Europe is where romance was born, let us take you there…
Europe has always been appealing to American folks. It has the romance, the lifestyle, a rich tradition and a tangible connection to the past that draws you in.
France and Italy are two of the most popular destinations among couples-to-be-married and honeymooners, not only for their unique culture, delicious food and wine, but also for their idyllic settings. No wonder wedding producers seize the opportunity to travel internationally for a wedding whenever they get the chance to do so. They see it as an enriching and exciting experience and working overseas never fails to impress their industry peers.
However, participating in making their clients’ wedding an unforgettable experience means they have to face all the challenges of planning a wedding abroad.
Challenges of planning a wedding abroad
Besides the time difference and legal requirements, the biggest inconvenience destination planners have to cope with is not being able to rely on their network of trusted vendors. Producing a flawless event and creating a beautiful design becomes a different kind of team effort and requires working alongside vendor partners that are not necessarily used to the American brides’ standards — this can be daunting.
Therefore, sourcing material and making the clients’ vision a reality requires patience and perspiration. Shipping decor elements such as tabletop and linen supplies from the U.S. or having them custom-made by local craftsmen is the best way to go for wedding designers looking to work with a specific color palette or style.
Cultural and language barriers may sometimes lead to miscommunications and forcing the American custom onto European vendors that do not understand American standards can make the process extremely difficult. Compared to North-American weddings, French receptions are more down-to-earth, emphasizing less on a perfectly design affair than on a celebration of two families coming together where the main attraction is the cuisine and the wine.
Planning Tip: It’s common knowledge that the French love their food! At their weddings, many couples opt for a seated dinner that usually includes a 4 to 5-course meal. Bare in mind that typical French wedding menus often include foie gras or baby lamb served rare, depending upon the region. So do make sure to let your caterer know about your diet habits before giving him ’carte blanche’ on your menu selection. And oh, by the way, don’t be surprised if the chef asks you what alcohols you’ll be serving at the vin d’honneur (cocktail hour) — French weddings always include an open bar – and if all your guests will be attending. In France, wedding guests are not necessarily invited to the whole shebang. Some get invited to the vin d’honneur or dessert only.
Many couples having a destination wedding go for something different than what they would do in their own country. They want a wedding that reflects their personality as a couple and give it a unique feel by showcasing elements of the local food, culture or entertainment. But most importantly, they want to spend quality time with their nearest and dearest in a region they love and often decide to skip all the hoopla of domestic wedding planning.
Navigate work ethic nuances
In Italy, having to navigate work ethic nuances can be tricky, especially to those who do not master the language or are not well traveled. Response times can be slower — or inexistent — and Southern vendors not always document every agreement they make. Planning from a distance without being able to meet with people face to face or build a relationship with local vendors is definitely another huge challenge a destination wedding planner has to face.
Planning Tip: If you’re a wedding planner or a floral designer, handling the paperwork in order to access to a flower market in Italy does not necessarily mean that you’ll be all set. As you may or may not know, the attitude of their staff will depend upon whether or not they had a good night’s sleep. Just kidding, but I remember this one time when the lady at the reception didn’t grant us access until I requested in the local language to speak with the manager whom I had been in contact with. To her defense she claimed that we didn’t look like her typical Italian clients…
Event producers who get to work overseas only on rare occasions don’t necessarily have the opportunity to find out how local vendors do things differently and are not always met with the greatest respect and cooperation from local representatives. Working with a region specialist who will help you build a realistic vision of how a wedding in your target region looks and feels is key. At the same time, this local expert will source vendors while you concentrate on taking care of your clients.
Being friendly with local vendors and meeting them halfway can also be useful to develop relationships with industry peers who will sooner or later open up their network. For those who don’t get to visit the region before the wedding, arriving a few days prior to the event and familiarizing themselves with the area is a must.
Even if planning a destination wedding can be tedious, planning weddings abroad remains a very rewarding job. You get to discover different regions and cultures, local traditions and customs, and experience new flavors. But the best part is getting to create long lasting and meaningful relationships with vendors from all over the world, broaden your horizons and eventually, make you a better person.