Island Weddings

Destination wedding basics:
12 must-read destination wedding tips

If you are planning a “destination” beach wedding, here are the tips you need to make it all go smoothly.

1. Get Help.
If you've signed up for a wedding package, the services of a planner are probably included. If not, try to earmark part of your budget (about 10 percent of the total) for a wedding planner. He or she can shoulder the burden of researching, auditioning, and securing local vendors. She is also the behind-the-scenes queen, creating gift bags for guests, greeting everyone at the airport, keeping people busy with fun activities once there, vetting special requests (babysitters, dry cleaners, and so on), and getting everyone where they need to be on time.

2. Schedule a Test Drive
Remember, unlike a wedding in your hometown, guests are dependent on you once they reach the destination. Make sure you provide transportation to and from the airport, as well as to all the events of the weekend. Insist that bus drivers do a dry run of the route so they don't get lost between the ceremony and reception.

3. Take a Trip
You'll need to scout and secure your key venues -- church, reception, hotels for guests, rehearsal dinner venue -- and local suppliers such as caterers, florists, and photographers. Next -- or during a second trip -- you'll need to schedule "tastings" with your caterer, see sample bouquets from the florist, plan a hair and makeup session with a salon, and organize activities (golf, tennis, walking tours, museums) for everyone.

4. Vendor Checkups
If you must hire your vendors sight unseen, ask for a portfolio of pictures and at least three references. Be sure the references are people for whom the vendor did an event similar to yours. For example, a recommendation from a couple who had 10 guests doesn't help if you're inviting 100. Also ask for the names of other vendors who worked those events and use them as further references regarding the company in question.

5. Be Gracious
A good way to make nice with the local vendors is to send handwritten thank-you notes and even little gifts when you book their services. (Remember that they can literally make or break your wedding, and a little goes a long way toward getting them on your side.) During the event itself, it's wise to have plenty of small bills on hand for palm-greasing, especially in foreign countries and resorts.

6. Forewarn Your Friends
Tell your bridal party about the destination before you ask them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight.

7. Get a Grip
Don't be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don't attend. While you are, in a sense, footing some of the food bills, their fees for travel, hotel, and car rental can really add up, especially for a family. And while your wedding is a mini-vacation for you, it may not be the one they want to take!

8. Mind Mother Nature
Don't forget to consider the climate when choosing your gown. You'll be swimming in sweat if you pair your fairy-tale satin ball gown with tropical humidity. Whether your dream location is specifically a beach or simply outdoors, dress for no stress.

9. Be a Zen Bride
Don't keep a constant eye on the time. Remember that many tropical islands run on "island time" -- things happen when they happen -- and keep an open mind. Minor mishaps can sometimes make for the best memories.

10. Pack Right
Whatever you bring with you, you'll have to lug along for the trip. And don't forget to allow ample room for your gown.

11. Call on a Courier
Make a plan for wedding presents. If you've got a ton of wedding gifts to take home, ask if someone who lives in your city can take them back and keep them for you until after the honeymoon -- or even drop them at your home for you. Or, pack an extra duffle bag to bring them home yourselves. Figure this out before the wedding so you'll have a plan of action if you need it.

12. Welcome Your Guests
Be sure to place a gift basket in each room full of essentials for the trip (suntan lotion, bug spray) and goodies that will remind them of the setting -- music tapes, cookbooks, samples of island food, or crafts from local artisans are all good options.

(Reprinted from The,

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