Destination Weddings: Special Tips and All There is to Know

January 6, 2024

Have you ever dreamed of having a destination wedding? Just imagine the sound of soft waves lapping onto your sun-kissed ankles, a gentle breeze caressing your cheeks against a mountainous backdrop, or the sweet smell of champagne grapes as you exchange vows. Destination weddings help you realize these dreams because they are exceptionally romantic and distinctive.

There’s a reason shows such as Emily in Paris and From Scratch are having a moment right now – we all secretly dream of being a part of the passionate and luminous aspects of France and Italy! So why not choose them to celebrate your big day?

Read on for destination wedding tips from a wedding photographer expert with experiences in exotic locations such as Sicily, Paris, New York, Greece, and the French Riviera.

Brainstorm the Basics

You want your wedding to be filled with happiness and fun. While all weddings can achieve such a feat, a destination wedding propels the enjoyment to another level. Destination weddings provide an aura of uniqueness and creativity that is unmatched. It leaves your guests in awe of not only the union of a beautiful couple, but also personal memories they can cherish from the events surrounding the wedding.

To start, consider the basics: location, wedding size, and logistics. Reflect if it’s the ultimate place you want to get married at. Does it have vendors nearby to accommodate the food, drinks, flowers, makeup, fashion, etc.? Does it have a venue that can support a wedding of your size? What are the transportation modes required to get to and from? More planning is involved for destination weddings, but nothing you can’t handle as long as you start planning in advance. Also, acquire a good wedding planner!

Destination Wedding Pros

First, destination weddings are great for couples who have friends and family that are everywhere. Meeting at a fun location that everyone travels to can be ideal.

Second, destination weddings are for couples who want to celebrate in a unique location that means something special to them. Therefore, adding special memories from a wedding day elevates the location. In addition, you can highlight the local foods, drinks, and scenery.

Thirdly, many venues in European countries close as late as 5 am for weddings, which is something unheard of in the states. This factor extends the time you have to dance, eat, and socialize.

Finally, a destination wedding can double as vacation for you or your guests, and as your honeymoon site. It creates a prolonged and extraordinary experience.

Destination Wedding Cons

Destination weddings are usually in a different country. Therefore, there might be another set of cultural, social, and economic values that may require more flexibility on your part. For example, expecting an error free program may not be possible in a different country. What’s more, the location may have sentimental value, but may not have the right resources to host a wedding. Consider your guests’ accessibility (seniors or handicapped) or childcare requirements. To add, your guests may be weary of language barriers or travel complexities. You can reassure them by creating a site where you share the details of travel warnings, political issues, and health concerns.

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Decide on the Location

Choose the location. It can be a nostalgic childhood or adulthood locale, a favorite vacation spot, or a dream location from your bucket list. Then, select the venue. Envision how your wedding will unfold there. Be sure to scout several venues and consider their full potential. It is large enough to accommodate your guests and any extra activities? Does it add to the unique experience that you want? After selection, make sure you understand all the details associated with the venue such as rules, restrictions, or hidden costs. For more tips on how to select a venue, refer to this Vogue’s guide.

2. Start Planning

Start thinking of the logistics. Compare the benefits and shortcomings of what you want out of the experience. Care should be taken to undergo extra time researching venues, vendors, and travel arrangements. Moreover, photos at special locations may require permits or advance reservations.

More in-depth considerations:

  1. Consider the comfort level and ease of accessibility for arrival and departure from the closest transit point (airport/train station) to the venue.
  2. Ensure there is enough accommodation either on-site or within a short driving distance.
    • Choose a location with a variety of hotel options and price ranges.
  3. Arrive a few days early so you can be free from jet-lag and resolve last minute items.
  4. If you are having your civil wedding locally, check local marriage requirements:
    • Different paperwork requirements (birth certificates, medical certificates, letters of intent, and proof of residency).
    • Does the location require a marriage certificate? If so, will they recognize a foreign certificate?
  5. Arrange for the right time of the year:
    • Ensure that your wedding isn’t in the middle of hurricane season.
    • Be aware of tourism fluctuations- high season increases the prices and the crowds, but low season can mean a lack of available vendors.

Hiring a planner will ease your logistical planning efforts. It can be an experienced destination wedding planner or a local wedding planner. As long as they understand all the nuances of your venue and location to help you navigate smoothly. They can resolve conflicts before, during, or after the wedding and especially when you’re not there in person.

3. Keep Your Guests’ Experience a Priority

One thing that is certain to elevate you and your guests’ experience is including extra activities before, during, or after your wedding. Create a program where the specialties of the location are incorporated.

Consider these ideas to elevate your guests’ experience:

  • Welcome dinner at a winery
  • Rehearsal dinner at a castle
  • Boat ride around the island for a sunset soiree
  • Pre-wedding or post-wedding event at an iconic landmark
  • Guided tour by foot or horse drawn carriage
  • Tour of the local castle and old village
  • Cliff jump or water sports for the entire family nearby
  • Local ethnic dance performance involving guests

Moreover, romantic and unique details might pass if they’re not captured on film. Pictures last forever, and photography is a major part of your experience. So pick a photographer that you love and is experienced to navigate through a multi-day event with ease. Pick one whose work you admire. More importantly, who will you and your guests enjoy having around? Don’t limit yourself to a local photographer just because it’s easier. Think of quality and the added value for your wedding to import an expert photographer to be by your side.

4. Ceremony

Start the day with a ceremony at a local place of worship such as Basilicas of the Tuscany region, or a French cathedral in Paris. Follow it with an exchange of vows, or do the first look at a historical landmark. For example, the Giotto’s Bell Tower or Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy. Conversely, the Eiffel Tower or Versailles Gardens in Paris, France. Equally important, Central Park or Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

5. Food and Drinks

Hire local vendors as much as possible. Not only will it highlight the location, but it can save lots of money. First, welcome guests with native spirits like: Italian Chianti or Montepulciano, French Bordeaux or Burgundy, or upstate New York gin or whiskeys. Then serve regional foods for your appetizers or entrees like Italian prosciutto and cured meats, French duck breast and foie gras, or New York steak. See Bowery Hotel wedding shoot for highlight on New York food fare. Spotlight specialty desserts. Unquestionably, macarons, eclairs, and croquembouche are perfect for French nuptials. Without a doubt, tiramisu, panna cotta, cannoli, and millefoglie cream cake nod to Italian customs. Undeniably, black and white New York cookies are easily recognizable and loved. See New York wedding with three bespoke cakes from local producers.

6. Reception and Party

Keep your destination wedding day events close to one another. Firstly, your guests are already traveling for your wedding, don’t add more transportation requirements to get to and from multiple events. For example, if you rent an Italian villa or a French castle, consider having one part dedicated to the bridal party, another for the wedding, and another for the dancing. I captured a romantic wedding in the South of France where they celebrated in different areas of the garden.

Highlight the location! The beautiful mountains and cliffs can provide the most exquisite backdrop for your party. Such as the exquisite cliff and water-side Sicilian wedding I photographed in fall of 2023.

The courtyard with century old pillars and archways can be a most unique place to set the dinner tables. Likewise, the vintage tiles, fountains, and cobblestone streets of the area (Central Park engagement) add magnificent charm. Similarly, renowned local landmarks can take your breath away.

Decorate the venue with regional flair such as locally grown flowers. Set the tables with crafts such as Italian Murano glass, Florentine marbled paper, French Limoges porcelains, or French tapestries. Gift guests a memento that is easily recognizable from the location. That Italian Leaning Tower of Pisa figurine, sparkly Eiffel Tower keychain, or Statue of Liberty magnet can be cheekily fun along with some local wines or beauty products in a gift bag.

Destination Wedding Summary

Your wedding is one of the best moments of your life. Your most beloved friends and family are gathered by your side partaking in your love and joy. A destination wedding enhances the excitement tenfold. If you plan ahead of time, and have a sound solution for the logistics, then you are on your way to a fairy-tale wedding.

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