How to Choose Vendors for an International Wedding

Do you select big-day professionals that are close to your home base or your far-flung locale?

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Photo: Lauren Fair Photography

If you have ever dreamed of a destination wedding in an international location, but are confused about how to pick the vendors to execute your vision, you're not alone. This task prompts a lot of questions: Should you work with local vendors who can be reached in the same time zone, but who might not have an intimate knowledge of your chosen locale? Or should you consider vendors who are local to your destination, despite a few barrier like different time zones or even languages?

Aviva Samuels, the planner and owner of Kiss the Planner, a wedding planning company that focuses on luxury destination events, helps explain the steps you need to take to select the best vendors for your international celebration.

Hiring Local vs. International Vendors

"This is the great wedding planner debate," admits Samuels of staffing oversea events for her clients. "It's so helpful to be able to work with vendors you know inside and out—the ones that will bend over backwards for you because of [your relationship]. On the other hand, they may not know the venue or the destination—and they may not be armed with the same resources and knowledge that a vendor who works at that destination has," she says.

Assess the Situation

For Samuels, that means dealing with every destination wedding on a case-by-case basis, and reviewing the celebration's individual needs before choosing the best vendors. "Couples planning a wedding on their own without the help of a planner need to decide how important it is to be able to meet with their vendors face-to-face," she says.

Understand Your Communication Method

If planning a destination wedding virtually—through online meetings or phone conversations—is not a concern, a couple can consider vendors located at the destination. "It can be comforting for a couple to pick vendors at that destination, since they themselves are far away and may be glad to have a representative there to support them," says Samuels. "For other couples, being able to choose someone close gives them more comfort." In other words, there are pros and cons on each side—and every duo needs to decide what works best for them.

Ask for Vendor Referrals

That being said, if you opt to hire vendors local to your destination, Samuels recommends starting your search by reviewing which professionals have worked at your chosen venue. "If a vendor has experience at that venue, they might be one step ahead of their competition," she says. You can do your own research, Samuels says, but a less time-consuming method is to ask the venue directly for vendor referrals. "Using vendors that the venue has faith in gives couples reassurance that they can have faith in them, too," she says.

Another way to find international vendors, Samuels says, is to find associations in the area and choose vendors that are members in good standing with those groups.

Read Reviews

No matter how you find your vendors, Samuels encourages couples to read reviews before booking them. "Websites that provide reviews might not be as prevalent in other countries as they are in the United States, but with a little ingenuity, a couple can find the answers to their questions," she says.

Set Up Virtual Meetings

After identifying vendors with the right experience and positive reviews, Samuels suggests having a virtual meeting with your top choices—these days, virtually everyone is comfortable on Zoom. "If a couple can see their face, ask them questions, and can gauge their reaction, they'll be able to complete the puzzle," she says. "If the vendor takes a genuine interest in the couple's needs, listens carefully to what they say, and offers reassuring words that jive with what the couple is about, they have a winner."

Once you have proof that a vendor has a positive reputation and establish a relationship virtually, Samuels says you can rest assured that you have made the right choice.

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