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A Guide on How to Plan a Destination Wedding
Imagine this: crystalline turquoise water gently laps at the shore as the sun sinks below the horizon, painting the sky in stunning shades of red, orange and pink. You stand barefoot on the sand, hand in hand with the love of your life, exchanging vows and bridal jewelry with the rhythmic sound of the waves as your soundtrack. That’s the magic of a destination wedding — a celebration of love mixed with an unforgettable travel experience!

Destination weddings are popular among couples seeking a unique, intimate way to tie the knot. They make it possible to create a personalized experience that tells your love story. If you’re thinking about getting married far away from home but aren’t sure where to start, we can help. Read on to discover everything you need to know about how to plan a destination wedding. 

Pros and Cons of Destination Weddings

There are many advantages to choosing a destination wedding. First and foremost, it allows you to have a smaller celebration with your closest family and friends. Imagine spending quality time with loved ones before or after the ceremony, exploring the sights and sounds of a new location together. Destination weddings can also be a fantastic way to combine your wedding celebration with a honeymoon or a remarkable vacation for your guests. Depending on your chosen location, destination weddings can sometimes be more budget-friendly than traditional weddings, especially if you stick to a smaller guest list or explore all-inclusive packages.

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Of course, destination weddings also come with challenges. Guest limitations are a major factor to consider, as some loved ones might be unable to travel due to time constraints, budget limitations or physical limitations. Logistical planning also requires extra attention, as you’ll need to coordinate travel arrangements and guest accommodations while working with local vendors from afar.

Finding a Perfect Location

The first step in planning any wedding is choosing the perfect location, and it’s even more important when you want to tie the knot at a faraway destination. The venue will set the tone for your entire celebration, so take time to dream big and consider what kind of atmosphere you envision for your special day. While the world is certainly your oyster in this situation, there are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • Budget: Destination weddings vary greatly in cost depending on location and desired level of luxury. Be honest with yourselves about what you can comfortably afford and factor in all the expenses involved — not just the venue itself.
  • Desired Atmosphere: Do you crave the serenity of a secluded beach paradise, the rustic charm of an old farm or the vibrant energy of a city? Consider the experience you want to create for yourselves and your guests.
  • Guest Preferences: While it’s your special day, be mindful of your guests’ comfort and accessibility. Choose a location that’s relatively easy to get to for the majority of your invitees, especially if they’re traveling long distances.
  • Accessibility: Research travel time, visa requirements and overall ease of access for your guests. Consider time zone differences and potential jet lag, especially for older guests or those with young children. Also, think about the special people in your life with disabilities. If you want them to attend the ceremony, be sure to choose an accessible location. 
  • Legal Considerations: Don’t forget the legal aspects! Research marriage license requirements in your chosen destination and determine what paperwork you’ll need to submit in order to have a wedding there. 
dream wedding budget

Budgeting for Your Dream Wedding

Now that you’ve set your sights on a location, it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of budgeting. Weddings often have hidden costs, so a realistic and well-defined budget is crucial to ensuring a smooth and stress-free planning process.

Your chosen venue will likely be one of your biggest expenses, though costs vary depending on the location and type of venue. Travel might take up a large portion of your budget, too. Determine the cost of flights or other transportation, and consider purchasing travel insurance in case something goes wrong. 

Think about your wedding attire, too. In addition to what you’ll wear during the ceremony, you and your partner will also need outfits for pre- and post-wedding events. Of course, you’ll also need to buy his and her wedding ring sets before the big day! Fortunately, when you choose to buy your rings from Modern Gents, you won’t have to worry about it taking up a huge part of your budget. 

Lastly, don’t forget about vendors. You’ll need to hire local photographers, videographers, florists, musicians, caterers, etc., and their prices may be drastically different from what you’re used to seeing closer to home. Research reputable vendors and contact them early in the planning process to ask about prices and availability. 

A Note About Unexpected Expenses

Be prepared for additional expenses beyond the obvious costs. Factor in a buffer for unexpected costs like last-minute changes, additional decor rentals or gratuity for vendors. Research tipping customs in your chosen location and incorporate that into your budget. You never know what issues might arise when you are far away from home, so make sure you have some extra cash to cover the cost of unforeseen expenses. Be prepared for emergencies. In the best-case scenario, you’ll have money left over at the end of your marriage celebration, which is much better than ending up in a tough spot because you don’t have the money to handle an emergency. 

Cost-Saving Tips

While destination weddings can be extravagant affairs, there are ways to keep your budget in check. Consider getting married during the shoulder seasons (spring or fall) when travel costs and venue rates are often lower than they are during peak season.

Also, consider opting for a smaller guest list. Fewer people equals fewer expenses, so sticking to an intimate ceremony is one of the best ways to plan a destination wedding on a shoestring budget. Lastly, explore all-inclusive packages. Many resorts, hotels and other venues have all-inclusive wedding packages that include the venue, catering, decor and even basic photography or entertainment for a single price that’s lower than the cost of booking everything separately. 

Sending Save-the-Dates and Invitations

Sending Save-the-Dates and Invitations

Sending save-the-dates early is crucial for destination weddings. Doing so allows guests ample time to plan their travel and finances. This is especially important if you are getting married in another country because obtaining passports can be a lengthy process. The more advanced notice you give your guests, the more likely they’ll be able to attend, so send those save-the-dates as soon as possible! 

Your invitations should include clear information on the wedding location, date and time, along with travel resources like recommended airlines or websites for booking hotel rooms. Make sure your invitations mention the dress code and any other relevant information, as well. For example, if you’re getting married in a part of the world with a completely different climate that most of your guests are accustomed to, you may want to include a note about what the average weather is like at the time of year when you’ll be saying your “I dos.” 

Hiring Your Wedding Dream Team

Planning a destination wedding from afar is tricky. You need an experienced and reputable team to ensure your big day goes off without a hitch, but it’s not always easy to find the right people when you can’t meet face-to-face. Despite the challenges, though, hiring your wedding dream team is well worth the effort! After all, working with the right vendors is just as important to your marriage as shopping for the perfect engagement ring for women

hand with engagement ring holds passport

First, consider hiring a destination wedding planner. They have invaluable local knowledge and expertise and can help you navigate legalities, communicate with vendors and make sure everything runs smoothly on your big day. A good planner can also recommend reputable vendors you can trust — while helping you steer clear of not-so-trustworthy ones. 

Prioritize communication. Share your vision, discuss the logistical details and confirm timelines as far in advance as possible. Once everything is booked, keep the lines of communication open. Stay in touch in the weeks leading up to your big day to make sure everything is all set. 

Booking Flights and Accommodations

Booking flights early is crucial, especially if you have a long guest list. Explore group discounts offered by airlines or consider chartering a flight for a truly unique arrival experience (depending on your budget and guest numbers).

Research different transportation options from the airport to your chosen venue. Many — but not all — resorts and hotels offer complimentary airport shuttles. If this type of service isn’t available, you and your guests may need to rent cars or arrange for taxis. Provide clear information on transportation options in your wedding invitations to help your guests and ensure they know how to get from the airport to their hotel and your wedding venue safely.

There are a few ways to handle guest accommodations for a destination wedding, but booking a block of rooms is often the easiest and most cost-effective option. Work with your chosen venue or a hotel close to the venue to negotiate a room block for your guests at a discounted rate. 

If you’re not reserving a room block, give your guests a list of recommended hotels or accommodation options in different budget ranges. This eliminates guesswork while giving them the flexibility to choose a place that suits their preferences.

Planning the Ceremony

Planning the Ceremony

Your destination wedding ceremony should be a deeply personal reflection of your love story. Infuse your ceremony with meaningful readings, vows you’ve written yourselves or traditions that hold significance for you. Be mindful of the local culture, as well. Your ceremony should show respect for the people who call your chosen destination home. 

When choosing attire for the ceremony, consider the climate and ambiance of your chosen location. Stick to light fabrics and comfortable shoes if you’re getting married on a beach. A vineyard ceremony might call for a more formal dress code. Similarly, the music and decor should complement the surrounding environment.

Rocking the Reception

The reception is all about celebrating your love story with your closest family and friends. Embrace the spirit of your destination by choosing a theme that complements the location. Discuss your vision with your wedding planner and vendors to bring your theme to life.

Food is a universal language of love. Infuse local flavors into your wedding menu to showcase the culinary delights of your chosen destination. Offer dishes that cater to different dietary restrictions and preferences. If little ones will be attending, be sure to include some kid-friendly foods on the menu, too. Consider offering signature cocktails with local ingredients or featuring a selection of regional wines for a truly immersive experience.

Well-planned entertainment will keep your guests engaged throughout the reception. Live bands or DJs are perfect for getting the party started, while cultural performances specific to your destination add a unique touch. You could also add interactive elements like photo booths to create lasting memories.

Making Your Partner Feel Extra Special on the Big Day

Exchanging personalized gifts on your wedding day adds a sentimental touch to this momentous occasion. Consider gifts that reflect your chosen destination or inside jokes that hold special meaning for your relationship.

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For the bride, a piece of jewelry made by a local artisan or a piece that matches her bridal jewelry will instantly become a cherished keepsake. When shopping for gifts for the groom from the bride, a handcrafted pocket square made from local materials or a bottle of local liquor is a thoughtful gift. No matter the gift, your partner will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and the gift will serve as a memento they’ll cherish long after your wedding day ends. 

Closing Thoughts

Planning a wedding, especially a destination wedding, is an adventure in itself. There might be unexpected bumps along the road, but focus on the joy of celebrating your love story with your nearest and dearest. Delegate tasks to friends and family, embrace the flexibility that comes with destination weddings and, most importantly, enjoy the process of creating a magical celebration that reflects your unique love story.

 

Image Credits

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