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wedding home > unique wedding ideas > themes & style > how to plan a destination wedding

How to Plan a Destination Wedding

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Destination Wedding Overview

A destination wedding is when the wedding ceremony and reception are done in a location other than the couple's hometown. However, the destination wedding is typically done in another country or state. This can be a beach wedding in the tropics, simple rites in a dream city, or ceremony aboard a cruise ship. Whatever it is, it's guaranteed to be a fun and memorable event for everyone involved.

Your checklist: Making sure you don't forget anything

Pre-planning: One year before the wedding

Destination weddings can take a long time to prepare depending on your chosen location. A fail-safe way to make sure you don't run into trouble is to start planning at least six months before the wedding date.

  1. Choose your destination. It is important that by this time you have an idea of where you want the wedding to take place. It could be an easy choice if you already have a specific destination in mind. It is also good to research about the legal and religious requirements of the place.
  2. Set the date. Depending on your location, you might want to consider the best times to travel and do some research to make sure that your event doesn't take place at the same time as some important festival or occasion that may otherwise interfere with your event. Remember to be flexible on the date, as your venue may not necessarily be available at that time.
  3. Make your your guest list. For destination weddings, a guest list is very important. You wouldn't normally invite the same number of people you would for a regular wedding because of budget constraints on your part, or the guests. Either way, be sure to send out your wedding save-the-dates as soon as you know the date(s) of your wedding festivities to make sure that guests can set aside the time and can make their travel arrangements.
  4. Research on accommodation and travel. As early as now you need to check the availability of your venue especially if you're going to a popular destination.

Planning the Details: 6 to 11 months before the wedding

This stage lets you organize the main details of the wedding.

  • Planner/coordinator – destination wedding can be stressful and there are a lot of details to take care of. Having a wedding planner to aid you will be a big relief on you.
  • Make travel arrangements – it's time to reserve your chosen resort or hotel. Book your flight. Be sure to research accommodations for your guests and negotiate group discounts and rates.
  • Vendors – meet and set a contract with service providers for entertainment, food, invitations, decorations, and attire.
  • Wedding Essentials – take care of gift registry, wedding rings, and cake. Finalize menu, entertainment and ceremony details.
  • Send save-the-dates – this is the perfect time to let your guests know that you're planning a destination wedding. This gives them ample time to decide and to make travel arrangements, too.

Planning the Details: 2 to 5 months before the wedding

During this stage the finer details of your wedding should be taken cared of and finalized.

  • Favors and Out of Town Bags – order your wedding favors. You can choose and order online, then have it shipped to your hotel at your destination. Be sure to match your favors to your location and theme. You might also consider making some out of town bags for your guests?especially if they have never been to your chosen location. You can include a map of the town, some important numbers, fun stuff to do as well as activities planned for the wedding week, and any essentials they might want such as snacks, personalized water bottles, some lotions and essentials like sunblock and hand sanitizer, and perhaps even some personalized t-shirts or flip flops to get them in a festive mood. Your wedding favors can be anything that you think is appropriate such as a local edible specialty like fruit or pastries, as well as personalized luggage tags or even something like a personalized picture frame for them to remember their fun vacation.
  • Send invitations – it's the perfect time to send out your invitations so you can get your RSVPs early too. If you need to make some changes, like inviting new people to replace the ones who couldn't come, you'll have enough time to do so.
  • Finalize everything – this is the perfect time to check on your vendors and finalize the information and delivery details. Update your budget and re-check your travel arrangements and licenses.

Planning the Details: A week to 3 weeks before the wedding

During this stage the finer details of your wedding should be taken cared of and finalized.By this time you should already have everything in order and have received your RSVP's, as well as your marriage license. All you need to do organize your payments and finish packing for your destination wedding and get ready to say your "I dos."

Destination Wedding Etiquette FAQs

To make the wedding a success, here are some of the most commonly asked questions about destination weddings:

Should I pay for my guests?

Though generally not required, paying even just a portion of the expenses is a nice gesture that your guests will appreciate.

Can I bring my own vendors?

Most, if not all, resort or hotels offer suppliers that can meet all your wedding needs. However, there are a couple of vendors that you need with you wherever you plan to get married — your photographer and wedding coordinator. These are people that you need to feel comfortable with and can communicate with easily.

Are destination weddings expensive?

It really depends on how "grand" you want the wedding to be. You could have a small intimate wedding with just your immediate family on your dream exotic destination and still spend the same amount you would when you invite friends, family, and colleagues at home in a hotel.

Can I have the reception back home?

Yes, you certainly can. Some of your family and friends may not be able to make it to your wedding and since destination weddings are typically smaller more intimate affairs, then you can celebrate your new union with a hometown party.

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