Keep Calm: Call a Wedding Destination Specialist

By Bonnie Tai

It’s common knowledge that wedding planning and stress go hand in hand. Add in a foreign country plus the juggling and transportation of tens of guests, and your special day could turn into a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, it’s a task that you don’t have to take on alone.

Mandi-Forrester Jones of World Wide Weddings has been in the business of delivering destination weddings since 2009. She believes there is a common misconception among people that it’s easier and cheaper to just book their flights, venues and accommodation on their own — when in fact the opposite is true.

“There’s no extra cost to do it with someone like myself,” she tells travelBulletin. “When people decide to book with a specialist they’re basically getting our knowledge and expertise for nothing.”

Having a destination wedding is a choice made by many Australians every year, but very few people truly understand the amount of work it takes to coordinate such gatherings, she explained, and this in turn can lead to trouble when certain details are overlooked.

Forrester-Jones gave the example of a recent bride who had to be “rescued” after she decided to go it alone without consulting a specialist.

“A bride who was taking a large group to Fiji decided to book her flights online,” recalled Forrester-Jones, “and while she was on the island, the airline changed the return flight time”.

The carrier then sent the bride an automated email, which unfortunately she didn’t receive.

“And when she contacted the transfer company to reconfirm the departure time, they advised her the flight had changed, so she had to spend the last two days of her honeymoon reorganising everyone’s transfers, booking extra nights’ accommodation and changing flights.”

Natural disasters and other acts of God are also commonly overlooked by the DIY planner, mused Forrester Jones, who has had to move entire wedding parties during cyclones and storms on many occasions.

“The last cyclone in Fiji was a bad one and a few resorts had to close for long periods for renovation…we negotiated with airlines to change flights, we found alternative resorts for weddings, we changed everyone’s bookings…imagine doing that on your own!” she exclaimed.

Forrester-Jones also highlighted the fact that the average consumer would not have the same kind of negotiating power as a destination specialist, meaning if things did go wrong, couples would most likely have to foot the bill at full price — and that doesn’t come cheap.

“I’ve negotiated special offers based on volume for the guests, then had other people who did not book with me complain that they didn’t get the offer,” she explained.

Another wedding specialist who has been left to pick up the pieces after disaster struck during an overseas nuptial is Personal Travel Manager Deahann Urqueza.

Urqueza, who is a travel agent that specialises in Fiji weddings, explained to travelBulletin that a lot could go wrong when civilians attempted to do a specialist’s job.

“I’ve had clients try to book all their guests’ rooms online before all the prices changed due to instant purchase and they weren’t able to get all the accommodation confirmed,” she said.

“People don’t realise that specialists like us actually have the ability to secure fixed room prices.”

Other problems that are commonly encountered by those who choose to book their ceremonies online involve people failing to fill in the right paperwork to ensure their weddings are legally sound, as well as having guests scattered all over the place as they were unable to secure a single resort or hotel to accommodate the entire guest list.

“It’s not uncommon for a couples’ guests and family to be spread across parts of Fiji and not at the designated resort, which can create a logistical nightmare for them on the day of the wedding,” she said.

Urqueza explained that while the allure of a six-star location without the six-star price tag was a major draw card for those looking to host an overseas wedding, it was still important to consult an expert before planning such a huge occasion.

“We do weddings every day. We know the suppliers and we have all the contacts — it just makes sense to choose to work with an expert,” she said.


Top Tips to Planning an Overseas Nuptial

1. Choose the right venue

Make sure the venue you choose is suited to the kind of ceremony you want to have. Consider the people attending (such as elderly, disabled or children) and ensure logistics are planned to suit the entire guest list.

2. Research, research, research

Read as much as you can about the destination to ensure that you have fulfilled the legal conditions for marriage in the country you choose.

For example, Thailand requires that your marriage documents are translated into Thai before they are submitted for certification by authorities.

3. Create a budget

Although it’s widely known that holding a destination wedding can be a cheaper option than holding it at home, it is important that you factor in every cost as it can all add up.

It is a good idea to try and pay for as much of the event as you can from home to ensure that any nasty surprises are avoided upon check-out.