This month I am celebrating my first wedding anniversary! As with nearly all weddings, not everything went as planned. Even with the hiccups though, most things fell into place.
Tips for planning a destination wedding:
- Choose a place you have been and love, and host a welcome event before the big day for guests to meet and mingle.
My husband is from the Czech Republic, his entire family lives there, and our stateside friends are a traveling bunch, so we decided to have our wedding in Prague. We hosted a private welcome dinner boat cruise a couple days before the ceremony. It was a great way for us to spend time with everyone, for our guests to meet each other, and to take in the sites of the city from the Vltava river.
- Keep your wedding party small and color coordinate for photo ops.
We stayed in the beautiful MaMaison Riverside Hotel in downtown Prague and on the morning of the wedding my mom, sister, and close friend helped me get ready. We wore coordinating robes by Plum Pretty Sugar and sipped on Veuve Clicquot, of course!
- Choose a dress that travels well, and preferably fits in a carry-on.
Some day I may share my nightmare marathon dress shopping experience, but ultimately I chose a beautiful Monique Lhuillier ‘Harper’ gown. The gown was a slim sheath style made of lace and tulle that easily rolled up into my carry-on luggage. I luckily found the dress at Glamour Closet in San Francisco just one month shy of the wedding. Glamour Closet also has stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, and it is a great place to find showroom and runway samples to buy off the rack for much less than retail! As an aside, for alterations I highly recommend Lynne Ghallager at Wee Scotty. She had my dress fitting perfectly in record time, and she has the coolest resumé I’ve ever seen.
- Leverage the musical talents of family and/or friends.
As I walked down the aisle with my mom, my dad played guitar and my sister sang Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love (also sung by Adele). It was way better than a recording, and much more affordable than hiring a band.
- Rely on beautiful scenery to keep decorating and set-up needs to a minimum.
The ceremonly took place in a covered area of the garden decorated with magnificent murals and statues. Ten chairs were provided for family or those who needed to sit, but for the others it was standing room only.
- Keep the ceremony short and the champagne flowing.
The ceremony was relatively short and ended with the witnesses (my sister and the best man) signing the marriage certificate, followed by champagne! There was some comic relief when the best man realized he had left the ring in his bag and had to run and get it mid-ceremony.
- Choose centrally located venues, in close proximity to each other, and provide guests with maps.
The wedding ceremony was at Vrtbovska Zahrada, one of the Prague Castle gardens. After the ceremony guests walked or took a private bus down to La Terrassa, a spanish restaurant on the Vltava. All of the event locations were walking distance from downtown, or a short cab ride for those in heels. A map and schedule of events, along with a list of nearby hotels, was provided to guests well in advance of the wedding for trip planning purposes.
- Meet with venue staff well before the big day, and incorporate local traditions.
The reception staff was beyond wonderful and accomodating. They even surprised us by breaking a dish when we arrived, which in Czech tradition must be cleaned up by the bride and groom. The broken plate pieces are said to bring happiness, and cleaning up the mess shows the will of the couple to cooperate.
The staff also swapped out their usual spanish fare for a traditional Czech menu. And in line with tradition, they served us Czech wedding soup that the newlyweds eat jointly as a sign of unity.
La Terrassa has since closed and in its place is a restaurant called MANU Risto. I have not yet been to Manu Risto, but if you are ever in Prague the location alone would make the restaurant worth checking out, even if just for a cocktail.
- Have cake, even if you don’t think you want one.
We had planned to forego cake and instead serve kolace and local cookie varieties. However, when we visited the bakery to order the sweets the owners talked us into a cake. We chose a medovnik, a honey cake found throughout the Czech Republic. I have never attempted to make it, but a google returned a few recipes including this one from Pauline’s Cookbook and this one from Czech in the Kitchen.
The cake was incredible, the best I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad we made the last minute decision to have one. The cake topper was made from wire that we twisted to into “Pavash”, a mashup of our names (Pavel and Ashley), a nickname we’ve grown to love. The flowers from my sister’s wrist corsage completed the simple cake decoration.
- [Rock and] Roll with any surprises.
The “DJ” that we hired sight unseen (or heard) actually ended up being a one-man-band with a microphone and synthesizer. In a thick Czech accent he belted out an Elvis song for our first dance. His style was unexpected but perfect and he and the slivovitz kept the party going.