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4 Tips to Add Authenticity to Destination Weddings

Wedding planner Lindsay Landman shares her strategies for infusing local culture and traditions in entertainment, catering, favors, and more.

Landman plans destination weddings like this one in the Caribbean island of Anguilla.
Landman plans destination weddings like this one in the Caribbean island of Anguilla.
Photo: Allan Zepeda

Part of the allure of a destination wedding is being able to infuse it with some of the local flavor of the destination, but it can be difficult to do without engaging a watered-down, tourist-driven product or service. Here are some of my tricks-of-the-trade for providing your client and their guests with an authentic taste of the culture.

1. Get the inside scoop.
If you have been hired to plan a destination wedding, part of your role is to find the wonderful treasures that every location has to offer and that can make your client’s wedding even more special. That means that you have to be ready to do some digging outside of that fancy resort. Often, talking to resort staff or local shopkeepers can provide insight into what is truly local—and not just considered local for tourists.

2. Explore the arts community.
Music and dance are often festive and creative ways to bring in a bit of native flavor. Check out the local theaters, dance companies, and concert venues, or even pound the pavement to find street performers that really capture the essence of the location. When you find talent that you and your client love, consider asking them to dress in traditional attire that will enhance the visual of the performance.

3. Taste the flavors.
Unfamiliar foods can be scary, but there is no better way to truly get a taste for a place than to eat and drink like the locals. Find a foodie who is willing to give you a culinary tour and explain some of the dishes to you. You may find that they are more similar to the food from your hometown than you would expect. Once you can speak with authority about some of the foods that are traditional to a location, you will be better equipped to advise your clients on adding native items to their wedding menu.

4. Shop local.
Suggest to your client to forgo traditional wedding favors and instead select an item manufactured locally to give guests as a parting gift. This is an amazing way to send some culture home with friends and family as well to as support the local economy. You may even find artisans who can customize their goods with your clients’ wedding colors or aesthetic. Form relationships with the locals just as you would with vendors or service providers at home.

Destination weddings are an adventure for everyone—your client, their guests, and you. Embrace the challenge and step into the new world of the wedding location and you’ll find value beyond measure, for your client and for yourself.

Lindsay Landman has been producing innovative weddings and special events in New York and around the globe since 2001. She is an instructor for the Event Leadership Institute and will teach a five-week online course on Destination Weddings starting December 6. Landman is a five-time recipient of The Knot’s ‘Best Of’ Wedding Planner designation, and recently was named one of the best wedding planners in the world by Vogue.

Disclosure: BizBash is an investor in the Event Leadership Institute.