By Angela Epley
Your big day is one you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and what better way to commemorate and celebrate the occasion than getting out of your regular environment and exchanging vows in a fabulous, exotic and faraway land? Planning a wedding in another country is a serious undertaking, so if you’ve got your heart set on this kind of wedding, keep these destination wedding planning do’s and don’ts in mind.
Whether you’re dreaming of a breezy wedding on the beach with the sun on your skin and toes in the sand, a romantic winter wonderland set among snow-capped mountains or a nature-soaked outdoor ceremony among towering redwoods, one thing’s for sure: The weather can definitely play a part.
Give careful thought to the latitude and longitude of your dream location, as well as the time of year you plan to marry. Some regions are famous for mild weather year-round, some feature outstanding weather during certain seasons and some have downright dangerous conditions during specific times of year (think: monsoon season in India or hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea). Mother Nature is fond of surprises, but be sure to research historical weather data while planning your destination wedding.
“It’s not just about the weather during the wedding itself,” says Ingrid Bruns, a personal finance advice director for USAA. “It should also be assessed for everyone’s travel to and from the location. Imagine if no one could get there — or if no one could get home afterward.”
This won’t just be a big day for you — a destination wedding doubles as a vacation for your guests. What fun, right? Well . . . with caveats.
Anyone attending your destination wedding will be dedicating a significant amount of time and resources to attend. For others, like a pregnant relative, an invitation may feel less like a vacation and more like a difficult decision compounded by obligation. When putting together your guest list, keep it modest not only with a mind for expenses, but to ensure your loved ones will truly be able to attend and enjoy themselves.
To maximize the investment of a jet-set getaway for everyone involved, it’s also customary to arrange activities at your destination so wedding attendees can dedicate even more time exploring the location and enjoying one another’s company. Since weddings tend to involve a diverse selection of people in terms of age, interests and hobbies, do your due diligence to research activities that are available. Do your friends and family prefer to shop ‘til they drop, or are they more adventurous and outdoorsy? Even better: If you can find a location that offers multiple options to appease even the pickiest preferences, guests will appreciate your thoughtful approach.
“You may also consider who actually gets on the invite list,” Bruns says. “Do you want kids present at the reception? Can senior relatives travel? Taking that into consideration, you can then plan inclusive activities. Other things to consider: Are there activities that the bride and groom can provide that don’t break their budget, or will all activities be ‘on your own’?”
Do you know if the hotel, resort or event location has a curfew? Is it an all-inclusive situation with on-site services provided? Do any vendors require a down payment — and if so, which currencies will they accept? Is the exchange rate more favorable to local currencies or the U.S. dollar? The more you plan a destination wedding, the more details you’ll have to sift through and decide on, so keep an even keel and calm sense of purpose so you don’t sweat the small stuff. Which leads us to . . .
While obvious, this bears a shoutout: Planning a destination wedding is a major undertaking, and in many ways normal wedding planning timelines and procedures don’t necessarily apply.
To secure airfare, hotel accommodations, activity reservations and vendor bookings (for food, flowers or anything else), prepare well in advance. Plus, you may have to consider details like whether you’ll purchase flowers or décor locally at your destination or ship them from your originating country (which may incur custom fees and taxes!)
“Not to mention the actual cost of shipping — especially internationally,” Bruns adds. “A positive would be that you could integrate local customs into your day if planning to purchase locally — but planning ahead is key.”
Not only that, out of respect for your guests, and to better ensure they can find the time and resources to attend, you should give them at least a year’s notice. Don’t delay on sending invitations, and make sure everyone involved has plenty of advance notice to arrange time off and secure transportation to avoid last-minute hiccups.
Last, but certainly not least, is a point you should keep close to your heart, repeated often, as you proceed with destination wedding planning. Taking others’ preferences, socioeconomic situation and other factors into account can begin to drown out your own voice and vision for your big day.
Before you know it, you might find yourself catering to others’ wants and needs more than your own, which will can cause more conflict and stress than the hope and joy you should feel as you approach your matrimonial rites.
At the end of the day, you’re the one getting married, so do what makes you and your future spouse happy. That way, you’re sure to treasure the memories of your destination wedding, no matter what happens!
Alliance services provided through USAA Alliance Services, LLC, which contracts with third parties that are not affiliated with USAA to provide products and services to USAA members and receives compensation on the sale of third party products and services. Third party providers have sole financial responsibility for their products and services.
250318 - 0319