Destination Wedding Planning Tips to Deliver a Dream Wedding

From location selection to travel tips, easy steps to follow

destination wedding planning

Wedding planning involves a long to-do list. Destination wedding planning involves an even longer to-do list. But don’t despair. While there may be a few more items on your wedding planning checklist, planning a destination wedding is fun and exciting. Follow these wedding planning tips to keep you organized and stress-free.

Decide What is Most Important for the Destination Wedding

Destination wedding planning requires having a clear objective.

Before you start planning a destination wedding, decide what you want. Otherwise, you won’t know what to look for or consider. Decide whether finding a destination that is within a set budget is the priority, regardless of the distance, or if the ability of all the guests to travel to the destination and be present at the wedding is more important.

Location, Location!

Selecting the location is one of the first and most obvious decisions to be made when planning a destination wedding. It not only determines the ambiance; it impacts the travel, time and budget. Look for a location that has personal meaning for the bride and groom.For food and wine buffs, consider a location in the wine country. Outdoor adventure types may prefer a setting where guests can partake in rock climbing or zip lining as part of the pre-wedding activities or during their weekend away.

Do Your Research

Not every tropical island is the same and not every destination wedding is the same.

Geography, local culture, and amenities vary from one locale to another. Do your homework and research the destinations that you are considering and read reviews from other travelers who share their experiences. If the budget allows, visit the destination to see firsthand if it meets all of the criteria.

Timing Is Everything

Everyone wants to travel places when the weather is ideal. However, that is also when the “high” season occurs and in addition to the crowds, you can expect less availability and higher rates. When planning a destination wedding, get an early start and reserve the venue and blocks of rooms well in advance. 

You may be able to save money for the bride and groom and guests by choosing the travel period between ​peak and off-peak seasons, known as the “shoulder season.” Typically, this time period still has good weather and lower rates, as opposed to the off-season, when the weather is more unpredictable and many business establishments are closed.

Budget for Wedding Planning Trips

Plan to travel to the wedding destination at least once for wedding planning sessions. During this first trip, you will need to visit and reserve the event venue, secure accommodations for guests, see the space for the ceremony, visit the wedding reception hall and meet with and hire vendors. A second trip is ideal for meeting with the caterer to sample menus, scheduling appointments with a local salon for hair and makeup, selecting the bouquets from the florist, and making arrangements for activities for guests.

Check Local Marriage Requirements

Before selecting your wedding destination, check the local marriage requirements. These vary from country to country, so if you are exploring having the destination wedding outside of your home country, the couple to be may need to meet certain residency requirements. For the most part, these require being in that country for a short amount of time prior to the ceremony, although France requires that one of the parties reside in the country for a full 40 days immediately preceding the wedding.

Secure Trusted, Experienced Vendors

When hiring local vendors for a destination wedding, it is important to consider their experience working an event that is being planned from another location. Vet these wedding reception vendors carefully, obtaining references and speaking with other clients regarding their experiences.

Your face-to-face interaction with them will be limited to the planning trips so you need vendors that you can trust to professionally fulfill their responsibilities as planned.

Time zones, language barriers and cultural differences between regions can cause miscommunication and undue stress for even the most efficient and organized event planner, not to mention your client. Set up appropriate channels of communication, and clearly, outline expectations. Needing something as “soon as possible” may mean one thing in New York City another on a tropical island.

Understand Budgetary Limitations for Wedding Guests

While a destination wedding in Fiji might be a dream wedding with all of the bride and groom’s best friends gathered around, understand that some guests may be unable to participate due to the cost of attending. Airfare, hotel, car rental and other costs of traveling may exceed their budgets.

Speak to family and close friends prior to booking a venue to determine their ability to attend. Factor this into the wedding planning, as you may learn that the guest list will be significantly shorter due to the destination and you can then plan accordingly.

Go the Extra Mile for Wedding Guests

Make attending this destination wedding as easy as possible for guests. In addition to giving wedding favors and sending out the date and locale as soon as it is determined so guests can take advantage of lower airfares, provide the following:

  • information regarding nearest airports
  • transportation from airports to hotels and wedding venue
  • discounted group rates on hotel rooms
  • alternate lodging options for those interested
  • details regarding a welcome dinner or wedding rehearsal
  • recreational activities for those arriving early or staying after the wedding
  • a list of extra items to bring or a list of those extras that will be provided on-site

Get Started Planning Early

Yes, every event planner knows that early planning is essential. When planning a destination wedding, it is even more important to not delay. Organization is paramount because each planning trip must be designed to accomplish a very particular set of tasks, otherwise you will be navigating those items from afar. Plan ahead and plan accordingly.

Prior to scheduling your planning trip, do your research. Consider everything you will need to see in person and everyone you will need to meet with face-to-face. Schedule appointments with vendors, on-site coordinators, caterers, transportation services and hotel managers. Have a clear set of objectives for these trips and stick to that list to maximize your time there. Don’t forget to allow for jet lag and time differences and set up your appointments when you will be refreshed and for these trips and stick to that list to maximize your time there. Don’t forget to allow for jet lag and time differences and set up your appointments when you will be refreshed and ready.