HAPPY 2018!! Did you have a good NYE?
Today (January 2) is Michael and I’s second wedding anniversary. Honestly it feels like our wedding was just yesterday AND a million years ago. I think it’s because so much has changed since we’ve gotten married, but we’re also still practically babies.
At the time of our wedding I wasn’t really blogging that much and didn’t talk about my wedding at all. Like, it didn’t really exist on here until I posted photos a couple months after the event!
So I’m going to travel back in time a bit and share some of the BTS and guests pictures with you guys. So yes this is a disclaimer: these are all guest photos and not our professional ones!! All of our professional wedding photos were shot by Michael of The Carrs Photography. He was incredible. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. You can see our professional wedding photos HERE. I didn’t upload nearly all of them because I didn’t want to bore anyone, but I think I will eventually because YOLO. There are also profesh photos of the rehearsal dinner that I never uploaded. Why?? IDK, but they will be coming to the blog.
And today I’m also sharing all of my tricks and tips for having a destination wedding. Michael and I are from Ohio and Kentucky but we got married in New Orleans! WHOA. But first, all our fun photos. And just an FYI this will probably be a long post, so keep scrolling!
Not to be dramatic, but we literally BARELY got a wedding license. Michael and his boys went to the NOLA wedding register office place but there was a huge mix up. Long story short they ran around the whole city and got it like 5 mins before the office closed.
Our rehearsal dinner! We had a private room situation at Bourbon House. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
A family friend generously made us these Fleur-de-lis cookies to give as favors at our rehearsal dinner. They were a huge hit and so good! EXTRA.
My Sister-in Law made the bride sign. So sweet!! And a church friend lent us the rehearsal dinner table pieces. Honestly we were really blessed by family and friends <3 <3
BOURBON MILKSHAKES. YES PLEASE.
Just us being us. ^^^
Two of my pre-wedding outfits. I wore the gold sequins downtown on NYE….Michael is looking a little rough in that photo. My rehearsal dinner dress on the left has a fun story. My cousin (and MOH) wore the exact same dress at her rehearsal dinner at her wedding just three months prior. We were both each other’s Maid of Honors. SO FUN.
^^^ The cute favor bags for all of my girlsss. Inside were monogrammed robes and I think jewelry + beauty things??
^^^ Obligatory Bride latte.
Our nighttime wedding.
FIREWORKS. They were a surprise gift from our venue. LITERALLY THE SWEETEST.
Why did we get married in a city we had literally never been to?? Well, for a lot of reasons. At the time Michael was in flight school. The number one thing on my mind with the wedding was making sure that the groom could actually be there. He couldn’t just willy nilly request 5 days of leave for a random time during the year. Little known fact, we originally scheduled our wedding to be in the middle of February in Ohio.
I had actually put down a huge deposit on a reception venue in Ohio and everything! But then Michael talked to his command and they were like uhhhhh. Good luck with that… AKA very doubtful he could get leave. So yeah, obvi a big problem.
We then decided to scrap everything and start over. We made a totally radical decision and decided to have a destination wedding closer to where he was stationed. And on NYE weekend. I started looking up southern estates and wedding venues. I found Southern Oaks and knew it was perfect.
We then had to break it to our families that we were asking them to travel hundreds of miles away from home to see us get hitched. Sorry guys!!
In some ways planning a destination wedding is tricky. And in other ways it can actually be easier than planning a traditional wedding. I planned it all myself (no wedding planner), booked it, and lived it y’all. We were BLESSED to have 120 of our closest attend. So here I am to share with brides-to-be my fav destination wedding hacks! Let’s do this.
PICK A HOLIDAY WEEKEND
Honestly guys, this is key. If you’re planning a destination wedding and want not just family to attend but friends as well, you have to pick an ideal weekend for everyone. People who love you WANT to attend, but if it’s in the middle of a random month and not on a 3 day weekend, they will have a hard time getting off work to travel there and back. We had our wedding on the Saturday of New Years weekend so everyone had a day or two off work. Major plus!
Also, a lot of people want to have a little vacay on their 3 day weekends, so your wedding will be the perfect excuse.
PICK A COOL DESTINATION
Okay. Having a destination wedding is asking a lot of your guests (time, travel stress, and MONEY). They love you and want to be there with you (duh) but it’s still asking a lot. A great way you can make the prospect of traveling across the country or world even more appealing, is to book a cool and enticing location. Tropical places in the winter will always be a hit. Or a cool mountain locale in the summer. New Orleans is such a fun place to celebrate NYE in, we were hopeful our guests would come to that conclusion as well! All of our guests flew in for the whole weekend and experienced a NOLA New Years Eve.
PICK A DESTINATION-FRIENDLY VENUE
If possible, try to book a venue that is familiar with destination weddings and the unique complications they carry with them. As a destination bride you can’t just drop by the venue to take a peak, or do a walk through the week before. Michael and I didn’t even see our venue before we booked it. If your venue is familiar with brides planning from afar, they’ll likely have special resources available to you. For instance, TONS and tons of photos and videos of the property for you to view online. Or in-house wedding planners/bookers to help you go over every detail.
Lots of tropical places usually have some kind of all-inclusive package. Depending on your wants/must-haves/budget this may be a fabulous option for you.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Since a destination wedding itself is a bit outside the box (although they are growing in popularity) you can get away with veering from tradition if you so choose! Not feeling sky high stilettos? Okay go barefoot on the beach. Don’t want a cake? Do something cute like cake pops. It’s your wedding, girl. Our venue was SO decked out (like, beyond gorgeous) I realized I didn’t need flowers. I had bouquets and corsages of course, but opted out of huge floral arrangements. Not into daytime weddings? Get married at night (check!).
I’ll give y’all another instance of thinking outside the box. We booked our photographer when we thought our wedding was originally going to be in Ohio. We then moved our wedding to New Orleans. I noticed the New Orleans photographers were soo expensive and I didn’t find any that I adored. So we ended up actually flying our photographer from Ohio down to NOLA. Best decision and worth every penny!
DAY AFTER SHOOT
Most brides and grooms depart their wedding and spend the next day traveling to their honeymoon locale. Well, if you’re having a destination wedding you’re probably already in a really cool location. This presents an excellent opportunity to have a “day after” photoshoot. Michael and I did a day after shoot! HUGE FAN and this is why: you’re way more relaxed! You’re *married*. You don’t have to worry about seeing each other before the wedding or saying hi to all your guests. You’re just unbelievably happy.
And you can get photos with different lighting than that of your wedding. We got married at night so daytime photos the next day were really nice to have.
MAKE IT AN EVENT
Your guests have spent a lot resources to get to your wedding — if possible make the entire situation an event! There are so many cool ideas for this one. You could have a welcome party + reception. You could have a day after brunch. Or a rehearsal dinner picnic. Or a booked activity like snorkeling, hiking, or a vineyard tour. Honestly, a lot will depend on your destination. I’m also very much aware that budget is a HUGE factor with this part.
We had it easy because most people arrived on NYE, and had a built in activity for that night (party + fireworks downtown).
ALL STAY AT THE SAME HOTEL
IMHO, the #1 difficulty with a destination wedding are the logistics. Like a traditional wedding, make sure you have hotel blocks for your guests. But for a destination wedding, I’d encourage you to go one step further. Arrange for your immediate family and wedding party to stay at the same hotel as you.
This will make everything a TON easier and it’s a lot more fun to be with everyone for the entire weekend. Should you pay for the rooms of your wedding party? The answer is different for everyone depending on your circumstances and budget. Trust your gut.
YOUR GUESTS ARE ADULTS
Speaking of logistics….remember that your guests are indeed adults and have travelled many times before. As a bride it can be easy to fall into micromanaging every guest and every detail. Provide your guests with ample details about everything (travel dets, hotels, addresses, times, etc) via your wedding website. But trust them to arrange and book everything themselves.
Use your wedding website (create a cute and free one HERE) as a valuable resource for your guests. Put in the work and find out all the fun things about your destination city. Create sections on your website of must-try restaurants and attractions for your guests. Make sure all your addresses for all venues (hotels, wedding reception) are listed on your website as well as start times for any events.
USE BRIDAL SUITE AS GETTING READY ROOM
One tricky thing I encountered was where my girls and I would “get ready”. Which was an all day ordeal involving a team of 8 hair and makeup people. I’m not even joking.
A lot of photos will happen in your getting ready room, so you’ll want to keep the aesthetic of the place in mind. Some venues will allow you to get ready there (which is IDEAL) and some will not. We decided to use my bridal room and adjoining room next to it as our getting ready rooms. When I booked the hotel, I specifically asked to have a room that had an adjoining door to the room next to it (which another bridesmaid was in, not a rando). We spruced up the room with balloons and framed on-brand wedding posters.
BRIDAL MAKEUP/HAIR TRIAL
Since you’re hair and makeup team will be local to the wedding venue, you probably will not have a chance to do a trial. Which I know can freak you out!! But don’t panic. You have a couple options. When booking your hair/makeup team, ask if they’ve worked with destination brides before. If they have, they’ll be used to receiving 256 photos of bridal updos from Pinterest. You can send your team TONS of photos of the looks you’re trying to achieve. And honestly they’ll probably be doing your look so many hours ahead of the event, that they’d have time to redo your hair if you hate it.
ALSO. You could do a trial makeup/hair look for your rehearsal dinner.
STEAMING YOUR DRESS
It’s likely your dress will get a bit wrinkled from traveling to your destination venue. Avoid steaming your dress in your hometown because it will most likely need a new steam once you arrive. Find a local wedding shop who steams, or see if your venue has in-house steaming.
Show your guests some love with welcome bags at the hotel(s). These DON’T have to be expensive. Your guests will likely be tired from travel when they arrive, and a sweet welcome bag is just so damn welcoming.
Here’s what I did: I got sparkly bags from a place like Hobby Lobby. I also got ribbon and on-brand decorative paper. My mom, church friends, and myself then made a few goodies to put in these bags. We made white chocolate dipped pretzels with gold sprinkles, our family’s famous chex mix, and I think pralines? We then bought a LOT of mini wines and put two in each bag. Because LBH people need a drink after traveling. There were a couple other things in there but honestly I forget. The MOST IMPORTANT part of your welcome bag is a sweet note (this is where you use your on brand paper). THANK your guests for traveling so far to celebrate your big day with you. Use the decorative ribbon and on-brand paper you bought and create cute labeled tags on each item. This will make everything feel very extra.
You can also give your bag a “theme”, like little goodies all from your destination city. However this can get expensive as you’ll likely pay a premium for all of the local goods, especially if you’re giving out 30 bags or so.
Kindly ask your hotel to give your guests the bag as they check in. If your guest booked a room via your hotel block, the hotel will know to give them a bag.
TRANSPORTATION FROM VENUE TO HOTELS
If you’re wedding venue is away from the hotels you and your guests are staying at, you should think of transportation options for your guests pre and post-wedding. This is uniquely a destination wedding problem, because a lot of guests may not have their cars with them.
There is surprisingly (??) a lot of debate about this on wedding forums. Should you be responsible to provide transportation to your guests to the venue if it’s a destination wedding? Answer: It’s totally up to you.
You could provide transportation via chartered vans and buses. Straight up tho guys, this is VERY EXPENSIVE and could also be a logistical nightmare. You could also kindly ask your guests to Uber, Lyft, or rideshare with eachother. Depending on the locale, a lot of your guests may already have a rental car.
Chartered vans/buses in NOLA on our wedding night were so insanely expensive, there was no way we could provide transportation. Here’s what we did: We counted on our guests to find transportation to the venue on their own (see “adult” section above^^). For the bridal party, I had a luxury van to take me and my girls to the venue! I think the boys did an UberBLACK. Post-wedding, Michael and I ran off via a limo. We kindly asked our wedding party to share ubers/lyfts with each other back to the hotel. In our wedding ceremony booklet (you need one) we provided numbers for local taxi companies, and also Uber/Lyft app information for our older guests.
OKAY THAT’S IT! Is this my longest blog post ever?? I think so. It honestly feels so good to share this info with the world! I had the hardest time finding any info about destination wedding logistics and tips + tricks. If you’re a destination bride and have any more Q’s, always feel free to reach out. The fastest way is through Twitter.
LOVE Y’ALL AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.