I remember standing in the middle of the room and smiling. I had stopped to take everything in for a moment and it was perfect.
The log-framed room was warm and softly-lit from the stone fireplace on the side, the lights in the antler chandeliers and the low candles on the tables. Greenery and pine cone centerpieces ran the length of the tables and I could see that it was still snowing heavily outside. Our friends and family from Australia and the United States were dancing and laughing together, and I felt happiness and love all around me.
This was why we chose to have a destination wedding.
I’m sure a destination wedding isn’t the right choice for every couple, but in my experience, if you love to travel it can make your day more meaningful and memorable. Just be aware that there are trade-offs.
Why to Have a Destination Wedding
Chances are, if you are even thinking about a wedding away from home, you love to travel. If not, stop right there. Weddings are stressful enough; if you find travel stressful or not enjoyable, why give yourself more anxiety?
If you love to travel, a destination wedding is another opportunity to tick a new place off your list, or include somewhere special in your day. In our case, we love the Colorado Rocky Mountains and skiing. Having our wedding at a Colorado resort meant that we got to guarantee another trip to visit the Rockies, and also that we got to share that experience with our friends and family. For many of our guests, it was a new or unusual experience to walk through a mountain resort village, do snow-based activities, ride a gondola, or – in some cases – see snow. All things we love doing and are worth travelling for. My brother and sister-in-law also had a destination wedding and they found a destination they would want to revisit on an anniversary (or several).
Because It’s Meaningful to You
Let’s be honest, for the most part weddings are all about the meaning and symbolism that we associate with them – otherwise most people would sign the piece of paper at the courthouse and be done with it. So, why not add the location in to the meaning of the ceremony? For us, not only do we love the Colorado mountains, but it’s where we met and where hubby proposed. It had meaning for us to start our next chapter where our relationship started.
For my brother and sister-in-law, it was meaningful to them that their grandparents were all able to be at their wedding. They chose to travel to Florida from Colorado because all the grandparents were living in Florida and in their 90’s (and therefore travel was more difficult for them).
Because It’s Memorable
Because we are from two different countries, the reality was that some of our guests were going to have to travel no matter what. We didn’t want them to have to travel a long way and end up in a venue that could have been anywhere. We wanted it to feel like they had travelled, so we got married on a mountain top in winter and had the reception in a log-cabin like building.
I had several people tell me during our reception that it was one of the most memorable weddings they had ever attended. This was a wonderful comment to hear and confirmed for me that we had made a good choice. The location made the whole event more personalised and unique. To be fair, I think the fact that it snowed heavily during the ceremony also helped enhance the experience.
Destination Wedding Trade Offs
Be Prepared for a Longer Planning Period
Planning a wedding requires a lot of communication with your venue coordinator and other wedding suppliers (photographer, celebrant, DJ, etc). If you are planning an overseas wedding, this probably means email communication, especially if you are dealing with a major time difference like we were. Therefore, expect things to take longer. Sending and answering questions via email takes more time because often, your questions aren’t fully answered in the first email, or you are left with more follow-up questions. There is a lot of back and forth.
The other reason you need more time when planning a destination wedding is to ensure your guests have plenty of time to plan and save for a trip. We sent our Save the Dates out 18 months in advance. It would have been unreasonable to expect the Australians to save and plan for a trip to the US with only a few months notice and we wanted to ensure as many people could make it as possible.
Less People Will Come
Every wedding has people that can’t make it, but this percentage is much higher with a destination wedding. Even if you give people plenty of notice, they have other things going on in their lives (or things change between the Save the Date and the actual Wedding Invitation) and spending money on a big trip just doesn’t work for them or their plans. Some of your guests may not want or be able to travel – and you need to respect that.
It May Cost More
Sure, weddings can fit into all types budgets and this is probably true for destination weddings too. But, if you are going overseas for your destination keep in mind two things. 1) You are now planning for a wedding AND a trip. 2) Currency fluctuations happen and this may mean things cost you more than you originally anticipated.
If you are comfortable with the trade offs of having a destination wedding, then you may be lucky like we were and end up with the wedding of your dreams.