DESTINATION: I DO
Planning to escape the rain-ridden North West and get wed in sunnier climes? We asked Chester wedding planner, Lisa Burton, for her golden rules on saying I do abroad
As a cruise ship casino worker in her early twenties, Lisa Burton enjoyed plenty of stop-offs in exotic Caribbean destinations. But white sand and turquoise surf aside, one not so picture-perfect scene stayed with her from her travels.
‘I saw my fair share of conveyor belt-style weddings,’ the Chesterbased mum-of-one recalls.
‘We used to go every week to Magens Bay on the island of St Thomas and see brides and grooms lined up with a photographer, walking hand-inhand over this beach, a couple of feet from where we were sunbathing.
‘I thought, I’m sure they don’t sign up for this when they see beautiful photos in a brochure.’
Throw in a bad experience with her own wedding planner
a few years later – who went AWOL when he was supposed to be organising Lisa’s Scottish wedding to now-husband Matthew – and her new business idea was born.
‘I knew what I didn’t want to offer. And I knew there was definitely a market for people who wanted to get married abroad, maybe with a reduced budget, but who still wanted that incredible experience and to trust that they weren’t going to get there and be sandwiched between sunbathers and people at a bar,’ says Lisa.
‘I thought, all this involves is having clear prices, good communication and good contacts. I spent three years building up a list of contacts and researching venues.’
In the 15 years since she founded The Bridal Consultant, the popular planner has more than 1,400 weddings under her belt, ranging from intimate New York ceremonies to a lavish, £100k celebration in Santorini, Greece where guests were gifted Jo Malone candles as wedding favours.
Lisa, who recently launched the online wedding planning portal Luvana.co.uk, has fielded her fair share of unusual requests, including a surprise wedding in Australia, a Gothicthemed beach wedding and even double nuptials between two sisters and their partners. ‘They had to work out who was going to walk down the aisle first!’
This wealth of experience, and the ever-changing nature of wedding planning, inspired Lisa to create Luvana, a slick, free-touse portal for couples planning an overseas wedding. The site
brings together a directory of more than 2,000 brands, plus practical tools and checklists.
‘Some people book a wedding 18 months or two years in advance and then immediately want to book their photographer, videographer and caterer. People want to do everything now and with the internet at the click of your fingertips, there’s nothing to stop you doing that,’ says Lisa.
It doesn’t negate the need for the personal touch though; as her expert dos-and-don’ts prove… 1 DON’T book anything before setting a budget: ‘Before you do anything else, work out how much you’ve got in savings, how much you want to put towards the wedding, and how much you can save between now and then,’ says Lisa.
‘If your budget is £5k, you need to be looking for a location that’s closer to you. If you’ve got a £25- £30k budget, obviously it opens up a lot more destinations. Don’t go for a location that’s notoriously expensive like Italy, and then decide once you’ve booked a venue and paid a deposit that you can’t afford what you wanted, because that causes so much heartache.’
2 DO prioritise location over numbers: ‘We have so many couples who choose a venue just to make sure they have as many people there as possible. They want 80 people to come to their wedding, so they choose somewhere that’s cheaper. Then halfway through the planning, the numbers start dropping off and they’re stuck getting married somewhere they wouldn’t have ideally chosen,’ says Lisa.
‘You need to choose something that’s true to you, and the people that mean the most to you will come, whether that’s 25 or 50.’
3 DON’T pick the wrong time of year: ‘This catches a lot of people out,’ Lisa warns. ‘For example, July and August is hurricane season in the Caribbean. In Mauritius, their better season for weather is probably December to February, but it’s also their most expensive time.
‘Although they should, travel agents don’t always divulge this information to you. And remember that in high season, you can get temperatures of 40 degrees or more; in a wedding dress, that’s an awful lot of heat.’
4 DON’T let technology take over: ‘My main bit of advice: there’s a Pinterest wedding and a real wedding and they’re very rarely the same thing,’ says Lisa. ‘Don’t be fooled by social media – manage your expectations of what you can achieve and afford. This is applicable with any wedding, but especially destinations weddings. Do your research; don’t expect the images you see on suppliers websites to be the full picture.
LEFT: Lisa Burton founder of Luvana