Planning a destination wedding is no small task. Wedding planning in general can be quite stressful since there are so many details to cover – from the big stuff like venues and menus to the little details like what to wear and selecting an LGBT wedding set. Planning it to take place in a far flung city is made more difficult since often you can’t really be there to see everything in person. But planning a gay destination wedding presents some unique challenges – namely, finding an inclusive and welcoming location as well as LGBT friendly venues and vendors.
The Challenges of Planning from Afar
Planning any wedding is difficult, but planning one that’s meant to take place hundreds or even thousands miles away from home presents unique challenges. For LGBT couples, those challenges are compounded by wanting to ensure the city, venue and vendors are all LGBT friendly not only for the comfort of the special couple, but also their friends and family.
To start planning your wedding, first choose the actual destination. You want a place that is LGBT friendly, easy for tourists to navigate and somewhere your friends and family will actually be able to go. So Easter Island, the North Pole and Antarctica are probably out.
When choosing your destination, keep the following things in mind:
- Check flight options. Will your friends and family be able to get there without changing planes four times and enduring a seven hour layover in Kansas City?
- What’s the weather? Check records for the average weather conditions for the month you plan to get married. Off-season prices may be lower because of extreme rain or snow.
- What else is happening? Check the local events calendar for the city to see if any fairs, festivals, concerts or other events might draw tourists in which can complicate your wedding and drive up prices for local goods and services.
- Can guests get around? Check local mass transit options as well as car and bike rentals ahead of time.
- How LGBT friendly is the city as a whole? Even if you’re going out of your way to choose gay friendly venues and vendors, be sure the city itself is welcoming. Your guests will probably be staying a few days around your wedding so be sure they’re not stuck in a place where the LGT community is routinely harassed or marginalized.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect city for your dream wedding, begin looking around for vendors. Working with a wedding planner is the best approach for this if you have room in your budget. A wedding planner will know and have a relationship with local vendors and can advise you on the best hotels, restaurants and travel options for your guests.
If a wedding planner isn’t in the cards, you’ll need to do some serious homework of your own. First, scout around for a local venues and make a shortlist of venues that have what you’re looking for. Do the same with local bakeries, caterers, florists and an officiant for the service.
Visiting the city in which you plan to be married is a great idea so you can check out your final venue options in person and chat with local vendors in person. It will also give you a first-hand view of the city which means you’ll be able to offer guests tips on local places to see and visit.
Organizing these details is overwhelming no matter how you cut it, so do yourself a favor and get a wedding planner or download a checklist from established, mainstream wedding sources like The Knot, Brides or even Martha Stewart. Are they likely to have resources that focus on LGBT weddings? Probably not yet or, if they do, the selection will be limited. But their knowledge and experience means that you can use their checklists and planning resources as a comprehensive template.
Coordinate as much as you can through one central hub. Many venues today offer some level of wedding assistance as part of their package so inquire about the service. They may be able to easily recommend local stores, services and caterers and even handle coordinating the finer details directly once they get information on your tastes.
Finally, ensure that you’re on top of every detail by using a wedding planning app for your smartphone. You’ll be able to set alarms, reminders and checklists which you can share with your entire bridal party. When planning this type of wedding, delegation is more important than ever before.
The Resort Option
For a destination wedding with a bit less hassle, consider taking advantage of wedding packages available through LGBT friendly resorts. When you have your wedding at a resort, they are able to handle all the details for you including catering, flowers, seating and sometimes even the officiant unless there is someone in particular you have in mind.
Resorts are often seen as being a bit expensive and it’s true hotel stays can cost more but, for a wedding, many times the price isn’t that far off doing it yourself. More to the point, having someone else handle the coordination end of things is a great weight off the couple, making any extra cost sometimes worthwhile.
If you consider having it as a resort, ask about any minimum night stay for guests. If the resort has anything beyond a three night stay minimum, ask about nearby hotels for guests who may only be flying in for the weekend and aren’t planning for longer stays.
Including Those at Home
Whether you choose a place a few hours drive away or somewhere where guests will need a passport, keep in mind your location may prevent some people from coming. Have a plan for ways to include those at home by offering to stream the wedding via Skype or something similar. This is something you would need to work out with the venue ahead of time so if this is a priority, add it to the questions to discuss when choosing the final venue.
If streaming the service isn’t your style – and even if it is – plan to hold a smaller reception in your home town a month or so after the big day. This will give you time to recover from the wedding and have a honeymoon if that’s part of your plan.
Planning the second reception will still require a bit of work, but since it will be done locally, you can recruit friends and family to help out and, if the weather cooperates, plan to hold the reception at home for a casual but welcoming affair.
Destination weddings are more and more common as people choose to begin the rest of their lives in the setting they always dreamed of. But planning a destination on your own is no small task. Get organized with the help of established resources that you can tweak to fit your situation and reach out for help whenever possible.
While the planning can be stressful, saying your vows against the backdrop you always dreamed of is well worth the time and effort. Now that marriage equality is here, it’s time to step forward and create the wedding you always wanted, and the Happily Ever After so many people have fought for you to have.