“I wanted a romantic destination wedding that would ‘knock the socks off’ of my friends and relatives. I also wanted to provide a unique memory for everyone. I wanted a breathtaking ceremony, fun and ‘unique’ reception, and choices of activities for my guests. After all was said and done, it was an amazing destination wedding; filled with love, romance, and elegance. All of this was made possible by the French countryside and our great wedding event planner, Caroline."
After having planned so many destination weddings in France and Italy, our team has developed a list of helpful hints to help ease the planning of your own destination wedding in Europe. There is a lot to think about, but just take it one step at a time.
1 - Choose the type of ceremony first.
Decide on whether you would like a religious or a symbolic (non-religious) ceremony to start with, this will help you rule out certain wedding locations, paperwork, pre-wedding rituals, traditions and organize your time. Discuss your options with your wedding coordinator.
2 - Choose your destination wisely.
There are many great castles and hotels in France and Italy which are gorgeous and lend themselves to romance; so it is hard to choose the perfect venue. But, once you learn which location is better in certain seasons, or if the location is only available in the evenings; you will be better prepared to plan your reception and the guest list.
3 - Make a list of important criteria for you and your guests' stay.
If you can't decide if organising activities for your guests during your destination wedding in France or Italy is more important than the ratings and amenities of the wedding venue, make a list of the most important criteria and your expectations. This will be extremely helpful in determining your group outings and choosing your perfect wedding venue and reception details.
4 - Outline an approximate budget.
You must remember a ‘unique’ wedding will have a range of costs. Don’t set yourself at a low budget and expect the ‘red carpet’ treatment. Give yourself a little space in your budget to add a touch of the local flavors and traditions.
5 - Get expert advice regarding the local customs and traditions.
This is where your local destination wedding coordinator comes into her own! Going to a foreign country often means you do not speak the language, food is prepared differently and the local customs and traditions are different to those at home. Knowing what types of specialty food are available in a region, the wedding etiquette and even the intricacies of a traditional French or Italian wedding will add to the romance, uniqueness and authenticity of your destination wedding.
6 - Make all of your reservations early.
Making reservations early can mean lower costs and could make the difference between you staying within your budget and exceeding it! You can always change your numbers later, but it is best to start out high, and get the dates scheduled.
7 - Send out your wedding invitations 4-6 months in advance.
Sending out your wedding invitations early! Don't forget that your guests have to book time off work, organise international travel and local accomodation, so much planning is also required of them in the run up to your big day. Give them as much information and time as possible to facilitate the travel arrangements and consider creating a wedding website to give them full information and a list of local hotels. Some of your guests may have special dietary needs, new babies may be expected and so accommodations will need to be anticipated and changed in time to meet their needs. You could even end up saving money on your group bookings, and incur lower airfare costs thus positively impacting your wedding budget and generally ensuring a smooth running event.
8 - Plan your reception carefully.
If you are planning an outdoor event and want a wedding band, dancing, outdoor festivities, and a caricaturist or other entertainment, always have a back-up plan ready in case of rain. This will avoid a total wash-out on your big day!
9 - Ask your guests what activities they might like.
For some of your family, and friends, this may be their first trip to Europe. List on your wedding invitations or on your wedding website some of the options available for activities, and had them to rank their preferences. This will be very helpful for you to decide which group outings to organise. Plus, they will be even more excited about attending your destination wedding in Europe.
10 - Make yourself and the wedding party look their best.
This is a ‘no-brainer’, or so you might think. You may not realize that tuxedo rentals are not readily available in some small villages. Renting shoes is not even an option. Your wedding coordinator will advice you according to where you are getting married, but it is often better to buy your dresses and outfits at home and ship them to your wedding destination. You can, however, rely on the fantastic French or Italian hair stylists and make-up artists to make you and your bridesmaids look fabulous on your wedding day. Your wedding photos will be rendered even more beautiful and should be taken by a professional photographer. Ask your wedding coordinator to recommend her best vendors to you and you will not be disappointed!