Ultimate Guide To Planning A Destination Wedding

July 7, 2021 | riley

Image by Los Ébano. See more of this real wedding here

There’s something magical about tying the knot in a faraway place, surrounded by your loved ones. But when it comes to planning a destination wedding, that magical feeling can start to fade. From marriage requirements to language barriers to the act of just getting there, there’s a lot that goes into it. Oh, and not to mention your guests’ availability, the weather, and your wedding budget. Sound overwhelming? We know. Don’t fret.

Before you jet-set off to your dream wedding destination, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you plan the perfect destination “I do’s.”

Why Have A Destination Wedding

Are you on the fence about having a destination wedding? While planning may seem like a difficult feat, there are a lot of advantages. Some of them include:

Image by Henry Tieu Photography. See more of this real wedding here

How To Pick Destination Wedding Location

Once you’re set on traveling for your special day, it’s time to pick a destination wedding location. The location determines the aesthetic of the day, your travel time, and impacts your budget.

Is there a spot that is special to you and your partner? Maybe the place you got engaged. Or the first place you two ever took a trip together. No matter what the significance is, you want to understand the travel requirements and restrictions beforehand. For example, will your guests need a passport or visa? Are there any travel warnings, health concerns, or political problems? If there are concerns (think vaccinations or quarantines), you need to be clear with your guests as soon as possible.

Lastly, think about the oldest guest that you will be inviting. Will it be difficult for them to travel to the destination of your choice? Is it feasible to have your great-grandmother travel ten hours by plane? If not, be sure to plan ahead with a virtual ceremony for guests who can’t attend in-person.

Image by Conie Suarez Bravo. See more of this real wedding here

Select A Destination Wedding Date

After picking a location, you’ll need to pick a date. While your availability is important, it’s best to research the weather conditions during your ideal season. In most places, the best weather will also mean an increase in travel time and crowds. This can lead to fewer hotel options and higher prices overall. 

If you decide to book your wedding date during peak season, book your venue and hotel room block as soon as possible. Check out shoulder seasons, or the times just outside peak season, so that you’ll still get great weather conditions for less money. 

Junebug Tip: The off-season is typically not popular for a reason. This usually means poor weather conditions and a lack of activities. Don’t accidentally cut costs by hosting your wedding during hurricane season!

Once a date is picked, send your save-the-dates eight to twelve months out. From there, your official wedding invitations should go out five to six months before the wedding. Your wedding announcements will give guests time to get their travel in order and avoid too many changes in cost.

While guests are paying for things like travel fees, hotels, and activities the costs add up quickly. So if you have guests who can’t afford to attend, don’t be upset.

Image by Wild Connections Photography. See more of this real wedding here

Research Local Marriage Requirements

While we wish getting married was as simple as hiring an officiant, it’s, unfortunately, a little more complicated than that. Some countries have residency requirements or need other certificates before you can legally wed. 

Read up on every requirement they have before traveling so that you’re not surprised once there. If it’s impossible to have your wedding legally recognized in the country you’ve chosen, consider tying the knot in a civil ceremony before you go. This way, you can say “I do” in front of your guests and rest assured that it’s the real deal. 

Take A Trip

If possible, take at least one trip to your destination during the wedding planning process. This gives you time to scout out a venue, lodging, and rehearsal dinner spots while meeting with potential vendors

If you’re able, visit a second time for tastings, hair and makeup trials, meetings with florists, and any of your other vendors If this isn’t possible–we can’t stress this enough–hire a local wedding planner!

Image by Jelani Lebourne. See more of this real wedding here

Vet The Wedding Vendors

Speaking of wedding planners–this is where they come in handy. A local planner will know all of the best vendors around. While you can find many options online, make sure that you’re comfortable with the planner you hire. They have firsthand experience with multiple different vendors in every category possible.

Whether or not you choose to hire a planner, conduct video calls with your vendors. This will help you get to know them,  their working style, and help them understand who you are as a couple. It also gives you the chance to spot any red flags that may arise–like poor communication.

If your budget permits and you feel more comfortable, another option is to bring vendors from home. Just expect to cover their travel expenses and lodging costs. 

Find Lodging Recommendations For Guests

While it’s not expected that you’ll take care of guest accommodations, your guests will appreciate having a list of lodging options within a range of budgets. They’ll likely feel more comfortable staying somewhere that is hosting other guests from the wedding, too. Especially if your destination wedding is in a country they haven’t visited before.

To help with costs, consider offering hotel room blocks. This usually means you’ll be able to negotiate a lower discounted rate while keeping guests together. If this is something you plan on doing, call the hotel before you set a date. You don’t want to have a date picked and have no hotel options for guests.

And most importantly, take into consideration how far the lodging is from your venue and the airport. If it’s near your venue but far from the airport you should plan for shuttles, rideshare services, or other transportation options that will make getting from point A to point B a piece of cake. 

Image by South of Indigo Photography. See more of this real wedding here

Plan Events And Activities For Guests

There’s no doubt that your guests will be excited to celebrate you. Consider expanding your itinerary as a thank you to them for traveling to be with you. Some couples choose to turn their special day into a wedding weekend. However, this isn’t necessary. You can go as big as you want, or as simple as hosting a welcome party or post-wedding brunch. 

If you’re getting married somewhere known for its activities or food, consider organizing a tasting or an afternoon excursion. This is a chance to bond with your guests and soak up the culture of your destination.

Give Your Guests Welcome Bags

Upon your guests’ arrival, consider giving out welcome bags to provide some homey comfort. These bags can include essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, city maps, local snacks, pain medicine for the inevitable hangovers, and more.

Image by Melissa Gayle Photography. See more of this real wedding here

How To Save Money Planning A Destination Wedding

While getting married in an exotic destination can ultimately be cheaper than a local wedding, if you’re looking to save a little extra cash, consider these tips:

Get married on an off-day 

Getting married on a weekday will save you money on the venue and give you the chance to enjoy your destination a little longer. Flights and lodging will also likely be cheaper as well.

Consider all-inclusive resorts

While all-inclusive resorts may seem like a hefty price tag upfront, they’re actually a great way to save money down the line. If you purchase one of their packages, you’ll get flowers, cake, photographer, entertainment, food, drink, and more for a set price. All-inclusive wedding packages also take away some of your wedding planning stress.

Use nature as a backdrop

If you’re vowing to spend the rest of your life with your partner at a destination wedding, there’s a good chance that the destination you choose is naturally beautiful in the first place. Use that to your advantage and have nature act as your backdrop rather than spending money on decor.

Choose local florals, ingredients for your menu, and beyond

Of course, your destination is much more than just a pretty backdrop. It’s also home to beautiful flowers, food, and more. Make use of these ingredients and decor (rather than importing inexpensive items) to watch your costs drop.

Be on the lookout for deals on flights and hotels

When booking travel, use sites like Skyscanner and KAYAK. Set up price alerts so you get notifications when prices drop. This way, you know you’re getting the best deal out there. 

Junebug Tip:

While browsing for flights, use incognito mode on your browser so that the website can’t store your cookies to store information–which tends to jack up prices.

Nixing the wedding registry

Save your guests money by nixing the wedding registry. Your guests are already paying to celebrate with you. Let that be their gift for you. 

Now that you’re ready to hop on a plane for your perfect destination wedding be sure to check out these etiquette tips you need to know!

Image by Diana Veinberga. See more of this real wedding here

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  1. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Pretty! This was a really wonderful post

  3. Great blog!!! We know that Indian weddings are known for their style, grandeur, tradition and magnificence. Enjoyed reading post on your blog.

  4. My fiance and I are planning on having a destination wedding later this year. I appreciate your tip to meet with potential vendors over video calls. I think it would also be smart to work with vendors that have experience with destination weddings.

  5. I loved my destination wedding, I have zero regrets and my photography speaks for itself. I wish I’d have seen this post before I began planning (and re-planning multiple times due to COVID) as it’s so incredibly helpful and detailed!

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