Planning a once-in-a-lifetime celebration in a foreign country for 100 of your nearest and dearest? If that sentence alone doesn’t cause you just an itty bit of anxiety, then you, my friend, are rock solid. If, however, it made you suck in a deep stress breath, then keep reading for destination wedding tips to bypass stress in three unexpected areas of planning!
As a planner, I am able to alleviate most of your anxiety and adopt it as my own because, well, I know what I’m doing, so what would cause you momentary panic is already second-hand to me. I’d be lying, though, if I let you believe that there won’t be bumps along the way.
I know exactly where you’ll hit those bumps. Often times, they come during the most unexpected parts of planning. More importantly, I have destination wedding tips to help you bypass them quickly and get back to wedding-planning bliss.
1. Don’t Become a Travel Agent
I’m not sure why it happens, but it does. As soon as that coveted Save-the-Date arrives in the mail, an otherwise intelligent, independent wedding guest transforms into a type of travel tyke who requires an innate amount of hand holding. It sounds harsh, I know, but I’ve seen it happen again and again.
Maybe its because they think you’ve got it all figured out and are just dying to help them find a flight, book their room and research snorkeling trips all while searching for the perfect dress, flowers and flatware.
Perhaps its because they believe you have miraculously turned into an overnight expert on Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, despite living thousands of miles away.
Whatever the justification for calling you to ask where to go for a tequila tour or how to get from the airport to the hotel, I beg you friends. Don’t jump on that travel agent train.
What to do instead.
What does any intelligent, independent person do when planning a trip? They google, scroll or ask Siri.
Provide your guests with easy information. Set up a system that provides guests with all the resources they need to handle their trip without ever having to contact you directly.
- Work that wedding website or send out a virtual Save-the-Date with ALL the pertinent links and info. Include the airport code (PVR = Puerto Vallarta) so flight search is easy peasy.
- Include the name of your recommended hotel/s and ALL the booking info (online link or email address, phone number, group block name, discount code, etc) so that reserving a room is a piece of cake.
- Provide links to recommended tour companies and a list of amazing restaurants so guests can scroll and reserve without any complications.
- Tell guests what you want them to wear. Really? you may ask.
I promise you, they want to be told. Your high school friend doesn’t want to worry about whether the bright yellow sundress is acceptable or if you’d prefer glitzy sequins. Tell them what kind of shoes to wear. No one, I repeat no one, want to show up in stilettos to find out they will be dancing on the sand.
- Most importantly, choose an informed point person, preferably someone with undying love for you (as that love will be tested over the course of the following months), and list her (or his) contact information on correspondence so guests know who to contact with any remaining questions.
Bless that human – be it your sister, best friend or bossy Aunt Pam – because this point person is going to save you a world of wedding stress. And then don’t forget to buy her a really nice gift.
2. Don’t procrastinate on important song selections.
Its wedding morning and my phone dings repeatedly as I drive to the venue. The groom is texting me about the dance song with his mom . . . for the fifth time in 24 hours. He’s finally decided on THE song and wondering if a special edit can be made so they don’t end up awkwardly slow-circle dancing for more than a minute and a half.
Of course. It can be done, but let’s be honest, it is far from anyone’s version of ideal to be requesting and editing a song on the very day that momentous dance is to occur.
What to do instead.
- From the moment you get engaged, start a song list. Keep it with you at all times. Jot down any song you hear, absolutely LOVE and can’t imagine not hearing at your wedding.
- Create categories: ceremony songs, couple’s first dance, parent dances and a fourth category for every other song you love. Its really quite simple and will save you So. Much. Heartache later on.
- Wherever you are, whenever you find yourself tapping your toe, swaying your shoulders or whipping your hair around to a song you love, make note.
- If its a song you can imagine dancing to with your dad, jot it in the parent dance category. Do the lyrics remind you of your love story? Note it under first dance. A melody that makes you feel triumphant? List it for the ceremony kiss! Jumping out of your chair to shake your body? Put that jam in the every other song you love category.
When it comes time to choose those musical selections for key moments of your wedding, the list will make your job SO much simpler.
You’ll narrow down those key-moment song selections without having to recall on-demand every song you’ve ever loved. The rest of the songs on your list will be an amazing guide for your DJ to keep the dance floor lit.
Choose all of your songs well in advance. Consult those who need to be consulted. An hour before the rehearsal dinner is NOT the ideal moment to introduce your mom to Spotify and try to nail down THE perfect song that encompasses all her feelings about motherhood and marriage. Please, just trust me on that one.
3. Don’t underestimate the dinner seating task.
Moment of truth. Every time I stand on the wedding sidelines, scanning the crowd to ensure that everyone finds dinner tables and seats, there is always, without fail, that one rebellious guest who decides that she really doesn’t want to sit next to Jane and would be much better suited at the next table near Jason. And thus begins the name and subsequent chair switcheroo.
This irks me like no other. Why? Because that chair, her dinner throne, took the hosts more than a just a minute to assign.
Let’s back up a few weeks. Feasting your eyes on that dinner layout document in your Inbox – the perfect graphically-designed round tables and tiny little square chairs – makes the approaching wedding day oh-so-real and the prospect of arranging your dinner guests oh-so-exciting. Until you start to place 100 real people with real problems into those seats.
Is Uncle Howard speaking to cousin Jane after he mentioned last Thanksgiving that she had put on a couple pounds?
It might be just a bit uncomfortable for your bestie Emily to sit next to Mark after that awkward vodka-induced kiss last summer. And so it begins…
What to do instead.
There isn’t a magical equation for creating perfect conversational dinner table groupings, but there are a couple destination wedding tips I can share with you to make this task simpler.
- First, be flexible if your layout allows for it. You absolutely need a table for 11 guests? Don’t squeeze an extra chair at a 10-person table. No one wants to eat their neighbor’s elbow for dinner. Agree to a different size table, if the layout allows for it, to accommodate that particular group of guests.
- If an alternate table isn’t possible, split friend/family groups between tables and pair them with other sub-groups. I promise no one will absolutely die if forced to spend an hour – a good portion of which time they are chewing – at a table without ALL of their closest kin.
- Get started on the seating plan as soon as you have a layout in your hands and a final guest list in front of you. It will take longer than you expect, and you don’t want to be juggling dinner seats while at your final dress fitting.
- Finally, don’t concern yourself about Uncle Howard and cousin Jane’s Thanksgiving rift nor the awkward liplock between Emily and Mark. Let’s presume that we’re dealing with adults who will pleasantly chat and enjoy their Mahi Mahi under the magical lights of your wedding dinner and let bygones be bygones, at least for an hour.
Do try to avoid any guest pairings that may provoke a flying plate, but beyond that, place guests where you think they best fit and be done with it.
Ok, you’ve got the inside scoop on three unexpected but daunting tasks and, more importantly, the destination wedding tips to bypass them! Treat yourself to a cocktail – maybe my famous sangria!
What other stressors are you feeling while planning your destination wedding?