Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Where to Wed

From Christina Friedrichsen's Intimate Weddings: Planning a Small Wedding that Fits Your Budget and Style, www.intimate-weddings.com

The biggest decision a couple faces for their destination wedding is where to have it. Some couples might know right away where they want to say their vows: The place is a favorite vacation spot, a place they've always wanted to visit, or a convenient or affordable location. For other couples the choice might not be so easy: The couple agrees on the climate but hasn't made up their minds on the specific place, or worse yet, they prefer places at different ends of the spectrum-Europe for her, the tropics for him.


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Some wedding specialists suggest either choosing a location that you have already visited or visiting the location before your wedding to ensure that the place meets your expectations-but that can be expensive. If you have plenty of good information on the location, you've received recommendations from other couples or from travel agents, and you don't mind taking risks, you might want to forgo the visit. If you won't be comfortable making wedding plans without having set foot in the chosen location, visit it first.

Six steps to choosing a suitable location
Start early. It's important to nail down a few possibilities early on. Some wedding specialists suggest you start planning six months to one year in advance. The sooner you can start planning your wedding the better. If you plan well in advance, fewer places will be booked up, and you may be able to take advantage of cheaper prices on flights and lodging. Planning ahead will give you more time to research locations. You will also be able to give your guests plenty of notice so they can schedule vacation time and save up for the trip.

Learn about the legalities. Once you have a few possible locations, find out about the marriage laws in each region. France, for instance, has a forty-day residency requirement, whereas Jamaica has only a one-day residency requirement. Several Caribbean islands have residency requirements of one to ten days. If you want to get married in Cancun, you and your sweetie will be required to submit blood tests and copies of your birth certificates or passports.

In the U.S., laws vary from state to state. Hawaii, for example, simply requires driver's licenses. You can get information about what documents and health tests are needed by contacting the county marriage license bureau. Make sure you ask how long paperwork processing takes.

Many resorts and hotels throughout the world provide wedding coordinators who can help you understand the region's legalities. Some coordinators will even assist you with filing the required paperwork. To get the necessary information on your own, contact the location's tourist office or U.S. consulate or embassy in that country. Some government Web sites and some travel agents are other possible sources of this information. Ask the following questions prior to selecting a location for your wedding.

  • What types of documents are needed? Do they have to be translated and/or notarized? Are originals required, or are copies okay?
  • What documentation do you need to produce if you are divorced or widowed?
  • Is there a residency requirement?
  • Are any other waiting periods required?
  • Are blood tests or other medical tests required? If so, can your own doctor perform them, or must they be done in the country of marriage?
  • How many witnesses are required?
  • Are religious wedding ceremonies considered legal, or must they be preceded by a civil ceremony?

Find a place that fits your budget. Your budget will play a role in the location decision. As you figure out how much you want to spend, you'll need to decide whether or not you will pay for your guests' travel expenses. Some couples' wedding budgets allow them to make this nice gesture. Other couples have guests pay their own way, which is also fine. Find out if the hotel or resort offers group rates. Such deals can save you and your guests a chunk of change. If you are on a tight budget, consider a wedding set during the off-season. Choosing a country where the currency exchange rate is favorable can also ease your budget concerns.

Find out about wedding packages and wedding coordinators. If you choose a package deal, make sure you get the lowdown on all the vendors. Look at the photographer's work, and listen to the musicians' demo tape. If a wedding coordinator is included, find out if he will be on-site during your wedding. Having someone on-site to help you with the planning process will make things a lot easier. Many hotels, resorts, and chapels offer wedding planning services.

Whether or not the wedding coordinator's services are part of the package, do your homework. Get the names of some of the coordinator's past clients as references-and check them out. Find out how many out-of-town clients the wedding consultant has had. Check out some online wedding forums where you can talk to other brides about wedding coordinators. Seek advice on whom to consider and whom to avoid.

If you choose to forgo the wedding consultant and plan your own long-distance wedding, find at least one contact who can check out the vendors for you. This can be someone at the destination or a reputable travel agent at home who has plenty of experience with destination weddings.

Research the location. Before you make a final location decision, do plenty of research. Don't choose a place on a whim or just because it seems like a good deal. For each location you seriously consider, find out everything you can, including:

  • Is the area safe?
  • Is the water drinkable?
  • Do you need special vaccinations before arriving?
  • What's the weather expected to be like around your wedding date? What type of attire will be appropriate?
  • What types of sight-seeing activities are available?
  • Are discount rates offered for group tours?
  • Does the hotel or resort offer activities for children?
  • How old is the place of lodging?
  • How many U.S. weddings have been performed at the resort? Are references available to be contacted? Read travel guides, talk to other couples, and check with travel agents who have information on the region.

Get it in writing. Do not rely solely on verbal agreements; get everything in writing! If a vendor doesn't live up to his end of the deal, a hard copy of the agreement will carry a lot more weight than a handshake when you seek your due.

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