Something terrible happened to our bank balance before we departed to shoot a destination wedding in The Bahamas this past August.
With two hurricanes threatening to make landfall in Hawaii, travel plans were sketchy and we were afraid that even a little bit of wind and rain could offset our departure and potentially leave us unable to cover the event.
Even though we had planned to arrive two days prior, what if the airports shut down and we couldn’t make it at all?
This panic saw me on the phone to American Airlines at 2am and forking over $1500 to change our flights to depart the previous day – before the hurricane hit – just to be on the safe side.
Of course, the storms both veered to the side and didn’t impact Hawaii at all, which just drives home the point that destination weddings are fantastic, but they also offer a whole lot of stress when it comes to planning and executing travel!
So, let’s say your travel plans went off without a hitch (sans hurricane!). You arrive at the wedding venue where your bride and groom’s event will be held in the next couple of days (because you planned to arrive early, right?!)
What now? Truth is, it’s work from the moment you land to the minute you back up those memory cards to second and third locations before heading home. But it doesn’t have to be stressful visiting a new place for the first time!
SCOPE OUT THE AREA
The first thing we like to do is get in touch with the coordinator if there is one, as well as the bride, and arrange a site visit if possible. That way we can do a walk-through of the site and the venue, which helps us map out the day a bit better so we can plan our timing for the event.
THE DAY OF THE EVENT
Have fun and enjoy seeing everything from a new angle! Part of the joy of being a destination photographer is that everything is usually completely new and fresh – you see things through eyes that haven’t seen a particular place before, which can send your creativity in to overdrive!
AFTER IT’S OVER
Be sure to back up all your stuff. And I mean, a lot. When we finish destination weddings, we back up the cards to two hard drives (one in each suitcase!), a USB drive which I keep in my purse, one that I keep in my pocket, and then put the files on the laptop we carry on the airplane. Have one backup in every piece of luggage and on your person. It might sound a bit obsessive, but there is so much risk involved in traveling with such important images, and this isn’t the time to skimp on data backup!
When you have finished the event, also take a moment to reflect: this couple brought you all the way to their location – they chose YOU out of THOUSANDS of photographers to capture their event. For this reason, we always go the extra mile to let them know how much their trust in us is appreciated. Whether it’s a small framed print from their day, or a local gift we picked up while staying there, gifting a small item is a nice gesture that will remind the two yet again why you were the chosen one!
Have questions? Of course! Here are a few FAQ and tips about shooting destination weddings!
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD I ARRIVE?
After our experience with our last wedding, I would say two days at least, three to be safe. You just never know! Also, be sure to check the actual arrival date on you itinerary. For international flights you may find you depart one day and actually arrive the next day due to extreme time differences and long travel hours – so pay attention to those dates!
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
Definitely stay in the same hotel as the bride and groom. Extra travel stress isn’t what you need – and it’ll make things a lot easier on both you and the couple who can rest assured you’re on site.
WHAT OTHER DOCUMENTS SHOULD I BRING?
Something I was reminded to bring that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise? A copy of your medical record. I got really ill on the trip we did to The Bahamas and if we had needed to go to the hospital, it would have been helpful to have a copy on hand.
OTHER THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- Check to see if the country you’re entering requires additional visas and permits, which is likely. The wedding coordinator might be able to help you with this or at least point you in the right direction, otherwise check the local government website.
- Along with checking for additional visas and permits, also check and make sure you don’t need any additional travel vaccinations (or if you do, find out what they are so you can make sure you have them). Your wedding coordinator (if you have one) might be able to help you, and if not, your doctor should.
- Book refundable flights (if possible) so that you can change the itinerary if necessary without having to open your wallet.
- Choose an airline that you fly often so you can rack up those miles! One day, these destination weddings might pay for your vacation!
Overall, photographing destination weddings is an incredible experience but is not without its stresses. Figure out what you need to do to not only provide the best service possible, but maintain a profitable business model in the process. Good luck, go pack your bags and say hello to something new!