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The Best Way to Plan a Destination Wedding

Updated on February 21, 2018
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Kate is a researcher who has a knack for planning and executing memorable events of all sizes. From weddings to funerals, she does it all.

When my husband and I were planning our special day, we decided that the lure of an exciting destination wedding was something we couldn't resist! Hometown weddings can be just as special, but there is something about getting married in an exotic or unusual location that adds a spark of excitement our local church or civil office would never be able to match. There's a lot to consider when you host an event like this, but I found that the bit of extra work we had to do with planning was more than worth it in the end.

Obviously, they wouldn't be called "Destination" Weddings if traveling wasn't going to be a big part of the event. To be frank, the whole idea stressed my future husband quite a bit. There were many days he would slip in a "if we did it close to home we wouldn't have to be worrying about this!" But I didn't care, this was going to be a wedding to remember and I knew it would be well worth the effort.

I just knew I didn't want my guests to walk away saying "that was a typical wedding." If you don't want the word "typical" associated with your special day, read on and find out how to avoid being part of the crowd.

Don't Skimp on the Research

It would be a real shame to have all the information you need on local venues, vendors, where you're going to stay, financing, and a million other details all nailed down but then forget to check the weather. This was almost the case for my fiancee and I. We initially wanted a mountain top wedding on our pre-planned wedding date. Later we found out that was the dead of winter for the location we would be traveling to. My point here is; don't forget the little things, like researching the weather where you are going. A mountaintop wedding wouldn't be pleasant in a blizzard and neither would a beachfront ceremony in the rainy season.

We also had to do our wedding on a budget so my husband wouldn't pull out all of his hair before we even said "I do." If this is your situation, please be careful when choosing an area with a lot of tourist traffic. Unless there is no limit to what you (or your guests) can afford to spend, places like these are going to be much more expensive and you could also find yourself in competition for venue space depending on what else may be going on in the area at the time. At this stage, thorough research couldn't be more important for your plans to flow smoothly and avoid disappointment.

Destination weddings are often the most memorable weddings your guests ever attend.
Destination weddings are often the most memorable weddings your guests ever attend.

Find the Perfect Destination by Doing This One, Simple Thing

My fiancee and I began our planning by sitting down and discussing what was most important to each other in life and more importantly recreation. This conversation naturally lead to discussions about multiple places we both found intriguing. For us, it came down to the rocky mountains in California and the beaches of Hawaii. We were able to narrow it down to these two locations rather quickly.

So your partner may have already said "it's up to you honey" (like mine initially said) but don't believe it, because if it's not an area they enjoy, you most likely won't either. Keeping your budget firmly in mind when you have this talk can really lower your stress level and ensure you both enjoy the time that much more. It's important to make certain of the following:

  • Your destination has to have everything you need within a reasonable distance. It should have decent, affordable restaurants and enough hotels in the area to accommodate all your guests. They shouldn't have to drive a long distance to their room after the ceremony and reception are over.
  • If at all possible, visit the location beforehand and absorb a little atmosphere to be sure you made the right choice. This is a good opportunity to see what entertainment you can expect, find out where the best places to eat are, and locate the closest hotels.
  • If you've decided on a resort, you won't have many of the above possible issues. In fact, most resorts have wedding planners, caterers, and a few entertainment options as well. However, they generally only have one person on staff to handle it all, and if that person is busy you may have to commit months in advance to reserve your time.

How the Setting Can Lead to Significant Savings

Naturally, the more you save, the more you have to spend on those "must have" local mementos. If you choose an outside wedding with beautiful natural scenery, there is no need to spend thousands on special decorations with all that nature surrounding you. For indoor events consider the following:

  • Local blooms cost very little compared to what a florist charges.
  • Caterers and special menu choices for the reception can be quite expensive. Instead, why not contact a restaurant that specializes in serving favorite local dishes, instead of over-priced, catered food that never seems to taste as good as it should for the price.

My husband and I settled on a beach wedding in Hawaii. We wanted to do it cheaply so we contacted a friend of mine from college who now lives in Hawaii. She helped me to pick out a public (yes, public) beach which cost zero dollars to have a wedding at! It was semi-secluded so we knew we likely wouldn't be fighting any crowds. By choosing to have our ceremony on a beach open to the public, we saved thousands of dollars with that decision alone.

Know the Law, Especially If Your Destination Is Another Country

We were lucky and our wedding was in the same country we live in. This did make some things a lot easier and reducing the balding on my fiancee's head from stress. Not that a wedding in another country was impossible (far from it), but if you do plan a wedding in another country, make sure you are familiar with the local laws and customs. If you can develop a local contact in that country, such as a local event planner, that will help you immensely. You don't want to end up in trouble with the law on your wedding day because of some obscure law you weren't aware of!

The laws in another country can be very different and at times, confusing. According to Wedding Forward's Tips for Destination Wedding Planning, it isn't uncommon for legal issues to arise in other countries surrounding weddings. Specifically they name curfew and local ordinance violations.

Also, find out what documentation non-citizens are required to have for a legal marriage and make sure they are the first thing you pack when it's time to go.

  • Don't worry, most people will be willing to work with you to help things flow smoothly because they want more of your business in the future.
  • While you're dealing with documents, don't forget to make sure your passport is up to par if you'll be needing one. This should be a priority because any difficulties discovered at the last minute could mean disaster for all your plans.

Don't Be Caught Short at the Airport

Air travel fares change frequently but for the most part, any information you gather should be pertinent long enough to suit your purposes. Buying tickets as far in advance as you can will help you avoid any price hikes before the wedding. Many airlines offer slight discounts for advance ticket purchase and that will help people who otherwise might not be able to make it.

Use your wedding as a time to go somewhere you've always wanted to visit!
Use your wedding as a time to go somewhere you've always wanted to visit!

Consider the Needs of Your Guests and You May Benefit Too!

Most Destination Weddings don't have a large guest list and that's part of why they are less expensive than you'd think. Making sure the people you want to be there can actually afford the trip is key. You may need to figure their travel expenses into your budget, or at the least make sure hotels they can afford are going to be available.

My husband and I worked out a deal with a local hotel (all we did was call and ask!) that told us if we recommended their hotel to our guests, and had at least ten rooms reserved by our guests for our wedding, we could get one of their high end rooms for free. They also would provide our guests with a 15% discount on their reservations. It was a win/win situation! So we proudly recommended that hotel to our guests and easily got ten of their rooms sold. We saved over $1000 with that deal alone and ended up with a beautiful room with a view!

Planning a deal like that far in advanced can be a bit tricky, but it is important that you do. If you are able to give your guests plenty of advanced notice, guests on a budget will have the time they need to save the cash for the trip, save up sick days, vacation time at work, or simply be able to buy a new outfit for the wedding. Guests will have checklists of their own and need time to take care of the details.

There Is No Shame in Giving up and Hiring a Professional

Trying to do it all yourself could leave you with a bad case of frayed nerves along with an overdose of stress. Especially for your fiancee, like in my case. When your mind is over-loaded with details it's easy to miss a few. A professional that deals strictly with destination weddings will likely be very familiar with every necessary step to make the day perfect. You can count on wedding planners to see to it that:

  • Chosen vendors are the best your budget can afford as well as having a history of delivering on their promises.
  • There will be enough rooms available at local hotels for your guests and in an appropriate price range.
  • Car rental arrangements are made.
  • There there will be antiquate transportation available for the guests.

There is no denying the irresistible charm of a Destination Wedding. You may feel overwhelmed by details in the beginning but whether you hire a professional, or make all the arrangements yourself, every effort and headache is going to be worth it when you're finally standing there saying "I do."

Oh and in case you are wondering, the people we felt we should invite to our wedding (to be polite) but who we really weren't excited to pay for didn't come since it was so far away. That meant my husband and I had a beautiful wedding on the beach in Hawaii with only our closest friends and family there. We have amazing memories, a very unique story for our wedding, and money left over in the bank!

What is your biggest hesitation to planning a destination wedding?

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© 2018 Kate Daily


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