Five Crucial Questions to Ask the Locals When You're Planning a Destination Wedding
They know the locale better than anyone.
No matter how carefully you've planned every part of your destination wedding—or how experienced your planners are—some site-specific wedding details require the wisdom of people who live there. "One of our fundamental tips we use as planners is always ask the locals," says Augusta Cole, executive director at Easton Events. "Even though we are destination experts, we're never going know Aspen as well as people who live in Aspen, or how it's going to feel after dark in Wyoming unless we talk to people." Which questions do the experts always ask the locals? Find out here.
What time is sunset?
Your weather app may be able to give you the exact minutes for sunrise and sunset, but that doesn't always sync with the time you'll actually lose the daylight. "You need to ask about real time sunset at your venue," says Cole. "If the sun falls behind a big mountain range earlier in the day, you're going to lose your light and the temperature will drop dramatically. When we craft a timeline, we start with sunset and go backward—and you really want at least two full hours of daylight before sunset."
What else is going on during my wedding weekend?
When choosing your date, look for unique local events that may make the area more in-demand—which can mean harder-to-book hotels and higher prices. "Be sure to check local event calendars for festivals and other events that may make the town extra busy over the weekend," says Cole. And don't forget smaller holidays, too, says Julie Savage Parekh of Strawberry Milk Events: "I think asking about any holidays around when you're planning to get hitched is a must—they could have cultural parades or festivals that shut down streets or cause locals to have off work that aren't necessarily a major holiday, but enough to shake things up—and that's something you don't want to catch you off guard."
Do I have the right permits?
Fire and sound restrictions vary from town to town, so double check the ones for your wedding location (and for your reception, if they're held in two different places). "You have to look into noise ordinances, because that's the first thing that could shut down a property," says Cole; an early noise restriction could limit how long your dance floor stays open or alter your after-party plans. "The other big thing is fire code: Does the area have a fire ban? During a lot of peak months out west they put a fire ban on candles and sparklers," she says. And if you're planning to get married at a private property, whether it's your aunt's farm or private vacation rental, check the rules for event permitting, which can affect guest totals, parking options, and other on-site details.
What makes this place special?
If you're planning a destination wedding in a different country, take the time to research that area's history and culture—both the pieces you may want to avoid appropriating, as well as unique traditions you may want to include. "It's fun to learn about local weddings and customs in the country or island you're going to, and potentially incorporate an element into your day to get the whole experience or start a new tradition in your own family," says Parekh. "Be aware of any cultural no-nos, though—and, of course, any must-have local foods to give your guests a true taste of where you are!"
How can I make my guests' experience better?
Planning a destination wedding means many—if not all—if your guests will be unfamiliar with the area, so providing transportation options and suggestions for can't-miss local businesses gives your friends and family an even more memorable trip. Cole always asks the locals for the best limo, bus, or car company: "They book up fast," she says, "and for success you want to partner with drivers that really know the roads!" Parekh also requests tips for favorite restaurants and bars. "Know the best local watering holes," she says. "They make for great tips to include in your guests' weekend itinerary of recommendations so they don't get stuck in a tourist trap in their downtime."