By Steven Wright
I was approached by my sister and her fiancé to plan their dream wedding in Amsterdam, a destination they had never traveled to. They were inviting 25 guests from Toronto for a week of festivities in The Netherlands and needed everything organized for the group.
Matthew and Jennifer’s Wedding
On arrival in Amsterdam the group met for dinner at our “Meeting Point” and then the group traveled over to Vapiano, an Italian eatery on the pier that offers cafeteria style meals where patrons have their own card to charge their purchases. This gave the guests the opportunity to meet and mingle with one another in a casual setting overlooking the city. The fresh food and variety of options was perfect for this group.
On the second day, the group met to board the Canal Bus. Large hop-on-hop-off canal boats that gave the guests the opportunity to view the city by Canal and hit up many of the attractions that are located on the Canal loop through the city. This was an excellent opportunity for the group to orient themselves to the city and to learn to identify some of the places we would visit over the coming days.As it was May in Amsterdam, on the third day the group ventured to Keukenhof, acres of gardens dedicated to showcasing one of The Netherlands most famous exports – the tulip. Half of the group were escorted to Schipol to catch the bus tour, while the other half picked up their rented bicycles to travel 2 hours along the Dam out of Amsterdam to meet the group on the bus. The day was spent tip toeing through the tulips, and purchasing bulbs to be shipped home in time to be planted for the following year.
That evening the group went to the Heineken Experience, for a little homegrown brew. Then we met up at Cau, a re-launched restaurant with amazing Argentinian beef, just off of Dam Square. For the stag and doe, the group toured the Red Light District and visited some of the many Coffee Shops in the core. This gave the group the full Amsterdam experience. It is important to remind travelers that in some areas of the destination it is best to keep your wallet and purse close. I recommend using a travel wallet, that you can keep securely under your clothing.
The day before the wedding I planned a Photo Scavenger Hunt for the group by bicycle or electric scooter rented from Amsterbike. The hunt consisted of landmarks, activities and local fare allowing the guests to travel through the city on the most common mode of transportation in Amsterdam. In fact there are 2.5 bicycles for every Amsterdammer. This provided endless hours of fun and the guests would run into each other as they tried to complete their list. It also allowed some guests to visit the attractions along the route.
The wedding venue was the incredible 5-star Amsterdam Sofitel, The Grand. The wedding package I booked included a welcome reception for the guests, the wedding chamber for the ceremony and a cake and champagne for the reception. The hotel provided a room for the bride to get ready and over the top service for the entire wedding. Mathew and Jennifer were beaming with joy as they shared their first kiss as a married couple and in Royal style waved from the balcony overlooking the garden.
The guests were then escorted from the reception to the hotel’s mooring spot, where they boarded the Monne de Mirada, a chartered yacht for a 3 hour tour of the canals and a catered lunch. The boat featured a private table for the wedding party and seating behind for the rest of the guests. Guests were delighted with the ample local cuisine and the beauty of the boat.
That evening we held the final group dinner at Werck before heading to Rembrandtplien to celebrate and dance the night away. The following day was departure from Amsterdam for the group after the week of festivities.
Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding
There are a number of things to consider when planning a destination wedding. Below find some frequently asked questions and tips that can help with your destination wedding.
Will the ceremony you have abroad be legal at home?
In most cases you may need to have a civil ceremony before heading to the destination as the laws in your country may not recognize a marriage of nationals on foreign soil or vice versa. For us, the civil wedding was held on the day of departure. I was able to find a package at the Toronto Wedding Chapel called “2 for the road” its a special for people having destination weddings, it is a maximum of 4 people and 1 hour in length. It was the perfect option for my sister and her hubby.
Do any of the guests have special needs?
This is important for booking flights, accommodations, restaurants , menus and venues. Things like food allergies, stairs to get into hotel and rooms, families and other considerations need to be known up front to accommodate these requests.
How many in your group?
Working with a Travel Counselor can help you to get group booking rates for flights, accommodation, even the venue and they can help with transfers, travel insurance and other services your guests may be looking for. They can also get group rates on attractions and other excursions at the destination.
When should you start planning?
We started planning a year in advance, it is important to have the venue secured and to have some idea of the cost involved and what the guests will do during their time in the destination. It can be a daunting task to book a venue from overseas and often you will have to transfer funds through your bank to the suppliers, long before the wedding date. Again it’s important to work with a Travel Counselor who can help you navigate all the options and make the best decisions for the party.
About six months in advance we sent out the wedding invitations. This informed the guests of the dates, activities and approximate cost of attending. They were also asked to RSVP. With the RSVP list we created a monthly email update that was sent to all guests. These updates included more information about Amsterdam, updates on flights and accommodations. Some of the guests were traveling before or after the wedding throughout Europe. This gave me the ability to work with each guest to help plan their trip from departure to return.
At the same time we launched a website for the wedding and invited the guests by email to the wedding site. This gave me the opportunity to provide more detailed information including a day by day agenda, maps of the location of activities, and links to many resources for the group. the guests were thrilled to have some reference of the destination and what they would be doing.
It is paramount to have a Meeting Point at the destination for the group. It should be a central location that is easily identified and easy to find. In our case it was a huge 3 x 4 metre black box outside of Amsterdam’s Centraal Station with the words, “Meeting Point” in bold green letters (convenient, no?).
I would also suggest having someone on-site to guide the group, to answer any questions and keep things on schedule. They are the person with the master plan, the arrival and departure of guests, where they are staying, activities they are participating in, destination contact information, tickets and transfers, booking confirmation for suppliers and rentals. This can help keep the bride and groom away from the little details and to be able to concentrate on entertaining their guests and having a great time.
Prices for Wedding & Travel Planning vary depending on the nature of the event and the scope of the project. It is important for you to have a relationship with whomever fills this role as they are taking the responsibility to help bring your destination wedding to life. Feel free to contact me to help you execute your dream wedding.
The Bookcase that Changed My Perspective
Quick Eats in Amsterdam
Getting Around Amsterdam, from Straat to Gracht
Tip Toe Through Acres of Tulips at Keukenhof
Rotterdam – Gateway to Europe