So you don't want to get married in America. I don't blame you, we didn't either. My wife and I saw a lot of friends go through the wedding process and pretty much the most consistent advice we got was to just skip it all and elope.
We decided instead to do something that we wanted to do. If we were going to spend the money on an event, we wanted to go and travel and see a cool part of the world. If you're thinking about doing this it is definitely possible and can be done with less stress than a local wedding.
We even managed to save some money along the way because it was a small wedding. Go figure.
Some pros and cons to think about:
Smaller, more intimate wedding.
Extended relatives can't come.
A foreign location for everyone.
Mixing a wedding with travel.
Can start honeymoon immediately.
Longer trip means everyone gets to know each other better.
Extended relatives can't come.
Lots of friends won't be able to come.
Long trip with everyone in one place.
Some people aren't cool with travel.
Still interested? OK, here's how to do it.
Step 1: Where Do You Want to Go?
Doing a "destination wedding" is a big deal. You're going to be asking a lot of your friends and family so make it worth it.
The first step is to figure out some place that you'd like to travel to anyway. Start flipping through travel guides and reading travel magazines for cool destinations and decide which one you want to go to. We chose Italy because my wife has lived there before and speaks Italian. All of my previous travels have been in Asia so Europe has now become exotic for me.
This step can take a while. Give it a couple months.
Step 2: Get Others to Agree
Instead of just telling everyone we were getting married in Italy, we asked them first if it was cool. This process requires honesty on both sides.
For us, we needed to be honest about what we were asking. We added up the probable costs it would be for each person and added about $500 more to it.
The next step was to send out emails to everyone asking if they would be into doing it. We stressed that we knew it was a big deal and told them our estimate for the cost of the trip. We then asked them to be brutally honest if they could do it.
Fortunately for us, everyone came back with an enthusiastic "yes!" What helped was that both of our families had traveled several times before. My own parents have spent more time living in other countries than the States for the past two decades, my wife's family has traveled to several countries as well. As for our friends, they're very willing to travel as well and with life being busy they pretty much just needed an excuse to go.
Below you can see Josh and Bilal demonstrating the double-handed agreement.
Step 3: Lock in a Destination
So you know what country you want to go to, but now you need a place to stay and get married. For us we simply combined these into one place. We rented a villa for a week which helped in several ways:
- the cost was less than a hotel
- we had our own kitchens to cook in
- the building was all ours, including the steam room and hot tub
- everyone was together
- we had a central place to safely leave all our stuff and do day trips
- the price would not go up on us even when booking a year out as the rental service had a set price in US dollars instead of Euros
- the caretaker for the house was able to also act as the wedding planner. We lucked out on this one, but there were local wedding planners who would've been able to help otherwise.
We went to Italy and so we used parkervillas.com. Like I said, the price was locked in several months ahead in US$ so that was a huge help. As we were planning the trip we saw the Euro slowly but steadily climb against the dollar. If we were planning the wedding from now on out we might've gone to another country since the Euro has gotten 25% more expensive since we planned ours.
Step 4: Start Researching Like You're a Tour Guide... Because You Are
Now's the time to load up on travel guides. Get travel guides to the country of your choice from a few different publishers. The more sources the better.
The main things you will need to become an expert in are:
- airlines and ticketing websites
- car rentals
- driving etiquette
- mass transit
- tourist destinations
- food (whoo-hoo!)
- expected temperatures
- necessities and anti-necessities (what to leave behind)
You'll want to have at least a couple recommendations for ticketing sites and car rental agencies because people will likely want to choose a different airport.
Step 5: Start a Wiki
So now that you're becoming an expert in everything about your trip, it's time to put it all to good use in a wiki. If you've never used a wiki before, now is the time to start. If you're decently proficient with computers this will be easy.
A wiki was invaluable to us and you can even set one up for free. We used pbwiki.com for our own and it worked great, but there are tons of others if you want to look for them. Wikimatrix can help with that search.
The general structure of the wiki we set up was pretty basic. Here's a slightly pared-down version of the wiki we made.
Step 6: The Beauty of the Wiki
Once we had the basic wiki set up we were able to send out invites and include a link to the wiki. Here's a few reasons why the wiki is the way to go:
It's easy to update
Changing any info on the wiki is as easy as logging in, clicking the edit button, making a change, and saving it. There's no fancy website that needs to change. You're in and you're out.
My wife is a graphic designer and I do a fair amount with graphics myself. Constraining ourselves to a wiki with basic formatting and pictures focused us on the information.
Guests can add information and pictures
This was huge. HUGE! We put up starter pages for all of the guests and emailed them with instructions on how to add info and pictures. We had to help with resizing a few pictures, but everyone took to it and had fun putting in short bios about themselves and what they wanted to do. Since many of the people had never met and were about to share a building for a week this was an early introduction and everyone knew what everyone else looked like already.
The value of this was apparent right away when two of our friends met and one instantly asked the other about how her baby was doing since she was gone from him for the first time. It was like they knew each other already.
Other benefits included: a car sharing list, a day trips page with recommendations, and comparing air fare.
It was a living document
Since we were able to easily add more information whenever we wanted to, we kept putting more in. When I looked into cell phones and learned about the different frequencies and local carriers I put it all in there.
It was totally worth it
In the end, we didn't receive one phone call or e-mail asking for more information. We were waiting for at least one panicked phone call, but it didn't happen even with 26 guests.
Step 7: Make Your Guests Feel Welcome
Your guests just traveled for a long time, maybe even more than a day. When they arrive, make sure that the house or villa is nice and relaxing for them.
We told our guests that the house opened up a couple hours after it really did. This gave us time to assemble some gift packages for them that we had shopped for the previous day.
Since we had to bring our own toiletries to the villa we included some soap and shampoo. For fun we also included some local candies, chocolates, and a bottle of wine. We intentionally made the bags different with different types of chocolate and other treats so that people would be encouraged to see what everyone else got and trade.
We put it all together in a reusable and pocket-size shopping bag. For a good selection of these, check outthis site.
Meals during the week were to be taken care of by the guests since we wanted to let them eat anywhere, but the first dinner was scheduled and cooked for us in the villa. We got plenty of wine and it was a great ice-breaker/welcoming party for everyone.
Step 8: Stay in the Country for Your Honeymoon
You want to get married in another country because you love to travel, right? Even though this wedding process is easier than staying in the States there are still last-minute details to take care of amidst all the relaxing, traveling, and eating.
When it's all over you'll be happy to be on your own and in a cool country to explore without having to think about long plane flights and jet lag. You've hit the ground running.