When my friend asked me to be her Maid of Honour (and only bridesmaid), I was delighted…and terrified! What did I have to do? What would the bride’s expectations of me be? What would the rest of the guests expect of me? OMG…I had to organise the Hen Party! My biggest concern was that it was a destination wedding, so I wouldn’t be able to check things out in person beforehand. As with the majority of destination weddings, it’s pretty normal that most of the guests won’t have been to the destination, so for them it was going to be a great holiday with the added bonus of a wedding. For the wedding party, it’s also going to be super exciting, but there will be a number of additional steps that they’ll need to plan for as they may not be personally familiar with the location, or know what to expect regarding the local culture.
I was lucky – I had previously lived at the destination and the bride, groom and most of the guests were still residing there; so at least I knew what to expect, but I was now living in the UK…!! How was I going to be a supportive bridesmaid from a distance? As it turned out, it didn’t really make any difference – it’s not uncommon for brides and their bridesmaids to live in different parts of the country; so just like them, we messaged, Pinterested and WhatsApp called…a lot!
Here are my top tips for being a Maid of Honour for a tropical destination wedding, in addition to the duties that you would normally take on:
1. Be there for the Bride
It may seem obvious, but sit down or have a video call with your bride to find out EXACTLY what she expects from you, what she needs you to do and what she doesn’t want you to do to (this point is more important than you may think!), in order to help smooth the path to planning her BIG day. As it’s a destination wedding, the chances are it’s going to be a smaller affair, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less stressful!
Volunteer to check out the things that you normally need to do for a holiday, e.g. vaccination requirements, the location of travel clinics, travel insurance options, visa requirements for the destination country, keeping track of flight deals, chasing guests to make sure they’ve booked their travel etc.
2. Get in touch with the Wedding Planner
With a destination wedding, there should be a local wedding planner (and not just the venue co-ordinator), so get in touch with the wedding planner and introduce yourself. Let them know what you’re responsible for and what you’ll need their assistance with.
3. Organising the Hen Party
If you’re having the Hen Party at the destination, get advice from the wedding planner who’ll know and understand the local customs and etiquette – what may be acceptable in your home country may not be appropriate behaviour in the destination country. This may dictate the type of Hen Party you can arrange and what games/accessories/antics you can get away with. You may even decide to have one at home before everyone departs for the wedding, with a simple Girls Night at the destination.
Once at the destination, check out your Hen Night route or venue in person, just as you would if you were at home, and then let the party begin!
Some wedding planners offer a service to organise the Hen Party for destination weddings, but do check this out. Remember though that the wedding planner is going to be busy with the bride, so do your research and keep your contact with the wedding planner succinct and focussed.
4. Will the Bridesmaid’s outfit stick to me?
If you are going to a tropical destination, ensure that the bride thinks about the fabric for the bridesmaid dresses (and her dress of course!), depending on how each of the bridesmaids cope in high temperatures. Let’s face it, some of us girls can be pretty sweaty at times; a lot of destination weddings take place in the late afternoon, just before sunset, so you’re likely to be standing in the direct sun for up to an hour (or more, as you need to pose for photos too), so the last thing you want is to be covered in sweat and the dress sticking to you in places you’d prefer it not to! Try to get a very light fabric, something that has a looser fit or is floaty, or see if a more natural fabric would fit into the wedding theme, such as cotton or a cotton mix. Also be careful of the colour – some colours are going to show damp, sweaty patches far more than other colours, so see if you can get a swatch to test the fabric before ordering the dresses.
5. Get waterproof make-up
Again, if it’s going to be hot, hot, hot, remind the bride to check to make sure the bridal make-up artist has waterproof make-up (more than likely they will), or better still advise the bridesmaids to get waterproof versions of their own brands and take it with them, particularly if they have sensitive skin.
6. Ensure everyone stays hydrated
The bride will already have arranged some food for the bridal party whilst you’re all getting ready, and there’ll no doubt be a few drinks, but as Maid of Honour, make sure that EVERYONE is also drinking water and/or drinks with electrolytes in them, like Gatorade (not carbonated drinks – they dehydrate you). You don’t want anyone, especially the bride, passing out in the heat! This duty needs to extend to the rest of the bridal party as well – the groom, best man and the key players in both families, especially any young ones and older parents, who can become dehydrated quicker than others. And remember to drink some yourself!
7. Slap on that sun cream
Every bride wants to look radiant on their wedding day, but make sure your bride isn’t ‘radiating’ due to sun burn! It may sound silly and a little obvious, but make sure the bride and bridesmaids all wear high factor sun cream (at least SPF 30) in the days prior to the wedding – the only tones of red should be coming from the sunset! Oh, and don’t forget the mosquito repellent - at a tropical wedding, around sunset is when the mosquitos are out looking for fresh blood, so ensure that the bridal party are suitably protected. Use a local one that is recommended by the wedding planner; they always work better than the ones you bring from home.
8. Will I need to do more than just be the Maid of Honour?
No matter how much they want to be there, sometimes people just can’t make a destination wedding due to family and work commitments, plus of course financial constraints; accept that you may have to double-up with your duties and do the best possible job you can! Be the focal point for messages from those that couldn’t make it. These messages can then be read out at the wedding, or for a thoughtful surprise for the bride and groom, you could collate them and add them to a wedding guest book.
Accept that you may have to do a speech if there isn’t anyone else to do one. I ended up being a pseudo Best Man as well as the Maid of Honour, which meant I had to do the ‘Best Man’ speech – eek! I was super nervous about doing the speech, but I did my research and just got on with it. I got laughs where I wanted them, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the number of guests who told me how well I did.
Although it was a little daunting at first, performing my Maid of Honour duties at a destination wedding required a few extra steps, but overall it was pretty much the same as back at home. A fabulous time was had by all and the memories will stay with me a lifetime.
Photography: Anne Sophie Maestracci