You’ve budgeted for all the major items – the venue, dress and photographer. But there are lots of little...
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By Maria Yeonhee Ji
New Zealand is a stunning island country, and for many people, it feels as though it’s situated at the ends of the earth. With its unparalleled natural wonders and the availability of a large range of diverse experiences, it’s no wonder that our country has so much popularity as a dream wedding destination. Whether you’re an Aucklander wanting to create a sense of the exotic adventure/getaway here at home, or you’re living overseas and dreaming of a destination wedding in or around New Zealand’s largest city, here is an easy-to-follow guide to planning the perfect destination wedding.
Image sourced via Ascension Wine Estate
Choosing the perfect venues for the wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon is the first and most important step in planning your destination wedding.
Image sourced via The Wharf
The ideal venues will have the aesthetic to match your ideal wedding, but also the capacity for the number of guests you’re inviting and have suitable and affordable accommodation for all your guests nearby. This latter point is especially crucial for destination weddings - though you and your partner may be prepared to invest a considerable sum for this whole experience, not all of your guests may be in the same position.
Image sourced via Bethell’s Beach Cottages
However, if you settle on a more remote Auckland location that requires somewhat strenuous efforts to reach, which has limited flexibility in terms of reasonably priced accommodation in the vicinity, you may find that you get more gracious apologies in the RSVPs than you’d been anticipating. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing - there are numerous perks to having a smaller guest list,
and having a destination event is definitely one of several graceful manoeuvres to help you get that intimate wedding.
Image sourced via Rydges Auckland
If you’ve got your heart set on a destination wedding with a large guest list, consider an urban setting for the ceremony, if not also for the reception. Auckland is known as the City of Sails - even inner city venues have exceptional water views and a romantic feel. And your guests will appreciate that this city has New Zealand’s largest and busiest airport meaning they can minimise the number of transits/transportation steps they need to take to get to and from your wedding.
Image sourced via Hurakia Lodge
You could also use this destination wedding to get the most out of being able to gather your nearest and dearest on one site - and there’s nothing quite like spending quality time together on a holiday to get people to bond. Consider booking one of the truly luxurious and intimate accommodation options in the Auckland area for a few days before or after the wedding so that you can unwind and make some memories with those who have travelled this far to celebrate this milestone in your life.
Once you’ve settled on the destination(s), it’s time to plan the details so that everything works in your favour.
Image by Kate Little Photography
Be mindful of the peak wedding and tourist seasons and try to avoid these - booking a wedding in the off or shoulder seasons (i.e. the periods of time between the peak and off-peak seasons) means you won’t have to pay inflated prices for the same services. But the perks of an off-season wedding don’t just stop at the budget. Read this article if you want to find out more about the benefits of having a winter wedding (June to August) in Auckland.
If you’re not particularly financial savvy, you should definitely do some prep before diving into the deeper ends of wedding planning. First and foremost, it’s important to be conscious of the exchange rates - the last thing you want to do is burn through your savings and exceed your wedding budget by miles just because you’ve chosen a destination where the exchange rate is clearly not in your favour. Secondly, think about which credit cards will give you the most rewards and/or air miles. If you already have a lot of points accumulated on your account(s), it may be useful to think about where these can be used before finalising your wedding destination.
Image sourced via Floral Stylist Co.
You may have had some very particular, detailed daydreams about the exact details of your dream destination wedding. However, if you’re willing to embrace the realities of your event’s setting and timing - opting for bouquets and floral installations featuring seasonal blooms and menu options at the reception that are based on seasonal ingredients, for example - you’ll much more likely to get more for your allocated floral/food budgets.
Image sourced via Trish Peng
If you’re not from New Zealand, try not to leave buying wedding essentials until the last minute. Be a forward thinker and bring everything you can possibly fit into your luggage so that you can avoid relying on local services/last minute purchases made in panic mode. If there’s a difference in seasons between your home country and New Zealand, it can be a good idea to keep an eye on wedding dress ateliers’ and bridal wear stockists’ websites and social media for end-of-season markdowns - you may be able to get some spectacular pieces perfectly suited for the season in which you’re planning to have your wedding here.
Image sourced via Honeypot Registry
Physical wedding gifts can be a nuisance to deal with when it comes to destination weddings - you may face significant challenges of either needing to ship and/or physically haul a large number of goods back home. To avoid this kind of hassle, sign up early to a wedding registry which allows your guests to contribute to gifts such as honeymoon experiences, flights and other transportation, and accommodation (since you’re in New Zealand already for the ceremony, why not make the most of the sublime offerings this country has to offer for the honeymoon?). Not only does this position you and your partner well financially for your travels together, but you’ll have so many more genuine ways to thank your guests for their meaningful gifts.
Image sourced from Twig + Twine Floral Artistry
When it comes to planning a destination wedding, having fantastic vendors - professionals who are innovative, flexible, and reliable - will be absolutely crucial for your mental health. Though bringing your own vendors from home means you know you can trust their work, this will come with the extra expenses of paying for their transport and accommodation in addition to their services.
Image sourced via The Caker
If you do manage to organise a visit to Auckland before the wedding, book appointments with several well-known vendors for each type of service you require. That way you can meet the teams personally to get a feel of their style, ask for examples of past work, inquire about any the possibility of any specific requests you may have, and start negotiating contracts if you feeling the love straight away.
Image sourced via Radikal Neon
Another great way to find expert vendors is to ask the venue(s) you’ve booked for a list of recommended professionals with whom they’ve previously worked. It’s a good way of sourcing local talent, with the additional perk that you’ll get vendors who are familiar with the venues’ strengths and limitations. Sometimes venues have working relationships with specific vendors so it’s good to enquire about these as you may be able to book services at more competitive rates.
Image sourced via Just My Type
It’s a good etiquette to inform your guests about wedding details several weeks before the intended event, but for destination weddings, it’s better to give them even more notice (think in the order of several months). This will give plenty of time for your loved ones to apply for leave from work, save up for the costs of traveling and accommodation, get passports/visas/insurance sorted, get any necessary medical check-ups (this is particularly relevant if they’ll be on one or more long-haul flights to get to Auckland), and organise any extra vacations or business trips that they might want to plan before/after your wedding. Make absolutely sure that your invitations are error-free before sending them out. Even though mistakes in your wedding stationery can cause disorder and distress in any wedding irrespective of location, the consequences are only that much more concerning if your guests have travelled considerable distances to what could be an unfamiliar area.
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