Weddings

Take This Expert's Advice If You Want to Plan a Destination Wedding — And Not Lose All Your Friends & Money

Brody Jenner married Kaitlynn Carter in Bali over the weekend but exotic nuptials aren't just for celebrities these days.

Brody Jenner celebrated a major milestone this past weekend, marrying fiancée Kaitlynn Carter in Bali. While the wedding looked like a fairytale dream, the most recognizable Jenner family members were noticeably absent — Caitlyn who had "work commitments" and Kylie and Kendall who didn't even RSVP.

To some people, flying to Indonesia for a wedding may seem like a perfect opportunity for a getaway, but when family and friends have busy work schedules or new babies, it can be hard to coordinate a date that works for everyone. It turns out these are common factors for anyone interested in having a destination wedding, not just celebs.

Since the etiquette is totally different than for a local wedding, we spoke with an expert to learn what to expect, who typically pays for what and when to let guests know it’s international. 


Alison Phillips, the President of Chicago-based wedding planning firm Engaging Events by Ali, has been in the business for fifteen years. Phillips and her team have coordinated over 400 weddings both locally and around the globe, including destination weddings in Fiji, Greece, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, and countless other countries. While the locations may vary, the basic practices remain the same. Here are some of her recommendations: 


Budget for a Weekend Affair

If you are thinking about hosting a destination wedding, keep in mind that they are typically weekend affairs. Since people are flying to be there for the weekend, the couple and their family will usually plan to host multiple events for guests to enjoy. These typically include a welcome party or rehearsal dinner where all traveling guests are invited and a farewell breakfast the day after the wedding.

Before committing to this type of wedding, it is important to figure out who will be paying for these events. Phillips explains that it usually varies by client, but the cost is usually split in some capacity, with the couples themselves and each of their families paying for some portion. Phillips suggests figuring out who is contributing (and how much) as an early step in the planning process. 


Give Early Notice

If you are planning a faraway destination wedding, Phillips recommends sending a save-the-date with hotel booking information 8-12 months in advance to give people enough time to make arrangements. Especially if it’s an international event as guests may have to renew their passports or get travel visas. Phillips also advises mailing the invitations 3-4 months before the wedding date, which is earlier than for a stateside wedding, which she suggests sending 6-8 weeks in advance.  


Expect Scheduling Conflicts

If you are planning an international wedding, it is good to be aware that situations may arise that will keep guests from being able to attend, such as high cost of flights or preexisting work commitments. It may also be challenging for women in their last trimesters of pregnancy or families with newborns to travel far. 


Offer Extra Activities

Phillips' company usually plans additional activities for guests to enjoy, such as cooking classes, sunset cruises, guided tours, or yoga. Extra activities add a fun element to a weekend affair, but don’t necessarily need to paid for by the bride or groom. Phillips explained that it is not uncommon for those optional activities to be paid for by the guests if they are looking for something to do in between wedding events. The planners or couple usually organize (or bring awareness to) these opportunities, but let guests know in advance if the cost is covered, so everyone can budget accordingly.

Check International Laws

Before picking wedding vendors like a photographer, check the country’s local Chamber of Commerce for rules and regulations since some require foreign vendors to obtain a permit. Seeking advice from a credible planner who has experience with planning weddings abroad is a good way to learn best practices.

Include a Note for Guests About Gifts

For guests who are concerned about additional expenses when planning to attend a faraway celebration, Phillips points out that “a wedding present is always appreciated by couples, but is not a requirement.” Finding something sentimental or picking a smaller item on the registry is a nice budget-friendly touch. There is no need to break the bank on a gift, especially when travel is involved.

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