OK, now that all the excitement is dying down after the Christmas and New Year engagements, we thought that it was time to get down to the business at hand and help you make the big decision: whether or not a destination wedding is right for you. If you are reading Fly Away Bride in the first place, chances are you are already flirting with the idea of getting married abroad. Of course there are positives and negatives to having a wedding abroad and despite the fact that we are a destination focused wedding blog, we want you to make the decision that is right for you and your other half. We think today is as good a day as any to start highlighting the pros and cons of a destination wedding and we hope that after reading this post, you will find it easier to weigh up both of your options and finally validate the feeling that has been niggling at you.
Because we are clearly biased, we are starting with the pros!
A Destination Wedding: The Pros
✈ Neutral Ground
My brother and his wife got married in Toulouse in 2004 and one of the main reasons was because it was on neutral ground. Anna and her family are from Portsmouth in the UK and of course, Damien and all of our own family are based mainly in Ireland. One side was going to have to travel anyway and so they decided that it would be fairer and much more fun and romantic to host it in Toulouse where they actually met. If you and your partner are from opposite ends of the country, different states or different countries altogether, a destination wedding means you can balance the invitation scales and there won’t be any hard feelings about hosting the wedding in one family’s hometown over the others. As well as this, if the destination is somewhere new for both families, it will always be remembered as a special place that they got to share with you.
✈ Reduced Guest List
One area that nearly all couples find stressful during the planning process is their ever growing guest list. If your main priority is to have a small, intimate wedding attended by family and close friends only, a destination wedding could be exactly the right option for you and many couples choose a destination wedding for this very reason. Opting for a destination wedding allows you to have more control over your guest list as it eliminates the idea of having to extend an invitation to every cousin, second cousin and member of your mothers book club. Only those that are closest to you will really make the effort to be there with you.
✈ Quality Time
Another thing that we really felt first hand at my brothers wedding was the quality time that we all got to spend with each other. Because the guest list was smaller and there was more time, the bride and groom weren’t rushing around trying to get to every table so that they could thank their guests for coming in the space of 8 hours. Most people arrived on the Friday and weren’t leaving until the Sunday night. They had time to really catch up with everyone that made the trip and holding a party on the Friday night also meant that guests from both sides of the family had a chance to get to know each other. By the time the wedding came around the following day, people were so relaxed, the atmosphere was incredible and it was clear that guests had made new friends.
✈ Reduced Cost
A destination wedding will seem more expensive when you have to consider travel expenses and while transatlantic flights might cost a lot of money, in general, suppliers are considerably less expensive in Europe. If you are European looking to get married in another European country, there are so many discount airlines offering great fares if you are savvy enough to find them. For example, choosing a location within reasonable distance to an airport serviced by Ryanair and at the right time of year will make a big impact on finances for both you and your guests as well as making group accommodation bookings. Your smaller guest list will mean that you save on evening dinner reception choosing local cuisine and wine will also help. A beautiful location, venue and setting will provide a theme so you won’t have to fork out on elaborate decorations. An Italian vineyard, a chic hotel in Paris or an old Irish castle will be enough of a novelty that you can afford to keep decor to a minimum. Finally, by honeymooning in the same country as the wedding you will save on travel expenses, pretty good given that you will have already packed your bags! For more on this subject, see our top wedding budget tips.
✈ City Break for Guests
This one is also partly a con but we will address it further down and you can decide whether our pro or con argument wins. One of the biggest fears of having a destination wedding is the impact your celebration will have on your guests finances. Yes, it will be more expensive but I really feel that it should be looked at differently. It’s a chance for your loved ones to experience a new city / country / area and many of them will factor it into their holiday plans, staying on later to enjoy their surroundings. In many ways it will be a cheaper holiday for them than if they were to travel independently as they will have at least one day where food and transportation will be paid for and there is also an opportunity for them to group book and share accommodation if it’s something you decide you can’t afford to cover. This point really depends on the the nature of your guests but if you decide to have a destination wedding, we will be sharing some tips on how you can get them focused on being excited about your wedding plans and how to encourage them to share costs but that’s in a few weeks time.
✈ A Truly Memorable Wedding
Let’s face it – weddings have a tendency to run in a particular order and while the day itself might roll in a similar way to one at home (only if you want it to of course) with the ceremony, a drinks reception, a dinner and some dancing, a destination wedding is one your guests won’t forget in a hurry and are sure to be talking about for years to come. There is so much opportunity to put on an altogether culturally different occasion, embracing local traditions and cuisine in a altogether unforgettable setting. Your options are endless.
✈ The After-Party
Having a destination wedding means that you are completely allowed to have another party at home for family and friends that couldn’t make your nuptials abroad. Of course this is optional and it’s not generally expected but think about it, you get to wear the dress a second time!
A Destination Wedding: The Cons
Naturally, there are a number of cons and they should also be considered carefully. It is worth mentioning at this point though that a good wedding planner will help you overcome most of these, so try to keep an open mind!
✈ Lack of Support
If you decide to have a destination wedding, family in particular are going to have an opinion. The hope is that they will all be very excited and embrace it but for those that are not in favor of it, will you be able to handle their expectations and deal with their negativity? We will be sharing a separate post on this subject in a few weeks time but it’s worth some consideration before we arm you with everything you need know about dealing with relations that refuse to be supportive of your decision.
Before choosing a destination for your wedding, we highly advise that you do your research and list the countries that will allow you to have a legally binding marriage ceremony and those that won’t. For example, if you are Catholic – you can be legally married in a Catholic Church in Rome without having to have a civil ceremony first, but you can’t in France. The rules are different. Once you have made your list, you should sit down together, evaluate the legal requirements decide whether it is worth it or not. Is it important to you that you are legally married in one ceremony or are you equally as happy to have a legal ceremony at home first? These are the big questions.
✈ Guests Unable to Attend
Yes, we included it as a “Pro” above but it’s important that you carefully consider those that are dear to you that won’t be able to travel to your wedding. Financial situations, logistics and family or health reasons are all major factors in many people’s decision not to travel. We are thinking about grandparents here that have difficulty getting around, and family and friends that might have felt the effects of the recession. How much does it mean to you that they witness your wedding day?
We are not going to lie, it’s a much bigger task to plan a wedding in a country you are unfamiliar with, especially if you can’t speak the language. It is by no means impossible but have you the time and budget to make a planning trip to your chosen destination? Have you the patience to google translate websites and learn a few key phrases that will give you confidence you are booking the right suppliers? After all, they will be responsible for making your dream wedding a reality. We highly advise hiring a wedding planner as soon as you have decided on a destination wedding as it will go a long way towards reducing stress levels and ensuring a smooth planning process, so definitely consider making this part of your budget.
✈ Natural and Unnatural Disasters
I got stranded in Atlanta for 8 days when the ash cloud hit. I also got stranded in the Scotland because of dense fog only a few weeks ago in November. Extreme weather conditions are highly unlikely but nevertheless, there is no harm researching weather tendencies and formulating a travel “plan B”. Investing in good wedding insurance is also a must.
So much to think about over the next few weeks isn’t there? If you decide to go for it and have your dream destination wedding, we will be bringing you lots of planning posts in the coming days and months so be sure to check back regularly. If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns, don’t be shy and send us a mail or leave us a comment. We will do our best to reply as honestly as we can. In the meantime, have a wonderful time planning and if it starts to get a little too much and you feel a bit overwhelmed, go back to basics. Look at your partner and remember why you are doing this in the first place.