How to prepare for a destination wedding

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Your wedding day should be one of the most cherished moments of your life, especially when you’re setting off to a beautiful and exotic locale to exchange your vows. Weddings can be notoriously stressful events to plan, though, especially when your big day is taking place thousands of miles from home. Luckily, many potential problems can be avoided with proper planning. Check out these tips to ensure a beautiful, stress-free destination wedding.

Start early

How to prepare for a destination wedding
If you’re considering a destination wedding, be sure to start planning early (Image: KellyB.)

Wedding planning can often take months, if not a year or more, and this holds especially true when it comes to planning a destination wedding. Wedding venues in popular places like Hawaii or the Caribbean can fill up more than a year in advance, so you may have to look at a wedding date that’s a year or two out in order to secure your dream venue. Plus, you and your guests will need extra time to prepare for the logistics of getting to the wedding, i.e. booking flights, finding hotel rooms and getting vacation time from work.

Pick the perfect location

How to prepare for a destination wedding
Consider budget, schedules and sentimental importance when choosing your perfect wedding destination (Image: Laboheme6)

For some couples, the perfect location may be obvious. Perhaps you’ve both always dreamed of traveling to Bali, or maybe you met your beau on the shores of Mexico. Other couples may consider a range of destinations that fit with travel interests, budget and schedule (remember, every destination has its peak and off seasons, and you’ll want to consider this before booking your wedding date).

When it comes to picking the right place, though, you’ll need to consider more than just your dream destination. After all, don’t you want your most cherished friends and family members to be able to attend your big day? To make it easier on your guests, choose a location that’s relatively easy to get to by plane or car. The more difficult — or expensive — it is for your guests to get to your location, the less likely it is they’ll be able to attend.

Research marriage requirements

Dreaming of marrying in Paris with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop to your wedding photos? Well, you’d better be prepared to spend six weeks in the country beforehand, as France’s marriage laws require a 40-day residency period before you can legally get married in the country. Luckily, many popular destination wedding locales don’t have such lengthy residency period requirements, but you’ll want to research the marriage laws in the destinations you’re considering before putting down any deposits. Also, be sure to find out exactly what documents you’ll need for your marriage to be considered legal, or consider handling the legal portion of your marriage at home before heading off for a destination wedding ceremony.

Visit before the wedding

While this may not always be within your budget, a trip to scout out your destination before the big day gives you an opportunity to make sure everything goes smoothly when you and your guests arrive for the wedding. Waiting until your wedding week to visit the destination for the first time doesn’t allow much time to fix problems that may arise, such as finding your venue differs substantially from what is pictured online. If a separate scouting trip is out of the question, try to arrive at least a few days early to give yourself plenty of time to make sure everything is in order before your wedding day.

Enlist local help

How to prepare for a destination wedding
A local wedding planner can handle the details of your big day, including centerpieces and arranging photo ops you might forget about (Image: Caitlinator)

Does your wedding budget have enough wiggle room to hire a wedding planner? If so, consider hiring one in your destination. A local wedding planner’s expertise could prove invaluable for your destination wedding, as he or she will have plenty of insider knowledge regarding venues and vendors for your special day. Having local help can also provide a host of other benefits, such as translation (helpful if your destination wedding will be held somewhere where English is not the primary language spoken) and facilitation (including making sure vendors are setting up on time, ensuring your guests are shuttled to where they need to be and handling any problems as they arise).

Do your vendor homework

Here’s where pre-wedding visits and a local wedding planner can lift a lot of the burden off your shoulders. From flowers and centerpieces to table rentals and DJs, you’re likely going to need a host of vendors to pull off the destination wedding of your dreams, and a shady vendor can easily throw a wrench in the works. If you’re unable to meet with vendors personally during a pre-wedding visit to the destination and don’t have a local wedding planner to rely on, you’ll need to do extra research to make sure you can count on your vendors to come through on your wedding day. Look up vendor reviews on wedding planning sites to make your short list of candidates, and consider asking for personal recommendations on wedding planning forums from couples who were married in the same destination.

Consider your guests

How to prepare for a destination wedding
A special welcome dinner is a great way to thank your guests for making the trip to share in your special day (Image: teodorpk)

To attend your destination wedding, your guests are paying for airfare and accommodations, not to mention taking time off work and finding babysitters for the kids. As their hosts and to show your gratitude for them making the trek to take part in your wedding day, it doesn’t hurt to go out of your way to thank them. One way you can make things easier for your guests is to find several accommodation options to fit a range of budgets. You can also arrange for their transportation in the destination, whether it’s from the airport to the hotel or from the hotel to the wedding venue. Another nice touch? A handmade goodie bag waiting for your guests in their hotel rooms to thank them for their attendance. You might also consider arranging a group excursion in the destination or a welcome dinner to thank everyone personally.

Did you have a destination wedding? Tell us about your experience — and your advice to engaged couples planning a destination wedding — in the comments!

(Main image: The Wedding Traveler used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

How to prepare for a destination wedding was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.