Shelly Pate

International 2022 Wedding Guide: A Destination Wedding Photographer’s Best Tips

Destination wedding photographer stands against wall with camera in Italy

When I provide wedding tips, I’m speaking from either my own experience as a destination wedding and elopement photographer, or from the expertise of others in the wedding industry. This time, I’m speaking from my own experience on the other side of the lens after an Italy vow renewal trip with my husband, Patrick. This trip was another reminder to me of how important it is to experience traveling and being photographed first hand so I’m enabled to better serve you when it’s your turn in front of the camera. It just so happens that this trip taught me far more than I ever bargained for. I’m sharing all of my best destination wedding photographer tips from our own crazy experience so yours can be so much better!

Dolomites at sunrise covered by clouds in Italy

Tip #1 – Don’t fly Air Canada right now

Your flight will more than likely be canceled if you fly Air Canada as of this writing (August 2022). This airline is canceling flights all over the place and losing luggage. Although all airlines are pretty bad these days due to understaffing issues, Air Canada is having a particularly hard time. If you end up on an airline like this one, here’s what we found handy when we were stranded and dealing with canceled flights:

Italy Dolomites over a lake at sunrise
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Destination Wedding Photographer’s International Travel Essentials List 

  • GPS tracking tile for each checked bag just in case it is lost.
  • Plenty of snacks: you never know when you may be stranded in an airport when restaurants/food stands are closed.
Couple eats two ends of the same piece of bread on mountaintop at Italy elopement
Photographed by Henry Tieu
  • Global Entry: in our experience, this didn’t include the baggage screening process but it did save us time in customs. You’ll see small signs for Global Entry before you reach the customs agent. There’s a little machine that takes your photo and prints out a ticket that you pass along to the agent.
  • International phone plan: add this to at least one person’s phone (costs $10 a day with most providers). This is key to using GPS and being able to make calls. As a precaution, we also downloaded all of our driving routes.
  • Small tote bags stored in your carry-on. Keep reading for this story…
Couple faces each other by lakeside elopement in the Dolomites
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Tip #2 – Be prepared to check all your bags, even the carry-ons.

Bride standings holding wedding bouquet lakeside at Dolomites elopement

You will NOT check your wedding attire! It’s too precious an item to chance losing it. This wasn’t even my original wedding dress but I still didn’t risk it! I was nervous that our standard-sized carry-on rollers that held our wedding attire wouldn’t fit on our first flight. There was a sign posted saying rollers would be placed under our seats and backpacks above–the opposite of standard American airlines.

I bought two $8-a-pop DC souvenir plastic tote bags in the airport (yes, the bags were covered with DC monuments) as a precaution to carry our wedding clothes if the rollers didn’t fit under the seats. Fortunately, thanks to Patrick’s shoving abilities, we were able to fit our bags, we just didn’t have any room for our feet!

Couple rows boat on lake a Dolomites elopement captured by destination wedding photographer
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Despite a few delays, we arrived in Venice, Italy with all of our luggage! We picked up our pre-booked car and drove to the Dolomites! I always recommend planning for at least two buffer days at the beginning of your trip to allow for flight cancellations.

Village underneath cloud-covered dolomites in Italy captured by destination wedding photographer

Tip #3 – Book a Knowledgeable Destination Wedding Photographer 

Another big piece of advice is hiring one of the best elopement photographers who is either local to your area of travel (Washington, DC anyone?) or has experience traveling (here’s my Iceland story!).

Our photographer, Henry Tieu, is a seasoned destination elopement photographer with plenty of travel experience. He also allotted two extra days before our vow renewal for possible travel complications which he did experience! Your photographer should scout locations in advance when possible and have backups in mind.  Having both you and your photographer arriving early for a destination wedding or elopement gives us time to do day-before or even day-after sessions!

Couple rows boat in lake by dolomites
Photographed by Henry Tieu

Tip #4 – No matter how prepared and pre-booked you are, prepare to be flexible

Even though we planned out the details of this trip so far in advance, there was no accounting for unexpected changes along the way. This is when my quick-thinking destination wedding photographer skills activated! I thought the worst was behind us but getting back home was a totally different story…

Our first flight back was only delayed by an hour but it was our layover in Montreal that was the nightmare. Air Canada strikes again! Our flight was canceled and we were stuck in Montreal with no alternatives, not even taking a bus. Everything was immediately sold out including rental cars because so many flights were canceled. It was difficult, but we at least found a hotel room for the night.

Colorful street building in Italy town captured by destination wedding photographer

Quick Canceled Flight Luggage Tip From Your Destination Wedding Photographer

If your flight is canceled, make sure you retrieve your checked bags. We had to go out of the terminal and collect our bags from the arrivals carousel. If we hadn’t been told, our bags would have been lost in the rows of luggage placed around the airport.

It was then necessary to change our newly assigned flight from one with a connecting flight we wouldn’t catch to a direct flight back to DC (both of which left two days later). Remember the tote bags? I placed our wedding clothes once more in the totes on our return flight. We also used them during our vow renewal to carry things like our speaker, jackets, vow books, etc. They definitely became the stars of our trip!

Couple embraces in boat on lake in Dolomites

After some long travels and many lessons learned, Patrick and I made it back! We just returned with more stories and amazing memories than we know what to do with!

Despite all that craziness, I’m so ready for my next destination elopement adventure (just not via Air Canada)! Need any help planning yours!

Dolomites covered by clouds in Italy captured by destination wedding photographer
Couple stands on top of mountain overlooking Italy Dolomites captured by destination wedding photographer
Photographed by Henry Tieu

The Team

Photographer | Henry Tieu
Florist | Rain and Pines
HMU | Sunshine Brides
Dress | Lovely Bride DC

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