Just take me anywhere, anywhere… anywhere away with you. Our top tips for a stunning and unforgettable destination wedding abroad…
Dream of getting married in a snowy castle or on the beach? Melita DeHazes shows us how to plan that dreamy destination wedding abroad…
Anything is possible and everything goes when you plan a destination wedding. That’s why so many couples pack their bags and jet off to far-flung, sun-kissed places in search of the world’s most beautiful locations where they can tie the knot. If getting hitched in an exotic location sounds like your perfect day, staying organised will streamline the planning process. While yes, destination weddings can be hard work, with a lot of planning and determination you too can have the day of your dreams. To help you get started, Melita DeHazes is the Marketing Director for cross-border payments provider, OFX, has compiled a handy destination wedding checklist!
First things first: give yourself extra time to plan
Destination weddings are more challenging to plan than local weddings, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some extra time to actually nail down all of the details. While you may be able to plan a local wedding in six months, consider giving yourself at least a full year or more to plan a destination wedding.
12 months to go:
Set your budget
By doing this straight out of the gate, you’ll know how much you can comfortably spend to make your ideal wedding come to life. In doing so, you’ll be able to figure out what destinations you can and can’t afford.
Once you and your partner have agreed on a budget, you can both decide on your top three priorities. Maybe it’s the number of guests; maybe it’s the gown; or maybe it’s the food. The point is, that once you have your priorities in order, it will be easier to keep your budget in line.
When planning international destination weddings, a lot of couples make the mistake of failing to factor in currency exchange rates. Even though these exchange rates change constantly and will likely be different by the time you have to pay your venue and vendors, use an accurate exchange rate calculator to get an estimate of how your money will convert and whether or not the conversion will work in your favour.
Here’s a pro tip: if you use ofx.com to make your international wedding payments, you can use a Limit Order to lock in an exchange rate for up to 12 months, so you’ll never get sticker shock if the exchange rates fluctuate while you’re planning.
Compare visa requirements
Lots of countries have relaxed their visa permissions in order to cash in on revenue from destination weddings. However, visas are a factor you’ll need to consider for every destination on your shortlist. Keep in mind that if you’re planning on marrying someone of a different nationality and eventually living in the country where you’re getting married, the requirements may be different than those that usually apply to destination weddings. It’s always wise to contact the consulate, if you’re unsure.
Research, research, research… And travel!
If you met in Montreal, for example, you might be ready to tie the knot there, too. Or, if you love vacationing together in a tropical location, Hawaii might on your radar.
About a year before your big day, research not only your preferred destination and its wedding venues, but also the local vendors and planners that are available. Contact them to get quotes and to figure out if that destination will work with your budget.
Once you’ve found a beautiful destination and a venue online, it’s time to travel. Seeing a venue in person and speaking with the planner face-to-face will give you a whole new perspective on whether or not you’re headed in the right direction.
After all, a venue can be made to look modern, clean, and beautiful in pictures online, but when you see it in person, it might be a completely different story. Rather than booking on blind faith alone, take a vacation to meet with the right people before signing anything.
10 Months to go
Book your vendors and officiant
After researching into the local vendors at your destination of choice, you can list out their pros and cons and decide which ones you want to book. As well as the cake, flowers, music and catering, you may want to incorporate some traditions native to the locale where you’re tying the knot.
On the flip side of the coin, if you want to incorporate important family traditions into your destination wedding, it may be more difficult to do so in an exotic island locale. It’s best to play it safe and start your research early, so you know what you can reasonably expect, rather than risking disappointment nearer the day.
Like all popular things in life, the best vendors will book up quickly – especially if they work on a lot of weddings throughout the year. Make sure you don’t miss out, so book it as soon as possible. (Don’t forget to choose an officiant to conduct the ceremony.)
About 10 months before your wedding, sign contracts with your vendors, such as your photographer, videographer, officiant, and baker. Some hotels provide wedding packages where all the details are included, which can really simplify your planning. No matter which vendors or providers you pick, it’s worth asking about payment options, though – paying by credit cards may incur substantial foreign transaction fees. If you can pay by bank-to-bank transfer (international wire), using a provider like OFX might save you enough to cover the cost of, say, the cake.
Get your bridal party together
Think about the people in your life that you hope will be a special part of your big day and start organising your bridal party, from your best man and maid of honour to your ring bearer and flower girl(s). Keep in mind that a destination wedding can be prohibitively costly for a number of your guests, relatives and dear friends, so it’s important to give your favourites plenty of time to plan and budget for the event, if you’re expecting them to be there.
8 Months to go:
Send out Save The Dates
Save The Dates aren’t always necessary, but when you’re planning a destination wedding that will require guests take time off from work and travel to be a part of your day, it’s best to let them know well in advance. Send out your Save The Dates after you’ve set your wedding date and confirmed the venue. By doing this at around eight months prior, you should have your hotel room booked and your transportation sorted as well, so you can be confident in letting your guests know about your upcoming event.
Shop for your gown
You may have already started looking at bridal gowns, but now is the time to head to local bridal salons, try on some gowns, and make a final decision. It could take a few weeks to get your gown in, and then you might need to have it altered, so give yourself some extra time to say yes to the dress.
Build your wedding website
For a destination wedding, a website is particularly helpful because you won’t have to field the same question from countless guests. Guests will want to know about flights, hotel rooms, transport, dress codes… A website is a great place to share the story of why you opted for your special locale. It’s also a great way to share suggestions for activities in the days before and after your event.
6-4 Months to go:
Send out your invitations
Once everyone is aware of your plans, you can then send your official invitations with even more detailed information. Roughly four-six months before your big day is the right sort of time for this. You may want to include an additional insert to provide your guests with information on the hotel where they can stay, direct them to your website, and discuss any group arrangements you’ve made with an airline. This will give your guests plenty of time to RSVP, book their hotel room, and plan additional holidaying side trips.
Take care of the smaller details
It’s a good idea to come up with a specific schedule of activities that your guests can enjoy together once they arrive at the destination. You can even plan to give each guest a goodie bag filled with welcome gifts to show your appreciation to them for travelling to your wedding.
Phew, you’ve made it this far and you’ve nailed down all of the major details! But there are still a few other wedding details that you’ll need to take care of, such as:
• Purchasing or renting your groom’s suit or tuxedo
• Finding the perfect wedding shoes and accessories, if you haven’t done so already
• Planning your bridal shower and yours and your partner’s hen and stag parties
• Choosing your bridal party’s tuxedos and gowns
1-3 Months to go:
Expect the unexpected. Save this time for troubleshooting last-minute inquiries and cancellations. After signing contracts with your wedding venue and vendors, you’ll likely be required to give a deposit, make payments along the way, and maybe even provide the balance on the day of your ceremony and reception if you don’t have to pay the full amount in advance. How you pay can make a big difference in how much you end up paying, so it’s worth a bit of research to understand your options. Now is also the time to apply for your marriage license – the last step in preparation for your new life together!
Just a few days before:
You’ve done it. Enjoy the fruits of all your hard work. Take a deep breath, take it all in, and remember that the focus of the day is about love. Even if the cake falls on the floor or the best man spills red wine all over your dress, it all just adds to the romance of the story you’ll tell for years to come.
Melita DeHazes is passionate about educating North American businesses and individuals on how to lower their fees on cross border currency payments. To find out more, visit ofx.com.