How To Start Planning Your Destination Wedding
There’s nothing quite like jet-setting across the country to say your ‘I do’s’ with your favorite person.
Even couples for whom traveling is a passion, or a regular part of business or life, the freedom to plan your wedding without the limitations of being confined to what’s available in your hometown can make wedding planning not just a task, but a true adventure.
The adventure of planning your wedding abroad
From the romantic Italian countryside, to the tropical, bright beaches of the Caribbean, the world is your nuptials oyster, just waiting for you to crack it open and make professing your forever love for each other a true experience of a lifetime.
Even with a generous budget and an open calendar, it’s not as easy as closing your eyes, spinning a globe, and getting married wherever your finger lands – planning a wedding has many moving (pun intended) parts.
While making your dreams come true with a local wedding can feel like fitting a round peg in a square hole, destination weddings also come with some unique decisions: busy or off-season tourism location, predicting and planning for weather, budgeting for how much guest travel you can cover, navigating local rules like marriage licenses in another country, and plenty, plenty more. So, where to begin?
Keep reading to get a preview of how professional, boutique wedding planners Vida Events help guide couples through the first steps of planning a dream destination wedding…
1. Consider your budget
First and foremost, the dreaded conversation of budget. Even if money isn’t a primary concern for you, having an idea of what you want to spend on each major part of your wedding before you start researching different locations, will help give you an idea of who you can bring with you and what you can do when you get there.
Don’t forget, the expense of traveling isn’t always easy to predict – the time of year and the tourism season of the location will be big factors on the cost of guest travel. Some guests may be able to afford a $400 plane ticket, but are you prepared to help pay if airline tickets double in price between you sending your save-the-dates and your formal invitations?
2. Decide who to invite
Answering the above questions regarding budget will also help you put together your guest list and pick your destination – depending on your priorities, these two steps may be swapped.
Destination weddings are traditionally much smaller, and most would-be-attendees of your local wedding won’t take it personally if they know you’re traveling to get married, so feel free to be liberal with your red pen as you whittle down your parents’ often bloated list of “must be invited” third-cousins-twice-removed.
3. Choose your location
What are your destination must-haves? Do you want a European, rustic feel with an edge of adventure in Ireland? Consider a rehearsal day brewery tour with your wedding party and end your trip with a pub-crawl.
Does a laid-back, tropical beach vibe speak to you? There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts with great wedding packages in the Caribbean. Or maybe you and yours have always enjoyed the outdoors? Montana has grown to become a wonderful destination wedding area with ski resorts, swanky horse ranches, and picturesque views overlooking lakes and mountains.
The look and feel of your destination are important, but even more so, make sure the location represents you two as a couple. What are your shared interests and passions? A place that reflects your lives together will feed into your wedding and guests will be sure to notice!
4. Hire the pro’s
So you have your budget, your guest list, and you’ve picked a destination. Congrats to you, you’re done! Not so fast, the next step may very well save you the most money, prevent the most headaches, and do the most to ensure your day is what you dreamed of: hire a wedding planner!
When planning from afar, clearing unexpected hurdles, and spending the often daunting amount of time it takes to research and navigate local rules, customs, and vendor availability, a seasoned professional is essential to helping your day come together. Planning is one service you won’t regret obtaining, and it’s often the one thing couples wish they had gotten.
There are few certainties in life outside death and taxes, but in my experience, the third is having a vendor call the day before (and two the day of) your wedding with a crisis to handle. Planners are like deodorant – you won’t notice problems if you have us, but you and all your guests will if you don’t.
A few critical things to take care of ASAP if you’re considering a destination wedding:
- Make sure you have current passports – as in they shouldn’t expire within 6 months of your wedding. It can take a long time to renew passports, especially in the age of COVID.
- Are you covering accommodations for guests (hotel, flight, etc.)? This is often the largest expense for destination weddings, and you should never assume you know what your guests can afford. It’s best to know what you can offer before you’re asked.
- Event and travel insurance – again, COVID has caused major changes to insurance, and this is something you literally can’t wait until the last minute to research.
- Travel restrictions – Many countries require travel visas, some require vaccines, and some require quarantines.
Some travel agents may have exclusive access to deals on venues, flights, hotels and more. Seasoned planners aren’t selfish or territorial when it comes to helping couples with their arrangements – our goal is to leverage the combined efforts of all your vendors to make your day perfect. Did someone say free upgrade to the honeymoon suite?
Being engaged can seem like both the longest and shortest period of your lives together. Regardless, wedding planners like ourselves want to help make it an experience you remember not with stress, but with love and joy!
Megan Lentz, Co-founder of boutique-style wedding planning and coordination company Vida Events
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