedding is that after your wedding you may already be at your honeymoon destination. There several popular locations such as Florida, Las Vegas, and Hawaii which are great honeymoon places within the U.S. and may be a little more convenient for your guests as well. Jamaica is not as close by but it is the most popular place in the Caribbean. Since many people will not be able to attend your wedding, have a follow up reception in your area afterwards and be sure to mail out separate invitations for this event.
You may want to consider hiring a local wedding consultant to help with all your wedding arrangements. Some hotels and resorts offer wedding consultants or coordinators as part of their packages. Some resorts will even marry you for free if you agree to stay a certain minimum of days. They provide economical wedding packages compared to the average wedding budget of $20,000. Cruise ship marriages are even less expensive and will usually even find a minister for you. Be sure to contact the local visitor’s bureau and tourist office to familiarize yourself with the laws, rules and regulations of that country and to ensure that once you are back that your marriage will be considered legal in the United States.
You will need to familiarize yourself with the foreign country’s legal procedures. You should also know the qualifications of the person marrying you. Some places have a residency requirement of at least 40 days prior to being able to marry there. Be sure carry with you the originals of all important documents such as passports, birth certificates, and documentation of being widowed or divorced. You may even need to have a blood test performed. The embassy or consulate should be able to inform you of all these procedures. You should use your maiden name until you get back home and then change it if you choose to do so because if your ticket has your married name and your passport holds your maiden name it will cause you problems traveling back.
Make all reservations well in advance and plan ahead for cheap tickets. Be sure to let your guests know of any group rates or discounts and send them a list of hotels and accommodations in the area as well as rental car information. Give them plenty of time to make travel arrangements. Send out “save the date” announcements several months in advance. Consider looking into group travel arrangements and book all tickets and accommodations several months in advance as well.
Another important thing to take into consideration is how you will dress on your wedding day depending on the weather at your destination and any special supplies you may need. It is not wise to have your ceremony on the day you arrive. Set aside at least one day to unpack and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Don’t check in your baggage containing your wedding attire and supplies. Instead either carry it with you or have it shipped to your destination in order to avoid the risk of losing it.
The local visitor’s bureau can help you find facilities, ministers, photographers, a bakery, and even wedding planners. Get detailed contracts from everyone involved in your wedding including photographers, planners, chapel, etc. Keep a planner and make several checklists to ensure that all tasks are completed on time and everything runs smoothly. Have an agenda ready for your guests when they arrive and send them tourist information ahead of time. Last but not least, remember to have fun. Planning your destination wedding should be exciting and memorable so don’t let yourself be stressed out and enjoy your special day!
[ As seen in Fall/Winter 2005 of Shaadi Style and March 2008 of Rivaaj]