A destination wedding will never go out of style. Turning your celebration into a weekend (or week!) surrounded by the people you love — with a wedding in the middle — sounds totally irresistible! There are so many gorgeous destination wedding locations stateside or within a few hours of a major U.S. airport, but if you’re going to go for it, why not just go for it? From Tuscany to Thailand, a far-flung locale will turn your destination wedding into an adventure you and your guests will remember for the rest of your lives.
With all that travel comes a lot more details you’ll need to consider, so we turned to Israel-based destination wedding planner Koby Bar Yehuda, co-owner of KBYDesigns, for the inside scoop on what it really takes to pull off a spectacular event anywhere on the planet. Here, everything you need to know about the logistics of planning a destination wedding.
Consider Your Guests Before You Start Planning
Choosing a venue is more than just picking the prettiest spot you can find. “Have your guests in mind when you consider your location,” says Bar Yehuda. “Ask yourself if the destination will be affordable for guests to fly to, as well as whether there are multiple hotel options at different price levels. Because of the expense and distance, a far-flung destination will filter your guest list down to the core group of family and friends quite quickly. If there are certain people you need to have at the event who may not be able to afford it, you should be prepared to do what you can to make your day accessible to them.”
The location you choose can also have an impact on how your wedding day proceeds. “If possible, host the wedding celebration somewhere other than in the hotel where your guests are staying. This gives you the element of surprise when they arrive at the special place you’ve selected, and also avoids the possibility of set-up and break-down disturbing your guests at any point,” says Bar Yehuda.
Put in Some Legwork
Be prepared to do in-person research. “Pictures and videos online can be beautiful, but when you’re going so far for your celebration, it is worth the investment of time and money to visit the site in person,” Bar Yehuda advises. You’ll have much more confidence in what you’ve chosen if you have a chance to familiarize yourself with your options. He continues that, “[W]hen you’re looking for a venue, a language barrier could be an issue. Hire a local person to serve as a guide and translator to both show you around and help you communicate with locals and the venue staff.”
Once you have your venue chosen, know you may need to make a few more trips. “In my experience, three visits before the wedding are incredibly helpful. The first, as a site inspection and to choose the location. The second, to do tastings, review design boards, and figure out layouts and floor plans. The third, a month or less before the wedding, to finalize everything (which could be done a few days before the event as part of your final trip for your celebration),” says Bar Yehuda.
Work with a Pro
Remote and far-flung places often have limited resources, which is where a great professional comes in. “It’s crucial to have an event planner with experience on-board before you make any decisions about where you’ll have your event,” says Bar Yehuda. “They will be able to give you an idea of what it would cost to bring in the necessary resources, or help you find a venue that has the resources and expertise to make your celebration happen.” To make the process more seamless, seek a planner who is a one-stop-shop for design and production, as well -- meaning fewer vendors to hire and fewer chances for miscommunication or misunderstandings.
With different time zones, a language barrier, and thousands of miles between you and your venue, communication is key. Bar Yehuda recommends video conference calls two to three times a week to check in and go over the details as the planning continues. “Most remote destination weddings are planned over the course of at least a year, so regular communication will keep you and your team on the same page,” he says.
Know Your Destination
Do your research before you head out of town. “If you are planning to have a religious ceremony, find out whether the country you’ve chosen allows religious ceremonies outside of a house of worship,” Bar Yehuda advises. It’s also important to find out what the marriage license requirements are -- and to be flexible if that means you’ll have to tie the knot legally at home.
Embrace the Setting
No one wants to fly to the Maldives for a wedding that would fit better in a chateau in southern France. “Immerse yourself and your guests in the place you’ve brought everyone to. This will enhance your experience and make the most of your surroundings. You can still add your personal touch, but should let the setting you’ve chosen inspire and dictate the details of your celebration,” says Bar Yehuda.
Information is Priceless
A well-informed guest is a happy guest. Especially with long-distance travel involved, the more you can tell your guests to help them prepare for your wedding, the better. “Share any special pricing and codes you’ve received for hotels, suggestions for flight itineraries and local transportation, the currency exchange, and even a basic vocabulary list in the local language,” says Bar Yehuda. “And don’t forget to include the dress code for any events and activities so guests can pack accordingly!”