Karen Bussen Dishes on Destination Weddings

The planning guru gives her top tips on how to wed away.

What vendors should I use from the location versus from home?
From an economical standpoint, it is almost always better to try to source your vendors locally. Caterers from the area, for example, will know what’s best and in season, and local vendors generally will have the lay of the land more so than someone coming from far away. I’d say the most often “imported” vendor tends to be the photographer, generally because the couple falls in love with a particular artist’s work. When it comes to planners, think about what works best for you. If you want to have someone to work with in your own hometown throughout the process, you may want to bring your planner with you. But if you feel comfortable with the planner provided by your destination or you can source a great local planner (make sure to check references), you’ll save money and have eyes on site even before you get there.

How many guests should I plan on RSVP'ing "Yes"?
Many times, destination weddings, by their sheer nature, are smaller than weddings closer to home. Whereas a hometown wedding might have an average of 10-12% of guests who can’t make it to the celebration, a destination wedding might find up to 20% of guests unable to make the trip. This can be good or bad, depending upon your perspective. When considering a destination wedding, it is very important to think up front about the key people you want to attend your wedding, especially relatives or friends with mobility issues, as the trip itself could prove to more difficult.  But these days, with the internet and video technology, it’s not such a big deal to post a live broadcast of your celebration for your far-away loved ones to enjoy right along with you.

Should guests be giving gifts/should I be expecting gifts considering guests have paid their way to attend our wedding?
Gifts should be given with love and received without expectation, no matter the destination nor the cost. Value should be placed on the personal nature of the gift, not its price tag in relation to anything else. With travel, however, a registry is an even more important convenience, as asking guests to tote gifts along to a destination wedding (and having to tote them back with you after the celebration) is just not something you want to do.

What's the dress code?
Your destination dress code, as with any wedding, is a very personal choice. The main thing to keep in mind is the destination itself.  If you’ll be outside, it might be best to skip black-tie attire in favor of more weather-friendly options (like a linen suit for him and a goddess gown for you). If you’ll celebrate in an historic inn or castle or museum, formal attire could be just perfect.  Do make sure to be clear if you have a dress code preference, as guests who are far from home may not have access to last minute outfit needs.

What other events should I have surrounding my destination wedding?
You might want to consider a welcome event of some sort—something casual and easy, to bring all of your guests together. This is a great way to kick off your event in the spirit of your chosen destination. A clambake, a barbeque, or a family-style feast to get folks acquainted and ready to celebrate! If you’re at a resort, you could consider a boys-only golf outing or an afternoon of pampering for ladies at the spa. A casual hike on a pretty trail, a marshmallow roast or bonfire on the beach, or a trip around the city on a double-decker bus—think about what would be the best way to show off your destination and make your guests feel special. A post-wedding brunch can be a great way to wrap up a wedding weekend, or if guests will stay longer, a wine and cheese party could be fabulous following the big day.

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