Planning a Destination Wedding

Destination weddings are beautiful and exciting and they can provide a great escape for you and your guests. However, planning a wedding from afar has its own set of challenges and requires a great deal of organization, persistence and delegation. Here are some things you'll need to consider.

The Destination
While many people equate destination weddings with warm weather and sandy beaches, you don't have to limit your search to tropical locales. From snowy mountain tops and picturesque vineyards to the bright lights of Vegas or the deck of a cruise ship, there's no shortage of available backdrops for your wedding day. During your search, keep in mind your style and budget, the location's level of convenience and the time of year you hope to get married.

Budget and Expenses
The cost of destination weddings can vary tremendously, so it's important to create a budget and stick to it. Consider the size and formality of the event as well as travel and hotel costs. Added expenses may include additional meals or entertainment for your guests, transportation, or even lodging for your bridal party if you choose to pay for it. 

The Guest List
The size of your guest list will really depend on your personal preference and budget. Some couples prefer intimate affairs with immediate family and close friends while others opt for a larger celebration. Keep in mind that the attendance rate for out-of-town weddings is typically 70%, but this estimate drops to 50% if your guests are travelling out of the country. Do your best to plan a trip that is convenient to the guests who are most important to you, but be aware that not everyone will be able to attend. 

Travel and Accomodation
It's important to find the most affordable travel and hotel rates available for you and your guests. Do some research or enlist the help of a planner or travel agent. Some airlines offer group discounts for ten or more passengers travelling to the same destination even if they're not all departing from the same place. Be sure to set up room blocks for your guests and see what transportation options are available. 

Extra Touches and Activities
Your guests will be spending a lot of time, energy and money to attend your destination wedding, so be sure to treat them well. Out of Town Bags are a great way to show your appreciation. It's also a good idea to treat your guests to a Welcome Dinner and Day-After Brunch. If budget and time allows, consider organizing a group excursion. If that's not possible, provide suggestions for activities that your guests can do on their own. 

Important Information
Getting information out to your guests early is crucial. They'll need time to save money, put in for vacation days, make travel arrangements or even get a passport if your destination requires it. Send Save the Dates as early as possible so guests can start planning. Provide information packets or set up a Website so they can find everything they need in one convenient place. Be clear on what you will be providing and what they are expected to pay for. 

Long Distance Planning and Assistance
When your wedding site is on the other end of the country or even the globe, you wont' have the luxury of stopping by at any time to make decisions and arrangements. Ideally, you'll be able to visit once in the early stages of planning to scout out key venues, select hotels and meet some of the professionals who will be part of your wedding day. However, this may not be possible for everyone, and even if it is, it's a good idea to invest in some assistance. Hiring a wedding planner who is local to your destination or has destination wedding experience is a really wise decision. Planners are great resources for vendor recommendations and can help you navigate any language or cultural barriers you may run into. They can find solutions for problems that may arise like weather issues or travel delays. Good wedding planners can make the whole process easier, faster and cheaper and provide you with a high level of comfort during an otherwise stressful time. 

Planners aren't the only important part of your wedding day. A great team of vendors can make your wedding dreams come true, so choose carefully. Having your wedding away from home means that you can hire vendors at your destination or bring them with you. You may be less familiar with destination vendors, but they have the advantage of being familiar with your wedding location. Bringing your own vendors can give you more control over your options, but keep in mind that you will be responsible for their travel expenses. 

Transporting Key Items
Another challenge to consider is getting wedding items to and from you destination, especially if it's far enough away to require a plane ride. Let's start with the dress. When purchasing your dress, opt for styles that are relatively easy to carry and don't wrinkle constantly. Avoid checking your gown at all costs. Many airlines will store your dress in the First Class cabin for you. Call ahead to discuss your options. Today's weddings are big on DIY details, but as a destination bride, you'll need to be realistic about how much you'll be able to bring. You can opt to ship your items if your destination is in the U.S. or you can pack extra suitcases. There is always a risk of losing checked baggage, so keep absolutely essential items in a carry-on.

Though beautiful venues and thoughtful details are all important, at the end of the day, the goal of a wedding is to be married, so be sure to take all the necessary actions to make it legal. Some destinations have complex marriage requirements such as residency rules, medical tests, or document translations and certifications. Research the specifics for your destination and give yourself enough time to complete everything. If you run into issues, you can always choose to have a civil ceremony at home and a symbolic ceremony at your destination.

In general, destination weddings will require flexibility on your part. Some things will just be out of your hands and you need to be prepared for that. Arrive at your destination a few days early to go over last minute details and make any necessary adjustments and then just let go and enjoy the adventure.


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