April is here!!! I can barely believe it because exactly 1 month from today I will be boarding a plane to head to my WEDDING in Italy! I have been planning this wedding for about a year now, and I am beyond excited that it’s almost time for it to happen! With that being said, I want to start a 4 part weekly series of wedding blog posts to share some of my planning efforts! Let the wedding countdown and month of posts begin!
Planning an International Wedding
Choosing your Destination
Soooo many people (and I mean almost everyone) ask us “why/how did you choose Italy to get married?” We had been engaged for 3 years when we starting seriously planning and our choice was made pretty simply. We toured several venues, all of which were gorgeous and located on Amelia Island in Florida. Not only were the locations beautiful, they were extremely expensive. I could see us getting married there, but I wasn’t necessarily “in love” with the venues because it just seemed overpriced and over the top. Here’s how I saw it: a 4 hour, $150 per person dinner party that will cost you at least $20,000. My fiance and I met in high school, and one of the places we had always said we wanted to visit together was Italy. Specifically, I’ve seen pictures of the Amalfi Coast and dreamed about going for years now. After talking with my parents about my venue dilemma, they asked me: if you could get married anywhere, where would you do it? Without hesitation I said the Amalfi Coast of Italy and whipped out my Pinterest board filled with pictures of my dream vacation. They responded by reminding me of the absolute truth–that life is short. If we wanted to get married in Italy, why not do it?
So we decided we would do it, we would get married in Italy (still crazy to say)! That was our perfect location! What you have to keep in mind when choosing your destination is how this will effect your potential guest list. For us, we never wanted a “big” wedding, so we were totally fine with it. I always pictured myself with an intimate wedding and maybe a party later, but I knew I just wanted my very closest friends and family to actually be there when I got married. There are a lot of people who will not be able to come to a destination wedding, and that’s okay! At the end of the day, the wedding is about you and your significant other, and that is it. After we told everyone what we were doing, we started planning away!
Finding a Place to Stay
After choosing your date and deciding on the amount of time you want to spend at your destination, step 1 is to make sure you can find good lodging! We knew we wanted to go in May because the weather would be perfect, and after looking at dates for school and work, we settled on our trip lasting from May 4th to the 15th with our wedding day on the 10th pretty much because we liked the number and we could have the ceremony whenever we wanted.
Next, we started researching places to stay and I highly suggest using VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). We thought it would be best if our group could all stay together to make everything easier, so we narrowed our searches to having the right amount of bedrooms. Pretty quickly we came across a 10 bedroom/10 bathroom Villa overlooking the Amalfi Coast and I fell in love. It had amazing reviews left from several people who got married in Italy–which was so perfect! We contacted the owner and it couldn’t have been better because he introduced us to his in-Villa event coordinator and a wedding planner, how lucky were we!?
Find a Wedding Planner
Planning an international wedding is not easy. The hardest part is trying to figure out all of the legal documents needed to have an actual wedding–most of which are in Italian. You need to visit the U.S Consulate here with several forms filled out, bring a translator with you, have your birth certificates translated into Italian and printed out, bring all of that with you to Italy, and then follow another long series of appointments at the Italian Consulate so receive the proper paperwork. If one thing is wrong, the wedding isn’t happening. So for me, I knew I wanted to hire someone in Italy that could help me make sure I had everything in order and make that process a smoother one. The owner of the Villa introduced me to the Book of Dreams owner, Alessandra, and she quickly began helping me plan everything I had been envisioning. If you choose this route, make sure you know what they offer as far as helping you with legal paperwork. Alessandra makes appointments in Italy for you, fills out forms, and offers to go with you to appointments in Italy so that you have someone who speaks Italian with you.
There is no way we could have planned this wedding without a professional planner based out of Italy. She knew the area, gave advice on locations, contacted every vendor and made all arrangements, and has been making sure everything will be in order for our big day.
Start Planning Wedding Day Details
Your planner will most likely have a list of vendors lined up that they generally work with. First, we chose the venue. I knew I wanted to get married somewhere outside and by the water, which is why she suggested Villa Fondi and I immediately agreed.
Keep in mind that in order to legally get married in Italy, you have to get married at a town hall location. Italian town halls are clearly not like what we are used to, because most of them have gorgeous balconies or gardens for a beautiful wedding!
After the venue comes transportation to and from the wedding (I will talk more about transportation later, but I highly suggest having someone drive you everywhere and not driving yourself), flowers, photography, decorations, makeup and hair, music, and your reception. All of this is just whatever package you prefer! Think about what colors you want, what flowers will be in season, what hair would go best with your dress, it’s time to break out your Pinterest board and go to work!!!
Things to Consider
- Are you going to rent a car? I suggest not, just because several people who have been to Italy have told me that they were constantly lost, the roads are windy, they got pulled over, and they overall wished they would have just had someone drive them who knew where to go.
- Do you want to take a separate car the day of the wedding than your significant other? I personally don’t want him to see me! So I made sure to arrange for 2 vehicles.
- What colors do you want for your wedding theme? I’ll be honest, you won’t have too many options because these venues only offer so much. I went with red and white because I thought it would look beautiful next to the blue water. From here, I just Pinterest searched bouquets and sent what I found to my planner!
- Do you want just pictures or picture and video? We decided to just go with photos because I couldn’t see us ever really watching a video again, plus it’s a big expense!
- What pictures are must-haves for you? This will help you choose the right package. I knew I wanted some pictures of us getting ready at the Villa, pictures at the ceremony, and pictures of us cutting our cake (we aren’t having a traditional reception–it’s just our group of 12 adults and 1 child!). I relayed what I was looking for, and this fit in a half-day package!
- Make sure you ask how you will be getting your photos after everything is done. It is common for them to mail you a USB drive once you leave Italy.
- Stick with your color theme! You probably will get to choose the aisle color, chair color, and if you want to add any sashes to your chairs. I wanted to add more color than just the flowers so I chose a red aisle to walk down, white chairs, and red sashes.
Makeup and Hair
- My suggestion is to pick what looks best with your dress style. Some dresses have so much detail and you want your hair mostly up to show it off.
- Yes, I am a professional makeup artist. No, I do not want to do my own makeup for my wedding. I do other people’s makeup all of the time! I want to relax on my wedding day and let someone else do mine. Choose whatever works the best for you!
- You will also be able to choose if you want a trial or just hair and makeup the day of the event. I personally did not care enough to take a day out of my Italy vacation to go to a salon for a trial run, so whatever happens, happens!
- What do you want to hear when you walk down the aisle? After a few hours of listening to YouTube wedding music played on various instruments, we chose a guitar player. For the songs we wanted, it sounded so beautiful.
- You get to choose songs for various parts of the ceremony. We wanted to pick songs that we loved and that meant something to us. Here is what we chose:
- Arrival of the bride: Canon in D (Pachelbel)
- Exchange of the rings: A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)
- Signing of the register: Say You Won’t Let Go (James Arthur)
- Exit of the couple: All of Me (John Legend)
- How far are you willing to travel after your ceremony? We did not want to have to go far, I wanted to keep that special feeling going right into the reception! The venue we chose has a beach right below it that leads out to a restaurant on a jetty. We wanted to have a really fun family dinner here on the water! The restaurant had wedding dinner menus, cake options, and they play music, so this was perfect for us! All within walking distance!
- What type of atmosphere do you want? Maybe you really want to dance! It would be nice to choose a location with a dance floor and music. Keep in mind the size of your group because renting an entire space for a small group might not have that “party” vibe to it.
Make a Binder
One of my biggest pieces of advice–STAY ORGANIZED. As soon as we started planning, I started my huge binder. Here are my binder sections:
Print out every email between you and your planner for future reference. You will forget things she told you over this process and through all of your threads it gets hard to find in your inbox, trust me! Highlight all of the important parts.
Keep all of your receipts together! You never know when you will need something.
Print out Pinterest ideas! Keep a list of things you see in magazines or random thoughts that come to you so that you can run them by your planner.
Make a document that has all of your potential spending points such as the venue, flowers, cost of the planner, etc. and fill in the quoted price as you go. Mark what you have paid for when you send money! This will help you keep track of your budget and make sure you know what prices to expect for your total bill.
Keep track of your reservation for the Villa along with your check-in and check-out times.
I like to print out all of the package options and then highlight what I want to pick, that way I can look back and see what choices there were.
I will talk a lot more about this, but this trip is more than just a wedding! It’s a vacation! Here you can start planning all of the things you want to do while you are in Italy!
Start looking way in advance! The farther out you book, the better chance of getting the best deal! Also, keep in mind that there are certain times of the year where airlines offer specials! Don’t forget to coordinate with the group you are traveling with. I knew I wanted us to sit together for the long part of the flight, so we all bought our tickets at the same time and picked seats together.
Get All Important Documents
You will need to make sure that everyone has a valid passport! You and your significant other also need your birth certificates, so don’t wait until the last minute to find all of your necessary paperwork!
Set savings goals for each month! It will add up quickly and then you won’t be stressed as you get closer to your wedding date! Almost everything will require that you pay cash in Euros once you get to Italy, so you really have the entire planning process to save money which makes it nice. Don’t forget that on top of the wedding day essentials, you are on vacation and you will need daily food, money for excursions, etc. Also, it is important to keep in mind that all of the prices you are quoted are usually in Euros!! You need to convert the Euro to the Dollar and make sure you save accordingly.
Start Planning Itinerary
I will be making this part an entire separate post! Just be sure that you start making a list of things you want to do while in Italy! Do research, ask around, read blogs, get all of the ideas you can! There are so many options and so little time, so make sure you pick things that are at the top of your list! The hardest part will be deciding which day to do which thing, which takes a lot of time and patience to properly plan. I will be sharing how I created our 10 day Italy itinerary in my next post!
Make a Wedding Website
This is an incredibly fun and easy way to stay organized, while also letting your destination wedding group know the plan! It’s hard to always update people individually, especially when your head is in a million different places between planning an international wedding and real life in general. I found that updating the website when I received new information from our wedding planner or our event coordinator was the best way to let everyone know what was going on. I was sure to include prices, locations, and most importantly our itinerary. It’s been so nice to refer back to now that I started to pack my clothes and organize our budget, you just pull up your site and you have prices of each excursion, transport, and dinner! I thought that The Knot was a great way to make a website–plus it’s free!
Find Your Dress and Get the Tux
Dress shopping is FUN! You basically get to feel like a princess the entire day! I can’t wait to share the dress that I picked after our wedding and we get our pictures back! I’ve been keeping it a secret from most people! Give yourself plenty of time for alterations and to pick accessories. You will learn a lot at the alteration appointment–such as if you want a veil, if you want to add cups, if you want a crinoline slip, etc. Bring your shoes to check your height and just enjoy it!
Make sure that you go look at tuxes with enough time to get alterations done to it as well. I must say, the tux shopping is much more simple and laid back than the dress! Here you do have the chance to add in your wedding colors and see your future hubby in his wedding day attire (heart face emoji for sure).
Get Wedding Accessories
Don’t forget to pick out jewelry and shoes! Also, decide on a veil or hair piece! There are so many options, so don’t get overwhelmed and just try and think what you can picture for yourself in your dress. My parents surprised me with the most gorgeous necklace, earrings, and bracelet set of pearls for my wedding day. Pearls are timeless, classic, and very bridal, which makes them perfect! I wanted cute heels for our pictures, but I also bought a pair of rose gold sparkly Toms for the reception! Keep your comfort in mind, it is likely to be a long night and I knew I wouldn’t last in heels!
Order Wedding Favors & Gifts
Etsy is a magical, wonderful place filled with so many creative things! I ordered our wedding gifts and favors from different vendors on here, and I am thrilled with each purchase. I can’t talk about the gifts just yet, but I can’t wait to share them after the wedding! They turned out so good! For wedding favors, I know our group is small, but I really wanted something with our date on it so we could all have a keepsake. I found the cutest shop that had Italy themed favors and she worked with me to make can coolers and wine glasses! Check out String Bird Bridal for some awesome wedding ideas.
Don’t Forget the Pets
You will need to arrange for petsitting/boarding for your trip! Do this in advance, you never know how quickly people can book up! We have one cat and one dog, so we had to do something different for each one. For the cat, she is most comfortable at home and would be too upset to be boarded for that long. We bought a security camera from Amazon that allows us to both hear what’s going on and talk through the camera. This way we can see our baby while we are gone! It also gives peace of mind when having someone come into your home to check on your pet. I can make sure her food bowl gets filled and that she is safe and happy. For the dog, I suggest checking out doggy day care centers that also board! During the day, she gets to run around, swim, and have play time. At night, she gets a room to herself with a bed and a video camera so we can see her! I’m already nervous to leave our girls, but knowing they are safe will help ease the worry of traveling so far.
Extra Things to Keep in Mind
- Credit Cards
- Don’t forget to call your credit card companies and let them know you are traveling internationally.
- Cell Phones
- Check out what international plans your phone company offers. Don’t turn on phones that you don’t have to use while you are over there, because you will rack up bills just by receiving texts and using data to get notifications. Choose a designated phone to use as the calling and texting phone and add the international plan to that one!
- Start thinking about what you will be doing during the day on your trip and planning accordingly! I will have a separate post on packing, but grab items here and there that you know you will want on your trip. For example, I personally wanted a few cute “bride to be” things to wear leading up to the big day! Just keep your eye out over the course of wedding planning so you are not stressed at the end trying to desperately find cute outfits!
- A post on this will be coming soon! Start thinking of things you want to do to get ready for your big day in the realm of skincare and makeup! I can’t wait to share what I have been doing and my suggestions!
- Almost everything you reserve will need to be paid for with cash Euros when you arrive in Italy. Make sure you head to your bank and order the correct amount of Euros that you need ahead of time to save A LOT of money in conversion fees at the airport.
There it is! My list of everything I can think of that I have been working on for the past 11 months or so. It’s surreal that my day is almost here, so I hope that this list helps other future brides who are thinking about doing a destination wedding! All I can say so far is if you have been thinking about it, do it. I am so incredibly excited that we are doing our wedding this way! Yes, it is very different and there are sacrifices you have to make in order to travel to another country for your wedding, but so far I think it is worth it. Your money goes A LOT farther, and you get an entire vacation out of it rather than just a one night party! Let me know any questions you might have and I look forward to sharing 3 more wedding posts with you soon!