Destination Weddings Discussions

International planning woes--we can't fly back and forth to organize! What to do?

Hey everyone, 

I'm new to this board, and basically, we aren't doing a destination wedding, but we are an international couple, currently living in Tel Aviv, and we're planning on getting married in MI, where I grew up, and where my family is. 

We have a bit of a problem. We can't afford to fly back and forth all the time to plan the wedding. Basically, we can only be there for a few weeks, fairly soon, to apply for our fiance visa, and to get started on some stuff. Then, we have three months (at the MOST) before the date of the wedding, where we can be in the area. We anticipate having a date that's either a year or a year and a half from now. I know there's a lot that needs to be done in between, and I don't trust a wedding coordinator, or anyone else, to do it for us. 

What can we do to ensure that it all gets organized within these ridiculous time frames? Is it even possible? What can we safely do from afar, vs. actually being in the area for? My parents can and will help, but I unfortunately can't trust my mom to make decisions that we'd actually be happy with. 

Help! :( 

Re: International planning woes--we can't fly back and forth to organize! What to do?

  • First I want to say, don't stress yet. 12-18 months is plenty of time to plan a wedding, and your time frames don't seem ridiculous. :-) Since you're visiting soon, I'd suggest setting up meetings with possible vendors to discuss options and review any possible contracts. Have you submitted any RFPs (request for proposal)? This could allow you to determine which vendors to consider. 

    Now, if it's in your budget to hire a coordinator, I would definitely suggest doing that. I know you said you don't trust a wedding coordinator but keep in mind that's what they do for a living. Read their reviews; if they have a Facebook page, check it out. Do your research. Because you're planning from so far away, you're going to have to relinquish at least some control and just trust in those you choose to work with to organize your day. It's hard to do, I know. I'm a planner and it was not in our budget to travel to Hawaii to meet with vendors and view locations. I met our coordinator the day before our wedding, and the officiant when I met my H at the alter.

    If you aren't able to make a vendor location decision during your first visit, I'd also suggest allowing your mom, if she's able, to view possible locations in person and take photos for you to help you compare. She could help with the leg work, but it would be up to you and your FI to make any final decisions. But, if you think she would make final decisions for you, perhaps you could ask another family member or friend to help (be aware that some brides frown upon this and say it's bad etiquette, but in this case I think it's fair).

    Remember to take deep breaths every once in a while during the planning process :-) Things will work out. Good luck!
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  • Jells2dot0Jells2dot0 Cowtown mod
    Moderator Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I agree- you have to learn to trust a coordinator or have a go-to person in your family that you can trust to see things through. We live in Arizona, but got married in Australia. The flights alone are $1400pp, plus transfers to the island, and the place we got married is around $1K/night.So, we definitely could not go back and forth. The wedding coordinator at the resort sent me a check list of items I would need to have them arrange, plus a notes section to describe what I wanted. I also sent her pictures. She and I exchanged a ton of e-mails and she shared pictures as things progressed as well. I relied a lot on the internet, e-mails, and for the photographer, researching websites and reviews, to get it right. In the end, it was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. However, when having a destination wedding, you have to be able to sit back and not be as involved and be able to give control to others. It just will never work and you'll end up being too stressed to enjoy the engagement.


  • Thanks so much for the advice, everyone! 

    First of all, I chatted with my mom today about several things, and I think she's actually chill enough about this that it shouldn't be a problem. I was just worried, as, before she sees exactly what I'm talking about, regardless of what it is, she always gets nervous about my choices, and goes on about why I should do what she wants. :-P (I might take after her; she and I seem to have the same problem with perfection! ;) )

    Since we're probably going to only have 3 weeks or so the first time around in MI, and those weeks will, besides the visa process, likely also include lots of seeing family and friends we haven't seen for years, plus a potential engagement party, plus potentially going to a friend's wedding (so FI can see what actually happens in an American wedding), it's going to be super-cramped. I know we need to do as much as possible in those weeks, though. I've tried going through my Knot checklist of things to do, but am getting kind of confused.... what all should I aim to get done in those weeks? I know it will be extremely important to look at venues, catering, and to try on some dresses, not to mention the whole visa process, but what else? Basically, how should I split it, since I have these few weeks coming up pretty soon, at the beginning of the planning process, and what can I leave for the last three or so months before the wedding? What stuff is best left for in-betweens, for my mom to hash out? 
  • I think if I were in your shoes, I'd focus first on venues, catering, and perhaps a photographer during your first visit. Those will be the most important items (next to attire of course :-) ). As Jells pointed out, you will be able to do A LOT - if not everything - via email with your vendors. 

    Also - as a DW bride, I found TK's wedding checklist unhelpful. So as far as how to organize their items, I'm not much help. Sorry. 

    Keep us posted on how things go! :-)
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  • saric83saric83 member
    Ninth Anniversary 500 Comments 100 Love Its Name Dropper

    I wouldn't worry about not being able to visit either.  We had our wedding in Mexico, and we had never been to the resort or anything, so it was all coordinated via internet. 

    With regards to what to focus on in the first trip, you and FI need to talk about what are the most important things to you to do in-person and which things you could do online and/or through your mom or other people. 

    If it were me, I would definitely want to get the venue, catering and probably DJ (I would want to meet that person to see what their personality is like) booked while in town on the first trip.  Venue is #1 of those three since you can't book anything else until you have your date solidifed.  And agreed with PP that you should start narrowing down options, getting prices and booking appointments with different places before you get to MI.

    If you want to order your dress from the US, definitely get that done during the first trip! If you'll be in MI for at least three months before the wedding, you'll have plenty of time to get it altered, but that probably wouldn't be enough time to get something ordered. 

    But I would personally feel comfortable booking a photographer and florist without meeting in person, so I could handle that online. 

    The key will just to be organized and maybe make Pinterest your new best friend, so you can start compiling ideas, and then you could do all of the random little things online or later in the process.  Good luck!

  • Awesome--I love the bit about doing the biggest, most important stuff first. I get the feeling we're going to primarily look for 1. the venue, 2. the vegan catering, and 3. the church with a willing interfaith pastor ( x-P ), as well as my dress.... and anything else we can squeeze in from there. I guess DJ/band/orchestra is also a good thing to get organized asap. 

    I guess I was mainly asking which things need to REALLY be done in advance for a typical American wedding, vs. stuff that is/can be done within the last 3 months. Just as an added bit of info, it's going to be a bigger wedding, because I have a huge family, so not exactly DW-like in anything other than the distance during planning. ;) 

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