Sometimes in life it's all about the destination. If you find yourself click through an endless number of photos of couples tying the knot on white sandy beaches or oceanside Italian villas, then shuttling your nearest and dearest across the country (or around the globe!) for your vows may just be perfect for you.
But while destination affairs "can offer an experience to the couple and guests like a traditional wedding cannot," notes wedding planner Beth Helmstetter, who's put together nuptials in such far-flung locations as Bali, Sardinia, Italy, and Mexico City, "they are definitely not very every couple." She shares what pairs should consider before committing to a venue thousands of miles away.
Are you okay with ceding a bit of control?
If you've been imagining your wedding day for years and care about signing off on every last detail, decide if you'll be able to handle a more hands-off planning approach. Because you don't have the ability to touch and feel each element in person, "couples have to rely on the taste or expertise of their wedding planner or venue coordinator," says Helmstetter. Instead of being able to visit a local pub to see a band in person or get up close and personal with sample centerpieces, you're forced to rely on photos, videos, and recommendations. Hiring a planner with plenty of destination wedding experience is key, as is relying on the venue's preferred vendor list, says Helmstetter. Equally as important? The ability to put your trust in the professionals you've hired.
Will you be bummed if your besties can't come?
One of the bigger downsides of destination vows is that the cost—and time—of travel could force many of your loved ones to RSVP "no." "We've seen couples invite 200 guests and everyone shows up and couples invite 100 guests and 15 people were there," says Helmstetter. So you have to ask yourself if you're cool with either scenario. "Couples planning a destination wedding should feel that if only 10 guests show up, they will still be happy."
Are you willing to put the focus on your guests?
Yes, it's your day, but when friends and family are literally traveling around the globe to celebrate with you, it's important to make the process as easy on them as possible. For this type of affair, says Helmstetter, you must focus "even more attention on the guest experience to ensure those who are making the trip enjoy themselves from start to finish." Take a scan of your guest list, she suggests. If most of the invitees are more novice travelers, "you may want to lean towards a destination where people speak English and guests can have access to their usual necessities." Getting the save-the-dates out at least six months in advance, providing a full itinerary on a wedding website and paying attention to details both big (the ease of traveling to your venue) and small (providing extras such as bug spray) also go a long way. "While the wedding is about you," she says, "if you choose something outside of the comfort zone of the average guest, you will spend the weekend worrying about their comfort rather than enjoying the celebration."
Do you have the resources to visit your venue at least a few times?
Ideally, says Helmstetter, you and your spouse-to-be will have the time and money for two scouting trips. The first, she says, "is about finding a venue, checking out accommodations and local activities, and feeling out the available vendors," while the second might include a menu tasting, hair and makeup run-through, and meetings with a florist and venue coordinator. If you only have the cash for one trip, she says, seeing your venue in-person is key: "Pictures can be deceiving and often framed in a way where you can't see the construction going on next door."
Do you consider yourself a patient person?
It's a virtue you may need while putting together a celebration in a foreign country, says Helmstetter. "In some locations, vendors are slow to respond or not as service-oriented," she explains. Or they "may not put the same level of importance on the wedding day that Americans have become accustomed to."
Can you handle being the center of attention for a full weekend?
Besides awe-inspiring photos, one of the best parts of a wedding getaway is that it gives you the chance to celebrate for a full weekend. "Hosting a destination wedding gives couples the opportunity to create an entire experience for guests, rather than a singular celebration," says Helmstetter, who suggests adding a welcome party, daytime excursions, and a farewell breakfast to the itinerary. The extended celebration also affords your loved ones to connect with each other. Notes Helmstetter, "Guests who arrive as strangers often build a bond and feel more like family after experiencing a weekend together in such a memorable place."