LOCATION LOCATION – 12 months before
This is the really fun part – start dreaming! Spin the globe and jot down some of the locations you’ve loved or would love to visit. It might be a favourite holiday locale or even the sentimental site of your proposal. It might even be ‘neutral ground’ for couples who originally come from two different countries and don’t want to offend either family, “For example: An Australian and an American living in Hong Kong might choose Bali as a neutral location for their wedding rather than Australia or America” says Katrina Simorangkir from Bali Wedding International. “The excitement of travelling and having family and friends join you at the destination chosen is part of what makes a destination wedding so special.”
Lauren Wilson from Coral Sea Resort says that an escape from the everyday is definitely par t of the appeal of a ‘holiday wedding. “Destination weddings give the happy couple and their guests, not only a magical experience together, and a time together away from the normality of their everyday lives.”
So once you’ve locked in a location shortlist, decide how much time you can allocate to the trip. If you’ve only got a few days then maybe somewhere with short flight times will suit you best as you won’t have to spend time ‘recovering’ when you arrive.
Then check out any legal and religious requirements in the location of your choice. Vanessa from I Do Events Whitsundays notes that a little due diligence will help you avoid any planning pitfalls. “Research your destination. Make sure you are aware of their seasons and climates, and plan accordingly.”
Have a rough idea of how many guests you want to invite.Will it be an intimate affair with just your and your parents (and maybe your children) or are you extending the invitation to family and friends. Keep in mind that this decision will influence your choice of venue and your final budget.
On a budget? Don’t be discouraged as many resorts offer generous wedding packages so you might find that your dollar goes further than you first thought. “A destination wedding which obviously incorporates a holiday and, later, a honeymoon as well often allows couples to save a considerable amount of money.” says Katrina Simorangkir from Bali Weddings International.
GET EXCITED! 10-12 months before
Lauren Wilson from Coral Sea Resort says booking your venue should be your first priority. So decide on a date and let your guests know as soon as possible. A destination wedding is a big decision, especially if you are travelling overseas, and it’s also a big commitment for your guests.They’ll need to think about saving for a plane fare and accommodation and also taking time off work well in advance.
“Lock in your flights, choose your venue and book your accommodation as your top priorities,” says Katrina Simorangkir from Bali Weddings International.This process will put you in touch with a wedding coordinator, either through your research or through your resort, who will be your best friend when in comes to pulling off the perfect celebration.
A destination wedding doesn’t necessarily mean a tiny guest list but it’s unlikely that each of your second cousins will be able to join you. For some couples this is a plus, you’ll just have your very nearest and dearest by your side. For those who can’t make it due to work, budget or health reasons, be understanding – you can always host a big party with a fun photo reel when you return.
However, if you want a big bash, Vanessa from I Do Events Whitsundays says you shouldn’t feel limited by location. “The Whitsundays can accommodate from two people to 200+” she says. “In fact many couples hesitate over a destination wedding because they don’t think everyone will come, or they invite more than they want expecting a small turn-out. But in most cases, over 90% of the guest list accepts; it’s a perfect excuse for a family holiday!” Katrina Simorangkir from Bali Weddings International agrees, noting that she has also accommodated guest lists running from two to 250. “We can arrange any size at all and the couple should be booking with an organizer professional enough to suit their needs, no matter how big or how small.”
TOP TIP! Don’t forget to “count each expected guest, not each couple” when you are working out your budget/guest list, says Lauren from Coral Sea Resort.
Check your passports are in order. They’ll need to have at least six months left on them from the date you start your trip.
Have fun with your stationery, and start your branding, theme or colour scheme right from this stage. Create some excitement for your guests with an invitation box, including any practical information you have at hand including dates, dress code info, where you’ll be staying etc.You may need to follow this initial invite up with more information as you get closer to the date.
START A WEDDING WEBSITE
This is a fab way to manage and organise and update your wedding guests, wherever you are in the world. Our Art Director Lauren (check out her wedding on p.126) says her “technically-minded” husband Nick took care of this planning detail.There are plenty of sites to choose from but Lauren recalls “after trying ten different options my ‘choosy’ future husband chose Wedding Window.The company hosted the site for free, allowed us to customise the design and offered great planning tools and guest list/RSVP tracking. In the end we did opt to pay for the extended version which gave us more access. I got to help with the layout design (all the pretty things) while Nick enjoyed setting up the mechanics of the site.”
BEFORE YOU GO – 8-12 months ahead
A destination wedding can still showcase your dream wedding gown. Just look out for or talk to your designer about travel-friendly fabrics and styles and get in early if you’re having a gown made to measure.Your designer will also be able to help you pack your gown ready for flight.
Your resort will be able to recommend, assist with and even organise most of the reception elements such as flowers, cakes, decorations and entertainment. But if you want to book services like a photographer yourself, get online and start looking for options and recommendations.
Other essential items include wedding bands, shoes, headpiece and/or veil, groom’s suit and shoes, bomboniere if applicable.
DETAILS, DETAILS – 3-5 months
This is the time to finalise your cake, music, entertainment and ceremony details with your resort or coordinator.Why not try a local touch. For example, for a Balinese celebration, Katrina Simorangkir from Bali Weddings International recommends “long tapered white ceremonial flags; white Balinese ceremonial umbrellas; the tossing of fresh local flowers or petals; Balinese dressed local flower girls leading in the bridal party; or a little Balinese music like rindik (bamboo xylophone) for example.”
Otherwise, an aisle of shells is perfect for a beach celebration, a local dance troupe could be charming for a Thai wedding, fire twirlers for a South Pacific ‘I do’ or a rustic timber arbour for a mountain wedding. Incorporating a local blessing into your ceremony is also a meaningful way to honour your location. Ask your coordinator for more ‘local’ ideas.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN – 1-3 months before
Organise transfers for yourselves and possibly your guests too.
Organise welcome goodie bags for your guests’ hotel rooms which include a couple of fun items as well as practical info such as start times, maps and directions.
Update and confirm your budget, order of events and RSVPs with your resort or coordinator. Confirm all details with your guests via your wedding website or email/phone.
Finalise travel documents and any last minute payments. Pick up your gown, suit and rings.
Leave yourself at least a day or two to settle in, meet with your wedding coordinator and have any last-minute pampering and prep like manicures and massages.You may also like to have a low-key get together with your guests. Give them a moment to settle in and get over their jet lag though!
TOP TIP! Guests will appreciate an informal gathering to get the mingling started.Try a beach barbeque, spa pampering cocktails by the pool or a golf or sailing day
THE BIG DAY
Keep your morning free. Even for a relaxed destination wedding you’ll need some time to prepare, calm down and take care of any last- minute decisions and emergencies.
Don’t forget to have breakfast. Just because you’re in paradise doesn’t mean you won’t need sustenance to get through the day.
Group photo. Aim to have one of these at the wedding and then the day after too.These memories are priceless and a great idea to include in your thank-you cards.
THE FINAL FAREWELL
An informal brunch is a good way to gather everyone together before saying goodbye. Ensure transport has been organised to ferry guests to the airport in plenty of time.
Header Image: by John Benavente