10/28 Ask Liz About Your Hometown Destination Wedding

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3,840 miles away. Oy. Thank good for Air Travel and the Internet, right?

Dear Liz,

 I am living in the Netherlands right now, and about to begin planning our wedding back around my hometown in Maryland, near the summer camp where we met when we were both working there. Money is super tight, so simplicity in planning is key. It is safe to assume that I will have two visits to America, for about 3 weeks each,  when I can meet vendors and see things in real life. We have a venue that we’re pretty sure we’re going to use  for the wedding, but not much else. Do you have tips on planning a wedding from a distance?


American Bride in Amsterdam

Dear American Bride,

You’re right, the key is to keep it simple. So, the good news is  that if you decide to go with that venue (Wedding Planner  says, “Yes”) , you can  work that connection like a pole.  Hopefully they have catering? If not, get recommendations from them, as well as referrals for a Photographer, Florists, DJ, cake, and any other rentals you might need.  Be very upfront about how much you have to spend. Look at your choices, pick three at the most to contact, and go from there. And, remember, your ceremony and reception – site fees, catering – shouldn’t take more than 50% of your budget.  Make the venue your first stop on your first trip out here, and nail it down, if you can, and get those referrals.

The photographer is usually the next most expensive line item, so  try and get in a couple of meetings before you fly back to Amsterdam. If you don’t like any that the venue offers, get recommendations from friends and family or just google the area where your venue is. Always mind potential travel fees. Make it a goal to have a decision by the time you fly back.

And, of course, look for your wedding dress when you’re here, too, instead of getting it in the Netherlands and having to ship or carry it over. Dollars are still cheaper than Euros…I think?  You’ll be able to find something that you love, in your budget.

Your second trip out can be spent finalizing any choices you didn’t make on your first trip, plus any follow-up you have to do. Your third trip will be the same. And then you should be  able to keep track in between visits with emails and phone calls. Don’t worry, you’ll get it all done.

Dear Liz,

North Dakota OR BUST.

My fiance and I find ourselves in a bit of a predicament. We’re living in Norway right now, but his family is from the East Coast, while I am from the Midwest (a small town in North Dakota) and we’ve been trying to decide on a location. My grandparents  have to be  there, but they aren’t  able travel more than four hours to attend a wedding. Also, even  though we were planning on a small wedding, a good portion of the guests will be flying over from abroad. Would it be fair for me to ask all his friends and family to come all the way to my hometown? Oh, and did I mention that my hometown is a 10 hour drive to the nearest international airport? There is  a small local airport and train connections to my hometown, though. The airfare in is usually atrocious, but train fare can be very reasonable.  I appreciate any advice you may have!
– Country-Crossed Lover

Dear County-Crossed,

Wow. I…Wow.

Okay, the way I see it, you have two choices. Choice #1: Have a small ceremony in your hometown, without the majority of your out of town/foreign friends,  or invite everyone and go for it. My instinct says to go for it. Make an adventure out of it. Get a clear idea  of what it’s going to take to get to North Dakota, plane fare, train fare and accommodations included, and let all your guests know.  This is where wedding websites come in handy. If you can get all of them to come out on the same day, what about joining them on the  train? That could be a party.  Come up with fun things to do in your home town while they’re there. My advice is to throw the idea out to your guests and see who’s up for it. Because the ones who make it? Are going to be ready to have a great time with you and make the most of it. Keep me updated.

What do you think? Would you add anything to my advice, or do you have some experience in this to share? Let me know in the comments!

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith

Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Cara

    For the second question, you might try contacting the airline or train to see if you can work out a special rate for your guests – like blocking out hotel rooms. I think some will make it available if they know a large number of people will be booking tickets for the same time period, and if his family is all from the same area, they will likely be taking the same route, right? Just a thought!

    • lizcharm

      No, that would totally work. This is also where a travel agent can come in handy, too.

  • lizcharm

    I just coordinated a wedding like this, where the bride and groom were planning a wedding in L.A. from Sacremento. It REALLY helps if you have someone there who you trust to take pictures and give feedback. My other friend who planned her DC wedding from Kuala Lumpur would have been in the tall trees without her MOH stateside. You can get out of the tall trees by yourself, but it helps if someone has a ladder!

  • Katie

    My fiance and I are in a similar situation where my grandmother can't travel very far. I'm from Indiana and he's from New York and his VERY LARGE Italian family all lives out there while my grandmother (who can't travel) lives here. We compromised and decided to have the ceremony here and invite his immediate family and then have a second reception after the honeymoon in New York. We might even broadcast the ceremony online for the New York relatives that won't make it out to Indiana for the ceremony. It helps that we are getting married at my uncle's house and he cut our guest list at 100. Makes it easier to explain to his side of the family!

  • Wow, This is my forst time on your site, What a great ressource for Brides and couples on a budget. Thank you for all the great ideas you are sharing .

  • Erica

    We had a similar decision to make. We live in Oregon close to his family and my family lives 1000 miles away. We realized that with the money my parents alone would spend gettin all my elderly relatives here, we had a few grand to just have a second reception! My best friends and parents are coming up for the our first legit wedding and then on the way back from our honeymoon, we are stopping in my hometown to have a vow renewal and reception. Plus we get to have more people at each now because of the compromise!