A year before the wedding
Over a year ago my sister and her fiance came home from a vacation in Paris. With that they asked if we would be willing to go to Paris for their wedding! We were in! They knew they wanted a fall wedding and our hope was that September would be cooler than August but not as rainy as October. It turned out to be a beautiful and perfect day! Planning a destination wedding definitely takes time and strategic planning especially if there is a time/language difference. I don't know if I was nominated, volunteered, or just became the planner lol. I definitely love to plan trips, parties, and organize plans! My sister always harasses me that I love to create clipboards of family fun! It's so true!
14 months before the wedding
We started looking at ceremony and reception sites. Our first thought was to have a quick ceremony in a public area (hopefully near Notre Dame). You can find many planners in France who specialize in elopements in Paris. Unfortunately the logistics of a larger group wasn't working out. We needed a more traditional venue. We fell in love the idea of having the ceremony and reception on board a yacht along the Seine River. With that we reserved the day with Yachts de Paris. The packages offered by Yachts de Paris were wonderfully detailed and definitely within our budget.
The guest list was decidedly tricky! It's really hard to manage the bride and groom hopes, the wants of your parents, budget, and still maintain an intimate destination wedding. In the end we were a wonderful group of 25 adults and 1 infant.
10 months before the wedding
We had to pick a hotel for us and our guests. Our checklist including affordability, location, reviews, amenities, and responsiveness. We narrowed our list down to 6 hotels in and around Paris, Versailles, and the airport. We decided on the Tourisme Avenue Hotel. The hotel itself is boutique style, with breakfast included in some rates, a variety of room types and offers a great location. At this point the couple also created a Facebook page (closed group). We were able to share information with our guests like the hotel, when to book airfare, and tips for traveling.
8 months before the wedding
We booked our airfare right when it became available to get the best price possible. Most of the party chose American Airlines with a nonstop flight from Boston to Paris. We along with a few other guests chose Air France with a nonstop flight as well. The main reason for choosing Air France was the return flight time. American Airlines offered a flight around 10:30 a.m. Knowing that the wedding would end at midnight, we'd have to finish packing, and get to the airport early; the 3:30 p.m. Air France flight was more attractive. We also purchased travel insurance with our flights. To read about our past experience with travel insurance head over to our Travel Tips page.
If you're like most people, there is never enough time to research travel insurance companies. Reviews.com has created an un-biased article that researched 22 national insurance providers. Reviews.com not only compared prices but also inclusions, add ons and more. What I love in the article is that they also simplified things for us by breaking down the best policies for trip type. To read their reviews and book a quote visit here.
Paris is a good drive away from the airport and when comparing costs we decided to book a private transfer for 4 adults and a lot of luggage. We found BT- Transfer who already had a lot of positive reviews on Tripadvisor. We ended up booking a variety of rides with BT Transfer. During our week in France we all agreed we'd like to see a little more of France than just Paris. To maximize time and minimize stress we booked airport transfers, a trip to Versailles (9 people), a trip to Puligny Montrachet (7 people), and shuttles to take our guests (25 total) to and from the wedding.
We read up on destination weddings and while it's not required we thought it would be a nice touch to plan some group activities for our guests. Our first thought was a group tour of Paris. Booking a tour for our guests was probably the most troublesome part of planning the wedding. I provided the bride and groom with a couple of different options. One was a double decker private bus tour, one was a tour with stops for pictures, another was a bus tour with tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I presented these to the bride and groom and they picked their favorite. Easy enough! I originally booked our tour with Viator and I was very specific with our requests. Viator was not user friendly when it comes to group bookings. The only way to book a group is via email and fax. In the end Viator was not able to provide what we asked for us. The customer service representative ignored what I stated we needed and wasn't willing to pick us up from our hotel. It would have been ridiculous for me to try to organize a large group to meet at our hotel, take public transportation to Viator's office, and then go on a tour together. After complaining about the service I received a refund and booked directly with Paris City Vision (the provider Viator was going to use). Paris City Vision was wonderful with booking, requests, and answering any calls/emails. They offered us a private tour, pick up from our hotel, and was willing to let us bring breakfast and beverages with us.
After the bride and groom picked Paris for their wedding I noticed items about Paris everywhere! I read an article about Paris Picnic in a magazine. After reading reviews I knew Paris Picnic would be a perfect outing for our group. We chose their Le Chic menu which included champagne, foie gras, baguette tradition, assortment of cheeses, charcuterie (cured meats), fresh salad du jour, artisanal crisps, seasonal fruit salad, mineral water, macarons, and brownies.
When it came time to picking a photographer we looked at a couple in Paris and a couple who came recommended from Massachusetts. We all agreed on hiring a friend of my sister's, Eric Snyder. Eric takes stunning photographs that are present, emotional, and flattering.
At this point I had a binder for all of my paperwork and spreadsheets. I previously posted about their wedding shower and that information was the first section in my binder. To read about my French garden theme shower visit here. So far I had guest information, venue contracts, hotel confirmations, airfare confirmations, travel insurance confirmations, budget for wedding, budget for activities, and budget for travels.
Next blog post is details from 3 months before the wedding.