So you’re thinking of getting hitched somewhere other than here? Good for you! As someone who globe-trots frequently, I’m all for it. I’m sure with that decision, you’re probably facing some opinions from friends and family members? Maybe some don’t want to spend the money, maybe some aren’t capable of travel, or maybe a handful don’t even own passports if it’s somewhere international, and they’re perceiving this whole thing as over-the-top or inconvenient? There are many variables to consider if a destination wedding is the right choice for you. If you’re on the fence, I’ll list some reasons why it’s not a terrible idea, even if that means some people don’t get to participate. The less conventional is becoming more common and ideal for numerous reasons.
-If you’re ok with having a significantly smaller guest list.
This one is probably one of the top reasons couples opt for a destination wedding away from home – they know many people won’t come. A smaller guest list = more money saved. Sounds cut-throat? Yeah, probably, but also consider that your nearest and dearest are those who are DEFINITELY willing to spend the money and take the time to make sure they’re a part of your special day. You’ll also be able to interact with around 30 guests better than, say, 200. A larger guest list doesn’t always allow time for you to genuinely spend time with every single one of your guests. When you’re surrounded by a smaller group of loved ones, you’ll have more one-on-one time with them, plus have the potential option of seeing them the day before/after if they’re staying in the same place.
-Not spending what could potentially be used for a down payment on a home.
An average, a typical wedding in America costs around $30-40k. The day goes by SO fast, you’ll probably have no time to take it all in because you’re being directed by your vendors/planner/photographer so that they all stay on track according to the timeline. Everything feels rushed. The wedding day stress is non-stop and comes at you from all angles. Family photos can sometimes be chaotic. When the stress is really running high, people tend to snap at each other. As a photographer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to “read the room” and gauge my bride’s stress levels and just wait to ask her a question, or to just ask someone else in an effort to not add to her stress too. The ceremony flies by, whether it’s short and sweet or an hour long. You blink, and it’s time for portraits. Blink again, and you have to hurry to the reception where you can finally relax a little and take a breather while downing a few drinks. The next thing you know, you’re boot-scootin’ with your besties on the dance floor, and then it’s time to cut the cake. After that, you have maybe one more hour until it’s strike time. All vendors are released and it’s time to go. Where did the day go?!
…that was a very loose outline of a typical wedding timeline, by the way. Obviously, every wedding is different!
Usually, a more intimate wedding gives you the opportunity to truly live in the moments as they happen and really enjoy the day without the added pressure to stick to a timeline, where many things might be crammed in and everything is back-to-back.
-You’re already away for your honeymoon, you’ll save even more!
You’re already there! Whether it’s somewhere tropical, or somewhere urban or rural. Wherever it is, you can save yourself a plane trip.
-There is always the option of having another get-together in your hometown where everyone else can celebrate.
If you’re still feeling a little bit of guilt that not everyone in your life was able to be apart of your wedding day, you can still celebrate when you get back! This can be in the form of a nice dinner or a second “reception” party. Depending on your budget and what you’d like to do, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate again. It’s not uncommon to do this while incorporating the elements and footage you have from your destination wedding and display it so your guests can experience how your wedding was (ie: video, slideshow, etc.).
-You could be saving more than you realize!
There are a handful of places, particularly outside of the states where the American dollar will go a VERY long way. Maybe there are all-inclusive deals where the food and drink (bar) is included and you don’t have to worry about any of that since those two things are some of the most expensive elements of a wedding.
-This might allow you to expand your budget on vendors you really want to work with.
A good wedding photographer isn’t cheap, but you don’t want to cheap out on good photos. This might allow you to be able to spend a little extra on a photographer/videographer you really want. Most photographers don’t say no to destination weddings! You have the option of flying a trustworthy one you really love from your region, or using a photographer local to the destination. It’s up to you to decide on what option might be better for you. Sometimes it’s convenient to use a photographer that an all-inclusive venue might recommend because they probably are included in your venue price. If you don’t like that option, or would rather bring along a photographer that you know and trust, that’s a smart option as well. And really, what photographer doesn’t want to be flown somewhere fun to capture someone’s awesome day? I can’t speak for all photographers, but I know I’m always passport-ready! I probably shouldn’t even share this, but some of us are willing to be flexible and give you a custom rate that fits your budget so we get the opportunity to do it, especially if it’s somewhere we haven’t been yet.
World-renowned destination wedding and travel photographer, Laura Grier of Beautiful Day Photography, shares why she would encourage a couple to bring their own photographer: “Destination weddings can sometimes tend to not run as organized as they do in the US, so having a good flow with your vendors is really important so your photographer can also help out and act as a coordinator with keeping on time when necessary. It’s also important to build a rapport with your photographer and get to know them and feel comfortable with them rather than having a stranger capture your most special and emotional day. Another benefit to bringing a photographer you trust and who is local to where you live is that they can also become your photographer for life and capture moments beyond your wedding such as maternity photos, family photos, etc. You can also meet them ahead of time and do engagement photos with them and learn to feel comfortable with them and it will always be easier to communicate with them before and after the wedding. I have learned through friends and clients who have decided to hire a vendor photographer in a foreign country, that there has been 50/50 certainty that they like the work they do and if they vibe with them. When you bring your own photographer, they tend to work harder since they’ve been brought there with you and are essentially spending several days with you rather than just showing up, doing a transactional job, and then leaving at the end of the night. They get to know your guests better and it feels more personal. Every time I shoot a destination wedding, I always end up becoming friends with the couple and their friends and family. This has also turned into opportunities where I’ve been hired again for their friend’s and families’ weddings. Instead of risking a bad experience of encountering issues with a photographer in a foreign country, it’s worth it to fly one out with you.”
-Your photos are almost guaranteed to be beautiful!
Tropical beach? Mountains with valley views? A lavender field in Provence, France? Portrait paradise!
*Bonus: If you’re getting hitched abroad, you’re likely to be staying in the area for several days prior to and after the actual wedding date. This not only allows you time to bond with your friends and family, but some brides are really into a Trash the Dress session these days. What is a Trash the Dress shoot? It’s a fun/sexy photo shoot with the couple, typically the day after the wedding, where you find a cool location and the bride will literally trash the dress. In some cases, brides will use their actual gown or a separate dress they saved specifically for the “trashing”. Some common sessions are of the bride and groom in the ocean or a body of water, but you can be as creative as you want!
-Get your marriage license in your hometown where you and your fiance live. It’s faster, easier, and less complicated than receiving a marriage license in a foreign country. Or if you do prefer getting your license in a foreign country, some resorts can also help you obtain one so you don’t have to do all the work yourself.
-When location scouting for bride & groom portraits or Trash the Dress sessions, make sure you’re somewhere safe, and you’re not trespassing. Some locations might allow for photos but still might require a photo permit. Be respectful as a foreigner or a visitor. Obey the rules.
-This one goes without saying, but check the weather, especially if it’s a tropical destination. Some regions have unpredictable rainy spells. While rain here and there is normal, you don’t want to end up planning a wedding during a week when the rain doesn’t stop.
-Research the climate and atmosphere. Are you prone to mosquito bites? You don’t want to become a buffet for insects with visible bites in a sleeveless gown. Is the water safe there to drink? Be mindful of how to not get sick if you’re headed off to some place unfamiliar.
-Even though we’re now in 2023, stay up-to-date on COVID-19 rules and restrictions.
Don’t forget that this is your wedding day. Even if you face criticism for it, you do you! The day is all about both of you, after all. Happy planning!
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