OK, so if you’re reading his you probably have designs on having a destination wedding. But there are destination weddings, and then there are destination weddings – like one in Paris.
When most people talk of or think about destination wedding, they usually picture sandy beaches and palm trees for a week. Those aren’t always cheap, but what is 100% for sure is that a lot of those destination weddings are comparative easy to organize and pull off.
These tropical destination weddings are usually held on mega-resort complexes, and these corporations (that’s what they are) have streamlined the process to make it as easy as possible for couples to invite their friends and family and have a beachy wedding, all-inclusive and on their premises.
It’s simple: just hire an on-site coordinator, pick-and-choose the options (catering menu, wedding cake), then buy your swimsuit and wedding dress. Boom – done.
But a Parisian destination wedding is an entirely different creature. Here are a handful of rather sobering things you need to realize/do, to have your Paris destination wedding:
All worthwhile endeavors take time and work to complete. And in the case of a Parisian destination wedding it’s 2 years, minimum- especially if you’re not rich.
We should all be blessed to have families with a 7 or 8-figure net worth. But that’s life – not everyone has rich parents.
A lot of couples who secretly harbor dreams of a Parisian wedding tend think that it’s “impossible” to afford an expensive destination wedding. That’s a misconception.
The TRUTH is that you can afford it (no, I really mean it) – it’s just a question of whether you’re willing to put in the extra work to EARN a destination wedding in Paris.
So if you want a ‘Parisian dream wedding’ but aren’t made of money, you have to be prepared to put in the work.
But above all, you need TIME to put all the pieces together. Based on our experience, my cut-off is 2 years. You’ll see why.
It’s really that simple. Ask yourself the correct questions first, if you want the correct answers.
Don’t sell yourselves short by thinking this dream is out of reach, but remember that achieving any dreams means effort, work and sacrifice.
Have a high tolerance for pain (be a masochist?).
No whiny babies (of either gender) will be able to pull of a Paris destination wedding. It takes ovaries and ‘brovaries’ of steel to pull off a Paris wedding from scratch without help. That and a high, high tolerance for stress, discomfort, and general pain! Trust us on this one – more on this below.
Consider what you’re asking of your friends and family.
Remember that you’re asking your family and friends to potentially fly thousands of miles to be with you on your special day. Then there’s the issue of accommodation for your family! It’s truthfully quite an imposition on people living their day-to-day lives, so don’t be too shocked if some of them can’t make it. I’m sure they’d love to, but put yourself in their shoes and try to be understanding.
And be realistic about your guest count – it’s one thing to invite 200 people to a local wedding, but 200 guests in Paris is a lofty goal, not to mention an expensive one (which brings me to my next point)!
Be prepared to question your sanity. Often.
I won’t lie. The cost of it all will make you wince – and you will question your sanity every single day leading up to the wedding. We know we do, even to this day.
Truthfully, we’re spoiled Americans so we expect value in everything we buy, whether it’s a TV dinner or wedding services. So be prepared for the sticker shock as most wedding options in Paris are à la carte, meaning full-price – there are seldom any ‘wedding packages’ that offer extra value or savings.
Also, people will say it’s silly or stupid to ‘waste’ all that money on one day. And yes, I suppose that’s very true. But I also say, ‘to each their own’ – it all depends on what your personal values are, and ultimately there is no ‘correct’ choice. If I were a bride, I would hate to have visions of my dream wedding, only to not do it because others pressured me to do something they thought was ‘right’.
At the end of the day, Heather and I just wanted to do something different, and were also prepared and willing to pay the price (in all the definitions of that word).
Be ready to make some concessions and sacrifices – because you can’t have everything. Even in Paris. And if you do want everything – then be prepared to totally bust your ass to make it happen (unless you’re made of money).
Every bride (and some grooms) wants to have the biggest, ‘baddest’ wedding ever. It would be nice to host a gigantic fête with 800 people, mountains of wedding gifts, row upon row of glistening thin-stemmed wine glasses and gold cutlery, crystal chandeliers, and overflowing champagne towers the size of the Eiffel Tower!
But unless your daddy is a railroad or steel magnate (or a media baron of the 21st Century), you will have to make some concessions. Ours aren’t.
The first concession we had to make was to trim down our guest list. The 150 head-count was with all of our extended families and friends-of-friends. But with the wedding being held in France, we had to accept that we couldn’t invite everyone and their pet. We eventually whittled down the list to 40 people.
Also, things in Europe are just more expensive. We’ve found that there’s little way of getting around this.
If you want to have a ‘dream wedding’ in Paris just suck it up and accept this – otherwise, if you couldn’t afford the cost why are you trying to have a wedding in Paris in the first place? You’d be missing the point – because at the end of the day, Paris is an ‘all-in or nothing’ kind of town. You don’t go to Paris for a wedding, only to cut corners.
And of course, not cutting corners means having to pay for it (this brings me to my next point).
Be ready to make the money to pay for this. Don’t put it on credit, and do not take out a loan to fund it. Say goodbye to nights out, and say goodbye to regular sleep. And above all, START EARLY – the ‘bigger’ your designs, the earlier you have to start.
As you meet (or SKYPE) with more and more vendors, you’ll find that the figure in your ‘Costs’ column quickly go up. You might panic, and look for an easy way out: CREDIT or LOANS.
Do not do this. This is a trap. You need to look at this entire thing as, “Unless we earn it in full, this is not happening”.
The simple fact and bottom line is that you will have to work for it. Nothing good comes easily, folks.
That means sleepless nights. Many of them – think most nights. I wish I were kidding, because we were lucky to get about 5 hours of sleep on weekdays, on average. That’s because as soon as you clock out of work at your day job, it’s time to punch in at your 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th!) job.
Heather is a veritable tour de force in this arena, and her personal record is 5 part-time jobs in addition to her full-time job. At once. I kid you not… but that’s one of the reasons why I respect her work ethic so much (you will also learn a lot of things about your fiancé/fiancée as you go through this entire process).
In hindsight, it was definitely a good thing that we started the wedding planning early. In fact, that decision pretty much saved and made this wedding.
It was just under 2 years prior to our wedding date, as I recall – and that gave us enough time to find ways to earn the extra income needed to pay for the wedding costs.
Find Extra Income Streams (emphasis on ‘streams’!).
There are many things to think about, here:
After analyzing our monthly income, we decided on how much we were each going to save, every month. And we were total Nazis about making sure that we met that savings quota each month. This is important! Save like your life depends on it, and consistently too.
We made an earnings projection table, to predict what our savings would be at the end of each month leading up to the wedding. We created a second column to record our actual earnings, to keep track of how we were doing. And if we found ourselves in a ‘savings deficit’ (i.e. less money saved than projected), then we had to make it up somehow.
We took on whatever extra gigs we could. And by ‘whatever’, I mean exactly that. Short of stripping (unless you’re OK with that?) – it’s all fair game! I’ve done yard work. I’ve done one-off freelance graphic design jobs. I’ve written for websites. We’ve been in a series of YouTube videos. We’ve been on a web show.
But after a while, you learn how to work smart. Try to tap into already existing skill-sets, and find ways to freelance.
The KEY here is to be steady in generating income. Time is your biggest ally and friend – the more time you have between your wedding date and the day you begin earning extra income, the more you can save.
The best way to do this is to secure recurring work (but also be aware that it takes time to find and secure recurring work as well). A small job for $30 dollars (that takes about 1 hour) might not seem like anything, but if you do that 10 times in 1 month, you’ll have earned $300. And if you do that 12 times (months), you’ll have earned $3,600. And if your partner/fiancée does the same, that’s $7,200. In 2 years, that’s $14,400! And that’s just one income stream, so you could literally double or even triple that amount! And keep in mind that you’re (hopefully) supplementing this with your regular income too, so you can really rake in the cash!
Not spending money is even more effective than earning extra income. And it takes a lot less effort.
Weekends? Fun? You’re kidding, right? And what do you mean, a ‘night out’?
Let me tell you something – the art of having money lies directly in the art of not spending money.
You might want to reign your habit of visiting a celebrity chef’s kitchen once a month. You might want to cut out your day trips and long weekends in Santa Barbara, CA. Stop going to bars (besides, you want to avoid liquid calories anyway). And definitely cut out ‘chippies’ (Starbucks, a tray of sushi from your local Asian market, that take-out meal)!
Whatever it takes. That’s basically the attitude we took on to save for our wedding.
We happen to be (mostly) homebodies, so the shock wasn’t too bad for us. But trust when we say that (temporarily) kissing your ‘regular’ life goodbye is a must, maybe even a foregone conclusion.
Like I said earlier, you will have to make sacrifices – unless your daddy is rich, this is what it will take.
I’m not going to lie. Even ‘homebodies’ like us like to go out and do/see things, and it was pretty hard at times. Brutal, even. The cabin fever and constant stress got to us, and there were a few heated arguments.
But we still made it work – I made the most of our Netflix account, and Heather found plenty of websites that actually pay her to review video games so she was able to get her gaming fix. But it was a hard goodbye to eating out on weekends, indulging in our little vices (my once a week sushi habit become a once a month habit… if that), and exploring our home base of L.A. (To Live and Die in L.A., baby!).
This was the ‘dark side’ of trying to bootstrap our big Parisian wedding from scratch. Whether we liked it or not, that was the price that had to be paid.
Just assume that you’ll go over-budget.
It’s just the safe bet to make. It never fails – 80% of the time, weddings will go over-budget despite everything. The only couples I’ve heard that fall way under budget are couples that come from moneyed families, or couples who got married in their own home/backyard or local park.
There’s always some unforeseen cost that’ll add to the bottom line, so expect it, and work hard to save money ‘just in case’. Don’t even plan on coming in under-budget, because assuming that means you won’t have a safety net of (positive) cash reserves in case something unexpected happens to push costs up.
Expect a lot of waiting until the last possible minute (you’re getting married in France, not America). And expect all the stress that comes with it.
Planning your Parisian wedding won’t be easy because as we said, the wedding industry in Paris/France isn’t set up like ours. The French have a laissez-faire attitude toward their affairs, and the wedding industry there is no exception (why would it be)? It’s customary for couples in America to plan things a year or more in advance.
We hired the supremely talented and resourceful Heather of Rendez-Vous in Paris as our wedding planner.
(Did I say that you might as well forget about a ‘DIY’ Parisian wedding? No? Well for the record,I just did. Hiring a Parisian wedding planner is common sense because you’re 6,000 miles and 9 time zones away, and least of all because these Parisian wedding planners have access to the best special rates for wedding vendors.)
I remember contacting her almost 2 years before our planned wedding date, and I’m telling you – I could almost sense her chortling all the way in Paris, 6,000 miles away.
I had heard and read about how the wedding industry operates in France, but my thought going into this was ‘it still doesn’t hurt to get into it early’.
That’s a fine idea in theory – but the problem is that you can’t play a game of tennis when no one is lobbing the ball back over to you.
It wasn’t that our wedding planner isn’t on top of her business. You see, the problem isn’t with wedding planners in France – it’s with the vendors. How could she plan in advance, when the vendors don’t even take reservations a year in advance? (And that said – is it truly a ‘problem’? Maybe we’re projecting our American values and habits onto foreigners when we do that, which last I checked qualifies as ethnocentrism.)
In France, things just do not happen in far in advance. Maybe they like the thrill of flying by the wire (?) – but vendors such as florists, equipment rentals, musicians, caterers do not even begin to move with more than 5 months to go. Then it’s a customary mad dash to make it past the finish line, at the last minute!
But what’s really impressive and amusing about all this is that the French manage to turn such chaos and disorder into such… beauty. The level of their aesthetics is something we Americans can only hope to reach in another lifetime.
So while they might stress the hell out of you… you’ve still got to hand it to the French. They’re all 100% terrific and fabulous in their chosen craft/profession – superlative, even.
(There, I said it, and I admit it.)
The Decision – & The Million Dollar Question
We deliberated on this for about a month, and then made the fateful decision: full-ahead. It was time to make our dreams a reality. Feeling ever-so-slightly nauseous, we wrote a check for the down payment on our venue.
So here’s the Million Dollar Question: was all this worth it?
We would be lying if we tell you that every fiber of our being says ‘YES!’ We did experience tremendous stress, we questioned our sanity many times (see #4), and shed more than a few tears.
But at the end of the day, we both are fully convinced that this was 100% worth our time, effort, money, sweat, tears, and years.
I know this article is full of a lot of stern warnings, but the point isn’t to dissuade you from chasing your Parisian wedding dreams. I actually want you, dear reader, to experience the unbridled magic that is a Parisian wedding.
But I also want to save you from having your butts kicked in the perilous and stressful process of setting it up (I’ve heard of engaged couples breaking up over much less). Learn from our mistakes and from our lessons. I mean with that with just a tiny smidgen of snark, but mostly with respect and consideration.
So good luck, you dreamers. Dare to dream big, because this is your life, and you can live it exactly how you want to live it. It’s allowed, damn it. Forget what the others say and think about you!
But just remember that without parental or outside help (like us), you have to work to make your dreams come true. Few things come free in this life, but for us the reward for our hard (back-breaking) work was ultimately worth the effort.
That holds true in just about any area of life, doesn’t it?
We suffered to achieve our dream wedding without outside help, but in doing so we learned a lot, and proved several things to ourselves:
- We can endure hardships together (like dealing with ‘money issues’ & losing a ton of sleep, but we consider that practice for when we have kids).
- We have the guts and courage to put it all on the line, then come through.
- We can depend on each other to achieve a larger, common goal.
- We can make almost anything happen with hard work, tenacity, and perseverance.
- We have a wedding we can be proud of – and we did on our terms. We literally owned it.
These are valuable lessons for any newly-wed couple to take with them into their married life.
Stay Cool & Dream Big,