(How we planned our budget Venice Wedding in less than 10 months)
Maybe I’ll milk having 2 wedding dates and celebrate twice a year… Just an immediate random thought since we technically planned for 2 weddings this year: one for our civil ceremony in the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and the other at the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Italy. We’ll see if I can get away with it.
I got over the being-engaged bliss by March 2018, and started discussing plans with E. To be clear, he came up with the idea for Venice. That was when we actually started planning.
And why October of the same YEAR??!? Because we were crazy…and also because he said he really wished he would be married before he turned 50 years old. (He turned 50 the day after our church wedding)
During her MOH speech, H called me a “bride-chilla” because apparently, I never quite had that little meltdown during the whole wedding planning and even to the hours leading up to the wedding, when we were about 30 minutes late to the ceremony. I loved her for saying so, although there were times when I would have little panic attacks, mostly because I was at a loss or just tired about making decisions.
Admittedly, there were some details that I just couldn’t manage to put together anymore, especially the last few days before the wedding. Some things I forgot and some things that didn’t go completely as planned. You cannot be prepared with every contingency. What you can do is prepare yourself and take things in stride. I’ve listed down a few things I learned in planning a rush destination wedding. Note that on the average, it takes a year MINIMUM to plan a destination wedding. We planned a local one and one abroad in much less than that. I chuckle to myself whenever I realize just how crazy 2018 has been… so far.
With all that, I thought I would share a thing or two about how to plan (or not to plan) a destination wedding in under 10 months in Venice, Italy. I’ll even throw in a few bonus tips for those who happen to find themselves engaged and marrying someone from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, because honey — that’s a whole other battle. So here it is: the IDIOT’S GUIDE TO A DESTINATION WEDDING IN VENICE ITALY
Join a Wedding Forum
I joined a Facebook group called Weddings Abroad Guide Community because honestly, after preparing all the lists of things that Pinterest tells you to accomplish, I still needed to get first-hand information from brides or brides-to-be about how they went about theirs. Asked about venues, best dates, and all the things I thought I could ask. It was a very interactive group and one thing that I loved about it was that women love to help each other and offer suggestions and learnings they had. That is actually how I found my wedding planner, through personal recommendations of other brides. It also helps emotionally when you correspond with people who are similarly situated.
Just a fair warning though: there are some suppliers also on the same chat group so don’t be surprised when they start messaging you when they find out that you are planning to have your wedding in their area of operation. Great thing about it is you can immediately compare prices and get ballpark figures of what you may have to pay for certain things.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Especially if you are going to a country where English is not widely spoken. If you know the local language, it may be less stressful for you to deal with local suppliers. Still, there are certain customs, ways of doing business and rapport that a local wedding planner can bring to the table.
I do recommend setting aside a good chunk of you budget for a planner. They would especially be helpful for processing local permits (if you are doing your civil/religious ceremony) and for haggling with local suppliers. If you find a kind-hearted supplier like mine, she’ll find a way for you to get more bang for your buck. She had to be the one who had to deal with the celebrant about the contents of our missalettes. She patiently clarified matters with the Basilica when we had questions.
Prepare for hidden costs – in other words KNOW that you have to pay for everything
One thing that I didn’t anticipate at the get-go was having to pay SAIE. This is basically royalty tax that the Italian government collects at events for playing music. The idea is this is collected and paid to the artists who actually sang the songs… unless they have been dead for 70 years or so. In Venice, there is also the tourist tax collected at each place you stay at for every person staying – it’s 3 Eur per person per day. And I was in Venice for over a week.
Also, Venice central is quite isolated so most things that you want to be done special have to be shipped in from the mainland. My flowers for example is one detail that I really wanted to see through. My deep purple calla lilies had to be shipped in on the day.
I think there would be something different for every other jurisdiction. So make sure to research about it, or ask your planner about all these hidden costs if you want to stay on top of your budget.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff, for real
Set a general direction or goal for the wedding celebration but be flexible.
One way that helped me is to acclimatize early at the location. E and I had a good idea about the area, having visited the year before so we were not completely in shock when we arrived in Venice. I arrived a few days earlier than him, just because I know I take longer to adjust and get things rolling. I needed to get a good lay of the land before the big day.
Maybe it was our age and the fact that we wanted to keep the party quite intimate that made us less stressed about certain things. What was important to us was that the important people were there, we have our church wedding, and… well, lots of wine. It was our party and we did what we wanted and what we could.
We were also lucky that a lot of our family and friends are type-A and all willing to lend a helping hand. We learned to accept help too, because after all, weddings are supposed to bring people together. Whether it was advice, helping to iron my veil, or cooking for a meal or two for the days before and after the day of the wedding, consider them all a blessing and a weight off your shoulders.
Things don’t get delivered, details will be missed, the groom might draw a complete blank at the ceremony out of shock (yep…happened… he just kind of stared at me when my parents and I walked down the aisle and “delivered” me… He literally whispered: “What happens now?” … I had to tell him … “You have to come a little closer and get me babe…” – to be fair, he was hungover beyond belief… I just laughed.) Just don’t sweat it hon. In the long run, the important thing is you enjoyed yourselves and you’re together.
Budget budget budget – then don’t budget
Strategy-based budgeting is important… up to a certain point… and then you just throw the spreadsheet out of the window.
E and I were technically not preparing for a wedding like other couples. There wasn’t really any time to save up for the “wedding of our dreams” so it was important to keep track of things. Also, we decided to pay for everything ourselves because, let’s face it, matanda na kami and dapat naman siguro kami na sumagot sa sarili namin. What we did first was to list down all the big expenses that we were expecting which were basically:
- The reception venue and dinner
- Wedding planners
- Lodging for family
- Plane tickets
- Rehearsal dinner (otherwise known as getting shit-faced the night before)
After figuring those out and estimating our costs, we started listing down the other details that we would like to see and do, and then edited and slashed ruthlessly.
Then, the time came to leave for Europe, and we just threw caution to the wind. We were determined to enjoy ourselves and getting bogged down with the budget would have been awful. So just take this little tip and DON’T CONVERT. Just don’t start checking the exchange rate and stressing about what you are spending when you’re there… basta may titirhan kayo and you have a ticket way back to Pinas… mabubuhay naman kayo. 😀
Kidding aside, your pockets need not be extremely deep, but just spend judiciously. Venice had fresh produce markets and meat shops everywhere… and since we did AirBnB, we had a few meals at home cooking fresh ITALIAN ingredients, that saved us a few Euros instead of eating at restaurants. And also, wine at the grocery is usually cheaper than water… so I STRONGLY suggest stocking up on that instead of buying a bottle every time you dine out.
Choose your wedding party wisely
This one we spent a few weeks deciding on from the start. We really wanted those who really mattered to be there. Some whom we invited couldn’t make it of course. This is understandable since it was a destination wedding and people need to plan their leaves and make arrangements for leaving the country for a while.
We suggest you choose people whom you know will be there to assist you and think of you for your special day. Choose people you love and respect. For the ninongs and ninangs, find those who can offer guidance to you both through your married life.
One thing though to keep in mind is in the church in Italy, they don’t technically allow for proxies to be ninong/ninang, but it doesn’t mean that should one of your sponsors not make it, that they cannot be there for you anymore. It is your pact with these people that count.
Save the date and website
This might be one of the first things you have to accomplish. Especially with such a tight timeline. The save-the-date over Facebook did wonders for us, and it is easy to see who have yet to reply and then follow up with them immediately.
The website is a good way to share information about plans and venues for days leading up to the wedding… from suggested lodging places, to restaurants and arranging the different events, and reminders.
You need to be able to coordinate with your coordinator and your guests when you are in a different country. Get your roaming on or buy a local sim. I got TIM in Italy, same as I did the last time. It’s valid for as long as you keep topping up. I got mine for 30 EUR, with unlimited data good for a week.
My enterprising friend and Manila wedding coordinator borrowed a device called Pokefi, and it was basically a portable wifi. It was awesome. It can hook up up to 5 devices and is pretty fast.
Also, form a viber group with your girls early on. They can all get acquainted and support you and share ideas with you throughout your planning.
Clear communication with your wedding planner and suppliers is vital. And don’t be afraid to put your foot down but be open to ideas as well. It was brilliant that my wedding coordinator who is English, can speak fluent Italian. It was a dream. If there was something getting lost in translation over the emails with the hotel, it was easy for her to step in and explain my side and I get what they were talking about also.
Remember – You are a team, ‘til death do you part
Between you and your fiancé/fiancée one is bound to lead in the whole planning thing. Not everything can be put to a vote or be up for discussion with only a few months until D-Day. Still, there would be “discussions” and it’s not always pleasant. It cannot be helped when you are both wired about the event.
I kind of made a deal with myself that I never want the wedding to be a source of animosity between us. So there was a conscious effort on my side to treat the entire wedding as a project that I was working on with E. That helped us a lot I think. He and I had worked as classmates before back in school and we had an idea of how each other operated. I was the one that had to have the lists and execute according to carefully coordinated plans months before… he thought of the over-all strategy and was great at trouble-shooting.
Dividing up the work and recognizing our roles was good. It did put a bit more of the worrying and detailing to me… One day, while I was conducting a seminar at work, the hubster called. I excused myself and:
Me: Hi babe… how are you?
E: Doing ok. Just wanted to call you to let you know that I know how much work you are putting into the wedding. I wanted to tell you that I appreciate you and I am sorry I can’t help as much as I should…
Me: … *quiet sob* Thanks for telling me babe.
E: Ok, I let you get back to work.
—- I swear I did not make that shit up. And that shit made me rally like anything. Hahaha!
Bring your own drugs
If you’re like me, then you would probably get a little sick when you get to a country with a different climate. I spent a bachelorette weekend in Berlin and froze my ass off. My allergies started coming up and my nose wouldn’t function properly for days even after we arrived in warmer Venice.
Therefore, don’t skimp on bringing your antihistamines and steroidal creams. Drink plenty of vitamin C and take your Omega 3. It will help with the stress and keep you healthy. Also, mahal ang meds sa ibang bansa. Just saying.
Probably the most nerve-racking period for us was waiting for our Shengen visas to be released. It doesn’t help that all the websites that you read say there is no assurance that you will get approved even if you have all your papers in order. This considering that we’ve traveled there previously. Take note that you don’t need to buy your tickets immediately to get the best priced tickets. We learned this the hard way.
There are travel agents that can pre-book your tickets without you having to pay the full fare yet, but can provide you with the proper booking documents which will be acceptable to the embassy.
Choose your lodging wisely
In the age of AirBnB, it’s easy to get carried away with the write-ups and photos that you see online. But always ALWAYS read the fine print… or at least learn to ask the right questions, and you can only form intelligent questions after you’ve read some reviews.
Old buildings in Venice generally do not sport an elevator, you may want to consider that when looking up penthouse spaces (we stayed at a penthouse with Ike’s sibs and their families… It’s good we’re all pretty healthy.. but man… 5 flights of stairs works off the pasta and pizza for sure…)
Consider your transportation heading to the ceremony as well. Your location will dictate this. I had originally planned to stay at a place near the Basilica in sestiere San Marco so I can just walk over, but some of my bridesmaids had a different idea and had me move to their amazing flat in Cannaregio. We had to take the water taxi from there to the Basilica.
BONUS REMINDER (For those marrying active AFP Officers)
- It takes a while to get permission from the AFP to let you guys marry. They will do a background check pa and everything. You submit another gazillion documents. Joke, exaggeration yun pero you have to keep in mind it takes time to get the permission to marry. For us, we submitted the forms at around April 2018 (the likes of birth certificate, NBI clearance, Police clearance, RTC Clearance, CENOMAR, barangay clearance, MTC Clearance, etc., etc.) and got the certificate of permission to marry from the Flag Officer-in-Command of the Navy around the last week of June.
- But while waiting for the permission from the AFP Navy, we were also processing all the other documentation needed in order to proceed with our civil ceremony in mid-July. So process what can be processed but mind the timings as well.
I read a few things about wedding planning, ceremonies and receptions. Took heed when I can and improvised when I needed to. I guess one thing that happens when you get married at this age and to a man more experienced and mature, you find a way to focus on the essential things – and to us, the essentials have always been each other, our families and our friends, and bringing everyone together through one shared experience which is our destination wedding.
As I write these last paragraphs, my feet are up on the couch, with the hubster watching football and massaging my feet that are in desperate need of a pedicure. The weddings we had this year were all special, beautiful and intimate, but what I love about them most is… I get to take home a husband who is home to me.