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An in-depth Q & A with our expert on Weddings in Samoa.

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Karleen Rasmussen is an experienced Destination Travel Wedding Specialist based in Samoa. Originally from NZ, she and her Samoan husband moved to Samoa in 2006, and have now made this home with their three children. Karleen has extensive experience in helping couples wedding plans turn from conception to execution.

Being located in Samoa means Karleen does frequent property inspections to view property maintenance and note new developments. She meets frequently with wedding properties, their Wedding Coordinators and Resort Managers. She has an extensive network of vendors, is up to date with products available in Samoa that can add an extra special touch to a couple’s wedding and of course can assist couples and their family while on Island.

How far in advance do you need to book the venue?

The ceremony and reception are generally held at the same resort or property. During peak season it is recommended 24-12 months out, this really depends on the size of the wedding, and if the client is preferring that their guests are staying at the same property. We will assist with group accommodation, to ensure the clients guests have room availability at the same property.

What are the best months to get married in?

June through September are the ideal months, however if it is a smaller wedding, the client can save with having their wedding in the off season November through April. Smaller weddings are easier to manage in adverse weather.

What are the local marriage requirements?

Really simple process which I guide the couple through. They are required to complete a government form called Intent to Marry. We then require a copy of their birth certificate, passport (must have 6 months validity on it), and either a Statutory Declaration that there is no legal reason they cannot be married or a certificate of no impediment. The marriage is registered after the wedding and the couple receive a marriage certificate (normally before they leave the Island). The resort or myself does this for the couple, and the legal and registration costs are all inclusive in their wedding package. There is no need for them to be spending time on their holiday in Samoa going to the court house. We do ask that this is with us no later than 6 weeks prior to the wedding.

If they have been previously married they need to send through a copy of their divorce decree and if they have had any legal name changes they must also send a copy to us.

Part of my role is to check what is sent by the client. I do send the notification of paperwork to my clients immediately after the wedding is confirmed, so they don’t feel stressed or rushed in completing this, and are encouraged to send this back ASAP. It is actually a good reminder for couples to check that their passport is current.

How many days before the wedding do you need to arrive?

For the purposes of meeting with the properties event coordinator, holding a rehearsal, possibly meeting with the vendors and to meet with the minister or celebrant, it is ideal that the couple be in country 3 days prior to the wedding. This also gives them time to relax and unwind before their big day.

Do venues have outdoor covered areas such as canopies or tents in case of rain?

Part of my role is to always advise clients of the ‘plan B’. To be honest clients see amazing images of marquee style weddings which do look fabulous but to be honest in wet weather it does not create a very comfortable event space. When looking at the property for the client we take into consideration both the bad weather option for the ceremony and reception and to be 100% honest with the client as to whether the location is suitable or not suitable for their size and style of wedding. Most resorts have dedicated spaces for weddings and offer wet weather options.

As we are also in a humid tropical climate, it is equally important to ensure the guests are not ‘squashed’ into an area, as they will find it beautiful and warm in Samoa, and they don’t need excessive body heat to add to that.

Marquees are not always included in the package price, again this is another reason to book weddings through me, as often couples miss some details and end up with expenses they were not expecting.   My services are concentrated only on my clients wedding and not on other events the resort maybe hosting.

What are the usual drinks that venues provide with the meal?

Many wedding packages include a beverage package. This is a great way to manage your budget and feel you are offering your guests something. It generally includes house wines (red and white), local beers, soft drink, juice and water.   Toasting bubbly can be arranged.

Can they accommodate special diets?

Most definitely. This is something we discuss with clients, not only for the wedding but we would need to inform the Chef of dietary requirements for guests staying at the resort for the entire wedding period.

What suggestions do you have for locations to photograph in?

The resort properties offer stunning locations and back drops. I have in the past consulted with photographers about locations close by (off site) and assist with transport to allow the couple to get off site and capture some other aspects of Samoa. The villagers love it, clients have captured great photos maybe out side a local village store with the children, maybe something just as simple as the lush greenery the roads are lined with. Most clients will book a local photographer who is familiar with the area, but we have worked with some international photographers also. We will have a pre wedding meeting with photographers regardless and early communication with them prior to the wedding.

If clients are getting married in such a beautiful tropical location, of course you want to capture the colours of the water and the lush colours of the tropical flowers and greenery, however you also want to ensure you capture a few images that are distinctively Samoa .

Clients ideally should have a prepared list of photos that they want taken. This could include family photos, maybe locations they have seen, sunset photos etc. Normally the MC assists the photographer with this.

Do you have preferred wedding vendors you like to work with?

It is so important to know your vendors. As we live on an Island, people are very transient. As weddings can be booked well in advance you want to only recommended well established and reliable vendors. We provide a list of vendors to clients; however we encourage them to make the final choice. We will manage the relationship and payments with their chosen vendor.

What’s the typical budget of couples you’ve helped plan weddings for? Do you charge a flat fee or do you take a percentage of the budget?

Package rates start as low as $1,200 for a small elopement style wedding and then go up to around $15,000 for an all-inclusive package for 100 guests. This includes ceremony, reception, food and drink, wedding cake, bridal bouquet, centrepieces, all decorations and service staff, including canapés during the cocktail hour. There are of course many add on clients can choose, but we will work with our client and help them manage their budget. My role is to negotiate on behalf of my client, not only for their wedding costs but also for things like accommodation.

I tend to encourage clients to start with a lower package and they can always upgrade. This eases the pressure of knowing numbers from RVSP’s etc.   When they book through my business, I am paid by the resort, they pay no more than if they were dealing directly with the resort, but they get a dedicated wedding professional, not just an events coordinator.

If they have already booked with the resort, but are looking for an independent wedding consultant or day of support then my packages start as low as $500, depending on their requirements.

How does the contract and deposit process work?

Once my client has decided on a wedding property, in most cases the resort requires a 50% deposit of the chosen package to secure the wedding date.   All my invoicing is done through NZ Travel Brokers platform who I am an independent member of, so all payments go into a trust account and are paid onto the resort . This offers reassurance to my clients, as we know there has been bad press with people acting as Wedding professionals, yet taking their clients’ money and using it for other things.

Are there any hire companies?

We are very spoilt in Samoa now, we have amazing hire companies. Generally though couples won’t need to hire anything, as their centrepieces, linen, seating, tables etc is all included. Most clients will bring wedding favours with them, or I will arrange wedding favours here in Samoa for them. The properties are so picturesque and full of amazing colours that you don’t need to add much in the way of extra decorations. Of course we will consult with the client about their preferred style. This is what makes a destination wedding so easy, affordable and stress free.

How many guests can venues usually accommodate?

We have boutique properties who only like to host 30-50 people then we have a property where I have managed a wedding of 600 people. This is part of the selection process. Most will comfortably host up to 100 people.  There are options also so book some smaller properties exclusively.

Are celebrants provided by the resort or are you able to choose?

The pastor or celebrant normally comes from the village where the resort is located. They must be registered in Samoa to legally perform the ceremony. The pastor’s or celebrants booked, all have good English and generally come with a great sense of humour. We will meet with the pastor or celebrant with the couple prior to the wedding. This is included as part of the package.

Can you get married on the beach?

Yes, Most beach weddings are inclusive of a decorated arch and some seating.

Do you have preferred local photographers?

Yes I do, the list of preferred vendors is given to the client.

Any other advice you have?

Every time I engage with a new couple I always take it very seriously. I remind myself the couple is entrusting me to help them plan one of their most special times together; generally in a country they have never been to before.

While people can just book online and deal with an event coordinator, I often have people come to me after they have booked as they are stressed they have not heard from the property, the property is slow to reply and understandably when it’s your wedding, this makes it stressful for your couple.

If they book with me from the beginning, they don’t pay for services, and they have a dedicated and committed person representing them in Samoa. This includes things like popping out to the resort to take a photo of something they have asked me about, having meetings with the resort on their behalf, finding or researching for unusual requests.  I help with more than the wedding details, couples do worry about their guests travelling, so I also extend my services to their guests to help them plan a great holiday experience. This also prevents the couple from being overwhelmed with guest questions about Samoa.

Again people can book on line for accommodation, but what they don’t realise to help me negotiate and get a better overall wedding deal for the couple, if all the accommodation comes via me this helps to get other inclusions or savings for the couple. The more bookings via myself the better rate we get also. As part of my service I will negotiate a group booking rate and clients guests can then RVSP and book online via my website. This is customised for each client.

Having one point of contact is much easier and less stress for the client. I consult with my clients through both emails and regular calls.

I will manage all group accommodation bookings. Guests do need to try and at least book to hold a room as soon as possible especially during peak times. My service is to keep the client informed of who has booked. Their guests can then deal with me direct in managing both their airfare bookings and accommodation. Often clients change their dates during the 24-12 month period.

I will help with either wedding related pre and post activities or I can help guests individually to build a great holiday experience and this can be across both Islands

I promote locally made. I will ensure my clients know what is available to them in Samoa (this also reduces what they need to bring) and buying locally makes their budget go further. On their arrival into Samoa I will take them to meet the people who have made their favours. This way they can see where and how their wedding gifts were made.

I meet my clients at the airport and even provide my brides a free steamer to use for their wedding attire and veils etc

All couples receive a complimentary thank you gift when they book with me.

I have arranged hens and stag events on Island, wooden bus outings (so much fun), this includes stopping at a local supermarket which my guest have just loved, private shopping excursions, I tell my guests about places only known by locals, hidden treasures not found in travel guides, I can book tours, this includes customised tours, golf and fishing trips for the boys, spa and lunch outings for the girls.

I answer all the how do we, where do we get, can we get, do you know….. questions that event co-ordinators simply do not have the time to answer or research .

Karleen Rasmussen

MOB: +68 5776 2806

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