1. DIY BRIDE? BANISH THE THOUGHT!
Of course it’s tempting to want to save money and keep everything simple by organising your wedding yourself. After all, how hard can it be? Well, ridiculously hard, or at least, at the very least, extremely stressful. And this is the one day of your life which you want to remember as filled with joy and happiness, not stress and regrets. Many people believe that it’s just a matter of organising a venue, a caterer and a few emails to suppliers and voilà, you’re walking down the aisle and everything is Madame Antoine roses. But it only takes a bit of miscommunication for the whole event to derail. Even for well organised planners, there will always be a half dozen last minute dramas to resolve without you or your guests being aware of them.
A few weeks back I spoke with a guest from another wedding where the bride had organised her big day in a beautiful, quaint little village. She had carefully arranged transport for all her guests, but some of the drivers substituted with friends and around a third of her guests never made it, there was no way to call and find out what was going on and the wedding was ruined. Another DIY bride recently booked a minister who simply never showed up at her wedding in Kuta and she had to reschedule the whole thing at great expense and minus guests who couldn’t make the new date. The list of horror stories is endless.
Organising a wedding is not like organising anything else, it involves many disparate suppliers who may not speak English, coming together in perfect synchronicity, with exactly what you ordered.
You have to assume that in Bali, no matter how many promises have been made, they don’t carry the same sense of obligation or responsibility as in the West. In a culture where everyone tends to live for today, any sudden cultural, religious or family obligation overrides any commercial one, promises are well intentioned but often not kept.
Also, by taking on everything yourself, or delegating lots to others, you are taking on the responsibility of events organiser, in charge of everyone else’s experience, instead of enjoying your own. This is a day about your commitment to each other, instead it could easily be about everyone sharing your angst and disappointment.
Take my advice as a veteran of many hundreds of weddings and hand that responsibility over to someone very experienced, trustworthy and reliable.
2. A WEDDING BY THE BEACH, NOT ON THE BEACH
A beach wedding is a beautiful vision, evoking those old movie posters of swaying palms framing scenes of lovers embracing and moonlight reflected on still, tropical water. My advice is maintain your vision but hold the sand. Have your wedding by the beach, but not on the beach. Hot sand swallowing up stilettos or burning bare feet, guests sweltering with no shade, while you and hubby exchange vows is no one’s idea of paradise. Nor is wet sand or dirt on your pristine white dress. Keep the beach as your backdrop but favour instead a beautiful reception on a grassy lawn with lanterns and fairylights overlooking the water. The atmosphere is the same and trust me, everyone will feel a lot more comfortable and relaxed. And big plus, you won’t have to put up with joggers, surfers and onlookers wandering past with their iphones flashing as you say “I do.”
3. DON’T SEND OUT YOUR SAVE THE DATE BEFORE YOU’VE BOOKED YOUR VENUE
The venue is easily the most important aspect of your wedding, it determines not just the locale, but the tone, your photo backdrops and most importantly the overall experience for everyone. The best venues will only do one wedding a day and tend to get booked out up to a year in advance. So don’t take the risk of announcing a date only to discover your dream venue is not available on that day and then be forced to compromise with a place which you’ll dislike more and more as the big day approaches. Put your energy into finding the venue first even if it means being a bit flexible with the date. At the end of it all, it is the experience that you and your guests will remember, not the date you were married.
4. DON’T PICK A DATE JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE A NUMBER.
Before you get fixated on the date he proposed or one he can actually remember, there are lots of things to consider before locking in the day. Think about factors like high season/low season, weather, school holidays and public holidays in Bali. For example, every year the Balinese celebrate Nyepi, a day when everything closes, even the airport. The date varies from year to year so you don’t want this day to coincide with the day everyone was planning on flying back home. A good wedding planner will advise you on all these aspects, just make sure you ask the right questions first.
5. DON’T ASSUME THAT BECAUSE IT’S BALI YOU CAN GET MARRIED FOR NOTHING.
With such cheap labour costs, you would think a wedding in Bali should cost a lot less than getting married in a developed, Western country. And really it should. But surprisingly, some aspects of your wedding will actually cost more than back home. Alcohol, for example, is subject to much higher taxes because Bali, although a Hindu country, has to abide by the strict conservative laws set by the Indonesian government which is to discourage the consumption of alcohol. Local beers are still relatively cheap but imported wines and spirits can be two or three times the price you would normally pay. Even more surprisingly, catered Western style food can also be expensive because of the dual economy that exists, with one price for locals and one for foreigners.
If you choose to get married in a villa, keep your wits about you and be prepared to pay thousands of dollars for the rental which is often restricted to a minimum 3 night stay with an additional night payable for the right to hold a function. Plus such unforeseens as having to book a truck mounted generator, paying banjar fees etc.
The other surprise factor is currency fluctuations. With most wedding suppliers quoting in US dollars and the US dollar gaining strength against nearly every other currency, the cost of your wedding cost can blow out by as much as 30%. Try where possible to find a company that will quote you in either rupiah or your own currency, (eg Australian dollars.)
The truth is, weddings in Bali tend to cover the whole spectrum, from a simple elopement on the beach to $60,000 plus extravaganzas. Like anywhere, you get what you pay for. My advice is when you factor in everything, expect to pay around 2/3 what you would have to spend in your own country. Even when you factor in flight and accommodation costs, you should still come out ahead. But remember too that in the end it won’t be the cost that you remember most after you’re married, but the quality of the experience. And no matter where you decide to get married in Bali, the lovely truth is, it’s bound to be a much more magical and exotic affair than you could have ever created back home, for any amount of money.
6. DON’T SPEND EVERY SECOND OF YOUR TRIP WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
A destination wedding is the ultimate opportunity to create closer than ever bonds with the people you care about most. Little wonder, more and more couples are deciding to hold their nuptials overseas, with today one in 3 Australian weddings now being held away from home.
That said, it can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining to be constantly sharing your time with others so take this tip and plan some real alone time with you and your partner. It is after all why you are embarking on this adventure, to forever cement your relationship together. Be firm with friends and family and at the very least, ensure your wedding night and the morning after is yours alone.
Ideally, plan a few days at the end of the trip as a honeymoon where you can both spend some time soaking in and reflecting on what will have been an incredible, life transforming experience for both of you. If you got married by the beach, perhaps book a short break in the Ubud area, or alternately, if getting married in Ubud, plan some nights at a beachside resort. This way you get to experience the best of Bali, and importantly, can return home feeling totally restored and refreshed.
7. DON’T SKIMP ON THE MEMORIES
Your wedding day is a significant event not just for you and your guests and also for future generations. Children above all love the security of seeing the relationship between mum and dad cemented by the ritual of marriage. As dodgy as it was, my own 80s wedding video was on the top 10 favourite movies of all of my kids, (yes, they did need to get out more!) up there with the Little Mermaid and The Land Before Time. For those yet to be born, photos and videos are tangible proof of the love that brought them into the world and as such are a precious gift.
It is also an opportunity for you to have a record of yourselves at your beautiful best, glowing with love, optimism and everyone’s well wishes. When all the excitement has subsided, you will be amazed at how you can relive every moment all over again simply by seeing it through this external perspective.
If it comes down to choice, my advice is always to invest in the things that will keep your day alive: quality photography and videos, rather than an unnecessarily expensive dress or extra decorations. At the end of the day, it is not about the tiny details of a $10,000 dress, but the experience itself and photos and video will ensure that feeling is captured forever.
8. DON’T LET YOUR GUESTS CHOOSE THEIR OWN ACCOMMODATION
These days the first thing we all tend to do when planning a vacation is hop onto Airbnb and secure the cheapest place to stay possible. However, this is the very thing you don’t want when planning a wedding because if you leave it up to your guests, at least some of them will end up booking themselves into some address that is nowhere near your venue, on the wrong end of Bali’s notorious traffic jams and an hour late for the wedding. It is also much more fun and easy organising say spontaneous cocktails around the pool or a post wedding recovery event if everyone is staying either in the same place or nearby.
A good wedding planner should provide you with a list of recommended hotels, offering rates to suit every budget, that are situated close to where you are getting married and provide transport to and from the venue. This is critical as many areas in Bali as not serviced by taxis and you don’t want guests wandering around at 11pm trying to rustle up some locals to provide transport.
We don’t recommend that you take on the stress of booking your accommodation on behalf of your guests. But do make sure you include a list of recommended places to stay in your save the dates or invitations.
9. DON’T FORGET TO MAKE IT A WHOLE WEDDING WEEK, NOT JUST A WEDDING DAY.
What if you could ensure that your guests, including all the ones who were a bit dubious about going overseas, would end up not just raving about the wedding day but the whole trip as a fabulous adventure which they’ll be eternally grateful to you for including them in.
So don’t make the mistake of thinking of it as just a day. Your family and friends will have travelled from far and wide and will no doubt want to make a holiday of it, spending at least 5 days exploring this amazing island and its culture. Sure, you may want to do some things on the run but don’t count on being able to rock up to a restaurant with 50 friends in tow without some form of prior arrangement. The more you plan ahead, the less stressful and more fun it will be for everyone.
If you have members from both sides of the family who haven’t met before, it’s a great idea to organise an ice breaker event. It could be something simple like drinks at a beachside bar or BBQ seafood on the beach at Jimbaran Bay. This way everyone will be more relaxed in the company of each other on the wedding day itself. Equally, a recovery event post wedding is a great way to really enjoy the company of your friends without the anticipation of the wedding weighing on your mind.
A good wedding planner should be able to suggest the best places to eat plus tours and activities to suit all ages.
10. DON’T LET OTHERS DICTATE YOUR DAY.
Do remember that your wedding should be the one day in your life where there is no compromise whatsoever to what you and your partner decide you want. This is the day the two of you go out into the world and become a brand new family unit, when you define your independence 100%. Otherwise, why are you getting married?
The greatest trap you can fall into is relying on other people to tell you what, where or how you should get married. And such concessions, if you agree to them, will ultimately compromise your perfect day.
The uncle of one of our brides didn’t want to travel to Bali because of negative things he’d heard in the media. Fortunately he had the good sense, for the love of his neice, to accept the invitation. As it turned out, he not only enjoyed the experience, he was so positively overwhelmed by it that he has now convinced his own daughter to get married in Bali. So it’s helpful to remember that most often, negative feedback comes from well-meaning people simply knowing no better.
Whether you are thinking about getting married overseas or locally, follow your heart and get married where you want. If you are reliant on your parents or someone else to help pay, just explain to them that you’ve decided where you want to get married and ask them to respect that decision. Most will agree that it’s your day not theirs and they will support you every way. It’s not about what your parents or friends want, this is the day you make the decisions, it’s your day and your way.