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Destination Wedding – to go or not to go?

10 June 2010 4,152 views No Comment

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My sister in law is having a wedding in Hawaii next year. I squealed in delight when I first heard the plans but having booked our very expensive flights and hotels to Hawaii last night, I can now see both the benefits and the downsides of having a destination wedding. I did suggest the Maldives at first!

A destination wedding is a wedding held in a location away from the couple’s home. It has been gaining increasing popularity and I even suggested it to my best friend. The destination wedding offers the unique advantage of combining the couple’s honeymoon with their own wedding and can save money in the process (which also means it a very expensive wedding present for the guests!)

Here are some of the pros and cons I have researched, and my tips on how to make the disadvantages not hurt so much if you do plan on an exotic overseas wedding!

PRO: Getting a total package wedding for a fraction of the cost.
Resorts and tourist organisations are desperate for tourists in this hard-hit-credit-crunch economy. When I visited a wedding fair last year, I was shocked at an offer to get married in Thailand for £1,500 with a wedding ceremony for 50 people, food, photographer, make up. For that price, you would barely be able to book a good photographer in England. I sneaked a peak at my sister in law’s wedding ceremony location and it appears to be even cheaper (around $1,500 for a wedding for 40 people)

CON: Planning internationally can be difficult.
Some resorts may or may not offer a wedding co-ordinator. Planning over long distances can be difficult with a time difference, language problem, not understanding logistics. Also, one of my friends who got married in Malaysia warned that the wedding co-ordinators usually offer only the most expensive packages, menus or even materials. Even for my own wedding at the Kensington Roof Gardens, I noticed that the wedding chair covers and your sashes they recommended were five times more expensive than the one I found independently. The wedding co-ordinator may be driven by commission but it may also be the case they are legally bound to only a few suppliers.

TIP: If you are nervous about an overseas location, choose one you have been to before and scout the location very carefully. Hire a wedding co-ordinator in your home town who specialises in planning overseas weddings. If you are using an overseas co-ordinator, do your own research and ask her/him to best your offers to get the most competitive rates.

PRO: Avoid stressful wedding list dilemmas.
Never wanted to invite that fourth cousin who you hate? Destination weddings offer the most diplomatic way of saying you are keeping the wedding small and also by eliminating those who are not willing to spend a lot of money to come to your wedding.

CON: When I suggested an overseas wedding to my best friend, she said she actually wanted guests to come to her wedding so she would not choose an overseas wedding which guests could not afford to come to. She has a point. My sister in law wanted to have a small wedding of around 25 guests. At the last count, I saw about 15 guests still interested. I would not be suprised if the actual wedding consists of only family and one or two friends just because of how expensive the trip has been so far. By having an overseas wedding, you may eliminate a huge chunk of your guests list and many loved ones may not be able to afford the fare.

TIP: Choose a location which is cheaper and more convenient for your guests. If you live in Europe, you can get cheaper weddings in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and even Hungary. One of my friends threw a £7,000 wedding in Tuscany and they did not have to compromise on the style for that price. If there are any guests that cannot afford to come to your wedding, offer to pay for their airfare or hotel arrangements as you will still be saving massive amounts of money on the wedding package. Show a bit of sensitivity and do not ask wedding guests for presents. My husband’s friend asked everyone to contribute £200 each for his wedding AND come to Japan for his wedding. Needless to say, not a single person turned up for his wedding.

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PRO: You save on location for both honeymoon and wedding.
Your honeymoon can start right away when you have an overseas wedding. My sister in law is going to tour the US and the Hawaian islands right after her wedding. It also offers the guests are nice holiday out of the wedding.

CON: Whilst it might save you money, your guests will be out of pocket!

TIP: Offer to pay for parts of your wedding guests costs or choose a wedding location that is cheaper for guests.

PRO: Having an exotic story about your wedding.
Imagine saying you got married at Bora Bora and having the most amazing photos to prove it?

CON: You may find that you are not legally married when you come back.
This is particularly important if one of the partners does not have citizenship that they are after – make sure it is completely legal before you fly out. I have a friend who got married at Westminster Council before flying off to Thailand. Similar to mine where we got legally married at Southwark Council and then at Kensington Roof Gardens, you can choose to make sure the Council wedding is your ‘exchange’ and your wedding reception at a exotic overseas location is your ‘settlement’ of marriage contracts.

TIP: Find out all your legal requirements before you fly out. Some countries specify that the partners must stay in the country for a certain number of days before they are allowed to be married in their territory. Make sure you are completely and legally married before having all sorts of problems being legally recognised on your way home – you may end up re-doing the ceremony all over again and not be get the coveted ‘Mrs’ on your passport.

And finally, make sure you ask your fiance and get their approval/suggestions/thoughts before you book those tickets to Bora Bora! Best of Luck!
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