When my fiancé Edwin and I planned our destination wedding in Italy the first time around (read about why we had to cancel our wedding, here), we were surprised by how time-consuming and expensive the process was. All of that crazy-gorgeous scenery came with a cost: Guests treated us more like travel agents than the bride and groom, and vendor interactions were confusing, at best. Here are five things I wish someone had told me before I started planning.
1. It can be tough to navigate all of the legalities.
Despite the challenges, we instinctively knew that we wanted to get married abroad. We looked into Hawaii (some islands have a 10 p.m. curfew) and Mexico (bloodwork is required in order to obtain a marriage license). We even thought about eloping to Paris—what's more romantic than The City of Lights? But when we found out couples must live in the city for a minimum of 40 days in order to legally get married there, this lovely idea quickly turned into a headache. We finally settled on Italy; although they require a civil ceremony prior to any religious or symbolic blessing, we think it's charming to have a separate ceremony to celebrate privately.
2. A destination wedding may not necessarily be cheaper than nuptials held stateside.
The change in currency from the dollar to the euro sent our bank account into a black hole. Before you book, factor in costs like additional transportation and wedding weekend activities, not just hotels and airfare. Read the fine print on all of your contracts for any hidden fees.
3. Not everyone will be supportive of your decision.
Some of our wedding guests thought we were selfish to choose a wedding location in another country with requirements for vacation leaves, extra expenses, and logistical concerns. I thought that their opinions were completely warranted, and I tried to respect them. If you find yourself getting stressed out by what everyone else thinks, don't lose your sanity over it; know your vision and stay true to it. For loved ones who can come, be considerate of their needs by having a welcome bag waiting for them in their hotel room. Fill it with small treats like a map, munchies, and travel guides. Your guests may experience jet-lag, so plan your welcome party and any other celebrations accordingly.
4. Hiring an event coordinator is a must.
I'd recommend investing not only in a wedding coordinator abroad, but also hiring someone who can help you out locally. Go into the relationship with the understanding that there may be some misunderstandings due to the language barrier or cultural differences in wedding planning.
5. It's all completely worth it.
Planning this crazy, chaotic journey in a foreign country has been, without a doubt, the best experience my fiancé and I have had since getting engaged. Destination weddings are about intimate gatherings, romance, and, most importantly, relaxation. Although the road hasn't always been easy, the tough parts can't compare to the joy of celebrating our wedding in the land of amore.
Photo Credit: El Dorado Royale in Riviera Maya, Mexico
Angelica Bragg is a real bride and the blog maven of The Bridal Detective. She and her fiancé, Edwin Mirzayans (a published author), are planning a destination wedding at the Italian Lakes in Summer 2014. With a stunning backdrop and "la dolce vita" attitude, the couple's soirée will be intimate and romantic, all while celebrating two cultures. When the couple returns from their Italian road trip honeymoon, they will throw a glam after-party with all of their loved ones back home in Jacksonville, Florida.