Planning a wedding can be stressful and overwhelming, but planning a destination wedding brings about it’s own challenges for sure! Especially if you’re planning overseas for maybe a Jamaican wedding, a grand Europe wedding, or a wedding in Mexico. Add to this any budget concerns you might have, and wow! It can easily become a daunting task!
So where do you start?! How do you plan an amazing, dreamy destination wedding without losing your mind? Follow these helpful tips to have a day you’ll never forget!
Choosing Your Location
The place you choose to have your wedding will not only set the overall mood (romantic, laid back, rustic), but it will also determine your budget, how you’ll be traveling, and maybe even the number of guests you invite. And don’t forget, a dreamy location means you’ll have the most dreamy wedding photos!
Some couples choose the place they met, where they were engaged, or even their favorite vacation spot (that’s how my husband and I chose where we had our destination wedding!) Other couples choose based on where their families live by picking a city or state in the middle, or where one of them grew up. And some just want an amazing place to celebrate!
Make sure you do research on marriage license requirements. Especially if you’ll be getting married out of the country. Some countries have a residency requirement which means you have to stay in the country a certain length of time before you can have your ceremony. If you have your heart set on a certain place, but don’t want to (or can’t) follow through with the requirements, consider legally getting married before you travel and having the celebration soon after without the worry of another country’s guidelines.
After You’ve Chosen Your Location
If it’s at all possible, take at least one trip there, if not two or even three. Trust me, vacationing or visiting a place is WAY different than looking at it through engaged eyes! You’ll absolutely want to tour the venue, have tastings, check out hotels that your guests could stay in, and even activities that you can recommend to your guests. It’s also a good idea to try and meet with any vendors (florist, hair and makeup team, rehearsal dinner, etc.) you’re thinking of hiring.
A really helpful thing to do while you’re visiting is to look at the lighting where your ceremony will be taking place. Sometimes, especially with beach or tropical weddings, the sun can be extremely harsh when the ceremony is taking place. Not only could that result in squinty eyes for all of your photos, but some photographers who are inexperienced shooting in harsh light might not deliver quality images. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, visit your venue at the time you’d like to start and try to plan for the sun to be mostly behind you while you’re saying your vows. If that’s not possible, be sure to invest in an experienced photographer who can prove their skills in bright, harsh light!
Sometimes, a destination wedding can actually be more cost effective than having a local wedding. Even so, there will still be extra little expenses that can sneak up on you, just the same as any wedding will have!
Some of those things could be travel and accommodations for vendors you’re bringing from home (most often those will be a photographer, videographer, and planner.) You may also have an extra cost if you’re planning to have welcome bags for your guests when they arrive at their hotel. If you’re flying to your destination, you may have extra checked baggage fees if you’re bringing any sort of decor with you.
And a helpful bit of info for you, guests are expected to pay for their travel and accommodations themselves. Anything associated with the wedding itself (food, drinks, gift bags, etc.) is expected to be paid for by the bride and groom.
The Photographer’s Viewpoint
One of the most important things when it comes to your photographer, is to TRUST them! Your photographer spends the whole day with you, so making sure you vibe with your wedding photographer is more important than making sure they’re local to your destination.
Are you worried that they won’t take good photos because they don’t know the area or haven’t shot there before? That’s where hiring a professional pays off. Professional wedding photographers are trained very well! We’re trained to seek out good light, not just any light. We’ve been through a lot, and I mean A LOT, of different scenarios on a wedding day- from the good, the bad, the ugly, and the “what the heck.” So we’re used to and skilled at thinking on our feet, and doing so quickly. It doesn’t matter if we’ve shot in the same place a hundred times or have never been there before. Professionals can handle it!
Obviously, you’ve picked a destination wedding because you love the location. And your photographer 100% knows this! But please trust us if we ask to shoot with a background you may not like as much, or think isn’t as good or pretty as another. When I mentioned good light, just realize that light is everything. It will make or break an image- no matter how pretty or not so pretty the background is. So trust that your photographer is choosing something that will make your photos ah-mazing! And remember: just as the light changes many times throughout the day, the look of your ideal photo spot will change with that light. So if there’s an opportunity to use it at another time, let your photographer know how important it is to you!
The Bridal Party
Keep in mind that not everyone you want to stand on your side might be able to make the arrangements to be there. Before you officially ask your guys and girls, let them know your date and location, and give them some time to think about it before they give you a definite answer.
When it comes to what your bridal party will wear, keep in mind that a bright, sunny location will reflect other colors. That means if your girls are in bright aqua dresses, they may have some blueish green colorcast on their faces in the photos. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have aqua dresses for your Florida wedding, just make sure you ask your photographer how they handle colorcasts in the images!
Taking Care of Your Guests
Since the majority of your guests will most likely be traveling to your destination, the considerate thing to do is to give them some advance notice. Traditionally, that means sending Save the Dates at least eight months before the wedding day. Remember that it might not be possible for some of your guests to make it, so be prepared for some to decline.
Having a wedding website can be an easy way to keep your guests informed. They’ll be able to see where they can stay, activities they can do, restaurants they can dine at. You can also put vital information there such as airport info, rental car options, the venue, and more. If you’re planning on a next day brunch, make sure to list the details for that also. This is a great way to showcase your engagement photos too!
It can also be super helpful and fun to have a welcome party! This can really set the tone for the wedding weekend or wedding week. It allows your family and friends to get to know one another more and is a great reason to have some downtime or party time together before you get married. It can also be another great opportunity to have your photographer there! They can get to know the key people who will be involved in the wedding day!
Want a free printable Destination Wedding Planning checklist? Just click here!