How to Plan An Amazing Destination Wedding – Tips, Advice and Guided Help
Destination weddings are becoming an option that more and more brides are considering for their wedding day. Images of tropical beaches, the Italian countryside, or snow-covered mountains might be flashing through your head as the ideal setting to say your I-Dos. But before you get swept away in dreams of getting married in an exotic location, you’ll want to consider if this way to tie the knot is right you, your families, and your guests.
If you’re considering a destination wedding it’s likely that you’re excited about saying your vows in an exotic location.Think about the atmosphere that you’re looking for. Maybe you like the laid-back, carefree, island vibe that the Caribbean offers, or is it the big city energy that you’ll find in a metropolis? If you’re considering a location that you’ve never visited, take the time to do plenty of research, or connect with a travel agent early in the planning process to help determine if it’s a good fit for your style.
A destination wedding is a great choice for couples looking for a small, intimate ceremony. You’ve always got the option of having a reception when you get home to celebrate your marriage with a larger group of friends. This allows you to keep your guest list short, while not hurting anyone’s feelings in the process. Many couples also find a destination wedding to be a great option when they have family located all over the country. Guests are going to have to travel no matter where the ceremony is held, so why not travel someplace exotic?
You may find it surprising, but a destination wedding is often easier on the pocket book than a traditional wedding. You’ll likely have fewer guests, which results in lower costs for big-ticket expenses like food and drinks. Many destination wedding locations offer wedding packages that can be customized into a very unique, personalized event, while still offering planning and décor at a reduced cost. Resorts may even throw in bonus hotel nights or wedding upgrades depending how many rooms are booked in your group.
On the other hand, have you always dreamed about a big, lavish wedding, surrounded by hundreds of your closest family and friends? If that’s the case you’ll probably want to stay away from a destination locale. Guests are normally expected to pay their own airfare and hotel expenses when attending a destination wedding, so sometimes it’s not financially feasible for everyone to make the trip. If you can’t stand the thought of all of your loved ones not being able to celebrate with you, try having a simple ceremony at home and save your money for an exotic honeymoon instead!
If you do decide that a destination wedding is right for you, congrats! You’re embarking on an exciting adventure. Enlist the help of a travel agent and a destination wedding planner to ensure all your travel and ceremony details are taken care of. Before you know it you’ll be saying I-Do in the exotic location you’ve always dreamed about!
Getting Started With A Destination Wedding
So you’ve decided to have a destination wedding. Great news. Now comes the planning part. First thing first, make sure you read through our list below and getting ready for an amazing time.
1. Pick Your Destination
The first thing to do is pick your destination wedding location. Unlike a hometown affair, you can’t assume everyone will be able to spend the money and vacation days to attend, so you’ll need to wait to get a read on how many people can come before you choose a location. Don’t forget to think about whether your chosen location has the quality of hotels you’re looking for and the service level you expect for your wedding and your guests.
2. Start Now
You should start researching and planning your destination wedding as soon as possible. Unlike like a local wedding, the logistics are just harder to organize and there is a lot more involved if you want to just pop in a visit the reception location. The earlier the start the better.
3. Get Help
Most resorts will provide a wedding planner as part of the package you buy for your wedding. If not, then hire somebody. It is invalauble to have an expert wedding planner who can help with your destination wedding. Planners also serve as expert eyes for finding and overseeing vendors at your chosen location.
4. Get Everything In Writing
We say this about all wedding planning, but even moreso for destination weddings, make sure you confirm all agreements in writing. Unlike a local wedding where word of mouth and things like the Better Business Bureau can encourage vendors to always do the right thing, some vendors in far flung locations can take advantage of brides who aren’t local. Also, things can be lost in translation, so having it written down helps both you and the vendor remember the exact details.
5. Be Respectful of Guests
No bridezilla’s needed when planning a destination wedding. If friends and family are invited to your destination wedding, remember not everybody wants to spend their retirement savings on this one trip. Consider an all-ages, all-inclusive resort or cruise during low season to keep costs down and provide a bevy of built-in activity options.
6. Build a Website to Help Guests
Free website tools like Weebly make it so easy to build a website, why not take advantage and build a site that explains everything to guests. It can include all the little details guests need to know like whether a passport is needed, what local activities are available, a packing list and even fun things like the history of the location you have chosen.
7. Ask Lots of Questions
There are no stupid questions. As away and don’t be shy. Just because you’re having a destination wedding doesn’t mean you can have it exactly the way you want. Ask vendors, the hotel and your wedding planner. This is going to give you peace of mind and ensure everything is perfect.
8. Be Flexible
9. Get There Early
Plan to fly in a few days before the main event to assure that the paperwork is processed and to nail down any final details. You will be surprised by all the little details and things you need to do so being there early gives you the time needed to cover all the bases.
Destination Wedding Timeline & Checklist
Destination Weddings are weddings that take place away from where the bride and groom live. They happen in some of the most exotic and wonderful places in the world. These types of non-traditional weddings provide the bride and groom with dreamy settings, while doubling as an opportunity for guests to experience a place they have never been before. But, because destination weddings mean traveling far away from home, the bridal couple and their guests may need additional time for all planning components. They must also apply a little more due diligence on research side then they would do for a traditional wedding.
Following is a destination wedding timeline which can be modified to suit your individual destination wedding vision.
12 Months or more
- Create a wedding binder. Keep all ideas, swatches, photos, correspondence, etc. and keep it in an easily accessible place.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
- Consider purchasing wedding insurance to protect your special day.
- Compile a reasonable guest list. Don’t over invite assuming guests won’t come because of travel. Invite anyone you want to have present (budget permitting) and allow the guest to decide if they can/want to travel.
- If you are getting married outside of the country, consider hiring a wedding consultant who specializes in destination weddings.
11 Months prior
- Set up a profile of the type of destination wedding your want
- Research, research, research locations before you book. Note distance from airport to hotel, weather, seasons and time of year (consider hurricanes) amenities, etc.
- Settle on a wedding date.
- Send save the date cards. (optional).
- Verify marriage residency requirements.
- Research travel and accommodation options for guests
- Consider visiting the destination to be sure this is THE spot for you.
10 months prior
- Make destination wedding planning trip, if necessary
- Set up meetings with any stateside wedding professional who may be traveling to your wedding locale.
9 Months prior
- Start putting together any legal documents required to marry at the destination wedding location.
- Make travel arrangements to the destination wedding site, if possible.
- Book the lodging accommodations for wedding attendants
- Complete itinerary for tours or any other extra curricular activities for guests, if applicable
- Make your own travel arrangements for the wedding
8 Months prior
- Register for gifts
- Determine style, formality and colors of wedding
- Consider style of stationery, invitations
7 Months prior
- Select your wedding gown
- Choose and order bridesmaids wedding dresses
- Order groom and groomsmen attire
- Shop for wedding rings
6 Months prior
- Make final selections on wedding cake baker, florists and décor, and transportation necessary.
- Work on ceremony details and buy any necessary items
- Finalize menu and wedding cake order
5 Months prior
- Purchase fiancé’s gift (optional)
- Order favors (optional)
- Buy gifts for wedding attendants and parents
4 Months prior
- Finish addressing wedding invitations and mail out
3 Months prior
- Update your budget
- Review contracts again and familiarize yourself with arrival times, etc.
2 Months prior
- Start creating seating charts. Yes, it is hard but it must be done.
- Call guests who have not yet responded
1 Month prior
- Release any unnecessary rooms
- Finalize all wedding day itineraries
- Confirm travel arrangements with the hotel/resort
3 Weeks prior
- Send out emails to wedding providers who have been contracted to finalize the details.
3 Days prior
- Arrive at wedding destination
- Meet with banquet manager
- Go over details
- Bridal beauty – manicure, pedicure – no change in facial products at this time. Any change in cleansers or makeup should be done at least one month prior to the wedding.
- The day of
Relax, say “I DO” and live happily ever after!
Top 5 Reasons To Have A Destination Wedding
There’s a reason destination weddings are growing in popularity. People see themselves at a beautiful destinations, friends and family surrounding them as the sun sets in the distances. What isn’t there to love. But it isn’t just sunsets that make destination weddings amazing. Consider these five reasons for having your own destination wedding:
Ok, so maybe they aren’t totally stress free, but there also won’t be scenes from Father of the Bride either. Destination weddings often don’t have all the fanfare and people go into them more relaxed. Throw in that destination weddings are also easier to plan and most destinations will throw in a wedding planner to help, you’ll be much less stressed.
2. You Call The Shots
With less formality and distance between home and your destination, you can have more freedom to make your event exactly the way you want without having to explain away every decision. Family traditions and cultural norms are easier to ignore (if that’s what you want) when you are having a less formal wedding on a beach somewhere. Guest and often bossy family members are also less involved in the planning which gives you the freedom to do whta you want.
3. Perfect for Re-Tying The Knot
Destination weddings are perfect for second marriages. Been-there-done-that couples who are getting married for the second or third time choose destination weddings because they’re simple and private. Either the bride and/or groom have done the glitzy NYC city extravaganza before and want something quieter or less expensive this time around, or they want to be someplace anonymous, without the watchful eyes and whispers of the hometown crowd.
4. They’re Not That Expensive
Ok, they can be expensive, but we’re talking relative to a local wedding it isn’t as bad as you think. Most people don’t realize that you can fly to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, get married, and stay for an amazing honeymoon for a few thousand dollars, including hotel, meals, drinks, and airfare. Compare that with your average 100 guest wedding locally and you see that even with all the added costs of a destination wedding, it is still very much affordable.
5. Awesome Chance for a Reunion
At a typical wedding, you’re on the run, meeting and greeting. Destination weddings are on vacation time. You’re usually required to arrive a few days early to fill out the paperwork, so by the time your wedding rolls around, you’ve had two to three days of fun with your sweetie, family, and friends. How often do you have the opportunity to spend no-rush quality playtime with dear, far-flung friends? This is your chance.
Top 10 Tips For Destination Weddings
1. Hire A Wedding Planner
Most wedding package include a wedding planner so make sure you take advantage. If you wedding packages doesn’t include a wedding planner, then make sure you hire one. A wedding planner can do a lot of the legwork when it comes to planning your wedding, and when your wedding is a destination wedding, trust us when we say you need professional help.
2. Full Dry Run of The Logistics Services
Local events are much logistically. Guest for example show up on their own. That’s not the case for a destination wedding. You need to make sure you take that into account, ensuring you have transportation organized for guests to and from the airport, have the driver take you through the logistics and timing and do a dry run.
3. You MUST Take Several Trips
You cannot plan a destination wedding without a few trips to the location. You need to scout and lock down all your vendors, venues and local suppliers. You also need to schedule “tastings” with your caterer, see sample bouquets from the florist, plan a hair and makeup session with a salon, and organize activities for guests. There is a lot to do, plan a few trips.
4. Bring Your Own People
Bring your own pros. Don’t hesitate to fly in talent you trust from home for critical aspects such as photography, hair and makeup, and decor design (lighting, flowers). These vendors can work with local vendors in a supervisory capacity to avoid any communication mishaps. This may cost you some more money than using locals, but the piece of mind can be well worth it.
5. Don’t Be A Bridezilla
Be nice and calm with local vendors. Don’t forget you give them each an impression of you and they know you aren’t local so being nice to them helps them want to give you an awesome event. Remember that they can literally make or break your wedding, and a little goes a long way toward getting them on your side.
6. Dive Deep On Vendors
If you must hire your vendors sight unseen, ask for a portfolio of pictures and at least three references. Be sure the references are people for whom the vendor did an event similar to yours. Ask for the names of other vendors who worked those events and use them as further references regarding the company in question.
7. Tell Before You Ask
Make sure you tell your bridal party about the destination wedding plan before you ask them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight. You may also want to cover the cost for your bridal party if you know that it could be an issue.
8. Get a Grip
Don’t be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don’t attend. While you are, in a sense, footing some of the food bills, their fees for travel, hotel, and car rental can really add up, especially for a family. And while your wedding is a mini-vacation for you, it may not be the one they want to take!
10. Pack Right
Whatever you bring with you, you’ll have to lug along for the trip. And don’t forget to allow ample room for your gown. While we’re talking about gowns, don’t forget to dress according to your location. A $20,000 ballgown is probably not the way to go for a casual wedding on the beach in Hawaii.
Who Pays For What At A Destination Wedding
Unlike most local weddings, there’s some added complexity with destinations weddings. The costs for all parties involved can be a little more unclear. Don’t worry, we’re here to clear it all up. Here’s an easy checklist to help you decide who pays for what.
The bride and groom pay for:
- The wedding reception
- A rehearsal dinner
- A welcome party
- A morning-after brunch
- Selected activities (a group sailing trip, a tour around town)
- Transportation to and from the ceremony and reception sites
- A shuttle to pick up your guests at the airport when they arrive
- Attendant hotel rooms.
- Travel expenses for VIPs with no other means to make it to the wedding
Guests should expect to pay for:
- Their plane ticket to and from the destination
- Their hotel room stay
- Any meals or beverages that are not part of the wedding festivities
- Any non-wedding activities that choose to participate in
- Travel to and from the destination
- Formalwear and accessories
- Hair and makeup or spa appointments
- Food and drinks that aren’t part of a wedding event