When now-husband and I started to plan our wedding overseas, it began as an exciting dream. But like the initial stages of all big events there can be occasional snags when planning an overseas wedding, and organising a wedding for another location (one you may not have even been to before!) can have its own unique problems.
Here’s some advice I learned along the way while planning our wedding in the Cook Islands.
Plan ahead and get local advice
The earlier you can give your guests a set date, the more likely it is that they will be able to attend. Send your Save the Dates out early as possible and lock in your RSVP dates with enough time to advise catering numbers to the place where your reception will be.
Expect to potentially have to chase people down over their RSVPs as sometimes guests will hold out until the last minute to book their flights. Also remember that if you want children to be there, this may need to be planned around the school holidays.
We hired a local wedding planner to do the main bulk of the work for us after this point, as they will have local knowledge and may be able to get better deals. If you think a planner may be out of your price range, get quotes from a couple of different ones – you may be pleasantly surprised. Having a planner also means there is also someone to complain to if something’s not going right on the day.
Some couples visit their destination before they get married there, so they can check out wedding planners and wedding ceremony, reception and photo locations.
Dealing with unhappy friends and relatives
If there’s long distance travel involved, it’s unlikely that everyone you invite will be able to make it. You may have friends or relatives who aren’t happy about making a journey no matter how amazing the destination is – it could be to do with the act of travelling itself, other commitments they have at home, health problems, or the financial side of having a holiday/wedding to attend.
If you’re lucky, those who can’t make it will just politely decline the invitation. If you’re at the other end of the scale, you may get told you’re being inconsiderate and inconvenient.
Before you set your heart on a destination wedding and officially tell everyone, think about the following:
Do you have someone important to you who would not be able to make the trip? (especially older relatives with poor health)
Will your guests need to pay for their own flights and accommodation? If so, think about what budget they may have for a trip like this. Students or young families may not have much money to travel and may need more affordable accommodation options. Some people may want more comfortable, upmarket accommodation.
You will need to decide whether you will be able to handle any complaints or important people potentially missing from your guest list; a key factor will usually be whether this is truly the place you and your spouse want your wedding to be.
Picking your dress code
For your dress (and any bridesmaids!), you need to take into consideration what the weather will be like overseas. If you’ve always dreamed of an enormous princess-style wedding dress with a lot of layers and high-heeled shoes, this will be impractical walking down the beach in the hot sun if you want a beach wedding. Light, floaty, preferably breathable fabrics are best. Same goes for the boys; do you want to make them wear full suits if it’s more than 30 degrees? Not only will it be uncomfortable, but it they will likely be uncomfortable for the photos.
Let your guests know what dress code you would like them to adhere to as well. Don’t let all the ladies think they will be fine in high heels if your reception location is on the sand.
Choosing wedding favours
If you’re going down the wedding favours route, be practical in what you choose to take over. If it’s some kind of food, will it make it past customs? If you’re taking chocolate and getting married in the Pacific Islands, will it melt before they get to eat it? If it’s wooden, will they be able to bring it back into the country?
Getting all your ‘bits’ over there
Make a list as you go of the things you will need to take over with you such as wedding favours, dresses, suits, footwear, photo props, makeup. You can’t afford to forget anything if you’re getting married overseas as you can’t just pop back home to grab it.
If you have a magnificent wedding dress, how is it packed down for transportation? I was unable to confirm any arrangements with our airline until I had actually boarded the plane, where it was obvious there was nowhere to hang it as the aircraft was only small. It ended up getting stuffed into an overhead locker and after being painstakingly perfectly steam ironed by the bridal store, was wrinkled by the time it came out of the compartment. Not to mention there was no steaming service available when we arrived!
If this happens to you, you may be able to do a Macgyver-style steam iron yourself by hanging the dress in the bathroom when you take a shower. I did this and it worked perfectly. Also, if you’re planning on wearing false eyelashes, take eyelash glue with you. As I found out, your makeup artist may not have it…
As your guests are already travelling and likely having to pay for flights, accommodation, holiday tourist activities and food, do you want them to be giving wedding gifts as well? If so, it’s likely to be impractical for them to bring them over in their luggage if items are large, and you don’t want to be worrying whether you can fit all the gifts in your own suitcase for the journey back home.
If you don’t want to highlight anything to do with gift-giving on your invitations, let your guests know by word of mouth what your preferences are.
Delegate as many tasks on your big day as you can to friends and family. You don’t want to be panicking on the day about things that other people could be worrying about for you. If you’re planning an island wedding, be prepared for things to run late. Regardless of where you choose to get married, just try to relax and enjoy the day as it will go by quickly!
Image / Angle Photo and Video Cook Islands