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The Ultimate Guide to Planning A Destination Wedding

The Ultimate Guide to Planning A Destination Wedding

March 14, 2023
planning a destination wedding

Planning A Destination Wedding

A destination wedding, held far from home, offers the opportunity for a more intimate ceremony and the added bonus of a combined wedding and honeymoon experience. However, the planning process can be complex and it’s important to consider various details before embarking on such an event.

Destination weddings are ideal for couples who desire to play host and celebrate in a special location. It also works well for couples with friends and family members living in different regions or countries – if everyone has to travel, why not make it to a place that everyone is excited to visit? With a variety of options such as a tropical celebration in the Bahamas, an island fête in Bali, or a romantic getaway in Cartagena, we have all the information you need to plan an amazing destination wedding.

1. A Location For Your Destination Wedding

When choosing and planning a location for your destination wedding, weigh on the following topics:

  • Ensure that it is safe and has all the necessary resources for an event like the one you envision.
  • Consider the accommodation and accessibility needs of all guests
  • Make sure there are no recent travel warnings, political issues, or health concerns in the region. If there are, inform your guests accordingly.
  • Ensure that all guests will feel comfortable in the destination regardless of their religion, gender, or sexual preference.

Pro Tip:  A complex itinerary involving multiple modes of transportation, such as planes, trains, speed boats, and automobiles, may not be suitable for your grandparents or pregnant sister-in-law. Think about the least mobile person in your party and make arrangements if you plan to have them attend, including accessibility in travel or within a venue.

2. Hire A Wedding Planner Or Coordinator

Consider hiring a destination wedding planner or coordinator who specializes in your desired location. They can handle the details and logistics for you, saving you time and stress. If budget is a concern, look for resorts with strong on-site coordinators who can assist you with planning. Before you book your venue, ensure that your planner has knowledge of the locations, venues, and planning outlook of your chosen destination. This can help ensure a seamless and stress-free wedding experience. Here’s what to ask a wedding planner before hiring them.

3. Guest Accommodations

Providing recommendations for accommodations that cater to various budgets is a considerate gesture, although not mandatory in terms of etiquette. Offer multiple options at different price ranges, all located within a 10 to 15 minute radius.

Follow up with your guests regularly to make sure they have booked; as you know, there’s planners and there’s last minute planners. You want to stay ahead of the last minute planners and foresee last minute issues like “I’m coming but everything is booked, what should I do?” Believe me, it happens.

4. Create Immersive Experience

Go local with the culinary experience of the area as well as decorations and rituals. It provides an authentic experience that immerses you and your guests in the environment you fell in love with.

5. Visit Your Destination Wedding Location In Advance

It is highly recommended to have a firsthand experience of the wedding venue before booking it. Visit the venue at least once before making the final decision, and again three to four months before the wedding to finalize all the details. If it is not possible to make a second trip, then make sure you arrive at least a week prior to the wedding day to ensure that all decisions are made in time and have hair and makeup glam trials.

Visiting the destination during peak and non-peak hours, preferably from Thursday to Sunday, to gauge the overall ambiance of the location. Allot two to three days at the destination if schedule permits. This allows you to experience what your guests will feel and experience during the wedding. If visiting the venue is not feasible, hire a professional who is great at details and communication to help make the necessary arrangements.

6. Meet Your Vendors

Before your initial visit to the wedding destination, schedule appointments with the vendors you are thinking about hiring in the area. If you can, ask for recommendations from your venue as it may lead to discovering local expertise and potential cost savings. If you plan to bring vendors from your hometown, be prepared to cover their travel and accommodation expenses. It’s important to book them in a clean and secure hotel within a reasonable distance of the venue. Discuss and negotiate these costs upfront to avoid any unforeseen expenses that could derail your budget.

7. Additional Events

Enhance your wedding experience by planning supplementary events surrounding the big day. Providing additional activities will undoubtedly please your guests. You don’t have to go overboard and plan a full weekend of events, but a welcome party to greet your guests is a popular choice. Depending on your budget, you could also consider hosting an informal gathering for your guests after the rehearsal dinner or combining it with the welcome party.

Some couples choose to include interactive activities that highlight the location, such as group tours or tastings. A post-wedding brunch or luncheon can be a fantastic way to bring closure to the wedding weekend and bid farewell to guests.

However, it’s important to note that additional events aren’t a necessity, and you should do what works best for your budget and timeline.

8. Plan For Unexpected Expenses

Although destination weddings are often thought to be less expensive, it’s important to be prepared for unexpected costs. Make sure to allocate some extra funds in your budget for expenses like tips, airport transfers, shipping costs, and baggage fees. Additionally, hosting additional events like a welcome party or day-after brunch can add up quickly.

It’s also essential to inform your credit card company about your travel plans to avoid foreign transaction fees or the inconvenience of having your card declined. Keep some local currency with you as well for small purchases. By planning ahead and being financially prepared, you can ensure a stress-free destination wedding experience.

9. Passport & Visa Requirements 

International travel requires a valid passport, while domestic travel usually requires a current driver’s license. It’s important to double-check the expiration dates of all necessary documents as soon as you choose your wedding date and location. Additionally, some countries may require additional information such as a list of previously visited countries, health records, or vaccinations, so it’s important to research and prepare accordingly.

Make sure you check in with your guests and inform them about any required visas or vaccinations. Guests from different countries and nationalities will often have different requirements and travel regulations/restrictions.

10. Welcome Bags

Make your guests feel welcome by providing them with a thoughtful welcome bag upon arrival. Include items that are specific to the location or that will make their stay more comfortable. For example, in warm-weather destinations, consider including sunscreen or aloe vera, while in alpine environments, hot cocoa mixes or mittens would be a nice touch. Other great additions include water bottles, snacks, maps, and aspirin.

This is a nice to have rather than a must. 

11. Pick Your Outfits

When shopping for your wedding dress, take into account the climate and surroundings of your big day. Opt for breathable fabrics in hot and humid locations, and thicker materials in cooler climates. A lightweight dress would look gorgeous in the Caribbean, while an embellished ballgown would be fitting for a French villa wedding.

Additionally, avoid checking your dress in a suitcase. Instead, bring it with you on the plane, even if it needs to be folded. Ask for a special wedding gown back when purchasing your dress, let the designer/boutique/store know that you’ll be traveling with it. Be sure to have someone at the destination available to press and steam it if necessary.

12. A Graceful Goodbye

If you’re planning to honeymoon at the same resort as your guests, it’s important to manage the transition with care. You can say your goodbyes during a post-reception send-off or at a next-day brunch to make your departure clear, even if you’re staying on the property. Alternatively, if you want more privacy without offending anyone, consider moving to a different section of the hotel. Some resorts offer elevated accommodations like luxury suites, over-water villas, or independent cabins that are separate from other rooms.

Check out our compilation of the top 5 destination wedding questions

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