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Destination I Do
Thursday, October 6, 2016

Seven Common Planning Problems

Words by Katherine Oyer of Aisle Planner
Photos courtesy of Shane and Lauren Photography

Navigating the challenges of planning a destination wedding are varied and vast. We've asked the experts at Aisle Planner to help weigh-in on some of the most common issues that arise when planning a wedding away and how to be best prepared.

It should be no surprise when you first begin to plan your wedding that many loved ones will tell you how stressful the project is going to be. Add to it that you’re taking the wedding on the road to a far away location? They’ll look at you like you’ve fully lost your mind.

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Thankfully, none of the warnings, even though they are coming from a good place, need to be given any further thought. From the experience of a professional wedding planner, a wedding does not need to be an event wrought with anxiety and dread. It is after all, supposed to be one of the happiest days of a person’s life. How can the build up be so bad?

A pro tip? The more you’re prepared for, the less of a chance it will catch you off guard and rock your cool, calm demeanor. Here are seven challenges to keep in mind while planning your destination wedding, to keep stress down and the excitement high.

Currency and Exchange Rates

If you’re leaving the good ol’ U S of A to tie the knot, you’re going to need to keep an eye on a fluctuating exchange rate. This may increase or decrease the money you have set aside for your wedding budget, depending on where in the world you’ve chosen to host the event. It may be a good idea to consider building your budget in the foreign currency from the start. This way, when you receive quotes and final payment information, you’ll be ready to pop it into the budget straight away.

Begin asking ahead of time what the actual conversion of your money will look like – if you need true bills to pay out a vendor who doesn’t accept credit, where will you withdraw this from? Does your bank have a sister-bank abroad? Is there a daily max that you’re allowed to take out? Is it cost and time effective to convert your money in the States – keeping in mind the fee you’ll be charged from your bank?

Your budget is the backbone of your planning process and needs to be at the forefront of your mind at all times!

Communication Barriers with Language

If you’re getting married in a country that does not have English listed as a primary language, and it happens to be YOUR primary language, you’ll need to consider the cost of a translator to assist with booking the various particulars. If you aim to find help with booking your vendors abroad, a wedding planner based in the location of the wedding could serve as a double bonus – speaking both English and the country’s native tongue AND may provide a list of vendors who do the same.

The Time Difference

Thanks to the Internet, wedding planning has become less and less an over the phone and in person job. You can book nearly all of your vendors through email, which will allow each party to respond in a timely fashion based on their own schedules. This makes destination planning a dream! Your event partner in X location can respond while you are sleeping, giving you a new list of tasks waiting in your inbox upon waking. The time difference comes into play as the wedding date gets closer, as jumping on a phone call is always the quickest way to firm up final details and ensure that the entire event team is on the same page. Add your wedding’s destination to your phone to easily check out what time it is and spend a bit more time mapping out your call schedule to make these connections happen. Always double check a few days out to make sure your understanding of the time difference is accurate! There’s nothing worse than getting a surprise call an hour early while you’re still in a meeting with your boss. 

Cultural Expectations 

The hidden wedding cost that is almost always overlooked? Tipping. Yet abroad, many countries do not approach tipping in the same way we do here in the States. While a typical 15-20% may be expected at your favorite restaurant around the corner, a café in Italy may be used to rounding up a few Euro as an appropriate way of showing your appreciation.

This expectation varies from country to country and it is often best to have a conversation with the onsite venue coordinator or wedding planner. You’ll discover what the norm is for each vendor you’ve hired and can budget appropriately from the beginning. Pro tip? Make separate envelopes before you leave the country, with a post-it note of the amount you’ll need to fill it with once you arrive and you’ve exchanged your money.

Making it Legal

You’ll always remember that special moment when you and your fiancé say “I do,” bonding you for life. It may be official in your mind and in your hearts – but is it official on paper? When you get married in the States, the general course of action is to visit your local court house, pick up your marriage certificate, and ensure the necessary witnesses and signatures are captured on the big day. In a foreign country? This process could be wildly different. Make sure you do your research! Some countries require your “residence” for some time before you’re allowed to marry, some require a waiting period once your first application is provided to their government offices, there may be visits to multiple offices, even some requiring that you stay in the country for a few weeks after the wedding to pick up your certificate. Getting married in a holy place usually requires another layer of paperwork and applications. Your local venue coordinator or wedding planner may be able to navigate this process on your behalf. If it’s too much work? Consider a civil ceremony in your city before you leave, with the religious or symbolic portion of your wedding taking place abroad.

Special Holidays

You, your fiancé, family and friends are likely taking extra time off for the journey to your destination affair, so it’s a good idea to scout out a few activities to recommend to your group. Be aware of special holidays, holy days or government closures, which may cause a museum, a fun looking restaurant or a shopping district to post off hours, bringing your tour to a screeching halt.

Shipping

Getting married in your parents’ backyard means you can store every token, every spool of ribbon and on-sale votive you find for the months leading up to your wedding onsite. When you leave for your wedding across the pond, you may only have your allotted two free bags for international travel to accommodate the loads of decorations a wedding can accumulate. Consider the option of shipping items ahead of time to your venue – which will take an extra budget and extra time.

One item to always leave out of the pre-wedding postal drop? The dress. No matter how heavy or how much of a burden it is to carry, it is a must-do to physically bring the gown on the plane. There is no room for error here – buying a replacement dress because of a lost bag or incorrect delivery address is a sure way to destroy your day. Talk to your friendly flight attendant on your trip, as they will likely allow you to store it in the tall cabinets in first class or by the cockpit. 

Start your planning with a comprehensive to-do list, include these seven reminders and you’re on your way to a fabulous wedding abroad! And remember, successful weddings can kickoff successful marriages – which really is the whole point, isn’t it?

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