Destination weddings are an excellent idea for several reasons. They provide a unique twist on your special day while doubling as a stunning vacation. 

Think turquoise water gently lapping at the shore and soft sand between your toes as you say, “I do.” Then afterward, indulge in local cuisine and cocktails as you party in an upscale resort.

On a more practical note, the destination wedding is often WAY cheaper than having one on home turf. And it’s a convenient way to avoid family drama and ensure any less-desirable or distant freeloading family members don’t participate.

However, like standard weddings, a destination dream wedding takes careful planning and consideration.

Here’s what you need to know.

What To Consider When Planning a Destination Wedding

First, you must determine if a destination wedding location is feasible for your circumstances. As attractive as the idea is, it’s not suitable for everyone. 

Before you dive in head first, consider the following:

  • Does your budget allow for a destination wedding?
  • Have you allowed enough time to plan your wedding? A destination wedding typically requires an 18-month lead time.
  • Can you both take the needed time off from your jobs?
  • Can your desired wedding guests travel and afford to go? For example, if you want Grandma and Grandpa to attend, but they can’t travel far, this will limit your options.
  • Are you happy to have less control and choice in planning the wedding? 

How to Plan a Destination Wedding Budget

How to Plan a Destination Wedding
Like regular weddings, a destination wedding can soar in cost if you don’t keep a lid on your finances. Before you book everything, determine what you can afford to spend. Don’t forget that you must also include the cost of your wedding attire, the rings, and other accessories in the budget.

The easiest and best way to stay within your wedding budget is by choosing a resort that provides a wedding package for a fixed cost. That way, you know exactly where you stand financially and learn how much money you will have left to play with.

How To Decide on a Destination Wedding Location

After deciding the budget, the next of the wedding planning process is where to have your dream destination wedding. Here’s what you must think about before settling on a location:

  • Which locations are within your budget? Consider both flight and accommodation costs.
  • What sort of location do you want? Beach, mountains, lakeside, rural, etc.
  • What is the weather typically like when you plan to get married?
  • How easy is it to organize a wedding there? Are there wedding planners or wedding packages available to make it easier?
  • Can you actually get married there? 

Timeline for Planning a Destination Wedding

How to Plan a Destination Wedding timeline
So what should you do, and when? Here is a rough timeline for planning your wedding. The key is booking and organizing everything as early as possible so you’re not left panicking:

  • 12 – 18 months: 
    • Determine your wedding budget
    • Settle on a wedding date and destination
    • Check the legal requirements regarding marriage for your destination
    • Choose and book the wedding venue, accommodation, and flights
    • Don’t forget to purchase insurance
    • Hire a wedding planner or choose and book a wedding package
  • 12 months:
    • Set up your wedding website
    • 12 – 18 months out guest invites
    • Choose and purchase wedding attire
    • Book vendors (catering, hair stylist, flowers, photographer, etc.), or if you have chosen a wedding package, confirm your options
  • 10 months:
    • Confirm guest list and block-book rooms at the wedding resort or nearby accommodation
    • Send out the necessary information for guests to book their travel and accommodation
    • Plan and book any wedding events or activities for you and the wedding party
    • Get your legal paperwork and passports in order
  • 6 – 8 months:
    • Send out guest itinerary
    • Keep track of your vendors and book any additional ones if necessary
    • Have your wedding attire fitted 
    • Ensure groomsmen and bridesmaids’ outfits have been purchased
    • Purchase wedding rings
  • 3 – 5 months:
    • Confirm guest dietary choices and pick the menu for the wedding dinner
    • Complete any wedding attire fittings and alterations
    • Purchase guest wedding favors and any other required accessories
  • 6 weeks:
    • Have any required vaccinations
    • Determine the seating plan for the wedding meal
    • Have your bachelor party
    • Host the rehearsal dinner
  • 2 weeks:
    • Pick up wedding attire
    • Gather your documents
    • Exchange currencies 
    • Pack your bags
    • Try not to panic!
  • 1 week
    • Arrive several days before the wedding
    • Meet with your local wedding planner to run through everything
    • Get your marriage license (if required)
    • Get married!

Keep Guests Informed

An essential aspect of destination wedding planning is keeping your guests informed. After all, they’re likely laying down a fat stack of cash to attend your wedding day, so the least you can do is ensure everyone knows what they need to book and when.

A detailed wedding website is a great way to keep people in the know, and it would be greatly appreciated if you researched different flight, transport, and accommodation options on their behalf. 

You must also provide a full itinerary that covers the entire celebration period. Don’t forget to include any meals and activities you want your guests to attend.

Dealing with Unexpected Issues

Dealing with the unexpected in a destination Wedding
Like all significant events, nothing goes entirely to plan. And when planning a destination wedding, you can’t actually be present to troubleshoot. For that, you must rely on the wedding planner and maintain several degrees of flexibility. However, if you’re having trouble getting your partner involved in the wedding process, we have some tips for you here. 

Developing a contingency plan if things go sideways is also very wise. After all, you can do nothing if a freak storm grounds all flights. 

Decide what to do if the wedding can’t go ahead or if you can’t get to your destination, and for goodness sake, get yourself insurance for EVERYTHING!

Destination Wedding Planning: Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Cheaper To Do a Destination Wedding?

Destination weddings can often be much cheaper than planning a wedding at home. This is particularly true if you pick a low-cost destination to fly to and find a resort offering set-price or even free wedding packages.

How Early Should You Plan a Destination Wedding?

For the least stressful and most organized experience, you should start planning your destination wedding at least 18 months in advance. This provides ample time for you and your guests to make all the necessary arrangements, making it more likely for your chosen resort to be available.

What Are the Cheapest Months for a Destination Wedding?

The cheapest months for a destination wedding depend on your chosen location. Mid and low-season months are always much cheaper than high season. However, selecting an out-of-season date increases the risk of experiencing bad weather during your big day.

Who Pays for Guests at a Destination Wedding?

Destination wedding etiquette dictates that guests are expected to pay for their own flights and accommodation. However, it is often possible for you to secure cheaper rates by block-booking hotel accommodation.

How Long Do Guests Stay at a Destination Wedding?

Most guests will stay around three to four days when attending a destination wedding. Afterward, it is common for guests to remain in the area for longer but move to a different resort allowing you to enjoy your honeymoon alone.

How to Have a Destination Wedding: Final Thoughts

If you take the time to plan in advance and get all your ducks in a row, then your destination wedding will be as relaxing as that beachside hammock you’re dreaming of. Leave everything to the last minute, and you’ll run around like a headless chicken, wondering if you’ll ever make that flight on time.

Don’t be a headless chicken (it’s not a good look for any type of wedding). Get organized, and start planning asap.

If you don’t know where to start with it all, then we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our other articles on The Groom Club. With us by your side, organizing a wedding will be a breeze.

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