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How to Plan a Destination Wedding

couples coordinates how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora

Are you planning a wedding with your partner but you’re not sure if you want all the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding at home in the US (or wherever you live)? Alex and I fell into the same boat back in 2016 when we began discussing our wedding. We had a few requirements: we wanted a small wedding and we wanted to get married barefoot on the beach. To us, the idea of a church packed with 300+ friends, a night spent separate from one another running around attempting to thank everyone who came to celebrate, and a $50,000+ bill didn’t sound very attractive. After all, isn’t the wedding night supposed to be about the couple? Isn’t the true purpose of the wedding for a couple to proclaim their love for one another and publicly unite as one? Why add cost, stress, and complexity to something that is meant to be so pure and beautiful? So, we opted for a destination wedding and had the most magical experience of our lives. If you feel like you’d prefer to circumvent the wedding madness, let us help you figure out how to plan a destination wedding.

couples coordinates how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora
Photos by Damien Gobron

Talk to your partner

Like the majority of the decisions you’ll make for the rest of your life, this decision needs to be made mutually. Do you have wedding dreams/goals that you’ve considered your entire life? Are there aspects of the wedding that you’re adamant about planning? Talk with your partner and discuss what your wedding will look like. Try to have an open and honest conversation, compromising where necessary. If you butt heads on something and struggle to decide a particular variable of the equation, guys, concede the point and let your fiance make the ultimate decision.

Don’t worry about your parents

My parents had, sadly, passed just a year before Alex and I got married and her mother and stepfather were lovely, helpful, and not intrusive into our plans whatsoever. There was never a point where we felt like we had parental expectations to meet regarding our wedding and there was never a point where we felt out of control of the destiny of our day. If your parents are paying for the wedding, you’re in a conundrum like a college student who has your parents paying tuition – they are going to want some aspect of control. So, hopefully, part of your destination wedding planning is a goal of being autonomous, but if not, have an open conversation with your parents/in-laws and set expectations. This is your wedding and you expect them to let you plan the details. Communicate that you are already nervous about this new adventure in life and would prefer not to make decisions under duress.

couples coordinates how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora

Find your beach

Isn’t that a Corona slogan? Well, anyway, find your beach or mountain or countryside, or church, or whatever altar you want to use to proclaim your love for your partner and come together to unite as one.

Our process involved coming up with a shortlist of potential destinations, researching legal requirements, cost, travel time, overall aesthetic beauty, etc. Our shortlist included:

  • Four Seasons Bora Bora
  • Four Seasons Maldives
  • Four Seasons Seychelles
  • Positano – on the beach where we got engaged or at a hotel on the coast

After initial conversations, we whittled our way down to Four Seasons Bora Bora quite quickly. The year before, my in-laws had taken a romantic getaway to Four Seasons Bora Bora. They returned and immediately said to us, “You guys should get married there!” We loved the idea, but our original inclination was, “Yeah, right…like we can make that happen.”

Well, it turned out that we could make that happen and our wedding partnership with Four Seasons Bora Bora was essentially the culmination of years of hard work building Couple’s Coordinates. This was our most successful partnership to date and the moment we truly realized success with our blog.

how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora polynesian wedding ceremony

Understand the law

If you’re working with any resort, like Four Seasons, you’ll have a wedding planner or concierge member to collaborate with. Our team communicated the fact that we had 2 options for our wedding:

  1. Legally get married in Bora Bora – This required going to the Bora Bora courthouse, paying to hire a translator, paying the taxes for the extra paperwork, etc. etc. It would be have cost about $2,000 just to make our wedding “legal” in Bora Bora
  2. Get married at home – Legally get married at a courthouse in the US and have only a ceremony in Bora Bora

We chose option #2, for 2 reasons. First, we didn’t care if our wedding was legal or only ceremonial in Bora Bora. Second, we only had a week in Bora Bora; why spend half of one of our days at a courthouse when we could spend it at the beach or swimming with sharks? So, we technically have 2 days that we celebrate as our wedding anniversary: September 6 when we legally became husband and wife at a courthouse in the US and September 23 when we had our Polynesian wedding ceremony on our motu In Bora Bora. We celebrate both, because why not have 2 days to celebrate our love?

how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora michael

Determine your budget

If you’re planning a destination wedding, you might save money on the overall wedding, but there are costs to consider that you might not have at a wedding in your hometown. Among these ancillary costs are:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Meals during the trip
  • Transfer fees
  • International legal fees for a “legal” wedding

We planned well in advance, so our flights were covered by airline miles, our wedding/accommodation/transfer/meals were covered by our partnership with FS Bora Bora, and we chose to skip the “legal” wedding. Rather, we opted for a traditional Polynesian ceremonial wedding.

Leverage your resources

If you’re partnering with a resort or wedding planner, you’ll be able to mitigate a whole heap of stress. Working with the wedding planning team at FS Bora Bora, I think we exchanged MAYBE 5 or 6 emails back and forth to answer a few questions about our ceremony. We determined the day/time we would get married, whether we would use the church or the beach, whether the wedding would be a legal ceremony or simply ceremonial, what we intended for our dinner plans, how many guests would be joining us, etc.

The team at FS is well experienced in planning weddings so no detail will be left unconsidered. This allowed Alex and I to plan our honeymoon and have the wedding taken care of, essentially stress-free. If you have resources to leverage at a resort or hotel, take advantage of them and help them make your day stress-free.

If you don’t have resources to work with at your destination, use the resources you have at your disposal: the internet. Research and find reviews, tips, recommendations, and legal advice from couples who have gotten married in your destination in the past. Use blogs, Trip Advisor, Yelp, wedding forums, and other platforms to help rid your day of ambiguity.

how to plan a destination wedding four seasons bora bora alex and her mother

Determine your guest list

Look. This is your day. You don’t have to invite someone just because they invited you to their wedding. Similarly, you don’t have to invite your brother-in-law’s girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend. You just don’t. It isn’t an asshole move to not invite every person you know to your wedding – especially your destination wedding. Our only guests were my in-laws. That’s it. We had a bunch of Polynesian dancers and musicians on the island with us as we tied the knot, but we wanted our day to be casual, intimate, and about us – not about 500 guests.

With a destination wedding, the likelihood is that you’ll have a much lower acceptance rate than you might for a wedding that’s, say, down the street from where you grew up. We had a party/reception in Alex’s hometown after we returned from Bora Bora and we had something like 75 people come together for dinner, drinks, and dancing.

Consider the fact that anyone you invite to your destination wedding might be spending the first few days of your honeymoon with you. Also, consider the fact that going to a destination wedding as a guest is expensive and time-consuming, so don’t be disappointed if you invite people and they aren’t able to make it to your remote island. Be sure to communicate costs to prospective guests so they know what they’re committing to. Of course, if you have a large group that’s keen to join, leverage this to get special rates with the resort/hotel.

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