Woot woot! If you’re here you’re probably engaged (CONGRATS BTW) and planning/thinking about having a destination wedding!!! But WAIT!!! How the heck do you do this thing?! Planning a wedding is hard enough but planning it in a location halfway across the country (or world) is entirely a different thing. Have no fear, because I’m going to walk you through the first few steps to planning your amazing destination wedding.
How to plan a destination wedding 101
Decide who you want with you on your wedding day
Seriously, before anything else, I believe this is the most important thing to determine. Do you want close family and friends? Just you and your partner? Immediate family only?
Even if you’re planning a super intimate elopement it’s important to consider who you want with you. This will help lay the foundation for planning pretty much everything else on your wedding day, including date, location, etc.
Some things to ask yourself after you’ve decided on your “must have” group of people:
- What’s their availability? Does their work prohibit travel during certain times of year?
- Are there any accessibility concerns? If we choose a mountaintop ceremony will everyone be able to walk to the peak?
- Is anyone on your list from out of the country? Will Covid restrictions be an issue?
All of these things will help you take the next steps into deciding your location and date.
How soon should I notify guests of our plans?
If you’re planning to travel notifying them as soon as possible is always a good idea. Depending on how far out your date is, informing guests approximately 8-12 months in advance is ideal. This gives them plenty of time to make travel arrangements, set aside funds, and request vacation time.
Check to see if your dream vendors are available
I’m probably a bit biased about this step, but if there’s a particular vendor you absolutely HAVE to have at your wedding, reach out and see what their availability is! Photographer you’ve been following for years? Cake artist who makes your mouth water? Most of the time, if you’re planning a destination wedding, you probably already have a pretty clear vision of what you want your day to look like, so choosing vendors who match that vision is super important. If location is more important to you than a specific vendor, skip to step 3.
Determine your location
Chances are if you’re considering a destination wedding you’ve already thought about a specific location. Are you in love with the beach? More of a mountain lover? Are you up for international travel for your wedding? Think of places you and your partner love or have always wanted to see. Choose a place that speaks to the things you love as a couple. Google Maps is a good place to begin your search for the perfect wedding location.
Another thing to consider is where are your must have guests are physically able to travel? If there’s any concern about crossing borders or possible Covid restrictions definitely take that into consideration when deciding your location.
If it’s going to be just the two of you and there aren’t any restrictions on where you’re able to go, an exercise I love recommending is to close your eyes and imagine your wedding day. What does the air feel like? How bright is it outside? Are you warm and toasty on a beach or is there a chill in the air? Can you feel snow crunching under you?
Really take some time to sit together and envision your absolute best day ever.
Tips for choosing the perfect location
- Decide where you absolutely do NOT want to get married.
- Determine what type of weather you’re hoping for.
- Think about accessibility for guests and vendors
- Sit down together and write out a budget
- Think about a time that set your soul on fire – where were you?
Decide your date
Listen, when my husband and I decided on our wedding date it was literally because we had taken a Facebook quiz and both received the same result – July 24th, 2010. We got married on a hot summer day in Florida with a tropical storm rolling in.
Don’t be like us.
The date is going to be one of the most important aspects of your wedding planning as it will literally dictate almost every aspect. The weather, available locations, vendor availability, etc. If you’re looking for a more stress free, private day I recommend considering a weekday. If most of your guests are already traveling this is a bit easier to do. Sometimes venues give weekday discounts and tourist spots such as viewpoints and hikes are generally less busy.
Every year there are popular dates for weddings. In 2022 some of the most popular dates I’m seeing are 2/2/22, 2/20/22, 4/23/22, 9/24/22, and 10/22/22. There’s really no rhyme or reason for why certain dates become more popular than others (besides the obvious repeating number dates) but know that you may pay a premium price for vendors. It may also be more difficult to find vendors you love due to them being already booked.
Things to look out for when choosing a date:
- Is it close to a holiday?
- What’s the average weather in your location for that date?
- Is this a date that has specific meaning to me and my partner?
Make sure you’re legal!
This is a super important step that can sometimes be overlooked. It really is simple, 99% of the time a google search can tell you the legal steps you need to take to ensure you can be married in a specific location. Want to have your wedding in a specific location but not worry about taking any extra legal steps? Local courthouse marriage licenses are a completely viable option to making sure your marriage is legal without worrying about jumping through any potential hoops in a foreign location.
For example, the process here in Florida is different from other states. Florida residents must wait three days after applying for their marriage license before obtaining it while non-Florida residents can take their license home same day. Weddings must be presided over by a licensed officiant (Universal Life Church is a great way to make sure you have exactly who you want officiating your wedding).
After the ceremony your officiant will sign the document and mail the license into the courthouse where it was issued. After it’s filed you’ll be able to access a copy of it!
Local courthouses are your best bet for knowing what the legal way to get married in any location is. Check out the county website or give them a call to ensure you’re on the right track.
Secure your vendors
So you’ve decided on your date and location, next it’s time to get the ball rolling on booking your dream vendors! Now, I have to say, I know a photographer who would LOVE to shoot your destination wedding – you can get in touch with her here 😉 Seriously though, choosing your vendors should be a fun and stress free process. Most vendors will do everything within their power to make sure you have the wedding of your dreams so when you’re ready to finalize and book you’ll be able to sit back and hand the planning off to someone else <3
Some vendors to consider adding to your checklist:
- Hair and makeup artist
- Caterer/Private chef
- Cake artist
- Decor rentals
- Setup/breakdown team
I’m definitely not saying you need all these vendors to make a destination wedding happen, this is just an idea of who may be helpful in making your dream wedding come to life.
Things to consider when choosing a vendor
- Do I “connect” with this person? Do our personalities mesh?
- Are they listening to my vision?
- Is their style something that I love and can see myself in?
- Is there a contract (there always should be a contract)
- Do they have backup plans in place should there be an emergency?
TRUST your team!
If you’ve chosen quality vendors that you love you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the easy breezy ride to your wedding day. Of course there will be homework for you and your partner to complete but it should be FUN and not stressful at all.
If you’ve decided to have a destination wedding, chances are you’re an adventurous type of person. But what greater adventure is there than beginning a life with the person you love most? I hope this little guide has given some insight into exactly how to plan a destination wedding, and I’d love to hear some advice from past and current brides who have gone through the process! So leave a comment below and let me know your tips and tricks for planning a destination wedding<3