We all know that there are some circumstances beyond our control, especially when it comes to weddings and "developing" countries. While you may not be able to prevent the inevitable family dramas and drunken uncles, there are some disasters that can easily be averted with a little planning.
1. Choose your vendors carefully and have a backup plan - Probably the biggest complaint of destination wedding couples is unprofessional vendors. Hire a local event coordinator to act as a liaison between you and your vendors. This is particularly helpful if your destination is not an English speaking location. Make sure you have contracts in place for each and every vendor and be triple sure your venue and catering are confirmed. If a vendor doesn't offer you great communication right from the start, that is often a sign of worse things to come. Of course you want to support the local economy as much as you can, but know where to draw the line!
Here are a couple shaky scenarios with backup plans that are easy to implement:
Hair and makeup artists can be hit or miss and you probably won't have time for a trial run beforehand, so have a back-up plan in place in case the local makeup artist turns you into a 70's porn star. We all have that one friend who practically lives at the MAC counter. Let her know she is "on call", and for goodness sake, bring your own foundation in a color that matches your skin. In a worst-case scenario where you end up doing your own makeup, choose a universally flattering bronze palette, perfect for a beachy vibe.
Many local hair and makeup artists have no experience with Indian Bridal dressing, so recruit several aunties to help you drape your sari, or set your dupatta.
For freshness, a local floral vendor is a must. If you end up with a flaky florist though, all is not lost. Back up plan? Have your bestie ready to make a run to the flower market to throw together some last minute centerpieces. Rescued tin cans or glass jars cost next to nothing, and somehow, anything looks cute in a Mason jar.
With a needle and some strong thread or dental floss, you can make your own garlands in a pinch. These rose garlands are just as lovely as carnations or jasmine, and smell divine. Aren't you glad you've been hoarding those free sewing kits?
2. Schedule in some downtime - There is so much to do in exotic locations that it's easy to schedule activities for every minute of the trip. Life in the tropics happens at a different pace however. It can take longer to get around due to cows (or coatimundis!) in the road, a random police checkpoint, or a spontaneous Margarita pitstop. If you are planning adventures for your wedding guests, schedule in a buffer zone between activities. You'll want some alone time for you and your partner to enjoy your time together, take a break from the Paparazzi (seriously, your cheeks may actually be sore from smiling) and take care of any last minute details (toenail polish?). Your guests will appreciate the chance to sneak in a siesta, as they may be tired from late nights involving far too much tequila, time-zone differences, or the stress of traveling with toddlers. Pro Tip: If you are planning to have your mehndi done, schedule a relatively quiet day 2 days prior to the wedding, with a minimum of 4-5 hours for the artwork to take place. Be aware that the following day's activities should be on dry land to avoid ruining the henna stain. Chemical sunscreens can also accelerate the fading of henna.
Seriously, take a break.
3. Prepare for rain - Due to global climate change, the weather is more unpredictable than ever. Even a desert can get a sudden shower, and tropical latitudes are particularly prone. No matter what the records and averages may say, Murphy's law seems to override all predictions, and deliver downpours just when you don't want them. Have a backup plan to move your ceremony indoors at the last minute or you could be "trashing the dress" ahead of schedule.
4. Splurge on a mehndi artist, photographer, and officiant - Some destination locations simply don't have specialty vendors such as mehndi artists. And worse, some parts of the world offer "black henna" which isn't henna at all, but a toxic chemical which can cause blisters, allergic reactions, or scarring. Do yourself a favor and bring your mehndi artist to guarantee you get the designs you want in safe and natural henna. Keep in mind, the big hotel chains or all-inclusive resorts may try to charge you as much as $1000 for bringing in a "non-approved" vendor. Avoid the cookie-cutter resorts and have your wedding at small locally-owned hotel or Bed and Breakfast. And speaking of relatives doing your mehndi, while it may be tempting to save money by having an artsy auntie do it, there have been just a few too many brides left in tears by henna that turned out looking, ahem, a little too much like abstract expressionism. Leave it to the pros and let your aunties enjoy the party.
The other big splurge is the photographer of your dreams. Weddings are such a personal thing, you want your photographer to focus, no pun intended, on your priorities. You can't afford any "lost in translation" moments here. Your photographer should have experience shooting South Asian or fusion weddings. You don't want him to be changing the battery when you are exchanging garlands, or miss that moment when the bride's sisters are stealing the groom's shoes! On the flip side, advantages of a local photographer are that they know all the scenic spots for couples portraits, the nuances of light in that location, and can be quite a bit less expensive. Choose well my friend! You will never regret hiring the very best photographer you can afford.
And lastly, your officiant may need to be brought with you. Whether it's bringing a Hindu priest from your temple, or having your sister become an ordained minister at the Universal Life Church, you'll need someone reliable, and knowledgable in your traditions, to perform the ceremonies for you.
Now for the Top Tip. Drumroll please...it's not what you think, but couldn't be easier....
5. Bring Insect Repellent - Don't say I didn't warn you. A sure way to be miserable at your tropical destination is to get eaten alive by mosquitos and no-see-ums. Unless you want to be scratching your way through your ceremony, and speckled with red welts, you will need industrial strength insect repellent and you will need to apply it religiously. You may also want to bring an over-the-counter cortisone cream and Benadryl or a non-drowsy antihistamine in case you do get bitten. Remember, Benadryl and alcohol do not mix, so if you're going to take shots of Benadryl for those bug bites, don't be taking shots of the local moonshine.
We really hope these tips help you avoid some of the most common mishaps of destination weddings. After all, it is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not stressful and itchy! Stay loose and you are sure to enjoy the spontaneous moments that arise. Let us know, what's your best tip for planning a destination wedding?