How to Plan a Destination Wedding

Tips and insights leading up to my special day

It all started

I’ve always known that I wanted a spectacular wedding, actually I’ve always known that I wanted a spectacular life , which I think most women of my generation aspire to. Traditionalism has gone out the window and has been replaced with uniqueness and passion. I seldom come across the old school cookie cutter weddings, as more and more young couples are excited to add their own take on what a wedding day should feel like to represent themselves.

With the help of social media outlets like Instagram and Pinterest getting inspired to do new things has become second nature to millennials. 

When Daniel proposed to me in Santorini, I knew then that our wedding day couldn’t be any less glamorous than my incredibly breath taking engagement. I was aware of just the right place to top the stunning views of the Greek Islands. What I think is the most romantic country in the world, Italy. 

Lake Como had always been one of my favourite travel destinations. It is also renowned for being one of the most luxurious wedding destinations in the entire world. The ancient villas are remarkable, with awe- inspiring views of the crystal lake that meet the Italian Alps, and gardens that have been maturing for hundreds of years. I was certain this was the right decision. 

Finding a Planner

Realizing that planning a destination wedding (especially in Europe where urgency is not their strong suit) would be an uphill battle, I decided the first order of business would be to acquire an experienced local Wedding Planner.   

Now, finding a wedding planner is not as easy as you would think. There are so many on google and social media that it is very difficult to find the ‘right fit’. I had contacted a few via email, basically introducing myself and explaining some of the most important necessities for my dream wedding. This is very important, as it will set the tone for what is expected from whomever you decide to work with.

I continued to receive very general and broad responses from everyone I reached out to, then finally, voila , Gemma Aurelius of My Lake Como Wedding sent me the email response I had been waiting for. She touched on all of my important points, commented on how special it was that my dog was to be included in the ceremony and really gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings a bride is longing for. I had found my person and you will too. The key is to just be patient and really picky. Your wedding planner is going to be your point of contact every step of the way, which is why communication is key! 

Vendors Abroad

Gemma had sent me a list of venues that she typically worked with and because I had already done so much research on Lake Como and which villas were available, I found it pretty easy to decide on Villa Del Balbianello. Doing research is key, knowing what the destination has to offer will help you be well versed with your planner and aware of your options. Some planners, although it is their job, might not suggest a specific location because it is not of their preference. Always do your own recognisance, it will help you preserve your vision and find something that maybe only you would realize is special. 

Daniel and I are major foodies, so we had to have the most amazing menu and service that we could offer our guests. Gemma was really honest about ‘getting what you pay for’ when it came to food. She had offered us a couple of options but was firm that if we really wanted to impress our guests with the meal we should go with Sunlake Catering.  I truly appreciated Gemma’s honesty as you need to build trust with your planner, especially when they are half way across the world. The fact that she told us what we were getting every step of the way really helped us to allocate our budget toward what was most important to us.

Décor came very easily to me as I’ve always been somewhat of a creative person. I love home design, graphic design, and art in general so putting together a perfect combination of florals, tableware, linens, menus, and candles was something that I enjoyed. This isn’t the case for everyone, so feel free to get inspired online, this is what these blogs are here for. Try to pick a colour scheme that is appealing to you then work from there. If you’ve decided on your venue then google pictures of it and see what other people have executed in the same space. I’m not telling you to copy them, but it is ok to spark an idea through other people’s work! Your planner should also have some inspo photos of work they have done in the past to help you put together a design.

The trip before the trip

It was time for Daniel and I to make the trip to go and visit all of the vendors we had decided to move forward with. If you are able to take a pre wedding planning trip to your destination, then this will help you immensely!! Daniel and I were able to meet the caterer and florist as well as see the venue. Emailing is a great form of communication and our generation is very fortunate to have a way to contact people from around the world, but there is nothing like a face to face conversation with someone to get your point across and share your vision. If you cannot make the trip then make sure to have weekly skype calls set up with your planner and any vendor you are personally in contact with. 

Be really specific! I know we all think that we don’t want to impose on people or they heard us the first time but chances are, they didn’t. Especially when dealing with a language barrier. Most destination weddings are in places where people have different styles than you might be accustomed to, so make sure you have plenty of pictures and mood boards as examples when describing your vision.

I was unable to meet our photographer as he was located in the UK, but I did not have any doubts. Ross Harvey is world renowned and I knew he had to be my photographer from the moment I saw his first photo on Instagram. He is brilliant and although I had already made a deposit with another local photographer, I was prepared to lose it, because I knew Ross would be able to capture my wedding better than anyone! Photos are so important so splurge a little when it comes to the photographer, these will be your forever memories and will last a lifetime. 

When meeting with our florist I had so many images to show her of exactly what I wanted. We spent hours going through my already established Pinterest board, as well as her examples of previous weddings and items in her show room. It takes time to build a masterpiece so do not rush the process. 

The food taste testing was marvellous, Giorgio had a variety of appetizers lined up for us and we were so full before we even reached the dining table for our three course meal! The wine was flowing and Giorgio offered amazing insight to the Italian culture and traditions of local weddings. Here is a big tip, listen to what the vendors have to say. I know I just finished telling you to explain yourself until you cannot stand to hear your own voice, but, you MUST listen to their suggestions as well. They do have the experience and they are successful for a reason, so use their expertise to your advantage you won’t regret it. 

Waiting for the wedding

This is the best part of it all, the long wait. It feels like the big day is never going to come but savour every moment of it. Planning and talking to your friends about all of the exciting surprises you have planned for the guests (such as opera Tenor Trio emerging through the crowd after cake cutting, I’m not kidding) is what made my day so special. You know you have everything planned perfectly, so let the pieces fall where they may. I continued to stress myself out about every little detail because I am a perfectionist, and I know if you are too, this will not change you; but take my advice and smile every day because It will pass by so quickly. You’ll wish you could start it all over again from the beginning.

Getting to your destination

Bring an extra luggage! That’s what we did , I know there is a fee with the airline but it is worth it. I packed a luggage with my guestbook, pens, arrival gifts, wedding stationary, shoes, headpiece and so much more. It was all so neat and I felt great knowing it was right beside me. Also, flight attendants will hang your wedding dress in their coat closet so be sure to ask them when you board the plane and do not stuff it in the overhead compartment. 

Make sure to share more information than you think is necessary with all of your guests. I was asked the same question about 350 times even though it was all explained in my online wedding itinerary, which I had circulated to all of my guests months prior to take off. For some reason when people travel they feel lost, even if they’ve done it 20 times before. This time it’s for you, so yes, unfortunately everything is your fault in their eyes. It can be stressful, so remind yourself why you decided to go away in the first place and remember, once everyone gets to the destination they will relax and appreciate what you’ve planned for them. 

Daniel and I decided to fly to Italy before the rest of our wedding guests, so that we could adjust to the time difference, settle in and not feel rushed. We stayed in Milan, which is the closest major city to Lake Como and enjoyed a beautiful dinner just the two of us. It’s so important to have some quality time with your significant other as it really does set the tone for the rest of the trip to follow. You want to feel connected to one another and reminded of why you’re there to begin with.  

Our bridal party then met us and we had organized a bachelor/bachelorette party for us and all of our closest friends to celebrate our final days as two single people! This was an excellent use of time in my opinion. Many people head off to Miami or New York for their individual parties but why not take advantage of the destination your entire wedding party is already flying to. We were able to kill two birds with one stone and our friends absolutely loved partying in a new foreign atmosphere. What a night!

The Big Day

Deep breaths, it’s finally here. I decided to have the morning to myself , I woke up in my beautiful hotel room, ordered coffee and room service and sat on my balcony with Baci (my Yorkie/ Ring boy). This alone time gave me the opportunity to be able to really take in the beauty of my surroundings. It was so peaceful and it meant so much to me to be able to relax before all of my girls headed over and everything became extremely hectic. 

I brought a makeup/ hair stylist with me from Toronto as I didn’t want to entrust my glam to someone who had never worked on me before. I have a very specific style when it comes to makeup and hair and if you do also, I highly suggest flying out someone you know, or doing multiple trials with local stylists on your pre wedding planning trip. 

My girls all looked so beautiful. The music was playing, the windows were open and the breeze from the serene lake flowed into the room to keep all of us fresh. Beauty can take hours especially when there are 5+ girls to get through. Make sure to provide food and refreshments so that your bridal party isn’t famished throughout the rest of the long day to follow. My amazing hotel provided us with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, champagne and soft drinks, they were beyond helpful at every step of the way. They even had a laundress in my room steaming all of the girls dresses and preparing my veil and gown. I truly felt like a princess and will remember it all in crisp detail, as if it was just yesterday. 

I was ready, we had taken all of our photos and it was time to make the journey to the wedding venue. I could not have done this alone. Family, friends and planners are all your support system. Lean on them because you will need help and one day you can return the favour! I was truly blessed to see how much everyone loves me and to be able to have the wedding of my dreams. I will be forever grateful to everyone that contributed along the way. Be patient with them if at first they do not share your vision, because trust me, once it’s the morning of and they are there by your side, none of that other crap will matter.

*** Blog contributed by Bianca Rose Girimonte www.biancaroseblog.com