I'm gearing up for a four day destination wedding celebration this weekend in Santa Barbara and wanted to share some tips for all of you destination brides out there starting to plan your multi-day celebration. If you’re just getting started with the planning, you are already thinking of the obvious: Who will do my hair and makeup? Who is the best photographer? What will my bouquet look like? If you are like most destination brides, it isn’t until a little further in the planning process that you realize you have not only invited guests to your wedding but you have invited them on vacation. You have suddenly taken on the roles of bride, travel agent, concierge and event planner. This can be tons of fun but also a lot of pressure. Here are my top six tips to get you through hosting a destination wedding celebration:
1. Allow guests to enjoy their vacation. While they are there to celebrate your union, there is also a part of each guest that is looking forward to some down time. Because of this, don’t feel obligated to plan every minute for them. Let guests have enough time to relax and plan activities on their own.
2. Use the culture of your destination to shape events. Your guests will want to explore the activities that can only be done at the destination of your choice. Take your guests to a wine tour rather than a traditional rehearsal dinner when in Napa, or introduce them to the Caribbean with a welcome party consisting of Mojitos, steel drums and a sunset sail.
3. Create an itinerary and list of recommended activities. Outline for your guests the events they are invited to, as well as some additional activities that they may enjoy. A map is always Send the itinerary with your invitations or they can be sent separately one month before traveling to allow your guests to plan their down time. Don't forget to put another copy in their welcome bag.
4. Don't feel obligated to pay for everything. If hoping to extend your wedding celebration throughout the week with a welcome party, morning after brunch, etc. but have a limited budget, do not stress. Discuss with your families who will be hosting each event. Have his parents pay for the welcome party if your parents are hosting the wedding and reception. For other activities that you would like to arrange but can't afford to host, put out an "optional" invite letting them know the expense affiliated should they decide to go. Not everyone will join, but say you are in Hawaii and are planning to go to the luau. You can typically arrange a group rate where the guests can take advantage of discounted rates and group seating, but they still book the reservation on their own. If you arrange an activity that the guests were likely going to do on their own anyway, then you should have great attendance.
5. Have all of your guests stay in the same area if possible. The beauty of a destination wedding is it allows you and your fiancé’s families to come together for an entire week. If everyone is staying all over the island or city you are in, your guests will not have as much opportunity to get to know each other. On the other hand, planning accommodations for all your guests can be a logistical nightmare. Solve this by providing accommodation information in your invitations or save-the-dates. Include information only on hotels and condos that will keep your guests near the party. After the wedding, if you and your fiancé want privacy, consider sneaking off to another city or even just another hotel.
6. Don’t take everything on yourself. Planning a destination wedding and reception alone can take a lot of time and research. Depend on the professionals within your reach like your wedding planner, travel agent or even the concierge at the hotel you will be staying at to organize events and activities for you and your guests.