7 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding

There are lots of reasons to plan a destination wedding--you'll create a truly memorable experience; you'll be able to spend quality time with guests who make the trip; and you'll be in a beautiful location, staying in a private, romantic wedding vacation rental. Planning a wedding is tough and time consuming--so much more so when planning a destination wedding. Here are tips to help you through the process.

  1. Listen to You Fiancé, then Decide Together. Your wedding's about you and your fiancé joining together to spend the rest of your lives together. Listen to what the other has to say. If family considerations are important (perhaps grandma can't take the heat of Cancun but she could handle the cool breezes in Carmel, and it's important that she's there), then you might need to compromise together. Or, you could decide that the day is about you two, and if you've always wanted to get married on a beach in Bali, that's what you're going to do, no matter who can attend.

  2. Get a Realistic Headcount. Some destinations will hold you to the number of guests, so don’t guess. While you might not be able to get people to commit a year in advance, get a good idea of who can make it and who can't. By their very nature, destination weddings are going to have a smaller guest list, so this should be manageable. If your venue does have any size restrictions or requirements, get a final-final date as to when they need a headcount.

  3. Plan Way Ahead of the Date. There's no real rule of thumb, but if you allow 6 months to a year for a wedding in your hometown, you might want to leave at least a year for a destination wedding. It all depends on the destination you choose, the venue you want, and the number of guests you're planning on inviting. If you don't want to wait so long to get married, perhaps consider a private civil ceremony and save the big wedding for the destination. Some couples do the reverse -- they have a small, intimate destination wedding and then have a larger reception or even a ceremony in their hometown. It's all depends on how you and your fiancé want to celebrate your big day.

  4. Research the Weather. You can't research the weather enough as you plan your destination wedding. While you can't guarantee the weather will be ideal, you can at least improve your chances. Perhaps go so far as to call local businesses about what the weather is like in your desired location. Get the full scoop, in other words.

  5. Do Your Law Research. While you shouldn't encounter any major hiccups with the requirements for a legal marriage in a foreign country, don't let a minor hiccup spoil your day or the destination wedding you've planned (and asked guests to travel to).

  6. Communicate with Wedding Party & Guests. If you're sister's going to be your matron of honor and she has 3 children under the age of 6, then you might want to think about talking to her about your destination wedding. Something may need to be worked out. Be sensitive to any member of your wedding party who has to refuse your invitation, and have backups in mind. Understand that this is your big day, and if getting married on a Hawaii beach is what you want, you may not be able to have all your best friends and closest relatives with you. Then again, enough advance notice might allow them to make the trip. While save the date cards are optional for a hometown wedding, they're a must for a destination wedding. Another must are detailed instructions about the destination and travel arrangements. While you don't have to research every flight, you should give prospective guests plenty of information that they can use to shorten their research. They shouldn't be left wondering where to stay, which vacation rentals are best, or which airlines fly into your destination.

  7. Communicate with Vendors. Stay in close contact with your vendors. Ask a lot of questions--pointed ones about hidden charges, the number of staff on hand. In some cases, you should even ask for names of people so you're fully informed (for example, who will be cutting the cake? -- who will the photographer be?). It's your wedding, and you have a right to be as fully informed as possible. Asking a lot of questions will help you rest assured that you are working with reputable vendors.

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