Destination weddings are supposed to be fun, easy and enjoyable. So why am I totally exhausted and broken after our week long wedding celebrations?
In hindsight there are some things that we did right, and some things that we did very wrong – combined that meant that our guests had a great time (which of course makes us happy) but that we were totally worn out, and in reality, didn’t have that much fun until the end.
If I could do things all over again there are many things I would have done totally differently – so I thought a Do and Don’t list would help other people that were considering a destination wedding.
have one wedding
If you have a destination wedding, or are from different cultures you don't need to have multiple celebrations. I’m from Canada and my husband is from Argentina. I’m so happy we had a destination wedding in one location instead of having one wedding in Canada and one in Argentina. More of our friends would have been able to join us if we’d had two weddings, but it would have been a total nightmare to organize. One wedding is a ton of work, I can’t imagine planning two!
find a location that’s easy to get to and is central for most guests
With people coming from all different locations it's great if you can find a place that's somewhere in the middle. Since we had people coming from South America, and the East and West Coast of Canada/ the US, Mexico was a good choice. It also meant that everything happened on neutral territory and neither of the families would feel like they were being favoured or disadvantaged.
try and spend quality time with each guest
The reality is that people travel very far, and pay quite a lot to celebrate with you, so make sure that they know you appreciate it. Spending a bit of time with each person makes the whole affair seem more personal, and your guests will be happy that they got to have quality time with you at such a busy time.
make a wedding night party that is unique to you
This is your chance to do something different - you don't have to follow rules. Do what's right for you! While we were away two other guests had birthdays, so we included a special shout out and birthday cakes for them at our reception. It isn’t the typical thing to do, but it made the event extra special for those guests.
make arrangements for all your guests to enjoy
Each wedding has a special set of needs/wants and personalities. Keep those in mind when planning and anticipate your guests needs so that you can make arrangements and they can enjoy the whole party with you. For example, we had lots of young families at our wedding, so we made arrangements for kids meals (fries and chicken fingers) to be served before adult meals, high chairs to be at tables, and baby sitters to be on hand to either take the kids to their rooms, or watch over them in the seating area. That way the kids were happy, and the parents were free to relax and enjoy the party. Our plans worked out too, almost all of the parents stayed until 2am because all of the normal headache details were taken care of for them.
have your bachelor/bachelorette parties on the same night
That way all the messy stuff will be taken are of in one night, and one of you won't be left at home wondering what's happening with the other.
have the wedding early on in the week
The early you have the wedding, the earlier you relax. We decided to have the wedding on day five of our seven day stay. It was a mistake. If you get there on Sunday have the wedding on Wednesday. You will allow yourself a few days to take care of details and then you can relax with your friends after. We arrived on the Sunday and had the wedding on Friday – it meant we spent five days receiving guests, making plans for our wedding, spending time with everyone – it also meant we spent no time relaxing and enjoying the fruits of our labour. The only time we relaxed was for four hours on the day we left. Seriously.
stay after the wedding
You and your forever mate will be exhausted after the wedding - so plan some downtime for after the wedding. My biggest regret is not spending time together alone after our wedding. We were both totally exhausted after our wedding – and we had not spent any time together alone for a whole week. It took a toll on us, and for a whole week I didn’t feel that close to my (now) husband, which is a real shame when you are getting married. With everyone around it’s understandable, so if you are planning a destination wedding make sure you set aside some “you time” after the wedding to relax, enjoy and reminisce about the wedding.
expect the wedding coordinator to be a lifesaver
They are coordinators…which means they coordinate, it doesn’t mean that they do everything. What we thought was going to be an easy event to organize because we had a coordinator on board was not so easy after all. The coordinator was the middle man, so saved us from negotiating directly with different suppliers, but it still meant that we had to make all the plans, come up with all the choices, provide all the direction, and solve all the problems. The only thing the coordinator did was show us a few rooms that we could get married in, show me a few flower samples, and call the suppliers to order stuff we asked for. We thought we’d be out sipping margaritas because we had a wedding coordinator…but we were sooo wrong!
over extend yourself
Yes, you are a host, but set limits for yourselves. We spent so much of our energy worrying about our guests, and if they were having fun, that we drained ourselves. We had almost no downtime, and as a result we were both very testy, edgy, and we spent no time on the beach relaxing or enjoying the resort. The only things we saw were restaurants, the spa, our wedding coordinators office, and the banquet room for the party. We need to go back next year to see what we missed out this time!
put your guests requests above your own desires
It's hard when everyone is asking for things and wants something different, but you need to be able to brush it off and do what you want. Both my husband and I are very accommodating people, and my husband loves to host people. So that meant that we spent so much time trying to help people out, finding fun things for them to do, letting people interrupt us all day long. It’s great to wear the hostess party hat, but when it takes a toll on you, it’s time to put the hat away and let people figure some things out for themselves.
pay for friends and family to come if it’s outside of your comfort level
When you have a destination wedding it means your guests will have to pay a lot to join you - and that means not everyone can afford it. Some couples will help their friends and family get there, others will not. Half our wedding budget was set aside for helping certain people come to our wedding. When the actual wedding came it was great to see our family together and some of our friends were sooo helpful and we were thrilled to be able to help. But others were a huge disappointment. One guest didn’t even thank us for helping, never made any effort to see us at the resort, and if anything did some things that took away from our wedding experience (i.e. totally inappropriate stag party). I felt like we bankrolled his family vacation. If I could do it again I would only pay for close family (maybe 3), and one close friend on either of our sides. Keep in mind that when you cover guests travel expenses your destination wedding will end up being just as expensive as a North American wedding (upward of $35,000), if not more.