How to Plan a Destination Wedding
Choosing the Destination
With destination weddings becoming more popular every year, it may seem like an overwhelming number of choices are available in terms of the actual destination. Here are a few things to consider when narrowing down where to have your destination wedding:
1. What time of year are you planning on getting married?
Check the calendar to see if there are any major holidays that will help or hinder travel to your destination. Long weekends are a great way to save on taking time off work, but flight prices are generally much higher for these dates.
2. Know beforehand what to expect from the weather. Look at average temperatures and rainfall for your wedding month. Cheaper resort prices usually coincide with seasonal weather changes.
3. Look at the type of destination that you would like to travel to and start looking at what is available in terms of the resorts and flights/travel arrangements.
When you start pricing out the flights consider where most of your family and friends will be travelling from and if the flight schedule makes sense.
NOTE: Most flight schedules are only released 12 months in advance.
4. Be realistic about the cost for guests to attend your wedding.
Destination weddings are expensive and do not always fit within everyone’s budget. You need to ask yourself very early on if you are okay with guests not being able to attend your wedding because they cannot afford it. Alternatives such as staying at a more affordable hotel/resort or only staying a few days rather than a full week can sometimes make a big difference.
Legal Wedding Ceremony
When it comes to your legal marriage, you have two options:
1. Get legally married in your home country before OR after having a symbolic destination wedding ceremony
2. Be legally married in the country where you are having your destination wedding. Do you research and find out the exact process to obtain a legal marriage certificate in the country where you are having your ceremony. Different countries have different rules.
Bringing Your Own Photographer to a Destination Wedding
Bringing your own photographer is the way to ensure that you get exactly what you want from your wedding photography coverage.
The first thing you must do is check with your resort to see if they allow outside photographers. There may be a fee that you will have to pay to bring in an outside photographer (since most resorts offer their own photography services with the wedding package). These fees are sometimes waived if the photographer is booked as a wedding guest at the resort. Always double check the policy before booking a photographer and make sure that you have the agreement with the resort in writing.
Your next job is to find a photographer whose work you love – the style, the colour and the feel of the images. Inquire as to whether they are available to travel for your wedding. Most photographers offer packages for destination wedding photography.
Destination wedding photographers generally charge a package price in addition to travel and accommodations.
How to Choose a Destination Wedding Dress
Most destination weddings take place somewhere warm and on the beach. Depending on the time of your ceremony the sun may be very strong and it may be very hot. Lighter fabrics that breathe and flow will make sure that you stay cool and comfortable.
No matter how hard you try a floor length dress (with or without a train) will pick up a lot of sand, dirt and debris. A longer dress will also trap the heat in.
Shorter dresses (tea length and cocktail) may not have that traditional ball gown look, but they will be easier to transport, keep you a lot cooler and will allow you to move around a lot easier.
How to Travel with a Wedding Dress:
Some airlines offer dedicated cabin space (either an overhead bin or a closet) for wedding garments. Call ahead and ask if this space is offered and if it is available – do not assume that there will be space available or that you will be the only wedding couple on the flight.
If you must pack your wedding clothes into a bag/stuff them in the overhead bin, don’t fret – most resorts offer steaming services to help release any travel wrinkles. Contact your resort to make sure that this service is available and what the cost is.
We do not recommend putting your wedding dress/suit or anything that you will need the day of the wedding in your checked luggage.
Choosing the Perfect Suit
Like with the wedding dress, you will want to take a few things into consideration when choosing the groom’s attire: climate, time of ceremony and the level of “formalness” of the wedding.
(What Should I Wear for Underwear?)
The most important part of the wedding garment that no one talks about.
Wear the most comfortable pair of underwear you own – something lightweight, breathable and that wicks moisture away. This means leave the cotton and lace for another day. We suggest athletic undergarments (such as Under Armor or Lululemon) for the bride and groom, as well as a high quality undershirt for the groom.
If you have the option to choose your wedding ceremony time, here are some things to consider:
Morning Ceremony: You and your wedding party will have to get up early so that you can get ready. If your ceremony is early enough you may be finished your ceremony before it gets too hot and bright. This means that you will have a very long time between the ceremony and reception – plenty of time for guests (and the bride and groom if they choose) to relax and take it easy during the hottest part of the day.
Afternoon Ceremony: You can sleep in a bit later and have less of a break between the ceremony and reception. This is also the hottest part of the day, which means that you and the guests will be very warm. The super bright sunlight and high temperatures are less than ideal for portraits.
Late Afternoon/Evening Ceremony: Sleep as late as you would like! There will be a short break between ceremony and reception so you may want to do a first-look and/or some portraits before the ceremony. The temperatures will be cooler and you will have the best light for portraits.
NOTE: Be aware of what time the sun sets to make sure that there is enough evening light for your ceremony and the portraits that you want to have done following the ceremony.
Your wedding reception can be as formal or casual as you want. Most resorts are able to accommodate indoor or outdoor receptions. As with your ceremony, be aware of potential weather-conditions (such as rain or high-winds) which may put a damper on your celebrations. Always confirm that your resort has a back-up indoor location that you may move to in the event of bad weather.
Wedding favours are tradition for most weddings, however, there is no rule saying that you must provide a favour. Remember for your destination wedding that you will have to carry all of these favors with you to the destination. If you have decided to give wedding favours, here are some great ideas: travel/drink mugs, beach bags, sunglasses, sunscreen.
Trash The Dress or Day After Adventure Session
The day-after session is becoming increasingly popular with destination weddings, and photographers love the opportunity to go out with the couple for a fun photo shoot. This is an opportunity to get some very creative and fun wedding portraits that show off your wedding destination. If this is something that interests you, talk to your photographer to see if it is something that they offer.
This is something to consider if your ceremony and portrait time did not have the best light (ie, took place in the middle of the day) or if you would like to have more than one “look” to your wedding photos.
Here are a couple of things in mind:
1. How much time do your garment(s) take to dry (do you really want to travel with a wet wedding dress?)
2. How heavy are your wedding clothes when they get wet and will it be safe?
3. For ladies: how transparent is your wedding dress when wet?
4. What do you want to do for your session?
a. Play in the ocean
b. Play in the pool
c. Play on the beach
d. Go into town/off the resort
Destination Wedding Coordinator at the Resort
Your wedding coordinator at the destination will be a great resource with helping you how to plan a destination wedding. They should set up a time to meet with you (usually within the first day or two) to discuss the details for your wedding day. Some resorts have you choose such details as your flowers, cake, chair covers etc prior to your arrival and others will meet with you to make the decisions once you are at the resort. To avoid unnecessary stress, ask your wedding coordinator when details will be set. If you are bringing your own photographer with you, they may want to attend this meeting as well as the wedding rehearsal. Bring all wedding planning documents including printed copies of email correspondence, contracts, invoices and receipts.
Travel Agencies for Destination Weddings
There are travel providers and individual travel agencies dedicated to destination weddings. It is worth it to work with a trusted travel agency because they are able to coordinate the travel of many people from different places, making sure that they all arrive in time for your wedding. Travel agencies are able to work with airlines and hotels/resorts to get you the best price.
When choosing your travel agency, make sure that they someone that you feel comfortable working and communicating with. Be aware that not all airlines and travel providers are created equal – airline reliability, flight route and frequency vary between providers and airlines. Do your research and know what to expect from each travel provider.
Travel for a destination wedding is planned much further in advance than local weddings so the more notice that guests are given the more likely they are to be able to attend your wedding.
Send a “Save The Date” as early as possible will give your guests a heads up that there is a destination wedding coming up.
Send formal invitations around the 12-month mark. This will outline the details for the wedding including the travel dates, location, and price information. Most booking is done about 6 months before the wedding.
Information for Guests
Once your guests have booked their trip (flight and accommodation) for your wedding it is the responsibility of you and your travel agent to make sure that your guests have all of the information they need.
1. Send your guests a thank you note. Once someone has booked their trip, take a moment and send them a quick email or snail-mail note thanking them.
2. Mass email about airline/flight information:
-What time to arrive at the airport to check in and flight departure time
-Carry-on baggage and checked baggage restrictions and/or cost
-List of any vaccinations that are recommended for visitors
3. A wedding day & wedding week itinerary will give guests a day-by-day itinerary so that guests can participate in events and this is a nice way of keeping everyone on track.
We hope that these tips on how to plan a destination wedding will help you plan your own destination wedding. Planning a wedding should be a fun experience for both the bride and groom!