Planning an overseas destination wedding is no day at the beach — even if that’s exactly your vision for your big day.
Details could be lost in translation, travel restrictions might dampen attendance and legal requirements may get complicated.
Before you mentally dig your toes into that sand, dig into the details so you don’t end up being your own “something blue.”
1. Factor in costs, travel restrictions
According to a 2016 survey from wedding site The Knot, the average cost of an international destination wedding is $25,800. That figure may be within your event budget, but for guests, international airfare and multinight lodging could be out of reach.
Of course, a smaller, more intimate gathering may be what you’re after. In addition to costs, consider logistics for your guests. Work schedules, health conditions or a lack of child care may pose additional hurdles. Criminal convictions may also be an obstacle. For example, if you have a DUI on record, you may not be allowed entry into Canada, says Ashley Morris, owner and travel concierge at Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
2. Consider a travel agent
Travel agents can alleviate some of this pressure by handling guests’ needs, questions and payments.
They also may be able to negotiate discounted group quotes based on their partnerships. They might also negotiate perks when more guests stay at the host hotel, such as a free welcome happy hour or brunch, or even free rooms.
Your guests might try booking a different hotel on their own to save money, but be aware that they may have to pay a day fee — sometimes $100 to $150 — for access to weddings at private resorts abroad, Morris says.
3. Anticipate guests’ needs
When Elise Giannasi, style and beauty blogger at Belle Meets World, planned her wedding in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, she did the research for guests. Her wedding website answered frequently asked questions about travel requirements, hotel options, restaurants in the area, scheduled activities and more.
“It’s a balance between giving too much information and making them think they can come to you with any question versus giving them enough information so that they know how to figure their trip out,” Giannasi says.
At a minimum, give guests enough notice to save the date; Morris advises around 11 months.
4. Delegate some planning
A wedding coordinator can keep details from falling through the cracks.
Consider a coordinator in the U.S. who has relationships with vendors in the destination; a private on-site wedding coordinator; or an on-site wedding coordinator provided by an all-inclusive resort.
For destinations overseas, on-site coordinators who speak the local language can make communication with local vendors easier.
5. Make room for mishaps
Speaking of language barriers, details for a destination wedding can often get lost in translation because you’re not on site to oversee them. That’s what happened to Giannasi when the wreath on the front door of her venue didn’t meet her expectations.
“You just roll with it,” she says. “For a destination wedding, you do need to go in with an understanding that you need to relinquish a little bit more control.”
If you live in a different time zone from the destination, patience is especially important, as you likely won’t get immediate responses from vendors there.
6. Understand foreign fees, payment methods
With a year or so to plan, you can map out a budget. But that budget can quickly balloon with foreign fees.
For example, debit or credit cards may charge foreign transaction fees ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent of each purchase. A no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card can eliminate that cost.
Some destinations abroad may operate mostly in cash, but your bank might charge a fee for international ATM withdrawals. Research your vendors’ payment methods.
7. Know the legal requirements
Getting legally married abroad can be costly and time-consuming, the U.S. State Department notes on its website. Among the requirements could be blood tests, a residence requirement, and the translation and authentication of documents. Contact the embassy or tourist information bureau of your destination for specifics.
Morris avoided such hurdles by having two events: a legal wedding in Las Vegas and a symbolic ceremony in the Dominican Republic.
One perk of such an arrangement? Anyone can perform the symbolic ceremony, Morris says. “My husband’s best friend was our officiant because we did a symbolic wedding.”