Planning your destination wedding, but don’t know where to start? Get advice from the experts!
So you’ve decided on having a destination wedding to celebrate your big day, now where to start? With all the locations and options to choose from, and all out of reach (literally!) it can be a daunting planning journey! That’s why today, we gathered some of the industry’s experts – three wedding planners who know the ins and outs of destination weddings – for their advice!
Tammy Golson, with Tammy Golson Events, has been planning weddings and special events professionally since 2008. While maintaining a strong presence in New York City, Tammy Golson Events has also recently expanded to the New England area. “With priority placed on culture, quality food, the overall aesthetic and the personalized details, we are inspired by incorporating our clients’ stories into the design of their weddings and events” – tammygolson.com
Luba Gankin, from Primavera Dreams, lives in Boston and specializes in weddings in Italy and New England. “I have always had a passion for bringing people together, and am now able to use my extensive research and project management skills in creative ways, as an Event and Wedding planner” – primaveradreams.com
Sara Kovel, with Sara Kovel Events, runs a full service event planning and design company based in Boston, Massachusetts serving clients worldwide. Sara Kovel has been planning weddings and events for over 15 years. “Creating timeless, inspired, celebratory & sophisticated celebrations that reflect your true aesthetic is our area of expertise” – sarakovelevents.com
1.From a wedding planning perspective, what’s the biggest difference between a destination wedding VS a standard wedding?
Tammy: When planning a local wedding, it’s easy and feasible to be hands on, know the climate and culture and work with a team of trusted wedding professional. Planning a destination wedding requires getting acclimated to the new area often remotely, building new relationships, relying on technology, navigating different work ethics, addressing time zone differences and screening vendors in each category. Sometimes language can play a part, too. The urgency of planning schedules, email replies and deadlines vary by the demographic of the wedding and the culture of the specific location.
Luba: For a destination wedding in Italy, the biggest difference is the number of guests. While the median guests number in the US for a wedding is now between 140-150, the weddings in Italy tend to be of a smaller, more intimate size of 50-60 guests on average, and those guests are most likely to be the couple’s closest relatives and friends.
Sara: There are a lot more moving pieces to a destination wedding! When my company is hired to plan a destination wedding we are typically planning and designing everything from the welcome party, rehearsal dinner, wedding, transportation and farewell brunch. I encourage everyone regardless of budget to hire a wedding planner to assist with vetting and contracting vendors and coordinate transportation. These can be daunting tasks for couples to do long distance on their own.
2. From a budget perspective, what’s the biggest difference between a destination wedding VS a standard wedding?
Tammy: Hosting a destination wedding will often limit the number of guests who attend. However, you’ll have more events to host and likely feel more inclined to invest in each guest having a quality experience since they’ve endured the expense involved in traveling to attend your wedding. The location you choose will be the single biggest determining factor of your destination wedding. For example, Maui, Hawaii is unavoidably expensive, but all inclusive Caribbean weddings can be more affordable.
Luba: The couple (as well as their guests – unless the couple pays for it) needs to add to their budget the travel cost: the flight tickets and the lodging.
Sara: While some destinations can be less expensive (some parts of Mexico for example) than say a larger market like NYC, Boston or LA it’s customary to provide an arrival experience for guests such as a Thursday night cocktail party. Most of our couples also include all of their guests to the rehearsal dinner which also adds to the overall budget.
3. What are the top three considerations a bride should weigh when deciding whether to plan a destination wedding?
Tammy: What is most important to the couple? Who, if anyone, will hosting a destination wedding absolutely eliminate? (Parents, grandparents, etc?) Review the entire guest list and consider who is likely to attend and who will not be able to and consider how you will feel about the people you’ll be spending your wedding week/ or weekend with. Finances, family planning, vacation time, school schedules, and ability to travel all weigh heavily on those who are invited to a destination wedding.
Luba: 1) Bride’s/couple’s willingness to travel: If the bride feels that the destination wedding is what she wants, then this definitely a great opportunity to have a unique celebration; 2) Venue choice: While there is a possibility to select the right venue simply by exploring the options while communicating with an experienced wedding planner, it would be helpful to go in advance and see a few venues preselected in advance to make the choice. 3) Time allocation once at your destination before the wedding: with the time zone difference and the relatively long travel, the bride/couple should have enough time to unwind and get some rest prior to the arrival of others; If the couple plans a religious wedding, there should be some additional time allocated for the paperwork.
Sara: 1) The climate/temperature (please don’t forget to take into consideration hurricane season) 2) How easy is it for their guests to get to? 3) Do they want all their guests to be on property with them to ensure the weekend feels like a big celebration from beginning to end. I ask a series of questions to flesh out what the couple is comfortable with.
4. How far in advance should a destination wedding venue be booked?
Tammy: The more advance notice you can give guests the better the chance more will be able to attend, get affordable airfare, etc. However, weddings can and are often planned with 3-6 month notice depending on the complexity of the event and location.
Luba: The popular venues could be almost fully booked 1.5 – 2 years in advance. But if you start searching just a year in advance, there is still a possibility to find a gorgeous spot, especially if you are open to Fridays or Sundays. The planner’s help may save you a lot of time and efforts here.
Sara: I would suggest a year to allow for adequate planning for you and your guests. Invitations for a destination wedding should be sent out 2-3 months in advance to allow your guests enough time to plan.
5. What is the #1 most overlooked detail by brides when planning a destination wedding?
Tammy: Some reports have report fees that can add up for hosts and guests as they are often in addition to room and sales tax at luxury hotels. Travel for vendors and transport of items that can’t be hired or purchased locally could incur additional expenses. Some couple chose to have specific items in hotel welcome bags, to give as favors or use in decor that can’t easily be found in the location of their wedding, so will opt to ship or transport these items.
Luba: The extra activities for the guests. A destination wedding usually takes places over 3 days, which means that the guests should be taken care of. Italy offers all kind of group and individual options, and the good planning to organize the extra time for/with the guests will help everyone to enjoy the adventure and keep it as a dearest memory.
Sara: It can be tricky to ship items overseas due to constantly changing international laws. It’s always a good idea to hire a planner to help navigate these issues so there are no surprises.
6. Do you recommend couples take a separate honeymoon in a different location if they are planning a destination wedding? What do you recommend destination wedding couples do for their honeymoon?
Tammy: This really depends on their location, their budget and the time they want to spend with their guests. In my option, I’d recommend they spend the remainder of their wedding week with guests in the location of their wedding and then add on a week at a desireable location that is easily accessed and keep that exclusive to the bride and groom.
Luba: I would definitely recommend staying in Italy, but the couple may opt for a different region. The Italy is infinitely beautiful and diverse at the same time. Let’s say, after a wedding in Tuscany, the couple could go to Amalfi coast or explore Rome, choose the romantic Venice, or Sicily – the choice is literally endless and easy to reach! The couple therefore will not overspend on travel and it should not be tiring as they will not have and time zone changes anymore.
Sara: There are pros and cons to both, but I suggest our couples take a separate honeymoon. I love my friends and family but I didn’t want to spend my honeymoon with them!
7. What’s your juiciest tip for brides considering a destination wedding?
Tammy: Hire pros you can really trust. Know that “Island time” is a real thing and when local venues and vendors don’t reply in a timely fashion, it’s often normal and acceptable to the location.
Luba: In Italy there is a feeling of beauty and freedom, which could be quite invigorating for a young couple. While not too common sight in the US, in Italy people do kiss everywhere. Why don’t join this happy crowd? You can even ask your photographer to make a special session for you, selecting the most romantic spots for the shoot.
Sara: Never check your wedding dress! Always carry your gown on board the plane. You’d be surprised how accommodating other passengers and the crew are when they realize what precious cargo you’re carrying!
8. What’s your favorite “destination” for couples considering a destination wedding now – and why?
Tammy: Obviously it really depends on the couple, their priorities and their budget. I am so excited to plan a wedding on Block Island next year. It’s special to the couple and will be an amazing drivable destination for many throughout New England. Maui, Hawaii is an excellent location. It is absolutely gorgeous, weather is excellent, quality is high, the flight is long enough to eliminate people who are on the fence but easy enough for those who may be deterred by an international location. It’s a splurge but the money spent will give your guests a decadent and memorable vacation and experience.
Luba: While I am in love with Italy in general, my preferred part of the country for a wedding is Tuscany. Not only it is incredibly beautiful and culturally rich, but this is a well adapted for destination wedding region, with all the services already in place and at the top level. It just makes the planning and the celebration less stressful and complex for the couple.
Sara: Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina. Without leaving the US (and thus ensuring an easier travel experience for your guests) you and your friends and family will feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. Think hundred year old trees dripping with Spanish moss, a charming sea-side chapel and 5 star accommodations and cuisine. It’s an amazing spot.
- There are a lot more moving pieces to a destination wedding than a standard one
- The location you choose will be the single biggest determining factor of your destination wedding
- A destination wedding usually takes places over 3 days, which means that the guests should be taken care of
- If the couple plans a religious wedding, there should be some additional time allocated for the paperwork
- Know that “Island time” is a real thing
- Never check your wedding dress!
ARE YOU PLANNING DESTINATION WEDDING?
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