Planning a Destination Wedding: Top Ten Tips for Success

Hopefully, you have already sat down and gone through the process of envisioning your dream wedding.  If it involved going somewhere exotic or far away, there are a number of additional steps to add to your wedding planning checklist. The following top ten tips are essential to ensuring a smooth planning process and to avoiding major disasters on the day.


  1. Select Your Location
    When you envisioned your wedding, where were you?  Was the wedding on a beach, mountain, distant foreign city, or by a lake? Perhaps you always dreamed of getting married in Paris or in Tahiti. Your first step in planning your destination wedding is to select the exact location.  Stay open to different options of the same type of wedding, since there are legal requirements or other restrictions depending on the country.  Also, you should think about who you absolutely must have at your wedding. If there are essential friends or family members who can't travel or just can't afford to, you might want to revise your dream a little to be in line with your priorities.
  2. Consider Budgets and Guests' Needs
    Think about your guests' budget concerns and other needs when selecting your exact location and venue. It is not just a matter of the cost of an airfare. Guests are usually expected to pay their own way, so rather than choosing an expensive five-star resort, look for alternative accommodation options. Is granny going to have difficulty climbing to the top of that mountain?  Make sure there is a cable car. Or, is your brother allergic to animals? Skip the ranch wedding and choose a different rustic venue. 
  3. Plan Around the Seasons
    There will be different seasonal considerations to take into account for any location. Hurricanes, monsoons, blizzards, and heat waves are all weather conditions that can put a damper on the whole affair. In addition, any type of travel during high tourist season can make it not only more expensive, but also more crowded and unpleasant for guests. Taking pictures at the Eiffel Tower with thousands of tourists crowding in for the photo opportunity is not ideal.
  4. Examine Legal Requirements
    Leave yourself plenty of time to research and abide by the license and other requirements for your chosen location. Some countries have specific laws around residency, licenses, and who can officiate a wedding. Call the local tourism office and find a wedding planner who specializes in destinations weddings to help you navigate the details.
  5. Prepare and Guide Your Guests
    Aside from your own wedding plans, you will effectively be a travel guide for your guests. Give them a list of things they will need, including legal documents, immunizations, packing suggestions, maps, tourist tips, local information, basic foreign language phrases, and anything else that a guide book might offer. Make sure that they know where they are going, what to expect, and have transportation arranged.
  6. Use Local Resources
    You need someone on the spot or who is already familiar with the location to take care of all the little details. Many venues provide a destination wedding package that includes most of this. Other resources you can find online, such as a good internatonal wedding photographer. Check out, the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers, for certified wedding photographers for your location.
  7. Make a List of Questions
    Every time you have a question, regardless of how small, write it down and get it answered. You can ask your local venue, wedding planner, tourism office, or just research it online. It may seem like a small detail, but one small unanswered question could be a more important issue than you realize.
  8. Negotiate Your Contracts in Detail
    Get it all in writing and ask a lawyer to review your contracts if possible. This is true for local weddings as well. If you are using an international wedding planner, he or she will help you with this. Most vendor contracts are written to protect the vendor, not you. You need to make sure you are protected from any unforeseen problems, such as a last minute cancellation by the venue.
  9. Have a Backup Plan
    If it starts to rain in the middle of the ceremony, have a plan for where you will relocate it. If the location is unseasonably hot for that time of year, make sure you have fans for your guests and air-conditioned accommodations. Think about all the possible catastrophes and plan for alternatives.
  10. Allow Extra Time
    Finally, leave plenty of time not only for planning, but also for when you arrive at the location. Get there at least a couple days ahead of time to visit the venue, meet with vendors, and confirm any last minute details.

Adding these tips to your wedding planning checklist will help you plan out the extra details involved in a destination wedding.  In addition, if you have your own wedding website, you can build in many of these steps, as well as share information about the destination with your friends, family, and any other guests.

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