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Throwing a Drama-Free Destination Wedding

April 8, 2013
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of Emma Bauso

Most couples choose a destination wedding because they want it to be a smaller, more intimate celebration with their closest friends and family. Whatever your reason, here are some of our top tips on keeping your wedding day as stress and drama free as possible.

Make It Official

Know the legalities before you commit to getting married in a particular country. Make sure you double-check the proper government websites before you depart for your wedding so you are not hit with any last-minute surprises in case things change. Legalities can be difficult, and if you miss a detail your dream wedding will turn into just a vacation with your friends and family. Work with someone that specializes in destination weddings and keep that stress-free destination vibe going, even through the paperwork.

The Never-Ending Guest List

Guest lists can be handled one of two ways:

  1. Invite everyone under the sun, knowing that most won’t come.
  2. Invite only the guests that you want to be there.

Keep in mind that if you send out invites to everyone, there may be some guests that want to take a little vacation, and your wedding becomes the perfect opportunity. Unless you really want someone at your destination wedding, then it’s not a good idea to send them an invite. If you stick with your closest friends and family, all others will recognize your goal of having an intimate celebration, and will not expect to be invited.

To Kid, or Not to Kid

That is the dicey question. If you really don’t want children at your ceremony, be conscientious of those guests who have families as it can be a sensitive subject. One easy way to address it, without saying you don’t want children there, is to choose an adult-only resort. This way your guests get the point, but you don’t have to directly tell them that they can’t bring little Suzie who cried all the way through the last family wedding. Make sure you communicate this early on, so that parents can make arrangements for their children. If you do want children there, make sure to include them on the invitation so it is clear.

Avoiding Beach Blunders

For the Young at Heart: If you have elderly guests coming to your wedding, it may be difficult for them to walk on uneven sand. Create a pathway using straw mats and make sure guests kick off their shoes to make navigation easier. You can do a “shoe valet” and have all guests exchange their formal shoes for some inexpensive flip-flops you provide.

Know your Beach: As tides roll in and out, make sure you know how much sand you have to set up on and at what time of day. Seasons can change this as well, so if you scout your beach in January, by August, the entire situation can change.

Also make sure you know your beach regarding how private your ceremony will be at that time of the day. It’s important to work with someone who has done weddings there before – you don’t want a crowd of curious onlookers in speedos and thongs in your photos!

A Seaside Ceremony, Without All the Dirt: You don’t have to have your ceremony right on the beach. Think about a gazebo overlooking the ocean. That way you don’t have to worry about walking through sand in high heels, and you can still go to the beach for photos afterward.

Embracing Adventure Without Terrifying Your Guests

Scout it Out: Do you have a vision of exchanging your vows in a tropical garden or remote forest setting? Make sure you know your destination ahead of time. Just because you are an avid hiker, doesn’t mean all your guests will embrace the adventure of walking through the wilderness to your ceremony.

Know Their Limits: Make sure your guests understand the setting they will be in. If you will be taking photos on a beautiful stairway that runs down the side of a cliff overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea, consider the feelings of those who may be afraid of heights. You may want to mentally prepare them beforehand. If they refuse, don’t let it ruin your day. Graciously allow them to bow out.

If you are having your nuptials on the side of an active volcano in Costa Rica, you should probably tell your guests that the volcano may erupt from time to time, and they may feel the ground shake and see some lava, but it’s completely safe. You may think these two examples silly, but they actually happened at real weddings we’ve planned.

A Three-Hour Tour

Many couples choose group excursions during their destination wedding weekend. Since most weddings away occur in a location that is close to the water, many excursions can involve boats. Be it a sunset catamaran cruise or ferry trip to an off-shore island for dinner, not everyone will share your “sea legs.” The last thing you want is to have half the wedding party leaning over the side of the boat getting seasick. There are over-the-counter drugs that prevent motion sickness, and having those on hand before you cast off can make all the difference.

I Need My Space!

One of the best parts about a destination wedding is that you get to share an entire weekend with your closest friends and family in paradise. But after you and your fiancé officially become husband and wife, you’ll need time to enjoy each other’s company without the masses. Your guests will have made a long trip to be with you, making it hard to break away, and possibly leave you feeling awkward if your guests are all still at the same resort as you are. To avoid this, plan to move to another resort for your honeymoon. If your budget will accommodate it, you can even travel to a separate destination. To make the transition feel official, we suggest holding a “Farewell Brunch” so you can properly leave your guests and begin your honeymoon.

Weddings at Sandals
Black couple getting married in Jamaica
Jamaica Destination Weddings
Couple in Cancun doing a gazebo destination wedding
White couple getting married in Punta Cana, DR
destination wedding couple throwing rose petals in costa mujeres

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