PROS & CONS OF DESTINATION WEDDINGS
A non-exhuastive list of some of the major pros and cons I came across while planning our wedding. Overall verdict: totally worth it, but there are still some important things I wish I knew ahead of time.
Pro: Self-selecting rsvp list
There can be a lot of drama as it relates to your guest list when planning a wedding. How many guests each person gets, who gets a +1, capacity issues, the list goes on. However, one of the best parts about a destination wedding (and I mean this in a good way) is that by default, it curates a guest list of people who really want to be there for you and are willing to go out of their way. Also, it's completely forgivable if someone can't make it because you obviously made it complicated, so there isn't the resentment that can happen if someone chooses not to go within really convenient circumstances. Since destination weddings tend to be smaller, you also won't run into capacity issues like you would with headcount at a US venue. These can be so tight you're on a 1 in 1 out RSVP basis, and with a destination wedding (the way we saw it), if anyone was willing to make the trek, we'd be more than happy to buy them dinner and drinks! We weren't faced with being strict about the numbers because there was no way we'd get over 100 people, and I think it was a huge benefit of doing a destination.
Con: some people very important to you may not be able to come
As I mentioned in this article, you really, really have to be ok with some people not being able to swing the trip for whatever reason, and not get mad at them about it. People have a lot going and there can be a struggle between you wanting people to go out of their way for you versus people not understanding why they have to go so far out of their way. Remember, people attend a LOT of weddings besides yours and have to prioritize accordingly. In the article I also talked about that you have to clear even the IDEA of the destination with important people before you make a decision, so your expectations are managed from the start. You want close friends and family to feel like a part of the process and know that you are taking their schedule into consideration. Before putting down a deposit, you should 1. figure out if have the critical mass you want and 2. make the non-negotiable people that need to be by your side can make it. Weddings really are all about the people and if you or your future spouse has a significant chunk of their core loved ones missing, it just won't feel right, no matter how beautiful the locale.
Con: You can only decorate what you can bring in a suitcase or ship beforehand
This was tough for me, as I am nothing if not a DIYer, so I had to prioritize convenience over aesthetic for a lot of the decor. It was perhaps more simple than I would have normally done because we had to pay a planner to rent decorative items. Paying for gold candelabras instead of spray painting my own from a Michael's 40% off sale was a bit frustrating, but at the end of the day you are paying for convenience. It would have been at least $100 to ship a 10-15 lb box to Italy, and at that point, why am I complaining about pricing? It's all a wash. I also didn't have to force my bridesmaids (we didn't have any) to come 2 days early and do crafts with me, which your bridesmaids might say they love but let's be honest, getting put to work is the worst. Make the role of your friends be to enjoy themselves, and while you're at it, make sure you enjoy their company instead of spending time hauling things to the venue.
So therefore, PRO: You Can Only Decorate What You Can Bring In a Suitcase Or Ship Beforehand
Like I said, I live for a DIY, but often to the point where it takes way too long and stresses me out and doesn't turn out how I want it to. My instinct is to always do it myself, but when you've got a lot going on, you aren't adding value by glue gunning tiny details no one will notice or remember. So this kind of forced me out of the weeds and to focus on the big picture; I knew the general vision I wanted (read more about that here), I knew the types of flowers I liked, and I only let myself make small things that I could carry with me that I knew I was good at (PS can buy our Italian themed place cards, welcome bags, the signs, table numbers, cake toppers, etc. here). So I got my fix without taking on some epic centerpiece project and inhaling days' worth of spray paint fumes.
CON: AN ITALIAN WEDDING HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE REALLY EXPENSIVE
I know I keep referring to the affordability of a Lake Como wedding, but I should caveat that depending on your choices, this has potential to be very expensive. In addition to the typical wedding-related fees, you need to factor in your travel costs to get there, stay there for an extended period of time, and probably to host your guests for more than one day. Beyond that, specific to the area, there are a lot of high-end, luxury, 5-star venues and accommodations that if I had searched first, I would have gone running. That's why I include a spectrum on our venues & vendors page, because I want people to see that the more affordable venues are still absolutely stunning. Another risk that can rack up quite a bill are places that don't come with necessary basics, i.e chairs, plates, linens. Even if the base venue price is decent, when you're bringing everything in and you're in a small(ish) town, your options are quite limited with vendors and you're probably paying a premium. Not only for the items themselves, but for the labor involved in setting up and taking down. Individual vendors may have their own delivery and setup fees, and some wedding planners don't allow anyone not on their preferred vendor list, and if you hire them, you're responsible for project managing their tasks. The other price factor to take into account is transportation. To get over 50 people across the lake (on a private vessel) for 15 minutes, it is at least 1200 EUR, and you may be making several trips if the ceremony, reception, and lodging are in different places. Conversely, if you were to pick 2 sites on the same side of the lake, you could transport them for 300 EUR by bus. There's always another option and always a tradeoff, and if you're willing to take the time to research, you'll be able to find something that works for your budget. If not, contact us, because we probably looked into it :)
PRO: THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO MAKE IT AFFORDABLE
When a lot of people think of Lake Como weddings, you may think about what you've seen from Chrissy Teigen & John Legend, John Krasinski & Emily Blunt, George & Amal Clooney, the list goes on. Yes, there are many luxurious areas of this part of Italy, but there's so many hidden gems as well. The best part about Europe is that old doesn't look dated; instead adjectives like rustic, charming, cozy, and old world come to mind.. While the 4 and 5 star resorts are great, an older, less updated villa has so much charm in its historical preservation whereas a casual restaurant with outstanding food could make for such a unique reception. You have to remember, by default, your guests are in an amazing location, so they probably won't judge your venue too harshly.
The biggest pro that you'll here me talk about over and over? Several vendors I've found do not have venue fees! This is a HUGE money saver! In the US, everywhere I went wanted us to drop at least $10k just to book a space, and it included nothing. I could not wrap my head around this. When we looked into Villa Cipressi, and understood that we essentially just had to pay the tab for what we ate and drank, I was astounded. Thrilled, even. It almost makes too much sense. Yes, you pay a deposit, but it goes toward your bill and you're not eating the arbitrary cost of a space rental. I don't know this for a fact, but I gathered that weddings are treated a little differently in Italy; I think the perception is they more like a nice dinner/celebration/private event not entirely out of the ordinary, while in America, it is an entire industry and big commoditized 'to-do.' When you e-mail the planners, they'll give you detailed price breakdowns (which change all the time), but I can recall several I saw that were either a deposit or an all-in-one fee price per head that includes absolutely everything. So you can put that venue fee $$ toward you & your families flights, toward hosting people Friday, toward really nice welcome bags so people feel at home, whatever you want! It's a nice cushion so you don't have to completely skimp on the extras and feel like your budget is bursting at the seams.
CON: YOU HAVE TO RELINQUISH CONTROL
This is an important one that you have to really think about being okay with. Especially in a country where the language and customs are different, you can't assume people know what you want, understand what you're saying, or are really prioritizing your event at all. You are one of many functions they are putting on; things said in passing that someone else needs to manage will often get overlooked, people are often unreachable and you can't get to the site yourself, and you just have to really hope for the best and commit to letting the mistakes roll off your back. For me, this was a broad spectrum. One big thing I couldn't control is that no one told me that our venue shuts down for majority of the winter. I had put off a large portion of my planning until winter when I had more time, but all of the sudden I could.not.reach.anyone. The venue didn't answer their phone or emails for 2 months, my planner wasn't totally sure why, and we were left scrambling once they opened back up. Not being able to go check it out myself was frustrating, for all I knew they had shut down and my wedding was no more. Then there's the little things, for example, my twinkle lights weren't in the right place so our reception was super dark (which was a big component of my decor) and our under plates were silver instead of gold like everything else and I wasn't thrilled with mixing metals. The wrong wine was served while we were dancing, I said no roses in my florals and there were tons of roses... I could go on but I'm not complaining; in my head it still was totally perfect, and yours will be too. I'm sure many brides go through the same detail snafus, but I think they are escalated a bit when things get lost in translation. I just mean that some of these little things may drive certain personality types crazy, so if you require perfection, I'd think twice about a destination wedding.
pro: you're forced to streamline and simplify
As they say, less is more. And it really is true. The great part about destination weddings is that you probably chose a place where the backdrop is decor in and of itself. You already have the built-in ambiance of a charming location, and any details you add are simply extra and often unnecessary. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I wouldn't recommend choosing a white box that you have to bring every vendor and linen into, if you can, choose something quintessential to the location that provides a baseline experience that cannot be made or broken by silver under plates. So, in addition to not being able to bring stuff in your suitcase, you can really focus on the location and spend money on the things that really contribute to the experience. For example, it was more important to me to spend money on hosting people on Friday night as a thank you than it was to have big florals at the church (believe it or not, they would have been priced similarly!). I'd take the memory of our rainy boat trip over some garland archway any day, but sometimes in the moment, you'll think that EVERYTHING will be ruined if you don't have this one menial detail. So if you're concerned about the margin of error, simplify to less things (and therefore less errors), and take advantage of your surroundings to meet your vision.