Getting hitched in exotic locations is increasingly popular with Australian couples. It’s a great excuse for a holiday and the perfect opportunity to reunite far-flung friends and family. It can also be considerably less expensive to create your dream day offshore. While there are loads of pluses, planning a wedding remotely comes with its own unique set of challenges, as I recently discovered. Here a few tips and insights that I hope you’ll find useful!
Put in the groundwork
Research thoroughly. Is your chosen destination easily accessible? Consider the best time of year to visit, taking into account the weather, local holidays, festivals and peak seasons. Will you and your guests need to get visas and/or vaccinations? Are there any social or political considerations you should take into account?
If you’re looking for some venue inspiration, Mr & Mrs Smith is a really good place to start. Smith only lists carefully chosen boutique hotels and resorts, and notes their wedding suitability. They also have a great loyalty program, which can help out with the honeymoon.
Consider your guests
There’s no getting around it, traveling to a foreign country to celebrate your wedding is a lot to ask of your guests. Try to make things as easy as possible for them by providing plenty of useful information about the destination, including travel tips and whatever they need to know about visas and vaccinations. Keep an eye out for special offers on flights and accommodation and be sure to supply a list of hotels across a range budgets. It’s a good idea to create a wedding blog or Facebook page to keep everyone up to date and to help your guests make arrangements with each other.
Give your guests as much time as possible to book annual leave and plan their trip. Even if you haven’t decided on exact dates and details, send a pre-save-the-date email to everyone with approximate dates and location. Also, given that people will be spending a lot of money to be there on your day, you may want to consider skipping the gifts (I know it hurts).
Create a thorough visual brief, but try to stay loose!
Create an overall picture for your day with detailed moodboards of what you hope to achieve. Be as clear as you can with your instructions, but be aware that things will get lost in translation and you simply cannot micro-manage from a distance. Everything takes longer when planning remotely, so delegate jobs to your bridesmaids/groomsmen/anyone who is willing to lend a hand. If you’re a perfectionist or time-poor, hire a wedding planner.
Embrace the local culture
I’m not suggesting wearing traditional dress or arriving on an elephant, just choose your destination for the right reasons and really enjoy what the place has to offer. Be resourceful – use local materials to make your decorations, offer local foods on your menu and research flowers that are native to the area. Take these elements and add your own unique twists to ensure the day feels like your design. Incorporate familiar elements too, but consider what’s going to be available and whether western touches will be successfully executed.
Good things don’t come in packages
Many resorts offer wedding packages, but if you’re anything like me, the idea of a prescribed wedding is just a bit flat. Packages remove a lot of the stress of the decision making, but they also remove the fun and satisfaction of designing your day the way you both want it. If you do opt for a package deal, ask lots of questions before signing anything and make sure it’s a flexible offer. A Skype chat with the events manager should give you a pretty good idea of the level of customer service you can expect.
Get a legal marriage agent
You may choose to do the legal bit on the sly at home, but if you’re planning to be legally married in your destination, you’ll probably want to get an agent. If you’re a bit more hands on, get in touch with the embassy and see what’s required.
Get your tax back!
Want to get 10% off your dress, suit, rings and any other pricey items that you take over to your wedding? Keep your big-ticket receipts and claim back the GST! When you spend $300 or more in one transaction and take those items overseas within 60 days of purchase, they’re technically classed as duty free and you’re entitled to claim back the GST. This might take a little planning to time your purchases, but well worth the effort. Do yourself a big favour and check out the details here.
The wine conundrum
It doesn’t matter how amazing the view is, a great wedding needs great wine! Depending on your destination (and the thirstiness of your guests), this may very well be trickiest and priciest part of your wedding. Champagne is ludicrously expensive in South East Asia, so if that’s where you’re headed, purchase a case or three at home and distribute to your close friends and family to take over. Be sure to research your destination’s policies and limits for bringing in alcohol. Thailand, for example, has a limit of 1 litre of alcohol per person.
Purchasing wine through your hotel/resort will probably be your most expensive option. Alternatively, you can buy through websites such as The Wine Connection, who have a pretty good range and tend to be VAT (tax) free. Negotiate a reasonable corkage with your venue before placing an order.
Leave the sunbathing til after the wedding
It’s just not worth the risk of sunburn and tan lines. And while on the subject, leave facials and skin treatments til after the wedding too.
Seems like an obvious point, but I really can’t stress it enough. When you’re on a tiny island somewhere in the Pacific, last minute print-runs and suit alterations are considerably more difficult. Of course there are some things that can only be done once you arrive at your destination, but don’t give yourself any more work than necessary. Everyone will want to spend time with you, and you’ll likely be drinking every night and feeling rough every morning, so don’t expect to be very productive. Before you leave, get as much as you can done as early as possible; it all runs away from you in those crucial last weeks, so don’t count on them to get the big stuff done.
Make it yours
You may be in an exotic place, but your wedding can still be a quintessential expression of you both. Make things to take with you, work with your chef to design your perfect menu, write your own vows, invite your talented guests to contribute in some way, ask a friend to be your celebrant… there are so many ways to really personalise the day.
If you have any great planning tips or wedding advice, be sure to comment below!