How to Plan a Destination Wedding

Photo by: Michael and Anna Costa

How to plan a destination wedding is a common question asked by couples who want to have their wedding double as a dream vacation. When beginning the process, couples will likely have to consider group flight bookings, hotel block reservations and a number of other logistics such as wedding ring declarations at customs and legal marriage requirements.

To help simplify the process, we highlighted several important steps you can take to begin planning your perfect destination wedding .

Step 1- Pick a Destination

The first step in the planning process is to choose your destination. There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing the perfect location;

Your preferences, local weather patterns, school holidays and legal marriage requirements in other countries. For example, you can have a wedding ceremony in the Galápagos, but foreigners are not legally allowed to wed there. And France has a 40-day residency requirement before allowing you to lawfully get married. Not to mention a language barrier that you will have when seeking this information.

Our recommendation if you’re working with a tight budget, pick a destination closer to home or in a city where the ceremony will be more affordable. (New York City, for example, is one of the most expensive destinations in the world for a wedding — so simply leaving town can help reduce the costs.)

And remember to factor in expenses such as flights, hotel stays and dining out, rental cars or transportation. Also account for the general cost of living in your destination to get an idea of your potential total spend.

Find a location guests will be excited about, too

“Most statistics say you should expect about 20% less of your guest count for the wedding,” Most [guests] invited from out of town look to make a vacation of your wedding and it’s rare that they’ll miss the chance to do so.”

Though your wedding is ultimately about you and your future spouse, it’s important to consider whether or not your ceremony is somewhere your guests will happily visit, too.

As it turns out, the three most popular spots for couples to have a destination wedding outside the continental United States are Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii, according to GroupTravel.

This is also the time to consider your guests’ budgets. How many of your friends and family are realistically going to be able to afford flights to your destination wedding, or the cost of a hotel room upon arrival? This can help narrow your geographic purview (or, frankly, cut down the number of RSVPs).

“Weddings in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia can expect lower turnout, given the cost of long-haul flights and [the] vacation time required,” said Watkinson.

“[With] anywhere that requires two or more stops, or more than a few thousand dollars all-in,” she explained, “you can expect a low guest count if you’re not subsidizing travel or hotel accommodations.”

(c) Zoe Burchard

Step 2- Hire an Event Planner

Couples should strongly consider hiring a wedding planner. And contrary to popular belief, no they do not have to be based in the same place as your destination. We do recommend finding a planner that does specialize or have experience in destination planning.

This person, will change your life. No seriously! They will.

Not only will your planner help create your budget and help book vendors, they will also;

  • Give you necessary and accurate information on local customs and laws.
  • Organize travel and hotel room blocks for you and guests.
  • Provide you and your guests with crucial tips for navigating local transportation.

With the help of your planner, the next step is to reserve your venue and date. In a foreign country, it’s often easiest to hold the wedding at a resort or hotel where guests can also stay onsite. 

If the venue comes with a wedding planner or coordinator, your planner will coordinate with them and use them as feet on the ground during the planning process.

Step 3- Be Realistic with your Budget

There’s a big misconception that hosting a wedding in a ‘cheaper’ location will help save money. The truth is, even if you have fewer attendees, you’ll probably end up shelling out more on an entire weekend’s worth of events, since all of your guests will be traveling in from out of town.

Planners can actually save you money! Even though it will cost you to hire a planner, it will save you a ton of time, money and stress.  Even if you think you cannot fit a planner into your budget, it never hurts to look into it and ask for all options. Some planners offer partial planning for a lower price This is perfect for the couples planning their wedding themselves, but need a little extra help putting the finishing touches together at a lower cost than full service planning

(c) Zoe Burchard

Step 4- Plan Early

Send Save the dates as early as possible! This is even more important when planning a destination wedding. Keep in mind that people will not only need to ask off of work, but also budget for a trip. We recomend you let your guest know AT LEAST 180- 120 days in advance and send the actual invites 90 days before. 

Often it evolves into a longer stay for guests and they are able to make a vacation of it. When booking your room block and rates, make sure that the rate is good 3 days before and 3 days after the wedding date

Photo by: Lauren Neely

Step 5- Have Fun!

When planning a destination event, some things are bound to get lost in translation (even when language is not a barrier!).  Someone will miss their flight.  Someone will lose their luggage.  And even the most organized bride will forget something.  Above all, remember to enjoy every moment.  Smile in every photo.  Laugh a TON.  Hug everyone that made the trek to join you, and have a blast!

For more information on Destination Planning check out our website and services offered.

Photo by: Michael and Anna Costa

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