Whether we talk about luxury destination weddings or intimate overseas company getaways, luxe destination events offer a perfect opportunity to gather—and wow—your guests. But not all destination weddings and events are created equal. After decades of doing this work, there are a handful of things we find all of our favourite overseas events all tend to have in common.
And because we’re no gatekeepers, we’re sharing them all with you today. Read on for a helpful breakdown of our top destination-event must haves.
1. Build-up or buzz before the event ever begins
Destination weddings are unlike local weddings in so many ways; namely, the fact that you’re asking people to put their everyday lives on pause and travel from near and far to celebrate with you. Because of this, you want to make sure your guests feel all of the excitement long before your wedding or event date arrives. So how do you get them chomping-at-the-bit to RSVP?
As you create and send out save-the-dates (an absolute must for any event that requires guests to travel)—we recommend making sure there’s something meaningful and special included with your event announcement. You want the unboxing of your save-the-date to get guests genuinely excited for what’s to come. Include a small gift that pays homage to the location—and consider making it an interactive experience by including a QR code that links to a teaser video showcasing the things your guests can expect to experience when they arrive.
2. A strong focus on guest experience
Guest experience is paramount to the success of any event—but this is especially important for destination events. Your guests are travelling, paying for childcare, missing work, and perhaps in a new location they’re completely unfamiliar with. From the moment they arrive through their final departure, you want to make sure they’re met with special touches and a thoughtfully hosted experience.
We always encourage a curated welcome-gift bag accompanied by a thoughtful welcome note as guests arrive—and a strong focus on comfort, food, entertainment, and flow for the event itself. The latter may mean anything from having pashminas if your event is set to be outside in colder temperatures—to a live artist painting images of your event for guests to witness. Bottom line? You want to make sure they feel deeply attended to (fed, comfortable, and entertained) throughout your entire event.
Something else to consider? How your guests will interact with the location throughout their stay—not just during the event itself. What information can you provide that would be helpful to them—how can you make their stay feel more comfortable, easier, or safer? Think through both the “fun” stuff (itinerary suggestions and restaurant recommendations)—and the necessary stuff (emergency information, health-and-wellness products, etc.).
3. Cultural elements woven throughout
Technically speaking—yes, you can absolutely host destination weddings that have nothing to do with a specific culture or your heritage—but we’ve been to these, and they always, always feel like they’re lacking something. Whether it’s incorporating your own personal cultural traditions into the event itself—or paying homage to the culture and traditions of the location you’ve chosen for your destination event, including elements of heritage and culture adds the kind of depth to an event that makes it truly unforgettable for your guests.
Rather than simply a DJ, consider booking entertainment that’s specific to your locale (drum circle, fire dancers, string quartet, local live painter, etc.); include an interactive element in your event that allows guests to participate in local culture (maybe they help make one of the dishes they eat or mix spices they can take home as a party favour); and/or use both design details and food as vehicles to share your heritage (or the heritage of your chosen location) with everyone in attendance.
4. A deep commitment to cause
We’re not talking “cause” as in a philanthropic cause—though it can absolutely be that. But rather, we’re talking about the reason you’re gathering guests—whether that’s to honour your love in your favourite place (i.e. a dreamy destination wedding), boost employee morale, or celebrate a company or personal milestone. Behind every event is a reason to revel—and behind every great event is an unwavering focus on that reason.
Think of the reason you’re gathering people as the story that should be woven into every element of your destination wedding or event. Allow it to be your North Star as you work with an event planner to hone in on everything from linens and tablescape elements to entertainment and timeline details. Ask yourself, “Why are we choosing this and what does it mean to us? Does it say anything about the reason behind our celebration?” The more guests truly feel the reason they’re brought together, the stronger the spirit of the celebration.
5. Elements that encourage comfort and connection
Whether it’s a black-tie event for dignitaries—or a laid-back destination wedding that’s all about barefoot-on-the-beach vibes—out of all the events we’ve produced over the years, one thing holds true: people want to be comfortable. They want to connect with one another. They want to feel free to be their most authentic selves (yes, even when they’re in a tuxedo or five-inch stilettos).
So no matter how “fancy” your event may be—while you can and absolutely should encourage attire and behaviour that aligns with the event and venue—you should also do what you can to encourage genuine human connection and joy. This can happen via an intimate cocktail hour that’s purposefully designed to create little pockets of conversation throughout—or it can happen with the most stunning dance floor and incredible live band. Perhaps it’s a family-style meal that requires guests to interact with each other as they pass dishes around—or a charming fireside wine tasting that encourages audience participation.
The options are endless—but in the end, it’s all about thinking through event flow, seating spaces, lounge areas, entertainment, and your guests’ physical comfort (i.e. providing flip-flops near the dance floor or shawls that encourage guests to curl up near fire pits)—and paying each detail its proper due. After all, think about your favourite events you’ve been to—regardless of how beautiful they may have been, they most likely made your list of favourites because of how they made you feel.
Until next time, happy planning!
Eva Tarnok | https://www.evatarnok.com
Contact Exalt Africa Weddings for more details or to discuss your upcoming wedding.