Dave's retirement journey

How to have the perfect destination wedding

By Dave Dineen, BrighterLife.ca

Thinking about getting married somewhere exotic? Here are some tips that will make your wedding day memorable for all the right reasons.

How to have the perfect destination weddingMy wife and I just got home from the perfect destination wedding. It was an incredible experience we’ll never forget.

The bride and groom, Dave and Karina, travelled from their home in London, England, to be married in the beautiful seaside resort town of Vila Velha, Brazil, where Karina grew up. Their overseas guests flew in from Britain, Australia and North America. What made this wedding perfect? We enjoyed five wonderful days and nights of barbecues, feasts, day trips, beaches, family gatherings, exploration and experiencing another culture, in addition to the real highlight: the wedding. That’s a lot to plan when you live on the other side of an ocean, but Karina had amazing support and participation of her extended family. (Who are, I think, the most generous people on the planet!)

For Dave’s Australian family, this was the first of three destination weddings for their three sons over eight months.

Tips to make your destination wedding successful

If you’re considering a destination wedding, here are some important points to think about:

  • Do it for the right reasons. Don’t decide to have a destination wedding just because a travel company will give you a free trip. And think twice if key family or friends simply can’t attend.
  • Keep the wedding simple, or rely on lots of local help with planning and execution. You can get the local help from professionals or from friends and family. If you want to be on top of all the details yourself, an elaborate overseas event may be more than you can handle.
  • Send invitations very early. Guests need to book their vacation and travel plans.
  • Tell guests what to expect. A wedding website or blog can help them visualize the experience. What is there to see and do? Which airport will they fly into? Have you blocked off hotel rooms, or do they need to find their own? Will they need to take taxis or rent a car, or will you arrange transportation? What’s the weather usually like? How formally should they dress for the wedding? Will the menu suit their dietary needs?
  • Be clear about your role. Are you prepared to be the social co-ordinators, tour guides and event planners? Will your guests depend on you to keep them busy, fed and entertained for the whole trip? And if not you, then whom?
  • Expect fewer to attend. Travel costs, lack of vacation days, fear of flying, work commitments, health issues and child care issues can prevent even the closest family and friends from attending.
  • Some won’t like the destination. Sure, it’s your dream wedding, but it may not be your friends’ dream vacation spot.
  • You may need more than one wedding! You may need a second, subsequent ceremony in your home province for legal, religious or family reasons.
  • Get there early. Who needs jet lag on their wedding day?
  • Don’t assume local services are the same as at home. The Brazilian beauty salon used by the bridesmaids had never made up anyone with our daughter’s pale complexion. The English/Portuguese language barrier was another problem – but they ended up doing a great job.
  • Share the schedule. That way, guests know what is happening and when.
  • Know how to communicate. While at the destination, who can be contacted by cell/text? Email? Hotel phone?
  • Tell guests about local customs. What time do people eat? Is there a day when restaurants are closed? How do locals tip? What local food/drink should guests try?
  • Local travel arrangements are critical. How will guests get to and from the airport, hotels, restaurants, the wedding and the reception?
  • Provide tips on what to see and do. While you probably don’t want to be the full-time entertainment director, consider organizing some local activities. At the Brazil wedding we attended, highlights included a family-prepared feast, a Brazilian barbecue and a visit to a hill-top convent.

People go a long way to attend destination weddings. If you show your gratitude and affection even one-tenth as much as Karina and Dave did, your guests will feel special indeed.

Our daughter, Cristina and her fiancé Jason, who were in the wedding party, paid special attention – not just because Jason is the groom’s big brother, but also because Jason and Cristina are planning their own destination wedding.

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