Kiri and I love weddings, and between the two of us we've planned, been in, supported and attended hundreds of weddings. Of course, our own weddings hold a special place in our hearts so with yesterday being my fourth wedding anniversary, we decided we needed to talk about lessons learned when the Event Planners plan their own weddings. Nick and I were married on August 8, 2008 in the Sadie Seymore Botanical Gardens in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. We chose Kona because it's where my family lives and throughout our relationship it was our favorite vacation and holiday spot. The most important thing to us was having an intimate wedding with our family and closest friends to celebrate our marriage and I knew that I needed to plan it myself.
Planning a "Destination Wedding" has it's own challenges. I know Kona very well, so while I wasn't flying blind I learned some very important lessons that I will always remember when planning weddings for clients:
- Prioritize the most important things to you and your fiance. Perhaps amazing photos of your wedding are one of the most important things to you and your spouse-to-be (especially if not everyone will be able to make it to your nuptials). Is amazing food with a local flair key to making your wedding spectacular? Or do you want your guests to remember your reception as the best party they've been to in years where they danced the night away? If you can narrow your priorities to your Top Three or Top Five, you're going to have a much easier time with your planning.
- Plan at least one trip to the location where you're having your wedding during the planning process.If you're on a budget this may seem difficult but there are ways to do this that are less costly and it will put your mind at ease as you get closer to the big day. If you're blocking out rooms for the wedding, the hotel may be willing to give you a discount on one or two nights for a pre-wedding visit. If you have to fly, consider using an airline that will provide a discount for wedding guests and has a great Customer Loyalty Program (miles redeemable for flights and upgrades). While on location, schedule a meeting with each of your vendors: photographer (this is also a great chance to take engagement portraits), videographer, caterer, florist, day-of coordinator, DJ or band, and officiant.
- Make sure that your vendors are accessible. For a destination wedding, technology is KEY! If a vendor is not responsive via email, does not have an updated website or the capability to send digital contracts, images or proposals, consider looking for a new vendor. If you simply cannot make it to the location for a pre-wedding consultation, think about scheduling Skype meetings and phone conferences to get everyone on the same page.
- Consider hiring a Day-Of Coordinator. Whether you have been a DIY bride or have relied on a family member to help take care of a lot of the details, a Day-Of Coordinator can be essential to you being able to actually enjoying your own wedding. In addition to being able to resolve unexpected emergencies while you're entertaining family and friends, a local coordinator can help you get better deals on local vendors services, give you insight into the time of year that you'll be having your wedding (these flowers will be in bloom, there will be a marathon around that time that can cause traffic, that's hurricane season… you get the picture) and serve as an ambassador in cases of cultural differences.
No matter what issues we faced planning our "Destination Wedding" (and trust me, it doesn't matter how much planning goes on, there will be hiccups and glitches), we have the best memories of our wedding and love telling our daughter about our beautiful wedding any time we get the chance to visit the gardens.