When it comes to destination wedding etiquette, there is a lot to get right. Checklists, international vendors, plus being a wedding planner and a travel agent all in one — it can be a lot. However, when it comes to creating the perfect wedding, especially abroad, there are certain do’s and don’ts that can save you and your clients a lot of heartache.
Whether you’re a destination wedding guru or this is your first, take a look at our recommendations for what your clients should do and what they really need to avoid.
Top 5 Do’s for Destination Wedding Planning
1. Do a destination visit.
Whether the wedding will be on the other side of the country, in the next state over, or halfway across the world, both you and the couple should have been there before. You need to understand all you can about the destination to properly plan.
For your clients, they really need to be 100 percent certain that this is the right destination for their wedding. There is a danger of having an idyllic vision of a wedding, say, on the banks of the Seine River in Paris, and then, when they get there, they’re disappointed because tourists are gawking from tour boats.
2. Do make contingency plans for weather.
Islands are very popular destination wedding locations, but when it comes to rain, storms, and other gifts from Mother Nature, things can get volatile. Understanding the local weather patterns and seasons is vital when destination wedding planning. Make sure they don’t book a wedding during hurricane season!
3. Do tell your clients to make their wedding personal.
Their guests should leave knowing them a little better, even with destination weddings. Cookie-cutter hotel packages can be great for the budget conscious, but the couple can still make it their own. This is where you and your knowledge of vendors, as well as knowing your clients, will come in handy.
4. Do stick to the budget.
Chances are that the bulk of the destination wedding budget is going toward travel expenses, be it plane, boat, hotel, or an all-inclusive resort. It is easy to get carried away with some destinations. So, keep your clients on track, especially if they are expecting guests to pay for themselves.
Destination weddings tend to be cheaper overall than traditional affairs, but that’s only if the couple doesn’t suddenly decide they want to get married on a yacht instead of the pier.
5. Do make sure guests know well in advance
Spontaneity is always exciting, but not necessarily when it comes to international travel, especially during a pandemic. When working with your couple to plan their destination wedding, make sure they have the guest list locked and ready to go.
Also make sure they understand that not everyone is going to say yes to the trip. No one wants to break the couple’s hearts, but traveling for a wedding is not something everyone can do. Be clear with your clients that they need to give as much information as to the location, dates, and what is expected of guests from the get-go.
Destination Wedding Etiquette: Who Pays for What for a Wedding?
On that note, no one likes to talk about money. Even when you are creating a budget checklist for your clients, it’s always an awkward affair. However, it is so important, especially when it involves travel.
Destination weddings tend to be simpler and cost less than traditional weddings; however, that depends on whether the couple is paying for the travel expenses or not (its not required). When discussing this with your clients, make sure they agree on this, because it’s not an insignificant expense.
In most cases, the couple covers the cost of the guests’ hotel rooms. Group discounts are typically available and can offset an otherwise large bill. Encourage them to book a block of rooms at one hotel or even two. The latter may be a good choice if the married couple wants some privacy post-wedding and doesn’t want to constantly be running into their friends at the pool.
Generosity Means More Guests
If the couple is financially able, offering to pay for flights will allow many more people to come to the wedding itself. It really depends on what the clients want. Do they want everyone on their guest list to be there? Well, they may need to step up money-wise to make that happen.
Are they secretly hoping half their guest list can’t make the trip to the Dominican Republic, but they felt bad not at least inviting them? Telling guests they are on their own for the flights is a surefire way to get that outcome.
Top 5 Don’ts When Planning for a Destination Wedding
1. Don’t leave guests high and dry.
If your couple is leaving their guests to find their own way to the venue, maybe suggest chartering some cars or a bus if need be. Not everyone is well traveled and some may be very inexperienced to the point of anxiety.
Just because it is the couple’s big day doesn’t mean everyone else is second class. Make sure guests are taken care of from arrival until departure.
2. Don’t let the bride check their dress as luggage
Tell your brides to always carry on their dress when they are traveling for a destination wedding. There is such a risk of them losing their perfect gown in checked luggage. If they are carrying it on, they can keep their hands on it at all times and be assured that it is safe and ready for the big day.
3. Don’t forget the photographer
While there are many expenses associated with weddings, having a photographer for only the ceremony is a big no. Encourage your clients to secure photography coverage throughout the entire trip. Some of the best moments will be spontaneous and may be at the tail end of the wedding or even the day before.
Destination weddings tend to be multiple day-long affairs, so why would they only have a photographer for one of them? They won’t want to miss out on those priceless moments.
4. Don’t skimp on the details
While yes, destination weddings tend to be more simple affairs, you don’t want to offer your clients a beige celebration. It might be easy to think no one cares about center pieces or the altar on the beach, but these visuals can be important. Burlap tells people nothing about a love story, even in Italy.
5. Don’t be ambiguous about the dress code.
Your clients have a vision for their destination wedding, right? Encourage them to set some guidelines, as this will help them have the event they want and keep guests from stressing out between floor-length dresses with heels and cotton sundresses with flip-flops. Heels are terrible on sand.
Enjoy The Experience By Following Destination Wedding Etiquette
Destination weddings and planning them is a truly unique experience. Not only do you get to help a couple celebrate their love, but you’ll also have the opportunity to step out of the box and really let your creativity and skillset thrive.
Try to reassure your clients that, while something may go wrong or hit a snag, their destination wedding is worth it. Every scenario can be planned for—that’s what emergency kits are for. Besides, anyone who travels to celebrate the couple truly loves them, and isn’t that what this is all about?
There are a lot of things to worry about, sure, but maybe you’ll get to worry about them with a margarita in your hand.