Hire a Planner
If you choose one where you live, it’ll be easy for you to hold meetings and go over your plans together frequently, without having to consider the distance or time difference. If you go with a planner from your wedding locale, it may be easier for this person to recommend top local vendors, as well as fill you in on the official marriage regulations of the country.
Find Reputable Vendors
Ask your planner for his or her recommendations and seek the advice of friends who may have also wed at your wedding destination. Then, since it’s not as easy to screen and regularly meet with your vendors, look into each company’s history by calling the Better Business Bureau or going to their Web site, bbb.org. For a wedding in a foreign country, contact its tourism office and ask what’s known about the vendors’ reputations, and ask each vendor for American references so you can see how other brides who have planned weddings away rate their services.
Visit Your Location
Plan at least one trip to your wedding destination with your fiancé to meet with your planner and as many other vendors as possible. While you’re there, scout venues for your ceremony and reception, as well as hotels. Now is also a good time to think about the logistics, such as which hotels and restaurants are closest to your site, and how you plan to arrange transportation to the wedding for your guests.
With the major pieces in place, feel free to rely on e-mail and the Internet while planning the rest of your destination wedding, says planner JoAnn Gregoli of New York City–based Elegant Occasions, who also has a satellite office in Rome to accommodate her destination weddings. Touch base with your caterer about your menu options, have your cake designer e-mail a preliminary sketch and update your planner with the most recent version of your seating chart.
Never Pay with Cash
Instead of doling out the dough, pay by check or credit card to obtain official documentation that a transaction was made. This will also give you recourse in case any problems arise, and paying with a credit card for a wedding in a foreign country will save you money—you’ll get a better exchange rate.
Be Specific About Your Flowers
Show lots of photos of what you like, and be very detailed about which flowers you do not want included in your arrangements. Be open to using local foliage in your bouquets and centerpieces in order to complement your location. Ask your designer to see a sample, picture or sketch of the arrangement and make any changes then, to avoid surprises later.
Get There Early
Be sure to arrive at your location at least three days prior to your wedding (although four or five days is ideal). During that time, put the finishing touches on your event: Arrange a tasting with your caterer, review your final floral arrangements with your designer and confirm all the details for any additional wedding activities you’ve planned for your family and friends.