It’s #weddingwednesday! I’ll be posting about our destination wedding France on Wednesdays (realistically, twice a month). As an event and wedding coordinator, it’s fun for me to share the process and I hope I can help out couples who are planning their wedding (destination or otherwise).
The Frenchman and I got married in France this past August with a guest list of 110. It was a bit of a hybrid – a destination wedding for my family and our friends from the States, but most guests were actually from France.
Even though I’m an event planner, it was still difficult for me to plan my own wedding, let alone a wedding 5000+ miles away. But I really wouldn’t have changed it for anything and I hope I can provide some insight on planning on a destination wedding.
What’s great about having a destination wedding
- The destination! There could be several reasons you’re deciding on this destination – the country, the food, the weather, the venue… And more you don’t even know about yet! Embrace all that the place has to offer.
- New experiences – You and your guests get to experience a whole new place and environment together. There’s a wonderful bond that happens with the family and friends with whom you share this moment. You are all experiencing something wonderful with everyone you love and you’re also in a new and exciting place away from home.
- Quality time – Because it’s a destination, you’ll have the opportunity to make your wedding a weekend (or a week if you’re lucky!) and you’ll have more opportunities to hang out with your friends and family. As a wedding coordinator, I always hear from my couples that time went by so fast and they wanted to spend more time with this person and that person. With a destination wedding, your guests won’t be rushing home to sleep in their own bed at night (speaking from experience!)
- It’ll be memorable – Because of all the reasons above (and more!), a destination wedding will always be memorable. If not only for the wedding but because of the trip as a whole and the adventure that came along with being a new destination.
What’s tough about planning a destination wedding
- The language – depending on the destination, the language barrier is probably the biggest hurdle.
- The customs – every country has its own customs for weddings and weddings in France are different from weddings in the U.S. This means that your venue and your vendors may need to be to be flexible because of these differences (for example, in France, it’s not customary to have a rehearsal dinner, and weddings usually last until 5 or 6 AM). Most vendors are happy to try different things, but it’s something to keep in mind since you can’t assume your vendors will know what you want. However, this can also be a pro and be a wonderful opportunity to mix various customs together.
- Not all your loved ones will be able to attend – This was the hardest one for us. We had many family and friends who were unable to attend because of the distance and it can be hard to cope with the fact that some of your favorite people may not be able to come.
Besides the many pros & cons of having a destination wedding, there are a few aspects that are unique to planning a wedding abroad. A few words of advice I can offer and some things I wish I knew:
Hire a wedding planner
As an event planner myself, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a wedding planner, especially for a wedding in a foreign country. A wedding planner will have a list of vendors, s/he is familiar with the local area and the country, s/he can speak the language, and s/he lives in the wedding venue’s time zone. The time difference was huge for us.
When we started planning the wedding, I thought, “I’m an event planner, I can plan this wedding myself.” But as an event planner, I should have known better and I’m glad we found someone to help us with the wedding preparations. While I did most of the research myself, it was great having someone who could contact venues and vendors. Living in a different time zone, we could only email contacts and when we wanted to have a conference call, we had to schedule our calls for six in the morning (usually on weekdays since most wedding vendors work on the weekend). It’s already hard enough for me to wake up in the mornings for work, let alone wake up earlier to get on the phone. Planning a wedding is tough. Just make it easier on yourself and hire someone to help you. You deserve it.
Don’t rush with hiring your vendors
For any wedding, always go with your gut when making decisions. If you’re having a destination wedding, you’ll likely only meet the vendor once (usually on the day of your wedding) or maybe twice. Don’t feel pressured to hire the first person you encounter or the one that the venue recommends to you. You’re spending a lot of time and a lot of money on your wedding – you need people you can trust, especially when you’re not in the same country.
Document your memories
Hire a photographer that speaks your language (especially if photos are important to you). There is so much involved in setting up photos and they’re the tangible memories that remain of your day. If you can afford to do so, I would even recommend hiring a photographer from the States. There are little moments throughout the wedding weekend that you’ll be grateful you documented and having access to your photographer before the wedding will ensure you get what you want.
Also, hire a videographer! I can’t tell you how many brides have told me they were so happy to have a video of their wedding. To be honest, I watch our wedding video more often than I look at the photos. And with a destination wedding, videos are so much more meaningful to show the family and friends who were unable to attend.
Embrace the local traditions
Take advantage of being in a different country by incorporating the local traditions into your wedding. These traditions will be a unique experience for you and your guests. We incorporated many of the gastronomic aspects of the French wedding (a two-hour cocktail reception, a piece montée and a champagne tower), but also weaved in the aspects of an American wedding (the first look, a bridal party and a nondenominational ceremony).
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Okay, easier said then done. Especially for a type-A planner like me. One of the great things about planning a destination wedding is that it’s far. I couldn’t visit the venue every weekend. I couldn’t overthink all the details. I couldn’t DIY and bring everything to the site. There’s a sort of calm that overcomes you when you know there are things you can’t control.