The destination wedding, or “weddingmoon”
If you’d like to get away for your wedding, the first decision you need to make is where to go. The destination could be a simple day drive away, or it could require a passport and aeroplane ticket to get to.
Then you need to choose the venue. Bear in mind that not all guesthouses or hotels are suitable for hosting a wedding. Here are five points you should keep in mind when choosing a venue for your wedding away from home.
What do they offer?
First find out if the venue is geared towards destination weddings. If so, they will probably have wedding packages available. Find out what is included and if there are various options. For example, will they handle the catering and how much can you expect to charge for it? If they’re not prepared to cater a wedding, do they have a trusted function caterer they can recommend? Ask them to break the package down in great detail so you can be clear about what is included and what will cost extra.
Whether or not they offer a package, remember to make sure that they have everything you’ll want – enough chairs, for example. If you want to get married in the garden, you might want a canopy or arch. For an evening reception, you may want lanterns or fairy lights. Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of walking down the aisle on a red carpet. Make a list of all the little details you envision at your wedding and ask about them. If the venue doesn’t have these, you’ll have to either bring them with you, or find a place nearby where you can hire them.
It would also be good to check if the venue offers transport to and from the airport, and at what charge. Your guests will be grateful to have this information.
Do they have an events coordinator?
As you’ll be far away in the months leading up the event, it will be very difficult for you to plan all the fine details yourself. You might not even see the location until you arrive for your wedding. If the venue has an experienced coordinator, you’ll be able to leave these details in their hands.
Smaller guesthouses probably won’t have their own events coordinator, but they should be able to recommend a local wedding planner. They should also be able to recommend trustworthy vendors, such as florists. If they can’t supply you with this information, it may be an indication that they don’t have much experience with weddings, in which case you might want to look elsewhere.
Do they have a suitable space for the ceremony?
The website of the guesthouse you’re looking at might show pictures of beautiful gardens, but are these big enough for the ceremony you want and will you be allowed to use them? Don’t assume that since your hosts are happy to arrange a reception dinner, they’ll be willing to let you take their chairs outside onto their perfectly manicured lawns. Make absolutely sure that you understand each other regarding where the ceremony will take place, at what time, and whether it will incur extra costs.
While you aren’t expected to pay for your guests’ accommodation, you do need to make sure that there is enough available. Check if the venue has enough rooms and if you can reserve them – your guests can pay you back later.
If it is a small place, it might be necessary to book it up entirely, in which case you could ask for a discount. It is preferable for the whole bridal party to stay at the main venue, but you might have to find other options for the remaining guests. Your chosen venue should be able to recommend suitable alternatives nearby.
A variety of rooms is an advantage. Ask about a honeymoon suite, and suitable rooms for singles, couples and families. The venue should be able to accommodate them satisfactorily. (If children are invited, remember to check that they’re welcome at the venue!)
Finally, you need to make sure that, if there are any last-minute problems, they will have back-up plans, or at least be willing to compensate you. As you’ll be in another part of the world until a few days beforehand, you won’t be able to make alternative arrangements yourself.
Check that there are no renovations scheduled for the weeks leading up to your wedding that might overlap with your plans. What happens if it rains on your wedding day? Will they be able to move any outdoor events inside?
Make sure that you get all agreements in writing, including who will be responsible for what. Clear up any concerns now and don’t be afraid to hassle them. It’s your wedding and your money – you have the right to peace of mind.
The part-time University of Cape Town Guest House Management short course starts on 5 September 2011. Contact Kerry on 021 447 7556 or visit www.getsmarter.co.za for more information.