As I thought about all the beautiful brides-to-be I wanted to spend a little time to write about what you can do to take away some of the stress when it comes to planning a destination wedding. This can be a very stressful topic for a lot of girls out there. From personal experience, I can relate.
When I was planning my destination wedding in Mexico my husband and I ran into countless debates. Planning together wasn't easy and for the first time we actually disagreed on A LOT of things. Please keep that in mind when planning a wedding. You are going to have to communicate to your future husband and often time this is not going to be easy.
I consider myself a pretty easy going person and always have been like that, but when it came down to planning that special day I was often frustrated and annoyed. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the tips I had about the process and make it a bit easier to deal with.
1. Take a deep breath. Relax. Tell yourself "It is going to be OKAY. Things will work out just fine." It is so easy to get easily overwhelmed. "How do I book the hotel? What are their rates? How are my guests going to get to the hotel? What if they don't have the flowers I am looking for? Am I going to have to bring my own photographer? Should I have a band or a DJ?" These and many other questions can make you feel clustered and stresses. The first step of having a stress free destination wedding is to take a deep breath, relax and organize your thoughts. You don't need to be worrying about ten thousand things at once. Instead, focus on ONE thing at a time. With that said, we move into ....
2. Discuss with your future partner on what type of wedding venue / ceremony you would like to have ( especially there WHERE PART ) and what is the budget for your wedding. This was hard for me. Very hard. Like I said before, I am a laid back person. I don't need to be in control of everything. My husband and I discuss variety types of resorts. First, he would tell me he wanted to have this "rustic and exclusive" place with "huts on the beach". So I would go and spend a week on researching hotels, reading their reviews, e-mail them and asking for a quote and a whole-lotta-other-nonsense ONLY TO FIND OUT that Mike ( my hubbs ) changed his mind or did not like the price. OK. So there goes my whole week wasted. After 3 weeks of research and not being able to come up with a decision I hit a wall with frustration. We decided that we EACH needed to do research and come up with top 3 hotels by the end of the week that we thought would be a good place AND fit into our budget. So we did just that. Mike came up with 3 choices and I did as well. Based on narrowing down our search we were able to discuss the choices, pros/cons of each place and finally make a decision.
3. Once you have figured out the venue - don't wait - contact their wedding coordinator ASAP.
Usually this is done through e-mail. Request information, ask about the availability of your preset date. You may find the hotel of your dreams but after you look at their prices you may change their mind. They may also not be able to accommodate the number of quests you may have so contacting them and getting down to business needs to be done as soon as possible. Usually, they will send you a brochure and you will be able to figure out whether or not the place meets your expectations / budget. 4. Once you have figured out the venue research and book a photographer. This is also a very touchy-feely subject to many people. Some people choose to have a photographer for the entire day, some may only need a photographer for a few hours. Whatever your need may be, research the photographer as soon as you have your date set and your venue reserved. Their rates may vary greatly, so it is very important that you discuss the photographer budget with your hubbs-to-be and agree on the price. I recommend hiring a local, outside-of-the-hotel photographer ( after reviewing them, researching and getting in contact with them ). The reason why I am suggesting an outside photographer is because you can usually find a quality, local photographer who will be able to accommodate you on your wedding day and provide you with more "perks" versus a regular hotel photographer ( not the mention the quality of pictures you are going to get will be much higher from a professional photographer who does this for a living ). Next step is to contact your photographer via e-mail ( usually ) and work out the perks of the wedding day.
Most photographers will require some sort of a deposit before your wedding day. At first, I was "sketched out" by the fact that my photographer wanted 50% deposit 6 months in advance. What I did was I asked to had her create a contract and e-mail me the contract that both parties would sign before transferring any money to anyone. This certainly gives you insurance in case things take an unexpected turn.
5. Take care of invitations no later than 8 months before the date. We gave people a year in advance. I think this is essential because people are going to need to plan accordingly if you want them to be part of your wedding day. Make sure on your invitations you include all of the little details, such as: hotel name, how to get from the airport to hotel, how to book the trip, any group discount codes and etc...
Be patient and understand that not all quests invited will be able to come. We only send out 45 invitations ( which we made by hand - as a message in a bottle style ) to people we knew would most likely make it to the wedding and received 34 confirmations.
Three months before the wedding, we had a "Congrats to Mike and Anna" destination "party" at our house where we invited all those who cannot come to the wedding + other guests we would have normally invited if our wedding was in the States. We catered the party, had a "wedding cake" and played silly "wedding games". The guests were able to come with a gift and at the same time were still able to celebrate with us, even though they could not make it to the actual wedding.
This also provided the wedding guests with an opportunity to give their gifts at the party and not actually fly to them all the way to your destination.
Please be advised that when you invite guests to your destination wedding, people will probably assume that they are not required to give you a wedding gift. This is totally normal. The guests are spending a ton of money on travel / accommodation. Please understand their situation.
6. Decide on the bridal party / bridal attire. Buy a wedding dress. Mexico was HOT. This was a whole different HOT than I have ever experienced. I mean June in Mexico is steamy hot. So hot, that it took my breath away when I got out of the airport, literally. When choosing wedding attire for yourself / your wedding party keep in mind the season and the location of your wedding. Also, is your ceremony going to be outside? Is there going to be a tent? ... If I did not have a tent at my wedding, I would not be writing this blog right now - I would be melted somewhere in the Mexico only God knows where. I am serious. It was HOT.
Shopping for a dress should be done relatively early. Again, consider the time of the year and location of your wedding. My wedding dress was beautiful and I loved every minute in it, except that the back felt like someone dumped a bucket of water on it ( but no... it was just sweat ... ). Try to be sympathetic of your bridal party. Choosing a 400$ bridal party dress may be a little steep if they are already paying $400 on flight and spending just as much, if not more for the hotel. In my opinion, less is more. Don't drive yourself nuts over this stuff. I bought my dress and told my bridesmaids that the color was "aqua". They could buy any dress they wanted, as long as it was relatively short. That was it. Here is the outcome:
Each girl chose a dress that fit her figure the best. Each style was different. But to me that was "Okay". I wanted the girls to be able to show their own personalities and be able to wear something that fit THEIR body type the best. I think it worked out well in the end.
7. Wedding favors / Bridal Party Gifts
You've got the venue, you have your photographer ready. The bridesmaids are good to go and you're picking up your dress in a month. Awesome. Hardest part is over. Now onto the details.
Wedding favors - think about this. DO you REALLY want to carry another suitcase of party favors to your destination wedding? You have enough stuff to carry as it is. Don't go nuts. Sure, you can go all out and spend tons of money on party favors and all other traditional stuff ... or... you can settle for something a little less. You can buy some bubbles at stores like A.C. Moore and Michaels ( they usually come in a pretty small box of 50 ) and you can actually make unique party favors yourself.
Where do party favors usually end up? Think about the last time you went to a wedding and actually kept the party favors at that wedding. Sure, you probably have some sort of "favors" laying around somewhere...BUT... when are you ever going to use that or refer to it again? ...
My whole thing is this - "Why buy stuff, when you can make it?" Same goes for party favors. I am not saying make 100 picture frames or handmade ceramic candles. No, that would be insanity. But you can search the good ol' Pinterst for some awesome, CHEAP, and most importantly DIY wedding favors you can make for your guests. They will be one-of-a-kind, memorable and the guests will least likely throw them out after the wedding.
Bridal Gifts - Jewelry is the best way to go ( of course, in my opinion) for your girls. It is small, low maintenance and usually accommodates all tastes. I mean, what girl doesn't wear jewelry? You can buy great things on ETSY. Most sellers will give you a discount for buying in bulk. Make sure you buy something that is universal and neutral so it fits everyone's taste and won't be a waste of money. Same goes for groomsmen. Think simple and think "light". Like I said, you don't want to be stuck carrying an extra suitcase of favors / gifts with your luggage to Jamaica.
8. Make sure you can answer all of the questions below:
1. How will you transport your dress in the airport? Will you carry it in your hands or try to fit into the suitcase?
2. How many luggages can you bring on the plane? Does your airline provide any special accommodation for you?
3. When you get to your destination how are you and your guests going to get to/from the hotel to the airport?
4. Have you arranged necessary shuttle survives for your guests in case your hotel does not provide transportation?
5. What is the hotel check in time and how does that match your arrival time? You don't want to arrive at the hotel at 8 AM and not be able to check in to your room until 3PM.
6. Is your place all inclusive? If not, how are guests going to be able to get to local restaurants etc..
7. Are you going to rent a car? If so, does your hotel require any extra fees for the car rental?
8. Have you gotten in touch with the wedding coordinator and worked out the little details about the date and the ceremony?
9. DID YOU CHECK WITH THE YOUR DESTINATION'S LEGALITY REQUIREMENTS? Very important to do… For example, Mexico required blood tests and all licenses to be translated from Spanish to English ahead of time.
10. Did you start saving money? .. You should…
11. Have you picked your bridesmaids / their attire?
12. Have you bought them gifts?
13. Do you have appropriate accessories for your wedding - something blue, something borrowed etc..
14. What are you going to do about your favors?
15. Did you book the photographer?
16. Are you going to have a band / DJ and if so, have you booked them as well? Usually you can book them through your hotel.
17. Are you going to have a rehearsal dinner and if so, did you let you wedding coordinator know this? How are you going to plan the rehearsal dinner?
18. Make sure you have some spare finances ready for any last minute changes.
19. Did you set a date for your bridal shower?
20. BACHELORETTE PARTY TIME!!!!
9. The faster you get on planning, the sooner it will be over and you can finally relax.
In my opinion, the faster you get situated with all the details, the more time you will have to actually enjoy this awesome time of being engaged. So, don't put things away. Try to get them done and you will not be stressing out later. Trust me, this is the way to go.
10. A month before the wedding - get in contact with your wedding coordinator and your photographer to finalize everything and confirm the date one more time.
You should touch base with your coordinator / wedding photographer to work out any additional details that might of came up in the planning process that weren't discussed before. It's a good idea to keep in touch with these people so they can accommodate your needs in the best way possible.
The day of the wedding:
1. Wake up early and get some good breakfast in you.
You don't want to starve all day. You also don't want to think about food instead of your hubby-to-be. Like grandma used to say - "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Don't miss it!
2. Go on the beach and go for a swim.
I am telling you. This is the best! Who will be able to say that they went snorkeling on their wedding day? You will ! Spending sometime with the nature is the perfect way to stay relaxed and in tune with yourself versus freaking out the entire day and sweating the small stuff. You are having a destination wedding - ENJOY IT and take advantage of this awesome opportunity. This is me on my wedding day :)
3. After a swim, make sure you stop by the cafeteria or food court and pick up a snack.
This is import an because once you begin your hair/make up, dressing, and getting ready procedure you will not be able to eat. What happens when you have champaige on empty stomach? You get tipsyyyy or sloppy. You don't want either one on your wedding day. If you feel to anxious about eating a meal grab some granola bars / fruit and that should do the trick as well.
My ceremony was at 5 PM. I began getting ready at 1. I did not eat before getting ready. By the time reception came around 7 I thought I was going to either chew my arm off or eat Mike ( hubs ). GET SOME FOOD IN YOUR BELLY BEFORE GETTING READY.
4. Make sure you bring a picture of hair and make up that you want to your stylist.
This is a very simple step you can take towards making sure you look the way you want to look on your wedding day. When I was getting my hair done, I showed my hair stylist 6 pictures of what I wanted - a low bun. She did a great job and it looked awesome. However, when it came to make up I did not have a picture with me. She ended up putting purple eye shadow with other crazy colors I would have never worn in the first place. Luckily, I was able to come back to the room and completely redo my make up myself. This is why IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to bring pictures with you to show your stylist of EXACTLY how you want to look.
Don't forget to waterproof your make up - ask for waterproof eye liner and mascara if possible.
5. After you and your bridesmaids are good to go with hair / make up order champaign ( a couple bottles ) to your room and ENJOY the "getting ready" part with your girls.
Honestly, a little mimosa action will help you to loosen up and stay relaxed. Put on some fun dance music. No need to be in a serious and gloomy mood. Enjoy your time with them and your family. Seriously. Why would you want to stress on this awesome day?
6. When everything is set up and ready for the ceremony to start, that means IT'S GO TIME! Relax, take a deep breath and most of all enjoy every minute!
One of the memorable moments at my wedding was when the entire wedding party was walking through the resort to the beach, where the ceremony was taking place. Every single person was cheering and telling me how beautiful I was. That was really awesome. Random people were taking pictures and I really felt on top of the world. My dad was making jokes and trying not to get emotional while I was on the verge of crying myself it was a really memorable moment. Later on, Mike told me that before he even saw the wedding party walking on the boardwalk towards the beach he heard all the people cheering for us - and that's how he knew this was his last minute to run. Haha. Just kidding.
7. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Don't do it. You'll drive yourself nuts. So what if all of your bridesmaids don't get along? They will get over it. Who cares if person A doesn't want to sit next to person B at the same table. Guess what? They will suck it up. If its raining? Thats a good luck sign. If your shoe falls off while you are walking - kick the other one off and KEEP GOING. Your earring doesn't close? Borrow another one / take the closure off the other one - at least if one goes the other one will probably go as well. If one of your girls is wearing silver shoes and the other one is not wearing any shoes - WHO CARES?!?! No, seriously. No one will care about this small BS in the future. No one. Because everyone will be looking at you and not at your friends. This is your day. Don't let the small stuff bother you. Seriously. You're better than that.
8. Take pictures that YOU want, not pictures other people want.
We booked our photographer for 4 hours. That's it. We came home with probably over 10,000 pictures in total. Our guests took a million pictures along with the photographer. Many people were telling me that the wedding session should be with parents / bridal party and a bunch of other people. Umm. NO. Wedding pictures should be the way YOU want them to be. I wanted a few pictures with the wedding party, some pictures with family and a picture of all of our guests - the rest of just us. It worked out just as planned. Don't listen to grandma, grandpa, auntie from Nebraska or a friend of a friend of a friend. This is YOUR day, you need to do what YOU need to do. Not what other people want you to do.
9. Get ready to Boogie
The best part of the whole thing !!!
10. HAVE A BLAST AND ENJOY EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF YOUR AMAZING DAY!!