There is absolutely nothing more special than getting married on the sand someplace tropical and romantic. As beautiful and exquisite as these locations are; it takes a lot of work planning a destination wedding. There’s much more to take into account than the perfect venue itself; which definitely is the MAIN item on the list of priorities. Timing of your ceremony, weather at the location, and your guests’ availability to travel are all major concerns every couple planning a destination wedding needs to consider.
So, check out these 8 GREAT insider secrets when planning a memorable getaway for you and your guests. These tips can help you pull off a destination wedding to remember.
1. Pick the Perfect Spot
Your wedding location determines not only the mood, but also the travel, time and budget required to pull it off. Your wedding elements—which include location, activities and overall ambiance—should say something about your shared style and passions. And what makes a wedding memorable is when your guests head back home from your wedding weekend saying, "That was so them!" If your first vacation was somewhere tropical? Invite friends and family to a resort in Mexico, the Caribbean or Hawaii.
2. Time It Right
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 time, book your venue and reserve your room as soon as possible. If you opt for the off-season, you may be able to save yourself and your guests some money and still enjoy great weather. While the off-season will mean fewer crowds, the weather can be a gamble, so consider the Caribbean’s hurricane season. Some places you may consider many have their stores, venues and vendors close up shop.
3. Give Everyone a Heads-Up
I hear a lot of brides say “I have been planning for this day since I was a kid” and the people they desire to be in their bridal party are special family and friends. So, when you are planning a destination wedding before you ask them to stand by your side, let them know so they can gracefully decline if their finances are tight. And it’s a good idea to give the rest of your guest list plenty of notice so they can begin to plan and get the best deals on flights and make appropriate arrangements to be there as well. Send out save-the-dates at least eight months in advance so you will not be too upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don't attend. While you are, in a sense footing some of the food bills, their fees for travel, hotel and extras can really add up.
4. Make Guests Feel Welcome & Dress the Part
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 necessary 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 may want to do on their own and an itinerary of the weekend’s events, like the rehearsal or welcome dinner. And upon arrival, make sure welcome bags are in their rooms; like sunscreen, water and bug spray. Don't forget to consider the climate when choosing your wedding attire—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, and it’s considerate to give guests a heads-up on appropriate attire and footwear if you’ll be exchanging vows on the sand.
5. Factor in the Extra Expenses
If done and planned right, a destination wedding can cost no more or maybe even less—than hosting the same party at home (depending on where you live, of course). For example, if you live in a US metropolitan city where venues are in high demand then holding your wedding in Mexico will likely be less expensive than doing it at home, even when you total in airfare, hotel expenses and local excursions. Still, there may be extra expenses you'll need to factor in for any destination wedding, including welcome bags for guests and travel costs for you and your immediate families. So, make a budget that’s realistic and factors in all of these extra costs.
6. Research Local Marriage Requirements
The legal side of tying the knot in a different country can be complicated and should be researched. Many countries have a "residency requirement" (for example, 24 hours in Turks and Caicos) which means you must reside in the country for a certain length of time before your ceremony. Although this is usually just a few days, it can be longer. If it's next to impossible to do it at your chosen destination and have it legally recognized, consider making it official by government standards before you travel. That way your wedding day will be in front of your family and friends all nice and legal.
7. Get Help
If you're hosting a wedding in a distant locale, you will need to entrust at least part of the planning to someone else's capable hands. You can get a coordinator to be your behind-the-scenes go-to person to assist with the local destination if creating gift bags for guests, greeting everyone at the airport, keeping people busy with fun activities once there, vetting special requests (babysitters, dry cleaners, and so on), and getting everyone where they need to be on time.
8. Consider the Elements
It's essential to think of the unexpected when planning a destination wedding. Talk with your planner or venue about lighting: If your reception takes place outdoors, you'll need backup for when the sun goes down and for safety too. Stringing market lights or adding a romantic vibe with hundreds of candles are GREAT. And even through crashing waves are peaceful and romantic, your guests want to hear your vows. So, consider lapel mics, and make sure that the DJ or band has enough equipment and power to entertain all night as well. Besides that, think about what else you can provide to make it a better experience for your guests, like flip-flops for your oceanfront ceremony or umbrellas in the event of a late afternoon drizzle.