It takes a lot of effort to plan the perfect wedding – even moreso when it’s overseas. What goes into planning and booking a destination wedding? Where do you start? Newlyweds Sam and Chelsea Barnard share the details from their Fijian wedding on 7 August, 2016.
Sam Barnard still bears the scar on his hand from fighting over a pair of scissors with his Year 3 classmate Chelsea Holliday, a reminder of what would blossom into a beautiful romance in years to come. Sam and Chelsea went through primary and high school sharing most of the same classes, but it wasn’t until 2008, when they found themselves in the same circle of friends and attending a party one night, that everything changed.
“I never thought I would ever have a chance with her, until I held her hand that night,” Sam says.
“It was crazy how we’d known each other for so long and then it all just changed, it was like flicking a switch and then I saw him in a totally different light,” Chelsea adds.
And so a beautiful relationship began between these two childhood friends, who share an insatiable zest for life and love for each other.
Profile: Tell us about the proposal?
Sam: I’d wanted to propose for a while. Chels was talking about her ring she loved, that I’d bought her years earlier, and we decided we should get it made into an engagement ring.
Chelsea: It was actually pretty amazing how it all fell into place. We were walking along the beach at Coolangatta at sunset, on the way to our favourite Japanese restaurant, and it all just came together perfectly. It couldn’t have been better if either of us had planned it. And now I have my beautiful labradorite stone ring which has so much more sentiment than any diamond could ever have.
Profile: Why did you want to get married in Fiji/overseas?
Chelsea: We were driving all over the Coast looking for somewhere beautiful to get married but nothing felt right. Then Sam joked about eloping, and it kind of went from there. All we wanted was a big relaxed party on the beach with our closest family and friends.
Sam: We thought it was a good way to keep it small. It truly showed the friends who mean the most and care the most which was a very lovely feeling.
It was crazy how we’d known each other for so long and then it all just changed, it was like flicking a switch and then I saw him in a totally different light.”
Profile: What goes into planning an overseas wedding?
Chelsea: Lot’s of research! You have to start by researching all of the different areas you are interested in, taking your guests into consideration – who can travel where, are kids allowed, will people want to stay in that area, is it affordable, etc.
We decided to go to the Mamanuca Islands because we wanted an authentic tropical feel. Once we picked the place, we had to do a lot of liaising with each shortlisted resort (that was our first experience with Fiji time!)
That process took about three months before we had all of the answers to be able to make a decision. We knew we wanted a beach ceremony and reception, and we wanted to make sure our guests had cheaper alternative accommodation close by. So we chose Mana Island Resort, which had a beautiful little backpacker resort next door.
We didn’t have to do a lot more until about a month before the wedding, and we didn’t even lock in our ceremony and reception locations until the day before the wedding.
In the lead up to the wedding, we spent a lot of time watching for flight and accommodation specials so we could pass it onto friends and family. If you decide on a destination wedding you have to be prepared to help your guests as much as you can.
Profile: Tell us about your wedding day?
Chelsea: The afternoon before our wedding day we checked into our amazing honeymoon suite. It had the most incredible view and we’d already spent two perfect sunny days on the island. We unpacked all of our bags and had a drink to celebrate. Then the rain came out of nowhere!
The next morning we woke up to more wet weather. I had a nice breakfast with the girls, Sam was with the boys and we started getting ready. There were no nerves, just excitement. The weather lightened up just enough for us to still have our beach ceremony and we were so glad we did.
The morning went so fast, all of a sudden I was pulling up in a BT50 ute and about to walk down the aisle! Fijian serenaders played guitar while I walked down the aisle with Dad, but I barely remember hearing them once I saw Sam. It’s all such a blur, even if something wasn’t right, I never would have noticed. None of it really matters once you’re there.
We said ‘I do’, had our photos and danced on the sand under the palm trees with our family and friends.
Profile: If you had your time again, what would you change?
Chelsea: Nothing – not even the weather, and now we have a lifetime of good luck stowed away!
Profile: What is your advice to other couples planning an overseas wedding?
Sam: Go for it! It’s so memorable regardless of the little imperfections. Be relaxed with the concept and expect small things to go wrong, but like I said, it doesn’t matter when you’re looking down the aisle. Just try not to cry.
Chelsea: Relax and let go of the small stuff. It’s supposed to be a big adventure spent with the people you love the most. It’s a slow build up and a slow build down, it’s not just one day that’s over before you know it. You get to spend more time with your loved ones on the days leading up and after, and everyone is just completely relaxed and in celebration mode before they even arrive. If you want an intimate and laid back wedding day, definitely do it!
Sam, what do you love about Chelsea?
“It would be harder for me to list the things I don’t love about her.”
Chelsea, what do you love about Sam?
“Everything, even the stuff that drives me crazy sometimes! But he’s a big softy on the inside, he would do absolutely anything for the people he loves and he’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met.”