Destination Weddings in the Winter: What You Need to Know
Many wedding planners find themselves switching their planning strategies in the winter. Clients who live in cold places get tired of their winter coats and mittens and dream of sandy beaches and sun-kissed wedding photos. Destination weddings are a great opportunity to escape the cold weather, share a holiday experience with family, and have an unforgettably gorgeous celebration!
As the planner, you’ll practice many of the same strategies that you would for weddings at home. There are, however, several extra considerations to keep in kind while you coordinate wedding details. Here are some important details to keep in mind as you plan your clients’ dream destination wedding!
Different parts of the world experience seasons at different times of the year. Some countries even have seasons that you might not see at home. Before you make solid plans for your clients to marry on a tropical beach in December, make sure that’s not the middle of monsoon season! You’ll only be at the destination for a short time, so your ability to reschedule due to weather once you’re there is limited. A little rain never hurt, but a high risk monsoon will certainly put a damper on the celebration. Be sure to research climate patterns well in advance.
The legal requirements for marriage licenses differ from country to country.
- Will your clients’ marriage be valid by legal standards back home if they’re officially married in the destination country?
- Are your clients a same-sex couple who have unwittingly chosen country that doesn’t legally grant marriages to same sex couples?
Research marriage laws early on and consider encouraging your clients to legally marry at home before they leave for their gorgeous family ceremony at the destination.
Familiarize yourself with marriage traditions and customs at the destination. Your clients aren’t necessarily obligated to follow traditions that aren’t theirs, but you should avoid incorporating anything that might offend the locals.
You are, after all, guests at the destination. You’ll encounter much less trouble if you’re aware of which customs you should follow and what you should avoid saying, doing, or wearing. Do what you can to respect the local culture.
Many planners choose to work with local vendors in order to really experience the destination. Make sure you’re prepared to communicate properly with the locals to avoid mistakes.
For example, florists in the village your clients have chosen in the rolling French countryside might not speak English as well as those in Paris… and very likely won’t speak any English at all!
Make sure you prepare for language differences by budgeting to hire a translator or enlisting the help of someone in the wedding party who speaks the local language very well. You’ll avoid mistakes if you can communicate effectively with your vendors upon arrival.
If you’ve decided to work with local vendors, remember to calculate costs with the currency exchange in mind. Purchasing supplies at the destination might be more expensive than it would be if you were planning the wedding at home. Forgetting about currency exchange can risk pushing you over budget.
Certain countries require guests to get vaccinated before visiting. Timing can be sensitive, so research vaccination requirements well in advance. Your clients and their guests will be responsible for attending the doctor themselves, but fewer people will forget if you’re well organized and prepared to hand out reminders. Letting guests know which vaccinations to get and when to get them will prevent family members being denied at the border or falling ill part way through the trip.
Pro Tip: Even if vaccinations aren’t legally required to enter a destination country, it’s a good idea to send guests a list of recommended vaccines nonetheless!
Even though destination weddings are fun, you’re still working! Some countries will require you to get a specific work permit, license, or visa before arriving at the destination. These take time to process, so research the requirements and apply for them well in advance. Your clients won’t be pleased if everyone else is allowed into the country but you’re detained for trying to work without the proper documentation.
Never try to bypass entry requirements! Some novice planners will try to outwit the system by lying to customs agents and saying they’re in the country for recreation only. If you’re caught in this type of a lie, not only will you be denied entry into the country, but you may also face harsh penalties that can affect your career! It’s never worth taking that chance. Always follow local laws to the letter.
While your clients are selecting destinations, research their options for safety and security. Which countries are friendly to foreigners and which ones should be avoided due to national or civil conflict? Does the destination recommend that guests avoid leaving the resort for safety reasons? Consider environmental dangers as well. Has the destination just experienced a severe earthquake that might recur? Consider presenting more secure alternatives to your clients, and follow all safety recommendations at the destination.
Evaluate what equipment, décor, etc. you’ll be able to purchase at the destination and what you should source from home. For example, if your bride wants to be married in Jamaica but has her heart set on a bouquet of white roses, you’ll have to strategize. You won’t find white roses in Jamaica naturally, so you’ll have to consider local alternatives or research the cost of importing the flowers.
Consider teaming up with a local customs agent who can help you with the process of importing shipping containers properly without having your supplies held at the border.
If the wedding destination is also the location your clients would like to honeymoon in, you’re all set! Some clients, however, like to maximize the opportunity for travel by honeymooning at a second destination.
Evaluate whether the destination is accessible to other, good honeymoon destinations. If not, would your clients consider choosing two new destinations closer together? Decreasing the cost of travel between the wedding and the honeymoon opens the budget up for other costs.
Cover your bases!
Evaluate your normal planning process from all sides. Think about how each detail translates when you’re planning the wedding from a distance. How can you prepare in advance for any foreseeable problems? Paying close attention to detail will help you take good care of the logistics early so you can concentrate on making your clients’ break from the cold well worth the travel!