Planning a Destination Wedding

Destination weddings are becoming more popular as more couples are exchanging their vows in exotic off-shore locations, against a backdrop of mountains or somewhere tropical. As gorgeous as these locales are, don’t forget the legwork that goes into planning a destination wedding.

If your dream is to have a destination wedding, follow these tips to help you plan a memorable getaway and pull off a destination wedding to remember.

Destination weddings, however, are not for everyone. Being able to leave your wedding arrangements to someone else and trusting them on their judgements and opinions for your wedding details are part and parcel of destination weddings. You may not be able to view the venue in person until a few days before the wedding so you have to accept ambiguity. But be sure to go online to read reviews of your wedding venue before you sign on the dotted line.

Consider your guests

Your friends and family are eager to celebrate with you, so create a wedding website that will make it easy for them to find all the important details in one place, like group rates for flights and hotel rooms, how to get to and from the airport, a list of nearby activities they can do on their own and an itinerary of the weekend’s events. Make sure the location is under half a day’s flying time from where your guests will be travelling and can travel there on a direct flight.

Notify your guests well in advance

Give your guests plenty of time to calculate if they can afford the cost of traveling to your ceremony and reception. Some guests will not be able to afford the plane tickets, hotel stays, or even taking time off from work. Encourage your guests to buy their airline tickets at least 6 months in advance of the trip so they can get a good price on the tickets.

Send out save-the-dates at least eight months in advance, but don’t be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don’t attend.

Pick the right time
Know the rainy seasons at your wedding destination and choose a date that will allow for the best possible weather. Many coastal areas or islands have lower rates during hurricane season, so be cautious.

Unfortunately, the best weather in popular vacation destinations tends to correlate with tourist season, when there are typically more crowds, fewer hotel and venue availabilities, and higher rates all around. If you’re planning a destination wedding during this peak period, book your venue and reserve your room blocks as soon as possible. A great tip is to opt for shoulder seasons (which are travel period between peak and off-peak seasons), you may be able to save yourself some money and still get to enjoy great weather. Check the local calendar. Don’t plan your wedding during festivals that draws tourists and inflates prices.

While the off-peak season will mean fewer crowds, the weather can be a gamble, and you may find that many stores and venues are closed for business.

Hire a planner

Hire a planner that specializes in destination weddings so you don’t have to overcome any language barriers or make any decisions regarding your ceremony site from miles away. If a planner isn’t in your budget, look for a resort with a strong on-site coordinator. Many resorts include a wedding specialist in their wedding packages who can shoulder the burden of researching and securing local vendors, and handling any last-minute wedding arrangements. But if you prefer to go with a planner from back home, make sure they have experience planning weddings in your chosen destination and expect to cover his or her transportation costs for planning visits and the actual wedding.

Visit venue in advance.

Ideally, you’d see your venue once before booking to set up meetings with local suppliers such as caterers, florists and photographers. And secure your key venues like ceremony and reception spaces, hotels for guests, a rehearsal dinner venue and again three to four months before the wedding to finalize details. If a second trip’s not possible, arrive at least five days early to make those decisions and do schedule “tastings” with your caterer, see sample bouquets from the florist, plan a hair and makeup session with a local salon, and organize activities for your guests.

Or decide how long you will spend at your destination, how many days you will need for final set-up details, rehearsals for the wedding, the reception, and other events you will have.

You need to be twice as organized as a local couple and pre-think all aspects of the wedding, because you won’t have much time to make up your mind, especially if you can only do one or two planning trips. So do your research, set up necessary appointments with your vendors and have preliminary meetings by email or phone, so that once you’re there in person you can focus on decision-making.

Pick your vendors in person

While you can view vendors’ portfolios online and check references, it’s especially important that you meet all your vendors in person or ask for referrals from your venue; you might uncover local talent you didn’t know about. Bring professionals you trust from home to handle critical aspects such as the wedding photography, hair and makeup.

Factor in expenses for vendors

There will be extra expenses you’ll need to factor in for any destination wedding such as welcome gift bags for guests to be placed in their hotel rooms, additional activities for guests like city trips and museum trips, and travel costs for you and your immediate families (including those planning trips, not just the wedding weekend). Keep in mind you may decide to fly in certain vendors, in which case you’ll have to pay for their travel expenses and accommodations too. So make a budget that’s realistic and factors in all of these extra costs.

Tailor your wedding dress to the destination.

Don’t forget to consider the climate when choosing your wedding gown and the dress code for each of your events. You’ll be swimming in sweat if you pair your satin ball gown or wool suit with the humidity that comes with a tropical outdoor venue. Breathable fabrics work best in hot, humid locations. A lightweight lace A-line gown in Mexico is stunning, as is an embellished ball gown at a villa in France.

 Never check-in your dress

Always hand-carry your dress on board the plane even if it means having to fold it. Most airlines are prepared to hang wedding dresses on a plane, but this is not always the case. Have your dress packed by a professional for the trip. Keep in mind that the packing has to meet airline carry on requirements. Just make sure someone at the other end can press and steam it.

Draw up a budget

If you’re not careful, weddings, especially destination weddings, can get very expensive very quickly. Take into account all possible costs and write down everything that will need to be paid for. Think about how much money you and your partner can afford to spend on your wedding, and talk about this with your parents or anyone else who might contribute to your wedding. Once you have figured out how much you can spend, prioritize your purchases so that you spend the most money only on the things you need most. Having a budget set from the beginning of your plan will ensure that you can follow through on all aspects of the wedding.

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