Excited to plan the wedding of your dreams? Hell yeah, you are! A destination wedding is hard to beat. But of course, whether it be on an island or in a castle, planning a destination wedding is not an easy task. It comes with its own list of dos and don’ts that couples should consider to ensure a smooth sail not just for them but for their guests as well. After all, it’s also about creating unforgettable experiences for everyone else! But from deciding the right venue and planning out the best activities to navigating who gets invited, destination wedding etiquette can get a little tricky. It especially can get more challenging for today’s couples who want to do things in a modern style and infuse a personal touch into everything.
Without a fixed blueprint that fits everyone, you might be looking for some guidelines to help you with certain hosting etiquette (because let’s face it, you only want the best experience for you and your guests.) Well, worry not! For we have gathered some of the finest destination wedding planners to discuss some key etiquette tips that can ease the process. Read on for their advice on what you should and shouldn’t avoid when planning your overseas nuptials.
The Dos List
First comes Research & Planning
The first step in the planning process (even before planning itself) is research. Researching your planner, the venue, and all other potential vendors can help you make the best decisions about everything, from the decor to the menu and the different events you’ll plan for the days of celebration. What do you need to know when considering your destination? How can you accommodate the needs of all your guests? Are there local vendors that can help maximize the potential of the region’s wedding resources? These and many more questions have been addressed by our planners in their lists of dos and don’ts.
- Do as much research as possible before finalizing the destination, Kaveri Vij of Designer Events Inc., India, suggests. She also advises couples to research any legal laws, licenses, or specific rules they need to be aware of. Judy Maligaspe, Founder of Wera Events LLC, USA, also adds that couples must be aware of the permits required for their destination wedding.
- About considering the needs of your guests, Evelyn Mills, Founder of Marriage Maestros, Hong Kong, shares that if you have a lot of elderly relatives attending the wedding, be mindful of the venue’s terrain and facilities so that it is easy for them to move around and get to events safely, comfortably and in time. If you plan to invite kids to your wedding, make sure the venue has services and facilities to accommodate children, such as babysitting services and kids’ rooms or play areas, as well as pram rentals and good menus.
- To ensure the above needs are met, Rahul Kumar, Founder of Vivaah Celebrations, UAE, points out the importance of multiple visits – It is essential that you visit the destination a few times before your actual wedding celebration to make sure everything is in place and the finer details have been looked into. This will ensure a hassle-free celebration. Oshunlalu Biola Adetokunboh Adetokunboh of Ace Luxury Events, Nigeria, also recommends visiting the destination with your own in-house professional vendors.
- While planning, Nahid Farhoud, Founder of Nahid Global Events, USA, gives a very useful pro tip on safely traveling with your wedding dress. She says it’s best to carry on your wedding day attire on the plane. After all, you don’t want to take any chances of spoiling the look or losing it in luggage, do you? A major nightmare!
- Have the wedding of YOUR dreams, and not what you think is expected or what other people would want. Do what makes YOU happy, adds Wedding Celebrant Theresa Du Toit, UAE.
Pictures Courtesy: @janawilliamsphotos_ & @jbjpictures
Be mindful of the Weather
Part of your research includes looking into the ideal time and season for your wedding. Wherever you decide to wed needs to match your ideal date. You can’t really have an outdoor beach wedding during the rainy season or a winter wonderland theme in the middle of April now, can you? But at the end of the day, despite all planning, the weather is never really predictable. So, our experts recommend always having a rain plan or a backup option.
- Always have a plan b for rain. Always communicate with your guests and keep them updated with as much information as possible so that they can plan their travels accordingly, notes Kia Marie of Kia Marie Events, USA.
Prioritize the comfort of your guests when selecting Venues
We’ve previously discussed that your venue is one of the first things to secure and check off your wedding to-do list. So what should you keep in mind when finalizing the venue? Well, there are a couple of things you can’t forget, from the obvious room blocks and flight-related details to the subtler yet equally impactful elements like transfer arrangements, ease of communication, and access to medical and other necessities. This is where doing your homework on the destination before locking in a venue and date comes in handy. Once you’re well-versed with the location, it’ll be easier to coordinate on facets like accessibility to sites and services around and consider logistics like travel duration, flight timings, flight costs, and visas, making travel easier for guests.
- Nobody wants to hop connecting flights and travel long hours for a wedding celebration. They are bound to be fatigued before you even get started! Jessica Ralph Bova from Parties A’ La Carte, USA, and Anisha Verma, Director of Riwaaz-E-Rishte, India, along with Evelyn, Kaveri, and Rahul, stress picking a centralized location for ease of access. This is not only a pointer for overseas travel but also for ensuring a comfortable commute within the destination area.
- If you are hosting in a remote destination, ensure that there is access to medical services on-premises and nearby in case of an emergency. Always provide your guests with emergency contact numbers and the closest medical facility. This information can be shared on your wedding website, suggests Evelyn.
- Rahul further states that you should pay close attention to the visa criteria that your guests will have to meet to ensure that you don’t miss out on important people at your wedding solely due to visa challenges. Avoiding new destinations that aren’t experienced or equipped with the service levels required for a destination wedding is also a point to be mindful of when making your decisions.
- When booking your venue, Cagla Yontem of the Türkiye Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA) says you should get special deals at least at two hotels that guests can choose from as per their budget. Because while you are not obliged to make their bookings, as basic etiquette, you can still provide them with the best deals available.
- Finally, Romina Ferraretto, Founder of Romina Ferraretto Events Planner, Argentina, aptly reminds couples to choose a location that aligns with their vision and dreams.
Points to consider with your Wedding Planner and Vendors
When doing your research on planners and vendors, our experts collectively suggest not to rule out local specialists from your host destination. Why? Because they will have all the expertise to offer you the best resources and provide valid tips that can ease the planning and execution of your wedding. Hiring experienced professionals ensures efficiency in communications, negotiations, logistics, and decision-making throughout the planning process.
- Work with a professional wedding planner who belongs to the destination you are considering – they are your “Sacagawea” to the location (culture, food, traditions, experience), tips Sandy Halim of Life Creations Celebrations, Egypt. Adding to this, Kaveri advises couples to hire as many local vendors as possible to save on the travel costs for the vendors too.
- Fernanda Silva, Founder of Wedding Luxe, Brazil, also lists that a destination wedding requires not only expertise in wedding planning but also in traveling and logistics. Hence, it’s best to choose someone with years of experience and a worldwide portfolio.
- But it’s not just your planner! Rahul notes how crucial it is to get all the help you can from the destination itself. Try and seek support from government bodies, tourism boards, and local community groups to enhance your destination wedding celebrations. Such connections help with facilitating permissions, ease out restrictions, elevate your guest experiences and leave you with lasting memories of a successful and happy wedding celebration.
Sending out Wedding Invites & Details
It’s all in the details! That’s true not just for your wedding decor. In fact, even before the wedding, details are key when sending out invites to your attendees. Our planners always prefer that couples send out save the dates as soon as their wedding date and venue are confirmed, giving enough time for their guests to clear their schedules and get everything ready for the special day. Everyone appreciates a heads-up.
- Kaveri and Sandy both agree that having a wedding website is a great tool for sharing information in detail. After all, there’s only so much you can fit into the RSVP invites, and this is a great way to avoid constant back-and-forth communications, making it easier for guests to find everything they need in one place while you have one less thing to worry about. RSVP management tools and apps like Appy Couple give guests all the exciting and essential information about the destination, creating excitement and showing them value for the expenses. A brief description of the venue and dress code for each function or accommodation recommendations set a clear picture of what to expect, making the process easier for everyone involved. And as Evelyn puts it, “There’s nothing worse than turning up under or overdressed and getting stuck on a lawn in your stilettos!”
How can you create Personalized Experiences
Remember, your guests are traveling far to be with you on your special day. So, of course, you’ll want to show them that gratitude and love. And creating unique experiences is the way to do it! Besides, when you have the destination as your inspiration and the resources to make it happen, use it to your advantage! Read about the local culture and infuse colors of it into your wedding, immersing each event with the culture and traditions of the place to truly create one-of-a-kind moments.
- When hosting a destination wedding, Eunice Bravo, Founder of Eunice Bravo Weddings, Mexico, says not to fear trying something different you might not have seen. Allow creativity with the resources from the destination to surprise you!
- Sandy thinks that one great way to create a personalized experience is with custom favors and gestures that show your appreciation and let your guests know what they mean to you. After all, they invested a lot to make the trip and celebrate with you! She also advises couples to keep planners and vendors informed about any special requirements for guests of different ages or ones with food allergies. But while keeping note of these things, Tajrean adds that selecting different cuisines for each event can be a fun idea to blend in the exciting culture of your destination venue with your own traditions. And who doesn’t love trying new food, right?
- Danila Stella from Danila Stella Event Crafters, Italy, makes a key point that is never to be forgotten – I would try to invite fewer people but invest more in details and experiences, pamper guests as much as I could considering they can travel from really far away and invest lots of money for you.
Strategically plan out Activities & set a Timeline of events
Pictures Courtesy: @ktcrabbphoto
Creating personalized experiences means giving guests opportunities to make the most of their visit and the celebrations. Give them a taste of what the destination offers, sprinkling in fun activities that they would enjoy and ones that reflect your personality. And while the excitement can often make you want to include multiple events within the 3-5 days, it’s best not to go overboard with activities, overcrowding the days with back-to-back things. The occasional breathing space is essential to avoid exhaustion and fatigue.
- Keep every age group in mind when planning activities and events, recommends Tajrean Kashem, Founder of Taj Raj Events, UAE. He and Bárbara Diez, Founder of Bárbara Diez Events, Argentina, also comment that scheduling free time is necessary for guests to explore the destination or simply rest.
- Give your guests some free time to explore. We love options like group hikes or wine tasting while allowing others to chill at their hotel. Remember to have fun and show off the best of the destination while infusing the weekend with personal touches, suggests Heidi Hughett from Coastside Couture, USA.
- While keeping guests in mind is important to create experiences, don’t forget to do what you want. At the minimum, have some sort of welcome dinner on the first night so everyone can get acquainted, and provide information about the destination on your website so guests can plan their own activities, adds Eric Sugiono, Founder of Poetyque Events, Indonesia.
The Don’ts List
We’ve gone through things you should do when planning your dream destination wedding. But to ensure everything is as you want it to be, you also have to consider what not to do. This is just as important to avoid any major hurdles before and during celebrations so that you can be the best possible hosts, creating experiences your guests will take back and cherish forever. Here is a list of things you should avoid when it comes to hosting a destination wedding.
Research & Planning
- First things first, don’t listen to many contradicting opinions during wedding planning, especially if it’s not a location you’re familiar with. This will only overwork and stress you out. Plenty of research before jumping into decisions can help avoid confusion, exhaustion, and anxiety. Never assume you know everything.
- Kaveri warns couples not to assume that all costs have been factored in. Keeping some budget for ancillary or miscellaneous needs that may arise at a later stage is always the smarter thing to do. She further points out not to try controlling everything because some things won’t always go as planned, and that’s okay! It’s all about having fun. She stresses research, research, and more research. Don’t just do a destination wedding because it is a trend.
- Avoid doing anything that will go over your budget, Judy points out. After all, it’s not a cheap affair.
- Don’t waste money on trivialities. That’s money that could rather be added to your honeymoon, which ideally should be booked as early as possible, Theresa fairly points out.
Avoid unfavorable Weather
- When you are planning a destination wedding, avoid the rainy season. Know the weather patterns of that area, and try to avoid hurricane season, says Founder Joann Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli, USA.
Picture Courtesy: @shevtsovy
- Our experts have previously stated what to think about when selecting your venue. The first thing Jessica highlights is never to select a venue without visiting the destination first. Number two is to avoid booking multi-weekend events in many different parts of your destination. Unless you provide transportation, commuting may be a challenge for many.
- Long travel is also one aspect most of our planners, including Evelyn and Bárbara, have discussed. Don’t spread your locations out too far apart for events taking place on the same day, making it inconvenient for guests to reach on time. Having everything close by it will save them time and cost on transportation. Besides, they have already traveled far enough.
- Nahid favors venues that are nearest to the airport and not too complicated to get to. Adding to the convenience of guests, Romina says while providing accommodation options are great, it’s best not to confuse guests with too many hotel suggestions. Make it easier by narrowing it down to the best-fitting few with different price ranges.
Planner & Vendors
A destination wedding is a big affair. Even if you’re opting for an intimate celebration, a lot goes into making it happen. Hence, it’s best to choose your vendors carefully rather than trying to take up planning everything on your own. This is your wedding. You should enjoy the process without stressing too much.
- Sandy shares that you shouldn’t solely trust social media for hiring vendors. Always talk to them on any video platform to understand what they can offer and how they can best help you with your vision. It’s also not advisable to hire any local vendor just to fit your budget. Weigh your options before making decisions. That being said, Janine Mayer from weddingfever, Austria, also tells us don’t only consider the price of each provider. Make a thoughtful decision and hire those that tick the majority, if not all your boxes.
- Salah Bushehri of Chandal Events Management & Organizer, Bahrain, says that couples should not try planning on their own. Taking help from experts is key in ensuring you give yourself time to relax and enjoy the wedding planning journey, not drowning yourself in planning and logistics that can easily be outsourced.
- Oshunlalu also says it’s better to avoid bringing all your vendors from your country to the destination to save a whole lot of costs. This way, you can focus that budget on something else that you’ve envisioned.
- After you’ve got your planner, Danila urges couples to rely on communication. One common mistake is to communicate with the wedding planner unlikely information (such as expecting 200 guests when the reasonable number would be 30, and of course, the other way round) or be unrealistic about the budget. Be clear about what you feel at ease investing in for your event and what your expectations are, is the basics.
- Don’t wait last minute to send out invitations, says Jessica.
- Anisha’s piece of advice to couples is not to feel obligated to invite everyone, even if they invited you to their wedding.
- Eric also makes clear that you shouldn’t let anyone feel obligated to attend, especially since it’s likely that they’ll have to spend much, much more than they would if you were getting married locally. Let your guests know that you’ll absolutely understand if they can’t make it, but don’t be overly effusive about this. It will only make them feel like you don’t want them to come.
Personalized Experiences, Activities, & Timelines
Pictures Courtesy: @dominiquebaderphotography & @unveiledhawaii
Timing is everything. So when planning out the events, it’s important to consider everything from the kind of experiences you want to create to when you should host each activity. We’ve discussed all the dos of multi-day activities and timelines. Now, let’s get into what’s best to avoid.
- Once again, our planners highlight the importance of pre-planning. Daliah Taha, by.daliataha events & wedding planner, Qatar, along with Nahid and Tajrean, agree that last-minute packing and detail planning or back-to-back events are never a good idea. To that, Evelyn contributes her views – don’t start your functions too early in the day. Guests are there to enjoy and relax, it’s their holiday too.
- While overbooking the weekend with as many events as possible isn’t advisable, be mindful of going the other extreme too, and don’t leave everyone bored or hungry between functions. Spend some time planning out good entertainment and arranging refreshments for when they wait until the next event.
- Sharing a valid point that couples can often forget, Theresa says don’t plan daily activities for everyone in the days leading up to your wedding day. Let your guests explore the destination at their will and have fun along the way. This will save you loads of stress and give you two time also to relax and enjoy the countdown to your wedding day.
Bonus Tips for Planners
While getting things sorted for the big day, ensure you communicate well with your planner about what needs to be done to ace hosting a destination wedding. And if you’re a planner trying to help your clients put together their dream day, you probably already know these pointers, but here are a few things you shouldn’t avoid, no matter how well-versed and experienced you are.
- As a planner, you have a majority of the responsibility for executing the entire wedding celebration. Right from vendor pricing and negotiations to finalizing the menu, you’re there helping the couple every step of the way. If you are planning a destination wedding, you should visit the venue at least 15 days before the wedding, depending on the scale and requirements of the wedding, encourages Daliah.
- As a planner, you should do the food tasting, adds Bárbara.
- Carolina Muzo of Mi Boda Magica, Ecuador, shares I avoid guaranteeing hotel prices until the wedding because each hotel works differently, and the weather because it changes a lot!
Wedding planning is definitely not as easy as it seems, and there may not officially be a guidebook to take you through fixed steps. After all, no two weddings are the same, because no two couple is the same! But these tips shared by some of the destination wedding industry’s most respected pros from around the world are sure to give each couple informative guidelines that can help successfully host a wedding in your dream venue and create a truly immersive experience for you and your guests.
Now that you’re prepared with the dos and don’ts, how about taking a look at what our experts have shared on planning fun activities for your multi-day celebration?
Feature Image Credit: @silviaporopatweddings