Monday, April 18, 2016

Why I Chose a Destination Wedding: Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy
It's been almost 7 years since our wedding in Rome, Italy. As I'm sure many women do, I think about my wedding often, sometimes daily. It was easily one of the best times of my life from the planning to the day of the event.  Our friends and family still talk about or wedding to this day, many telling us they want to go back or that we have inspired them to travel.   Often, when my husband and I are talking about our wedding with others they ask questions like "What made you decide to get married in Rome?" or "How did you plan your wedding from New York?".

Arch of Constantine, Rome, Italy
Why a destination wedding?

Why not?  In my opinion the destination for one of the biggest days of your life should represent who you are as a couple.  For us it represented our love for travel, embracing other cultures, our heritage, and our religion.  It set the tone for our marriage.  I'm not saying that it didn't come without sacrifices because it certainly did.  However, we, as a couple, needed to follow our hearts and we have no regrets.

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, Italy
Tips for planning a destination wedding

Here are 5 things we learned before, during, and after our destination wedding:

1.  If your destination does not include a wedding planner, hire one!  It's not easy navigating around another culture or even another US location.  Customs, expectations, the best vendors are all difficult to determine without some guidance.  A good wedding planner should be available to help you navigate the "system" and guide you on the easiest path possible to get what you want.  They should become your advocate, especially if you are dealing with a language barrier.  Also, who wants to be dealing with wedding vendors over the phone and possibly in different time zones!  Not to mention it takes a lot of pressure off the day of when they are running around doing the last minute coordinating.  Trust me.  You will thank me for this one!

Roman Colosseum, Rome, Italy
2.  Keep expectations about your final number of destination wedding attendees reasonable.  Expect to lose some guests who you really wanted to be there.  Let's face it, traveling anywhere can get expensive.  In our case, our wedding happened to hit when the Euro was reaching it's peak at around $1.60 to 1 Euro.  That's almost double the cost!  We realized we wouldn't have everyone we wanted there.  We actually accepted this fact prior to our final decision to have our wedding abroad.  We did invite over 300 people and ended up having around 85 guests.  We thought that was pretty exceptional since we were asking people to spend a lot of money for travel.

Trastevere, Rome, Italy
3.  If someone extra special can't make it then do something extra special to include them in your wedding.   This can be a big or small gesture.  In our case, none of grandparents were able to make it.  It was very hard for my husband and I not to have them there since we were very close to them.  However, for multiple reasons they just couldn't make it happen.  We did several things to include them in our wedding.  My grandmother gave me jewelry of hers to wear and we dedicated a speech we did at a gathering the night before the wedding to them.  My mother is of Chinese heritage so we incorporated Chinese accents into the decor and details.  I also changed into a Chinese qipao dress and gold jewelry to honor my Chinese heritage.  The biggest feat of all was skyping our wedding ceremony to my grandparents from the church which took advanced planning and some really techie brothers and father.  That was truly amazing! Paying respect and homage to our grandparents who had marriages 50 years+ was a symbol of our love for them and enabled us to feel as though they were present even though they were unable to be there. 

Cutting our Italian Wedding Cake, Villa Miani, Rome, Italy

4.  Stay within your budget.  This is a no brainer but my tip lies in picking and choosing items carefully.  For example, you may LOVE a certain flower, however, your destination grows a flower that is easier to obtain.  Choosing this flower could potentially save you tons of money in your budget.  For our wedding, we splurged on the Venue, Villa Miani, with great views & amazing food.  However, when it came time to decide on a cake we went not with a traditional tiered wedding cake but instead a simple Italian Napoleon wedding cake which was much more cost effective and followed our "Italian" theme.  It was also D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!!

5.  Give back to your guests.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you this but I'm going to anyway!  Your guests have traveled far, spent a good deal of money, and are extremely excited to celebrate with you.  Yes, they got a great trip out of your destination wedding but they did it for YOU.  Do everything and anything within your budget to show them how much you appreciate their generosity, excitement, and love for you.  We started by custom making welcome bags for our guests which included Italian goodies, maps, and recommendations of what to do in Rome.  We then had our itinerary attached which detailed when we would be at the hotel to greet people.  This last decision ended up in an impromptu gathering in the portico of our hotel, Hotel Santa Maria.  We also planned a guided walking tour of Rome the day before the wedding as well as a cocktail party the night before the wedding.  Throughout the days leading up to, the day of, and the day after we made plans to meet up for lunch, go out to dinner, and meet up at the squares in the evenings for drinks just to have more one on one time with our friends and family. I realize this sounds expensive but I assure you we didn't fund every outing.  We shared a lot of the expense and the experiences with our friends and family.  These gestures of appreciation are what really made the trip memorable!

Last and most important BONUS tip:  Enjoy every single moment!!!!  Try not to get caught up in the detail.  It will all fall in to place.  And, if something does go wrong at least you are in a beautiful place with the people who love you most!  Cheers!

Here are some items I recommend for your destination wedding:  
This passport case is so cute!  I have a simple one that someone gave me at my shower.  It comes in handy during all our travel.  Love these travel bags which compartmentalize your clothes and other items inside your suitcase.  Both my husband and I have these and I gave all of my bridesmaids a set also.  This portable luggage scale is awesome!  I can't tell you how many times our luggage has been over the weight limit and I've had to open our suitcases at the check in desk...ugghh!  This little gadget has helped prevent that so I highly recommend.  You have to get a travel jewelry case for all the items you will need during your events.  This or This are both cute and functional.  By far my favorite item and most useful is a travel steamer (here and here for more budget friendly options).  These little things are awesome and way better then an iron. You also never know what kind of iron you are getting abroad.  Our hotel made my husband's friend iron in the hallway!  I still whip out this baby at home too!

Details about our wedding:

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