The first time I found out about destination weddings was when I was working at a marketing agency in Boston (circa 2007-8). One of their clients had just launched a company to plan such weddings and although back then weddings were far from my interest radar, it was an intriguing concept.
Flash forward to 2012 and a bit after John had proposed, it was time to start planning what our wedding would be like. Having been to our share of “Lebanese weddings” and knowing fully-well that we didn’t fit that mold, we started considering a destination wedding. It made so much sense for the both of us, for several reasons, including our shared love of travel (as evidenced here on this blog) and wanting to bring together our loved ones who mostly live outside of Lebanon anyway.
We ended up getting married in breath-taking lovers’ paradise: Santorini, Greece. And while at the time, Santorini was a very “in” place for lots of Lebanese to get married (especially when it comes to civil weddings), there were many other reasons that led us there, including finding a place with a deeper connection to both of us (we’re both Greek Orthodox and my great-grandpa is actually from a Greek Island nearby) and that was also accessible to everyone coming in (most islands in Greece don’t have regular flights). The choice was a very easy one to make after that, especially if you’ve been to Santorini.
I can talk for hours about our wedding (obviously), but let’s get back on track because this post is actually for you: the couple preparing or considering having a destination wedding. I hope that by sharing our experience, we can help make the process a little bit easier:
- Don’t do it just because you hate Lebanese-style weddings. There are ways around those kind of weddings if you end up having one in Lebanon. It’s actually harder to do one abroad so really consider if it’s the right fit before committing to the idea of a destination wedding. Pick what makes the most sense for you.
- Make sure you’re both ready for this. Even if you decide to hire a wedding planner or event organiser, a lot of the work will be on both of you to plan the wedding and travel plans. It makes the experience so much more personal and will bring you even closer.
- Figure out where and when you want to do it. Consider distance (will many of our guests be able to come?), accessibility for your guests (are there enough regular flights?), timing and tourist season (how busy does it get and how much will rooms cost?) and marriage regulations (can you get married there and what’s the process like?).
- Get your parents on-board. Yes, that was one of the biggest challenges for us too. Prepare them slowly and gently, but persistently. While they may fight you on it at first (“.. but our neighbour invited us to his son’s wedding, how can we not invite them to yours?”), they will eventually come around if this is something you both really want to do and have done your homework on what it’ll entail. It helps to know how much things will cost too for budget planning. One solution that made it easier for our families to accept this was having a small reception two months later in Lebanon for extended family and friends who couldn’t be with us.
- Find a wedding planner there. You’ll definitely need someone who has done this before to help you, especially when it comes to finding vendors, securing a location, preparing your marriage forms and generally knowing how things are done there. Find someone you’re comfortable with and who you can rely on as you’ll be working closely together for a few months.
- Secure your photographer and/or videographer. I cannot stress how important it is to hire a talented photographer and videographer for your big day very early on in the process. We booked ours before even finding a wedding planner. The best ones (especially if the location is popular for destination weddings and choices are limited) tend to book up quick and it’s one cost you will definitely not regret, not should you scrimp on. You can cut costs elsewhere, trust me.
- Invite your friends and family. Give them at least 6-8 months heads-up so they can plan. Some people may still not be able to come but you want to make sure your nearest and dearest can make it (and apply for their visas if needed). Even if the details are not fully set this early, at least send a “save-the-date” with the location. We sent personalised luggage tags for our guests followed by a formal invitation a few months later.
- Create a wedding website. This is a tremendous help for your guests. You can make one easily and for free on mywedding.com Include important information there such as a few (affordable) hotel options, plans for your time there and any other tips they may need to prepare for the wedding.
- Pick a wedding dress that’s easy to travel with. Big poofy dresses will be quite a hassle to travel with. Go for something a bit simpler, especially if you want it to stay in good shape during travel.
- Plan fun stuff to do. Sure, the wedding is the highlight of the trip for people coming, but everyone also wants to enjoy their vacation. While everyone is there, why not, for example, have you bachelor/bachelorette party a few days earlier and give everyone a chance to bond? Plan for some group activities but also leave room for their own exploration.
In the next post, we’ll share more tips too. Please feel free to ask any questions or share your own experience here below!