What to know

Planning a wedding is most certainly no easy job. It can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times, and destination weddings can be even more tricky. Organising and arranging so many details for your big day from miles away, via email or phone, can be troublesome and frustrating. But should you let that put you off? Absolutely not.

Having a destination wedding can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. If you have always dreamed of marrying on a beautiful beach, atop a picturesque mountain or in a quaint European town, these tips from UAE-based destination wedding planners will help ensure putting together your big day goes without a hitch.  From timing it just right, to picking the perfect venue and best vendors, Rock Your Wedding founder Liesel Papke and Encre d’Or co-founders Justine and Jessica Kokorian have got you covered.

destination wedding abroad tips

Why Choose A Destination Wedding?

“With Dubai being such a great central hub, many couples find a destination wedding works very well when trying to get their families to travel from all around the world. Also, having your wedding away from your home country means you can manage the guest list better, as you will only need to invite close friends and family and not feel pressured to invite every neighbour and cousin. That means destination weddings can be great for the budget too,” Rock Your Wedding’s Liesel says. “They’re also ideal for couples who are looking to stay away from the traditional wedding and instead choose a venue a little more unique, like a tea plantation or rural town, for example.” Encre d’or’s founders believe a destination wedding offers the complete package. “It’s a Wed-cation! It’s a combination of a wedding celebration and vacation and guests are usually so excited to spend this special day in a different city/country/region they will remember it forever. The venue, the hotel, the food…everything is so special and unique at a destination wedding.”

Things to consider when choosing the destination

Just as with a local wedding, there are lots of things to consider before deciding to have your big day abroad. “Firstly your time,” Liesel says. “If you don’t have a wedding planner on the ground who can manage everything for you, then you need to be realistic and discuss how many times during your wedding planning you will manage to travel to the location.” It’s also important to research to find trusted vendors and to consider any potential language barriers. “As you probably won’t have friends or family who know your chosen destination, it’s important to ensure either the venue or a wedding planner can assist you with reliable suppliers. You don’t want to spend the money, effort and time sourcing all your vendors and then on the day your flowers or furniture don’t arrive and no one is picking up the phone,” Liesel advises. “And if you have chosen a destination where the first language isn’t the same as yours, then ensure that you have a plan for this. Not being on the ground already makes communication that little bit more difficult, but adding the language barrier will make it almost impossible, especially if you are unable to communicate via email.”

destination wedding abroad tips

Planning time

Destination weddings take a little longer to plan, but Justine and Jessica say it’s worth it: “With all of the different aspects associated with planning a wedding abroad, it does take just a little longer to organise, but the end result is a memorable week of celebration with the most important people in your life.” Liesel agrees; “There is a lot more back- and-forth communication and getting the little details right takes a lot longer. You also have to remember, for example, that the flowers you’ve always dreamed of having at your wedding may not be available in the country that you have chosen, so it’s all the little details like this that need to be well thought through ahead of time.”

Venue checklist

Before committing to a venue, Rock Your Wedding’s Liesel says it’s important to visit beforehand: “Just relying on websites is dangerous because you might find the images are totally out of date, or taken by an amazing photographer who has made the space look bigger than it actually is. I suggest researching and then compiling a list of around five properties you want to see before you arrive, rather than just pinning your hopes on one.” Once you actually land in your dream destination, Liesel says there are some key things to check for during the initial site visit. “Does the venue have easy access? Where is the closest airport? Is there public transport or will you need to rent a car? These are important things to look for. Also check that there is suitable accommodation close to your venue and ask questions to find out exactly what is included in the wedding package. Make sure all food and beverages are included in the price, at least. It’s also worth checking to see if the venue offers anything complimentary on the day and get full details of their cancellation policies. Weather can be unpredictable wherever the wedding, but to be safe, also remember to ask the venue if they have a plan B should the weather ruin your initial plans. Check too to see if they have a preferred supplier list. The more they can help you with, the better. They are local so will have a great local knowledge.”

destination wedding abroad tips

Finding the best vendors

Having suppliers who are reliable and trustworthy is key to having a smooth-running wedding day. Without word of mouth recommendations, it can be difficult to find the best ones for your needs. Justine and Jessica say: “Always check websites and forums for recommendations and test the suppliers when you visit the country, six to nine months prior your wedding.” Liesel agrees: “Read lots of blogs, they will have real weddings featured on them and the suppliers are always mentioned, so you will start getting an idea of which ones are well known. And again, use local knowledge. When visiting the venues ask which suppliers they use as often the good supplier’s names will keep coming up. Don’t ever be tempted to go for the cheapest quotes, this will more than likely get you in trouble. There will  be a reason they are cheaper than the others.”

Looking after your guests

Naturally you want to have your favourite people in the world with you on your big day, so it’s essential you give your guests enough notice so they can make arrangements. It all depends on the destination and from where they are coming from. “If the guests are coming from many parts of the world, the bride and groom should give them at least six to seven month’s notice prior to the wedding to enable them to book their transport and manage their work and personal calendars, Encre d’Or’s founders say. “We also recommend couples propose a variety of different price range options for accommodation for their guests, from affordable to luxury, and offer advice on each. It’s also best to suggest accommodation close to tourist attractions and things to do, as they will more than likely make a vacation out of your wedding trip.”

destination wedding abroad tips

Dress code

Before finalising your wedding destination, consider your dress. What do you want to be wearing on your big day? If you’ve always dreamed of walking down the aisle in a glamorous, detailed gown, perhaps a beach wedding on a tropical island isn’t for you. “I always advise the bride and groom to tailor their outfits to their location,” Liesel says. “If you’re having a beach wedding don’t make the groom and groomsmen wear black tie, it will just look funny in the photographs. I would say the same goes for the bride. Having a big princess dress just won’t look right on the sand.”

Luggage list

Packing for your destination wedding can be very difficult, as suddenly you will realise you have a lot of stuff you need to take with you. And all of it is essential. “Be systematic,” Rock Your Wedding’s Liesel advises. “Go through what you need on your wedding day, dress, shoes, veil, etc., then do the same for your groom. Try and get family members involved as delegation is always a winner. If you want confetti, for example, ask an aunt to sort that for you. Don’t try to do everything alone… try to get family members to help with luggage allocation. Most importantly, whatever you do, take your dress, and anything else really important, as hand luggage. The last thing you want is the stress of that going missing.”

The advantages of a wedding-moon

Choosing to have your wedding and honeymoon at the same destination comes with many advantages, mainly the cost, according to Liesel. “If you choose to honeymoon where you had your wedding, you won’t have such large travel costs. It’s likely that you wouldn’t have got to explore your location when you arrived to prepare for your special day, so it’s always great to have a few days afterwards to take it all in. I would suggest finding another hotel, something a little extra special, where you can just relax and enjoy your surroundings following your celebration. Trust me when I say you will be exhausted after your wedding.” The main advantage for Justine and Jessica is enjoying maximum time with the ones you love the most: “Being all together for the same experience is the most beautiful beginning to your marriage journey.”

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Images: Supplied, Pinterest