I have shot weddings all over the place: La Jolla, Austin, Charleston, Sonoma, the Hamptons, Los Angeles, St. Thomas, and the Finger Lakes. I’ve shot engagement sessions in New York City and Washington, D.C., and I am about to shoot a wedding in San Francisco. For anyone who might be planning a travel wedding (or a destination wedding, the difference being that the bride and/or groom actually live in the place we're traveling to), here are some important things I’ve learned.
Destinations are amazing for those of you really, really desiring an intimate wedding. They are great for people who travel and want to experience new things, but lets not kid ourselves: Planning a travel or destination wedding does not mean less work. You have to rely 100% on internet referrals and the opinions of people you've never met. Oftentimes, once you’ve picked your venue, the venue will provide vendors and you just have to trust that those are the best people to handle your big day.
My advice when planning a travel or destination wedding is to think about who you're inviting and whether they can get there. Cost is prohibitive, and so is location. For example, the Zika virus has taken out half of the places we normally have destination weddings, and there would be many people who couldn’t attend an event in these areas. That being said, some of those locations are the most beautiful, magical, romantic places on Earth to get married. Just know going in that there will be unexpected factors to consider if this is the route you choose to take.
One of the biggest benefits of a destination wedding is that you don’t have to pay for any decorations. The location itself is the best decoration you'd ever need! When people are in a new place, everyone will be more relaxed if they don't have to think about planning their local transportation. I highly recommend keeping your wedding all in one location by picking a place that would accommodate the ceremony, reception, and where guests can stay overnight.
When considering what you need to bring, keep it simple. You have to rely on the site for food, decoration, venue, and DJ. This leaves your personal items, wedding attire, and of course, your photographer to fly with you.
Reasons to Bring Your Own Photographer
• Frequently, resorts will have a designated photographer. These preassigned photographers are rarely going to match your stylistic tastes. If you go with a local or venue-preferred photographer, make sure you vet them and their work just like you would any other.
• You're not going to know this person before the day of your wedding, so you will not have an existing rapport with them. Taking a trusted photographer with you guarantees that you will already have a relationship with the person capturing this day, in a location you and your guests have invested in.
• Best of all, your relationship doesn't end when you get back on a plane to fly home. You get to continue working with that person in your hometown after your wedding. There is an added element of accountability when you're designing an album or viewing your files back home. Whoever you chose should not be the default choice. You are already investing in an incredible location, and the photographer you choose should be up to your standards and able to capture your day in unforgettable images.
A Word about Beaches at Sunset
While a beach at sunset sounds ultra romantic (and it is!), you're dealing with serious backlighting and unpredictable weather. You need a photographer who is technically adept to pull that off. This is not the time or place for a friend or uncle with a nice camera to take over. My travel weddings have been some of the most technically challenging shoots I've ever done. Not only are we all dealing with heat, bugs, water, and waves, but the lighting itself can be a real issues if you haven't had education and experience shooting in these kinds of areas.
I think having a destination or travel is one of the best decisions you can make if your priorities are a small wedding, adventure, and travel. Just go into it prepared and know that this kind of event doesn’t equate to any less planning or investment.