Destination Wedding Planning: What You Need To Know
Planning a wedding in your home country is a full time job in itself and is already stressful enough. Can you imagine having to plan a destination wedding where you do not know the customs, traditions or local vendors? Your stressful levels will go through the roof.
We felt very excited being able to do our first destination wedding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were engaged by our lovely clients, Alex and Alex to act as their wedding planner and stylist. For an inside view of destination weddings from the planner’s perspective, keep on reading.
TIP 1: Research research research
As a bride, there are plenty of research tools available for you to use when researching where to have your destination wedding. You could attend wedding expos, speak to travel agents about desired locations or even search online for target specific websites such as Destination Wedding Mag , Brides, The Knot or Sandals.
As a planner, you need to at least have some knowledge of the local area. Luckily for us, we had visited Pittsburgh in the past so we had a rough idea of the location as well as an understanding the city’s traditions and customs. What also helped us was having dream clients who were also knowledgeable on the local area so we had a head start on research.
Cookie table wedding tradition in Pittsburgh
As part of our research into wedding customs and traditions in Pittsburgh, what we found interesting was that a cookie table was extremely important. If you are getting married in Pittsburgh, having local Pittsburgh guests attending and do not have a cookie table, then you are committing a social faux pas.
According to this New York Times article “...no one knows for sure who started the tradition, or why it hasn’t exactly taken hold outside this region. Many people credit Italian and Eastern European immigrants who wanted to bring a bit of the Old Country to the big day in the New World”. If this intrigues you as much as it did us, this Holidappy article goes into more detail on this particular Pittsburgh wedding tradition.
Knowing about this tradition in advance allowed us to conceptualise and plan ahead on how we were going to style the cookie table. Knowing that there were 130 guests attending meant that there were going to be approximately 600 cookies that needed to be placed on the cookie table. There ended up being 30 different varieties of cookie, so we had to use three 8 foot long tables in order to fit them all in!
TIP 2: Using local wedding suppliers
As a bride getting married abroad, it is worth hiring a wedding planner who has basic knowledge of your wedding location and is confident working and partnering up with local vendors such as florist, caterer, production, hair, makeup and many more.
According to Brides.com, hiring a local vendor means they would have access to discounts on products and services which can help with keeping your wedding budget on track. Let’s face it, planning a wedding is already expensive so if you can save in places, why not? Check out our previous post on figuring out your wedding budget by clicking here.
As a planner, we found it very useful to use local vendors. They know the area and where to get the best supplies plus our clients could save money not having to fly in our preferred UK suppliers. Additionally, using local vendors expanded our vendors’ database as we now have international suppliers for when we have another destination wedding to do. The saying goes “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” and this really is the case with local vendors as using them creates a sense of community and of course benefits the local economy.
Hiring local wedding suppliers is normally more cost effective than flying in your own suppliers
Rustic Barn Wedding
With the wedding being held at The Rose Barn, the theme for this wedding was rustic. We were extremely excited about doing our first destination wedding in a barn as coming from the UK, an English barn and an American barn are very different style wise. One of the distinguished differences is that American barns use more wooden panelling whereas English barns use more bricks. For our clients’ wedding, with the barn being open and airy, we decided to style up the barn using focal points of the room - corner, centre and side. Being that this was an autumn wedding, the main decor elements we used were very earthy focused - wooden logs, pine cones, lanterns, candles and wooden tone ornaments.
For the top level where the dancing and speeches were held, we had red and blue velvet chairs as the focal point in the centre of the room. Using warmer, dark tones was also in sync with the autumnal season and the cooling down of the weather. Not only did the red and blue colours blend with the wood panelling perfectly but it also gave the space a pop of colour. Behind the red and blue chairs, talented local florist, Tommy from 4121 Main, created a centrepiece that helped boost the centre focal point of the room. This fitted in beautifully with the high ceiling of the Rose Barn. We positioned the cookie table to the side of the room in a U-Shape style in order to fit all 600 cookies on the table. For the front corner of the room, we had cocktail tables with simple table centrepieces while the back corner was used as the wedding card corner where guests were able to drop their well wishes to the bridal couple in a bespoke Mr & Mrs tree stump. We also styled the downstairs level (where the wedding dinner was served) using logs, florals, a mirror and floating candles. At YEP, we always like to have a bit of our clients’ background and personality in our decor to give it a personal touch. So knowing that our clients’ personality is the easy-going vibe and that baby Groot was a gift to them by a close friend, we could not resist using him as part of the decor.
TIP 3: Be on the same wave length
As a bride getting married abroad, be aware that for guests travelling in, they could use your wedding destination as their holiday spot. So just bear in mind that you as a bride may be sharing your honeymoon spot with your guests (unless you go elsewhere).
From a planner’s perspective, it is vital that we are on the same wavelength as our clients in terms of vision, budget and expectation. One of the main criteria for our clients was to have a relaxed style wedding. Keeping that in mind, we styled a picnic type area outside with pillows, crates and blankets for guests to sit down and relax while waiting for dinner to be served. Dinner was catered by Uncle Kenny’s BBQ and served buffet style, which added to the relaxed atmosphere that our clients wanted. This allowed guests to mingle with each other at the food line. The ribs and starters were “finger licking good” and dessert was a delicious almond cake by Prantl’s Bakery.
Have a sense of humour
Planning, organising and styling a wedding is a stressful job especially on wedding day as there are a lot of moving components to pull together. Having a sense of humour always helps as it is a great stress coping mechanism.
One memorable fact of this wedding was that there were four people named Alex. Two of whom were the bridal couple themselves (Alexandria and Alex)! The other two Alexs’ (Alexandra and Alexander), one was a bridesmaid and one was a wedding guest. As you can imagine during the wedding ceremony at the vows part of “do you Alex take Alex to be your wedded….”, the pastor broke the ice and created a jovial atmosphere as he did highlight to everyone that he wanted to make sure that the he married the right Alex’s since there were four Alex’s in attendance after all!
We hope you enjoyed reading our article about destination weddings from a planner’s perspective. If you did get married abroad or are planning a destination wedding, do comment down below with your experience and thoughts.
Wedding Planner: YEP Enterprise
Photographer: Steve Dalton Photography
Florist: 4121 Main
Bridal Gown: Hayley Paige
Bridal Veil & Belt: Bridal Beginning
Groom Wedding Suit: Men’s Wearhouse
Venue: The Rose Barn
Caterer: Uncle Kenny’s BBQ
Wedding Cake: Prantl’s Bakery
Make Up Artist: Lexi Jones