4 Challenges of Planning a Destination Wedding Nobody Talks About

A table for a wedding reception on a tropical beach.

There’s a certain romanticism that surrounds the destination wedding. Most of us imagine that this kind of marriage ceremony is like something out of a dream—after all, it’s a wedding and vacation all in one! While it is true that destination weddings can be incredible, too often couples expect their destination wedding to be easy and breezy from day one…and sadly, that’s just not the case.

See, a destination wedding requires a fair bit of careful planning (just like every other wedding). In fact, couples planning to wed abroad face a unique set of challenges as they plan their big day. Here are just a few things you’ll want to watch for during the planning process.

1. Time Differences Can Interfere with Planning

A woman looking at her phone screen.

Let’s say that you live in California, but you want to get married in Paris. You hop online, check out a few wedding packages from different venues, and find one that’s everything you’re looking for. Excited, you email the venue and ask to set up a meeting with their wedding coordinator. They’re happy to oblige—but they’re only available to chat at 10 a.m. Is that OK?

Here’s the thing: 10 a.m. in Paris is 1 a.m. in California. If you don’t account for this kind of time difference, you may find yourself constantly missing out on chances to communicate with your wedding vendors!

Time zones can also interfere with your mood on your wedding day; no one wants to say “I do” while they’re jet lagged! Make sure you keep time differences in mind when planning meetings with your vendors and making any travel arrangements.

2. Currency Exchange Might Affect Your Final Bill

Budgeting is always an important part of the wedding planning process. Couples need to keep track of how much they’re spending so they don’t start their marriage saddled with tons of debt! However, managing your budget can be difficult when you’re dealing with vendors from another country, as exchange rates can fluctuate from one day to the next.

If you’re planning a destination wedding, make sure to clarify anything cost-related in your vendor contracts. In which currency will the bill be due? What is the tipping culture for this country/industry? Understanding these details will prevent you from getting a big surprise when your wedding bill comes due.

3. Your Marriage Might Not Be “Official”

A bride and room holding hands in front of an ivy-covered building.

When it comes to planning a wedding, most couples get excited about the fun parts of the big day: the dress, the music, the cake—you get the picture. However, the fun stuff doesn’t always include the important, legal aspects of your wedding, and this is especially true for destination weddings.

Different countries have different laws for performing legal marriage ceremonies. For example, in France couples can only receive a legal marriage license if they’ve lived in the country for 40 days—and while a long-term vacay in Paris sounds like a dream, it’s certainly not possible for everyone!

This is why many destination weddings are simply “symbolic” ceremonies. These weddings include all the romance and trappings of a traditional wedding, but the couple does not sign an official marriage license until they get home (or sometimes before they leave for the wedding). Make sure you take some time for this part of your wedding plans!

4. Not Everyone Will Be Able to Attend

One of the best things about getting married (besides spending the rest of life with your sweetheart) is getting to celebrate with your friends and family. Some of the best weddings I’ve been to have been massive ragers, with tons of people laughing, dancing, and raising a glass to the guests of honor.

Unfortunately, these massive parties are next to impossible when a couple opts to get married abroad. Taking time off work can be a challenge, flights and hotels can be prohibitively expensive, and the fact is that some people (those with a fear of flying, for example) just won’t want to travel across the world to watch you say “I do.”

If you decide to have a destination wedding, it’s very likely that some of your loved ones won’t be there to celebrate in person. That’s something you’ll just have to accept! But you can always find ways to include them (live stream the ceremony, have a friend post real-time photos online, etc.) while still enjoying the unique wedding ceremony you’ve dreamed of.

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