Though my wedding isn’t technically a “destination wedding,” it was planned from approximately 4,424 miles away.
After a small, quick meeting at the county courthouse in Italy for our first “wedding”, Marco and I decided to do the big, classic ceremony in Ohio where I’m from. I wanted my friends and family to be there, something that wouldn’t have happened if we married in Italy, and I thought it was only fair to have a big celebration in Columbus since every other holiday is celebrated in Italy.
That, however, was the problem. We live in Italy.
My idea was to plan in segments. The wedding was set for August 2015, so when I came home for a visit August of 2014 we went into action mode. That August I secured a time with the priest and parish, found a dress and found a reception hall. I thought it was enough for one visit.
Later, when we came back in December for Christmas, Marco and I met with the priest again (so that Marco could meet him) and went to the reception hall to try the food, the cake and meet the DJ. I also had my dress fitted then (I told her that winter weight is nooooormal!). We were on a roll!
The problem with all this is that at no point did I sit down with my bridesmaids or mother and discuss the details. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed and I thought I could deal with things as they came. I thought that it was too early to worry about all that stuff. So of course I waited until two weeks before the wedding to do it.
Actually, I suggest that to everyone. Planning a destination wedding? This is how it goes:
1) Plan a date at least a year in advance.
2) Then, promptly ignore all planning until at least six months beforehand.
3) Even then, only cover the major things. The wedding party gifts, seating chart, welcome bags, direction sheets, programs, garter and other extraneous purchases can all be decided on, found and put together once you’re in the destination, just three weeks before the wedding.
4) No strict budgets – just go with the flow! It’s not like you have student loans or anything.
5) Another top suggestion is to change the bridesmaid dresses three weeks before the wedding – score!
6) Don’t get your hair and makeup done beforehand – just wing it! It will be fiiiiiine!
7) Lastly, be SURE to get sick the week of your wedding. That’s the icing on the wedding cake!
Though I had more than a year to plan the entire wedding, doing it from far away was much more difficult than I had anticipated. As you can see from the list above, I learned a lot from planning my wedding. Learn from my mistakes!
How to REALLY Plan a Destination Wedding:
1) Get help
You can’t do this alone. You need somebody on the ground and in the same time zone who can make phone calls easily or meet with vendors if necessary and make any emergency visits that might come up.
2) Start early
If you’re like me, you might think that you already have most things covered, but don’t wait until the last minute to double check if that’s true. Weddings have an infinite amount of small details that can totally trip you up if they weren’t already planned well in advance. Yes, the dress and location might be first priorities, but they are certainly not the last.
3) Email is your best friend
Plus the earlier you start, the more time you have to play with while waiting for responses to the million emails you sent out with one-lined questions. “What does introduction music really mean anyway?” “What ganache goes best with chocolate peanut butter cake?” “What’s the organists name?” In my case, planning from 4,000 miles away meant that I was also 6 hours ahead, making phone calls nearly impossible with work schedules and quick meetings with vendors definitely impossible. I relied heavily on email and appreciated that I didn’t have to worry about fast responses from already very-busy vendors.
4) Combine decisions
One of the best decisions I made during this entire process was choosing a reception hall that also offers everything else. Besides the space, tables and chairs, my reception hall offered catering, cake, DJ and flowers, and they would have planned my ceremony too if necessary! I still had work to do: meeting with each vendor to decide on the food, the cake flavors, the music and my bouquet, but I cut out all the stress of trying to find them in the first place. From 4,000 miles away you can’t treat meeting your vendors like a job application. Trust a notable source and go with it.
5) Online shopping can be your greatest friend…but also worst enemy
For one reason or another, I ended up buying so many things online for this wedding. While it did save my butt in some instances, it also gave me much more work in the end when I had to ship back certain items that didn’t work out. Learn from my mistake – try not to get clothes or shoes online. Other things, however, can save you a ton of time. Want to make a seating chart? Don’t carry that stuff over with you on the plane, order it online and have it delivered to a safe place in your destination. That way, you are ready to put it together as soon as you arrive!
6) Invite friends early, and try and anticipate their needs ahead of time
Destination weddings are a large commitment for guests, and they want to be taken care of. It won’t be easy to babysit them the week before the wedding, so do what you can ahead of time to help make their travel and stay in the destination as smooth as possible. The classic welcome bags are always good, or simply printed notes on the areas top sites, some directions and a wedding day timeline!
After a certain point, you’ve done everything you can. Even if you do get sick, it will still be a beautiful, fun, incredible day that you spend with the love of your life! When you think about it like that, nothing can ruin it!