Set sail for Wedding Perfection

How many excursions, activities or events (outside the wedding and reception) should we plan? Do we need to pay for each guest to participate? THE PRO Ali Phillips, the engine behind Engaging Events by Ali, plans weddings throughout the world, including the Caribbean and Europe. Typically, couples plan a welcomeparty-cum-rehearsal-dinner for everyone, a day-after brunch, a farewell breakfast on the last day, and one additional excursion like a boat trip, golf game, spa day or pool party. For a recent Costa Rica wedding, we off ered a sunset catamaran cruise, a karaoke night and a rainforest tour as optional activities. If you’re off ering events other than the wedding and reception, only pay for what you’re comfortable with and what fi ts in your budget. It’s appropriate and considerate to let guests know about activities in advance and include info about the associated costs. For an easy head count, guests can mark their chosen outings on the RSVP card. And remember your guests are likely making your wedding their own vacation, so allow them some time to explore the beautiful location you’ve chosen on their own.

QUESTION We’re wrangling over our wedding budget. With a destination wedding, what expenses should we budget for that are different from a hometown wedding? THE PRO Based in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mary Bartolucci has planned more than 700 destination weddings since 2002. I always encourage my clients to make a separate budget for airline tickets, accommodations, attire and any other items unrelated to wedding events. Because there are so many variables in price points (from the economy to personal tastes), these items can vary widely and will aff ect the overall price of the wedding in a big way. Also, a couple hosting a destination wedding should set aside funds for guest transportation to and from the airport and any hosted excursions. Your planner is your best bet for finding reliable service and the best prices, since she or he will have relationships with the local transportation companies. The best way to save a few pennies: Avoid shipping items to the destination altogether. International shipping charges can be prohibitive, not to mention extra insurance charges for coverage if the packages are lost, broken or held up at customs. One recent couple felt they could save money by purchasing items at home and sending them to the destination and were surprised to find the shipping cost was higher than the purchase price of the items, even though the USVI is a U.S. territory.

QUESTION Our guests will be flying to our destination. What are some good ideas for travel-friendly wedding favors? THE PRO Coordinating events in the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico since 2008, Sarah Pease is the mind behind Brilliant Event Planning. Top considerations: size (you won’t want to give anything that will take up too much room in the suitcase), weight (or put them over their baggage weight limit) and whether it’s a liquid or not (no TSA drama, please!). A great favor idea is to include travel-size items that guests might have to leave at home because of restrictions or because they’re not easily found in travel size, like sunscreen. Other ideas from past weddings I’ve found to be both useful and thoughtful: wraps or pashminas for keeping warm in evening beach breezes, portable phone chargers (all that picture taking drains batteries like crazy!) and high-heel protectors if your event takes place on a lawn or a deck with slats.

QUESTION We want to legally get married in our destination. How do we make sure we’ve met all the requirements? THE PRO With 12 years and more than 600 weddings to her credit, Larissa Banting is the owner and lead planner of Weddings Costa Rica. Some countries have more byzantine rules than others, so having a wedding expert on the ground in your locale will save time and money. For example, here in Costa Rica, the law requires couples to produce a civil-status document showing they’re free to marry, in addition to having birth certificates translated and authenticated by the Costa Rican embassy in your home country. If you were to follow the letter of the law, it would take a bit of work to get all the documents together. This is where a planner can help. There are a number of countries where marriages performed there may not be recognized abroad. In this case, you can marry legally at home, then have a symbolic ceremony at your destination. In most cases, it won’t matter to your guests if it’s legal or not they’ll enjoy the celebration of your families and friends coming together.

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