Saturday, November 3, 2007

Tips for Destination Weddings

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I decided to do a destination wedding in beautiful Italy. We did quite a bit of research and planning, so I thought I would share some of the insights we learned along the way.

1. First of all, all countries, and even towns, have different legal requirements for foreigners to get married there. Our experience is specific to Italy, but this information can pertain to any country that is not your native residence.

2. I do not want to discourage people from trying to tackle the legal requirements yourself, as you can save some money that way, but I personally recommend finding a service that will handle all the arrangements for you. We used WeddingsItaly to handle all our legal requirements. We chose a very basic package, which just had all the legal stuff, plus a bouquet for the bride and a violinist playing at our ceremony (quite a reasonable price, I might add...).

3. Although you can save a little money trying to do everything yourself, these destination wedding services often have a basic package that is quite reasonable, so I do personally think the service is well worth the money (some basic packages we saw started as low as $600, but the price is largely determined by the location you choose).

4. If you opt for a large destination wedding, one of these full-service companies can be invaluable, as they know people at the local venues, florists, musicians, photographers, etc. They can literally plan the entire event and even help arrange accommodations for you and your guests. It all depends what you are willing to spend.

5. If you are trying to keep costs low, consider a basic package from a full-service destination wedding planner, and figure out the rest yourself.

6. Photographer - This is where we had the most debate. Some photographers local to your destination wedding country can be extremely expensive, and you may not know exactly what you are in for (not to mention, good luck seeking legal help if there is a major problem...). Remember, some photographers local to you may be willing to travel if you cover their expenses, which we found to be a cheaper alternative than many of the foreign photographers.

So your choice becomes - a photographer who knows the area, but may not understand you or your wishes; or a photographer who is local to you (at least to your country...), who will likely understand you better, but may not be familiar with the aspects of your chosen destination (i.e. geography, customs, culture, language, how to get around in general, etc).

*** WARNING - Shameless Plug ***

OR, your best option - hire me :) Destination weddings are actually my specialty, especially in Italy. I have spent quite a bit of time travelling around Europe and Asia and learning as much as I can about the local languages and customs (I speak some French, Italian, and I am also learning Mandarin Chinese). I would not be so brash as to claim to be fluent or an expert, but I can definitely get around comfortably just about anywhere I go and I have learned a great deal about the people and places I have visited. Not to mention, I have MASTERED the Italian train system (please hold your applause...). (To check out a few pictures, go to the Portolio link at the top of this page, and choose the Travel section.)

Many photographers will offer to travel for you, but few have real travel experience. Just make sure you choose someone you are comfortable with, and who you can trust to get to your wedding without any problems. Like me (just kidding - but seriously, me :)

7. Food - You can either have a hotel arrange a large reception for you, make plans with a local restaurant, or have the destination wedding service handle the arrangements for you. Just make sure you and your guests partake in the local specialties.

OR, you can do as we did - we made absolutely no arrangements, and just found a nice restaurant close to the venue a few days before. We only had 7 people total, so this was easy enough for us. We just finished the ceremony, walked around and took some photos, then went into the Ristorante Delfino in the main square of Portofino. It was the middle of the day and we were the only group in the ristorante, aside from another small family. The staff were ecstatic to take care of our small group, and we received excellent service. And did I mention the food was incredible? They even brought out a cake for us, which was a local specialty, some sort of torte with various fruits (I'm a chocolate lover myself, but this cake was surprisingly good).

For us, we just wanted to keep everything as low-stress as possible, and we ended up just 'going with the flow' on some things (like the post-ceremony dinner). Everything went amazingly well, and we have nothing but the best memories from the whole experience.

One tip - don't be afraid to walk around the local streets and alleyways to take some pictures and mingle with the locals. The scenery will make for incredible pictures, and the local people of Italy are so warm and friendly. People were shouting 'Auguri!' (best wishes) everywhere, and people were coming up to take pictures of us and with us. We truly felt like celebrities - a nice touch on your wedding day :)

I am sure there is plenty of information I am leaving out, but I am trying to learn to keep my blogs shorter and with less rambling. Not working too well just yet, apparently...

If you are planning to do a destination wedding (especially in Italy), feel free to send me a note with any questions. I am always happy to help.

Ciao for now...

1 comment:

mark lawrence said...

Gratitude for sharing these wonderful tips for destination weddings. My fiancé and I both want a picture perfect destination wedding at one of the best LA venues and recently we are quite busy in finding appropriate venue for our theme.