I’m from England, he’s from Italy – so where do we get married? This was one of the first questions we asked ourselves shortly after we got engaged back in June. Destination Weddings are becoming increasingly popular, with weddings in both our countries amounting to an average of £35,000 (€44,000). Destination Weddings offer couples affordable options for their big day, often offering far better value for money.
Since we both expats, it was a no-brainer that our wedding would be held in the beautiful city we have called home for over 5 years, Prague in the Czech Republic. Known as the fairytale city of Europe, it is going to be the most romantic backdrop to our big day. After some research, we found it is one of the most affordable destination wedding destinations in Central Europe. But why like us, do so many couples consider celebrating their big day abroad?
Why Have a Destination Wedding?
Despite the fact we live in Prague, our biggest consideration for having our wedding abroad was cost. Planning a destination wedding opens up hundreds of more affordable opportunities for brides. Many destinations offer a chance to experiment with different themes, often offering a higher standard venue and ceremony options for a fraction of the cost. Many places such as the Caribbean and Greece offer very affordable destination wedding packages that have become very popular over recent years.
But with the benefits of saving money, comes the problems of language barriers, planning long distance and no local contacts. Don’t let that deter you or stress you out. We have written some helpful tips using our first-hand experience on what to know and how to plan a destination wedding.
1. Research seasons
When choosing your destination for your wedding, make sure you research the different seasons before setting a date. You may have your heart set on a June wedding, but if you are heading to the Caribbean for your nuptials, there is a chance your wedding will collide with a hurricane since the season runs June – November. Once you’ve picked your date and location, you may also want to consider the timings of your ceremony and reception, bearing in mind that a wedding in a hot climate country should be held later in the day when your guests won’t suffer from heat stroke.
2. Hire a professional
One of the first things I did before setting a date or choosing any venues was researching a local wedding planner. We have hired one of the best destination wedding planners in Prague who we trust 100%.
Having a destination wedding planner with local knowledge, who can speak the local language will relieve a huge amount of stress when planning your destination wedding. If you’re getting married in a resort, some high-end hotels offer wedding planning services for free, but if you are not, consider getting a wedding planner on board before you book anything. Their contacts, language skills, and negotiation leverage may help you big time and save you from making costly mistakes or even help you find the most amazing venue you never knew about!
3. Research legal paperwork requirements
Before you begin any planning, make sure you check the legal and paperwork requirements for the place you have chosen to get married. Some countries may be more straightforward than others, while places like France require you to be resident in the country 40 days before your wedding day. In some instances, it may be easier to have a civil ceremony at home first and organize the wedding day as a blessing to make paperwork a little easier.
4. Pick your destination wedding dresses according to the climate
Chosen to celebrate your big day on a beach in Hawaii? Then do not choose a heavy satin wedding dress because you’ll be sweating it before you even walk down the aisle. The same goes for shoes…heels and sand do not mix. Choose and fall in love with a dress that is appropriate for the climate of your destination wedding. Also before you collect your dress, make sure the salon packs it in a box suitable to fit in the overhead compartment or air bagged so it can be packed without causing any damage to your dress.
5. Always consider your guests
When planning a destination wedding, always have your guests in the forefront of your mind. You’ll want to share your special day with the people you love so when choosing a location, consider whether it is going to be affordable for guests to attend. Send your Save the Dates out well in advance to give people plenty of notice and time to save.
We have set up a wedding website as the place to not only RSVP but a place where guests can find accommodation details with special rates on hotels in Prague as well as things to do and see and practical information such as currency and getting to and from the airport.
6. Be careful when choosing your theme
One of the best things about destination weddings is the amazing array of locations you can pick for your special day. But don’t expect a full-on English or American wedding if you’re planning your wedding day in Greece or Italy for example.
While you can infuse the traditions of your culture into your big day, learn to embrace your destination’s culture and customs. If your dream flowers aren’t available in that country, choose local flowers or opt for a fake bouquet if you’re worried about flowers wilting in a hot climate. A rustic barn theme on a tropical beach maybe not work out too well, so think about how you want your wedding to look before choosing your venue.
7. Always go and view the location
Perhaps you’ve chosen to get married in a place that means something to the both of you and have visited before, or perhaps you have picked a place you have always dreamt of tying the knot. Whether you’ve been before or not, always make sure you visit the destination either before your wedding or arrive a week before your wedding day. This allows plenty of time to iron out any last minute wedding plans as well as enjoy some pre-wedding pampering!
8. Be organised
Planning a wedding in your own back garden can be a stressful affair, but planning your special day when your location is hundreds of miles away can cause a few headaches if you are not organized. Whether you have hired a professional wedding planner or not, staying on top of vendors, venue managers and coordinators are key.
If you find emails are too time-consuming, arrange skype calls with keys vendors to make sure they have the same vision as you for your perfect day. Also, I have found having a wedding notebook and folder has been a huge help in keeping everything together, from venue contracts to invitation samples and brochures. Create a mini destination wedding checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything out.
9. Get Pinning!
Since we live in Prague we already had a good idea of what the city could offer us in terms of venues, but if you only have a rough idea where you want your destination wedding to be, use Pinterest to inspire you. Search for Tuscany weddings and a whole host of ideas and inspiration will appear. Looking for an affordable destination wedding package on a tropical beach in the Dominican Republic? Search that too! Pinterest is a great medium to pin all of your ideas to one place.
Aside from helping you narrow down what you like, Pinterest boards are a huge help to florists and wedding theme coordinators. Send them a link to your board and they will get a better understanding of what you have fallen in love with. It saves you hours of emails and phone calls, trust me!
10. Account for extra costs
While many destination weddings help keep the budget down, remember to account for extra costs such as welcome bags for guests, flights and accommodation costs. If you plan to arrive at the destination a few days before, the hotel, meals and activities cost will need to be worked into your budget too.