As we’ve written elsewhere, there are plenty of great advantages to a destination wedding. A destination wedding can end up being less expensive; you can cut your guest list down to only your inner circle without hurting everyone else’s feelings; you celebrate this big event in an exotic location (instead of at that banquet hall you pass every day on your way to work) which imbues the proceedings with an extra sense of adventure and importance.
But, like all the good things in life (sex, booze, ice cream, waterparks), destination weddings have their drawbacks. Save yourself some time and avoid some headaches by keeping these 10 pitfalls in mind:
You’ve Got to Keep It Legal
Get your mind out of the gutter: we’re talking about permits and licenses here. Every city, county, and country has its own rules regarding events. Maybe noise ordinances go into effect at 9:00 p.m.; maybe that perfect romantic beach you saw on Instagram is not zoned for private parties.
Lock this stuff down: get all the permits you need, pay the fees you have to pay, and know all the restrictions. Then call again to double check once you’re a month out. Of course, you’ll also need to look into the marriage license laws of your destination country, as well as those of your home nation, to make sure your union is legally valid.
Don’t Offer To Pay Everyone’s Way
Easy there on the displays of generosity, big spender. While it is an admirable notion to pay for everyone’s airfare, doing so will blow any money you’re saving by choosing a destination wedding in the first place. People know the drill; they’ll either be able to come out on their own, or they won’t. That’s how this thing works.
You May Need A Local Planner
Find someone who knows the lay of the land. It’s potentially a monumental time-, sanity-, and money-saver. A local planner will know all the ins and outs; which spots are public access and which spots are prohibitively remote; they can find you things you might not otherwise find in all your diligent googling; and they can make sure you’re not getting swindled by the hotel, vendors, or anyone else you are relying on to pull this thing off. Trust us, this is where you don’t want to penny-pinch.
Your Hotel Should Not Be Your De Facto Wedding Planner
Look, any reputable hotel will be lovely and can give you a beautiful ceremony and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. But that doesn’t mean you should just go with the hotel and its list of “preferred vendors.” The hotel will have a financial incentive to recommend certain businesses over others. Nothing wrong with that—we’re as capitalist as the next guy—but if you want to insure you’re getting the best options, find an independent local planner you can trust.
You Might Need A Travel Agent
Yes, yes, we know, you have the Internet and can do all your travel booking just as well as the professionals. Except maybe you can’t. Maybe it might be easier to work with someone who not only knows all the things you need to consider, but can successfully navigate them: choosing an accessible location, with plenty of options for lodging nearby; securing vacation package discounts for you and your guests; planning some extra sightseeing options or tourism activities.
DIY Will Require More Research
You know what’s every bride’s nightmare? That one of the vendors (DJ, photographer, the florist) will forget to show up. This should be your nightmare as well. If you’re on a tight budget, or just insist on doing everything yourself, make sure you don’t screw the pooch: thoroughly vet your vendors – read all the online user reviews available from the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. and make your selections accordingly. The advantage of working strictly with the hotel’s list of preferred vendors or a local planner with their own favorites is that those businesses will have a proven track record of actually showing up.
You’ll Have To Negotiate Like A Car Salesman
Only in America are prices typically set in stone. Anywhere else in the world, you can haggle. (And by all means, give it a go Stateside as well – if your vendor contract includes a lot of add-ons you don’t want or need, see if you can save some cash by cutting them. The add-ons, not the vendors.)
You May Have To Fly In Your Photographer
Okay, so we’re backpedaling a bit on the whole “don’t pay anyone’s way” thing, but hear us out. When people get married, they spend a stupid amount of money on stupid things–table linens, place settings, centerpieces, monogrammed napkins, floral arrangements—all of which get thrown in the garbage at the end of the night. The one thing that’s permanent—aside from the marriage itself, we assume—is the photography. Yet so often, this is where people try to cut corners.
If you realize the importance and value of good photography and you have someone local that you like, spend the money to fly them out and put them up. Thirty years from now, when you’re looking at your awesome wedding photos, you won’t even remember the extra cost.
You’ll Need To Pack Light
Even if airlines were not increasingly intent on squeezing your wallet out like it was a damp sponge, it makes sense for you to leave as much as home as you can. Everything you bring has to fit inside your allotted baggage allowance (or you’ll pay overage fees of $100+ per bag) and has to travel relatively well (i.e., don’t bring expensive clothes that might be damaged or destroyed in an airplane’s cargo hold).
You’ll Need To Really Watch Your Budget
Ok, this is cheating, because of course you’ll need to watch your budget no matter where you have your wedding. As with any kind of vacation, destination wedding expenses can soar if you get carried away with the novelty of being in a new and exciting environment. You may feel like you’re a million miles away from your normal life, almost in another world. That’s good, but your bank account stayed home, and you’ll notice how different it looks when you return to it. Somewhere between proposing and picking the destination, get with your bride and set a number. Then, see items #1-9 again