Ahh, paradise! The waves gently wash up on the sugary white sand. The sun is just starting to set slowly over the horizon, creating a magnificent sunset backdrop for the ceremony. Your closest family and friends have travelled from near and far to join you on this special day. It’s your wedding, and everything is going perfectly according to plan, or is it?
Destination weddings, just like regular weddings, are prone to obstacles. One of the problems that occurs is due to the distance involved, many destination couples hope for the best and assume everything will go perfectly in paradise. The challenge lies in making sure you’ve got all of the details covered, just like planning for a regular wedding. Furthermore, you want to ensure that you are prepared to handle any possible situation that may arise. After all, avoiding any unnecessary surprises is half the battle!
You’re travelling to a destination which often involves suitcases and airplanes. Anyone who has lost their luggage will tell you what a terrible experience it is. There is a limited amount you can do to avoid this from happening, but there are some steps you can take to make things easier if it does occur.
First of all, ensure that all bags that you’re travelling with are clearly labelled with your name and contact information. If possible, put a second tag on it as well. Also check the luggage tags yourselves to ensure they are properly checked through with the correct airport codes. If your luggage does get lost, taking these simple precautions will make it easier to be identified.
Secondly, put some of your clothes in his bags, and vice versa. This way, if one of you does lose your luggage, you still have some items to work with in the meantime.
Third, if you plan on carrying your wedding dress onboard, check with the airlines in advance about making arrangements to do so. Most brides have no idea that these arrangements often need to be made ahead of time, sometimes risking huge fees at the airport at the last minute in order to bring their wedding attire along on the flight.
Proper Paperwork Filed
What could be worse than getting ready for your wedding only to learn that the proper paperwork wasn’t filed on time, and therefore, your ceremony won’t be legal? Try and keep smiling with that going on in the back of your mind!
To start with, I recommend that you check with your resort wedding coordinator for the requirements of a legal ceremony in your destination location, but I wouldn’t stop there. I would also encourage you to check out other websites, including government ones for the most up-to-date regulations and requirements. Also check with your own government if a wedding from your destination country is considered legal and if there is any special paperwork that may be required. Especially when the legality of your wedding is at stake, it is better to be safe than sorry.
In addition, make sure you note any important dates and set yourself a deadline well ahead of the final cut-off. For example, a number of countries require the paperwork to be registered 30 days prior to the ceremony. With that in mind, I would aim for getting it there two months ahead of time, giving yourself extra days to allow for transportation of documents, and possible any translations that may have to occur.
Officiant Hired and Confirmed
Most often, the onsite wedding coordinator will book your officiant. To safeguard yourself, I would ask for the contact information and confirm it myself just to be safe. I heard of one couple whose wedding ended up being delayed for three hours waiting for a back-up officiant to arrive because the onsite coordinator had made a mistake and forgot to book one.
Secondly, make sure that you clearly understand what the ceremony will be like. In many Hispanic countries, the language spoken throughout the ceremony will be in Spanish, although it can be arranged for a translator to be present at the ceremony.
It is also important to find out if you are able to have some personal touches in the ceremony. Are you allowed to have other friends or family perform readings? Are you able to have a sand ceremony or a candle ceremony (harder to do if you’re outside in the breeze)? Your onsite wedding coordinator can probably answer some of these questions for you, but you may want to take the initiative and either ask her to confirm the details on your behalf or speak with the officiant yourself.
Poor Weather Alternative
As much as us hope for perfect weather on our wedding day, we can’t always get what we want. My motto is to prepare for the worst, and that includes bad weather. When you are booking your wedding, make sure you know what the contingency plans in case of poor weather. Don't just let the onsite coordinator tell you it is covered. Ask her for specific details. If you’re moving to an indoor location, what will happen in terms of décor, etc? Who makes the final decision about whether it is outside or inside? When is the latest that decision can be made? You will want to ensure that the alternate location is suitable for the size of your wedding and that it can be quickly adapted into a nice location.
If a poor weather alternative is not provided, then I would seriously consider another resort or get the coordinator to come up with a suitable plan of action before you commit to anything. If the plan is in place and you don’t need it, great! If the worst happens and there is a torrential downpour, the wedding can still continue and everyone will stay dry and happy!
Heat and Humidity
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles couples aren’t prepared for is the difference in the heat and humidity that they face compared to the climate they’re used to at home. If possible, book your wedding ceremony for either early or late in the day to avoid some of the extreme temperatures that are experienced from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM or so.
Encourage your guests to dress in clothes more suitable to the climate. At a recent wedding in Costa Rica, the couple asked everyone to dress in white (color reflects the sun) and to choose clothing in fabrics of cotton or linen that are cooler and breathe easier. Of course, these were only suggestions that were made, but gave guests permission to dress more casually and make suitable choices for the climate and location.
As a bride, you will want to make sure you have your make-up bag on hand as you may have to freshen up often to avoid looking wilted. Dry powder will help keep you looking fresh, but you may have to take a few moments to remove some of the old make-up and reapply so you avoid the look of having it caked on. Anything that is “oilfree” may also help reduce the amount of shine that can come with perspiration.
For the groom, you may want to make sure you have an extra shirt or two, or even a second pair of pants. At a recent wedding in Costa Rica, the groom perspired through three shirts. (He brought five so that wasn’t a problem.) But he never anticipated that he would sweat through his pants as well. Thank goodness one of his shirts was a little longer and covered the “wet spots” on the back of his pants!
Finally, this may seem like common sense, but make sure that you drink lots of water to stay hydrated and possible even avoid long sessions in the sun on the day of your ceremony. You certainly don’t want to get heat exhaustion on your wedding day!
I always advice couples to have someone on hand to handle and coordinate all of the details of a wedding. The last person who should have to be dealing with these things is the bride herself. The bride and groom should be able to enjoy their wedding day without people constantly asking them if they should start serving the tapas or dealing with the musicians that have not yet arrived.
Many of the resorts have a onsite wedding coordinator. This person is usually designated to looking after the weddings that happen on the resort property, but while many of them are quite good, you often don’t know the experience of this person. Check websites, such as http://www.bestdestinationwedding.com/forum/ to get current and updated information about other couples who have gotten married at the same resort. These people can be a source of great information and insight. Also good information source is Google to check out what other people have said. Now, you do have to edit and filter the information that is out there, but it should give you an idea fairly quickly of whether people are pleased with the services they received or not. Even if everything has been arranged ahead of time, make sure you book an appointment with your wedding coordinator early in your trip to review the details and ensure that everything is as you requested and pictured. It's just one more step to confirm and review the details to make sure your wedding is what you planned and envisioned it to be. You certainly don’t want any surprises!
If your wedding site location does not have a coordinator, it would be in your best interest to either hire one from the location or bring one from home experienced in destination weddings. Having someone who can confirm and own all of the possible challenges that may arise will be worth every cent that you end up paying, as the other option is that you end up doing it all yourself.
My philosophy has always been that if you have a back-up plan, you won’t need it. Planning a destination weddings has just as much potential for problems as planning a regular wedding, if not more as so many of the details are looked after long-distance. The key to making sure things go smoothly is to get the details looked after and confirmed ahead of time, and have alternative solutions to some of the more possible problems. This care and attention to detail ahead of time will ensure that your wedding celebration goes off without a hitch!