Are you dreaming of having a destination wedding in Paris, the most romantic city in the world? When my husband and I were deciding on a destination to have our wedding, immediately we thought of Paris. It was where we had our first date and being together in the city always meant something special to us. Also, it was a great destination that our friends and family could travel to being that my family is from Minnesota and my husband's family is from Burkina Faso and we have friends from all over the world.
Planning a destination wedding does come with its perks but also its challenges as well. Which venue should we have the wedding, which vendors should we use, should we hire a wedding planner, how many times will we need to travel to the destination prior to the wedding, what is the cost of the wedding compared to what it would cost in the U.S.? These are all questions that ran through my mind in the beginning and it was scary at first, but after 10 months of planning our wedding, I was so happy with how everything turned out and it was such a joy to see all of our friends and family in one place celebrating with us. Here are my tips in planning a destination wedding in Paris.
Know the style of wedding you would like to have and the number of guests you plan on attending and that will dictate your wedding venue of choice
This was very important to us when choosing a wedding venue. There are so many places to choose from in Paris and the surrounding areas and it can be overwhelming if you are not sure of what you are looking for. Are you dreaming of having a french country style wedding at a French chateau, a modern style wedding at a fancy hotel, or perhaps you and your fiance just want to elope in front of the Eiffel Tower? How many guests do you plan on attending? I have always wanted a french country style wedding, so prior to our first trip to Paris, we did a lot of research online (I recommend The Knot wedding blogs such as Style Me Pretty, The Wedding Chicks and French Wedding Style) looking at different venues that would give us the feel of a french country style wedding as well as be large enough to accommodate all of our guests. We narrowed the list of venues down to 3 different venue options.
Set a budget in USD (then convert into Euros) and don't be afraid to negotiate!
Weddings are expensive, but then when you convert USD into Euros it can be more than you expect! The conversion rate can be a factor in choosing a venue as well as your vendors. Remember, the quote the vendors are giving you is in Euros, and not USD and don't be afraid to negotiate! The French are notorious for charging a premium for wedding services provided to Americans, so don't agree to their first quote they give you unless you feel it is acceptable and what you are willing to pay! We negotiated with our DJ up until the day of the wedding and actually signed the contract on the day of the wedding!
Research vendors and interview them prior to signing a contract
Even though my husband speaks French and could easily communicate with our vendors, it was important to me to find vendors that could also speak English, since I do not know a word of French (well except the very basics) and I wanted to easily communicate to them what my vision was for the wedding. The venue we ended up choosing had preferred vendors that they recommended to us (including a florist, DJ and photographer), so we started with that list, but we also did further research so that we could compare prices. I recommend to always comparison shop! Find at least 2-3 vendors that can provide the same services and choose one based upon the criteria that you feel is important. The important criteria for us in choosing a vendor was : can they speak English, are they available on our wedding day, what is the price they are charging and for what services and/or products are they charging us for and is the price within our budget and finally what is the quality of services and/or products that they can provide.
Create a wedding website for your guests and wedding party
This is critical in having a destination wedding! A wedding website is a one stop shop for your guests and wedding party for all the important information about your wedding including ceremony and reception location details, directions to the different venues, recommended hotels and restaurants, calendar of events, registry information and guests can also RSVP for your wedding. This was a time saver for us so that we could refer our guests to this site for all of the information that they needed for our wedding weekend. I also included our wedding website information in a separate card in the guests' invitation. I used The Knot to create our wedding website, but Wedding Paper Divas also has a nice wedding website tool.
Plan on traveling to Paris at least 3 times prior to the wedding day
My husband and I traveled to Paris 3 times prior to our wedding in order to plan, meet with vendors, food tasting and look at hotels, restaurants, etc. The cost of these trips can get rather expensive, so I recommend including the cost of these trips in your wedding budget. In addition, to ease the stress of planning, we did hire a wedding coordinator to help negotiate and meet with vendors on our behalf when we were not able to be in Paris. Also, we arrived in Paris a week prior to the wedding to ensure that everything was in order, and to make sure our guests had everything that they needed.
Understand the legal requirements for getting married in France
Unless you are a citizen of France, it is quite challenging to get legally married there. I recommend getting married in the U.S. prior to your wedding day and holding the religious or symbolic ceremony in Paris. Also, many churches in Paris will not marry you unless you have a marriage certificate from the U.S. stating that you have already been legally married. Plan on doing this a few months prior to the wedding day so that all of the paperwork is in order. A good website I looked at in answering all my questions regarding the legal requirements in getting married in France was the Weddings Abroad Guide.
I'll be honest, planning a destination wedding is stressful, so be prepared (and make frequent visits to the spa to get a massage)! But, with a lot of communication, planning, determination and focus, you and your future spouse will have the wedding of your dreams in Paris! Happy wedding planning!
*All photographs by Corinne Hameau of Encre Noire in Paris
If you are planning a destination wedding in Paris or thinking about planning a destination wedding in Paris, what are your questions or tips? I would love to hear from you!