Having an International Destination Wedding? Should you Hire a Local Planner?

While it may be obvious, planning an destination wedding overseas is often more complex than planning a wedding back home. The main wedding day events – ceremony, reception and after party – are likely the same. However, a destination wedding typically consists of multiple events over the course of a weekend or several days. In addition to the broader scope of your weekend, there are also a myriad of nuances to consider such as time differences, language barriers, and currency and cultural differences. With so many moving parts, it’s not hard to see why planning an international destination wedding on your own in a far-flung location can quickly become overwhelming, and why hiring a full-services destination wedding planner to help manage the details can prove to be a wedding saver! Once you’ve made the decision to hire a pro, the next question is whether to work with someone who is local to you or local to the destination. There are a few different factors to consider, and the best option for you will largely depend on the expertise of your destination planner. Here we break down those factors so you can hire the best pro to help you plan your far-flung big day. 

Focus on Your Vision versus Location

When you book a planner because they are based in your wedding destination, chances are your wedding will be one of many weddings that look and feel the same. While there are of course exceptions, it’s very easy for planners based in popular destinations who are juggling multiple events to slip into an “off the shelf” mindset that results in cookie-cutter events. Add to that the fact that some vendors have networks and contacts with whom they work exclusively. Instead, lead with your vision versus the location as you begin the search for a wedding planner. Experienced destination planners will look to their on-the-ground networks to find you the best venues and hot spots for that special rehearsal dinner or welcome party. Hiring someone with fresh eyes – who may not be based in the location – will give you a look that’s truly curated to you, a vendor team aligned with your style, and a series of wedding events that are built with your vision in mind.  

Cultural Differences

When selecting a planning partner for a far-flung locale, understanding their knowledge of the region, including traditions and local rules and customs, is key. What’s traditional in Bali, for example, may be quite different in Italy. However, your planner doesn’t need to be based in the region to appreciate these nuances. Check with your planner to understand their background and experience in the destination. Do they understand import/export laws for bringing in rentals and specialty items. Delve into the breadth of their local network and ask whether they intend to build their team with vendors and purveyors local to the destination or whether they’ll bring them from home. Planners adept at working internationally usually have great contacts on the ground which allow them to navigate local rules and customs seamlessly. Keep in mind when working with foreign companies, US contract law doesn’t apply. Working with a planner that you contract with in the US, who will also appreciate your own tastes and cultural preferences from back home, can be a big plus when you’re putting on an event internationally. 

The Legalities of Your Marriage

If you are serious about getting married, be serious about your marriage documents. Just because you were married legally in a foreign country, don’t assume that your marriage will be recognized in the US. If your marriage documents are issued in a foreign country, you will also need to make sure that they are recorded in the US. Having a planner who can help you navigate marriage licenses and certificates according to law in both the destination country and the US is important. Keep in mind, if you do decide to have your official wedding ceremony overseas, some countries will require you to travel several days before your wedding for a blood test at a medical facility in your destination locale, and then follow through on the document recording once you are home. Some countries require to have a civil ceremony first if you intend to have a religious ceremony, too. While local planners may be able to help you coordinate your local wedding ceremony, they may not be as adept as helping you legalize your marriage back home.  


The reality is that English is a global language and most venues and vendors are adept at communicating in English. However, speaking a foreign language, especially that of your destination, can go a long way to getting ‘ins’ – such as insights into little-known venues for a great welcome party or access to artisanal treasures you can incorporate into welcome bags or your tables capes. At HauteFêtes, we speak six languages and have experience living and working in numerous Asian, North American and European countries including England, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Mexico, the Caribbean, Thailand and Japan to name a few. While Google Translate has made navigating the globe a breeze, having a planner who can converse with local purveyors is truly a plus that will likely serve to benefit your wedding in the end.

Time Zones

In terms of experience, destination planners usually plan weddings outside of regions where their teams may be physically based. Due to our expertise, network, and connections, the planning process and service our clients experience is typically identical to planning with someone based in the local region. HauteFêtes is based in California and more often than not, we are working with clients who live in the Mid-West or East coast. Accordingly, we have business/working hours set up to accommodate our clients based on times that work for them. When booking your planner, check to see how flexible they are and whether they are set up to work with vendors and venues in your destination. If you are never going to be able to see the venue and meet with vendors in person, or if communicating with your on-the-ground team will be difficult due to time changes, then having a planner partner who can handle this heavy lifting for you is key.

Travel Savvy

Navigating weather, handling foreign payments including knowing to ask about a country’s ‘Value Added Tax’ (VAT), and simply being on top of the logistics of moving guests from airports to hotels and the venue are all skillsets that an experienced destination wedding planning can bring you. A travel savvy planner knows to check on the immigration requirements of a destination. For example, some countries like Mexico require passport expiration to be at least three months from the date of entry. In several smaller Caribbean countries, guests shouldn’t rely on ride-share services such as uber therefore making pre-booking transfer transportation through your hotel imperative. Some countries like Turkey will require visas for Americans, but not for European passport holders. An experienced destination wedding planner should be on the lookout for travel quirks and will be able to help you provide up to date information for your wedding website travel page. 

Destination wedding planners will help you design and plan the celebration of your dreams and manage all of the logistical and production details of your wedding weekend, too. Certainly, you can hire a planner who lives and works in the location you’re getting married, but also, there are many talented destination wedding planners who are based remotely, too. Some people are more type A, they communicate better in person, and prefer there not to be language barriers. In those cases, hiring a US-based destination planner would probably make more sense to do. Just be sure to choose a planner with plenty of destination wedding experience; they’ll be adept at navigating time changes and language barriers, and they’ll know when to call in local reinforcements. The reality is that the best talent may not be local to your destination – but, a great destination wedding planner should have the skillset to pickup and plan your dream day in any location.

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