Destination Wedding Expectations vs. Reality

A couple getting married at their beach destination wedding.

For many couples, the idea of a destination wedding is tempting. It’s exotic, it’s romantic, and you’ll be on a fun vacation with your nearest and dearest. Bonus: it’ll basically feel like you’re already on your honeymoon without having to take two stops! it’s no wonder destination weddings continue to be popular. However, with every great fantasy comes a reality check, and since destination weddings have that fantastical element to them, there needs to be some healthy expectations. If you’re trying to decide whether or not a destination wedding is right for you, here are some key things to remember when it comes to reality versus expectation.

Expectation: All of your friends and family will toast your nuptials

Reality: Not as many people will attend compared to a traditional wedding

Whether it’s because of finances, getting time off work, or just the logistics of traveling, most of your family and friends will probably opt out of attending your destination wedding. So if you want a big wedding filled with your loved ones, the reality is that only a small percentage of your guest list will be there.

Expectation: Your wedding attire will be traditional and perfect

Reality: You might be wearing a bikini and/or become really hot and sweaty

A bride wearing an airy wedding dress as she's standing on a dock by the ocean at her destination wedding.

This is dependent on where the wedding is held, of course, but many destination weddings are traditionally held in warm, beach-central locations, which means you’ll be contending with sun, surf, and sand. If you’ve been dreaming of a traditional long gown with heels, well, you might want to choose something lighter, looser, and with flip flops. (And definitely choose a wedding dress that travels well! You don’t want a wedding dress that requires a lot of maintenance.)

Expectation: You’ll plan the wedding of your dreams

Reality: You might not have that much say with your wedding

Many resorts have destination wedding packages, so while you might have some input on certain things, it’s a far cry from the type of creative control you might have with a traditional wedding. The beauty of a destination wedding for a lot of betrothed couples is that it’s generally more casual and hands-off. If you’re someone who needs to know and control everything everything from the tablecloths to the cake topper, then a destination wedding might not be for you.

Expectation: You have an expectation of how the venue and wedding day will look

Reality: You probably will have to play it by ear

A wedding ceremony venue set up with chairs and lights.

Because you probably don’t live close to your destination wedding location, you won’t be able to visit and vet it in person, which means you’ll have to choose it simply by what you see online. This can be hard for some couples because, as we know, not everything we see online is real. If you can loosen the reins a bit, then this might still work for you. On the other hand, if it’s important for you to have a set of eyes on location, you might want to consider hiring a professional consultation to be your touch person there.

Expectation: The weather will be sunny and perfect

Reality: It might very well rain, or worse

Of course, no one can bank on the weather regardless if you’re doing a destination wedding or not. However, most people who want a destination wedding are hoping for a beautiful sunset beach ceremony because why else hold it there? Accounting for rainy days, including hurricane season, is crucial when planning a destination wedding. Try to set up a contingency plan as best you can for emergencies and don’t assume because you’re going to a tropical sunny locale that your wedding will have perfect weather. Mother Nature doesn’t always work with our ideas.

Expectation: Traveling will be seamless

Reality: When is traveling ever seamless?

A young man and woman in an airport with suitcases, looking out of a window.

Getting to any wedding on time can be a struggle for some, but it gets even more complicated when there are airports, flight changes, and thousands of miles to cover, which is why it’s crucial to have a buffer travel day or two before the ceremony for you and your partner as well as the wedding party. Because a destination wedding requires a lot of time and effort from your guests, it’s also a great idea to coordinate travel arrangements, including accommodations, for your guests. And, yes, that will probably add a little more to your stress load for your wedding planning.

As you can see, a picture perfect destination wedding is not as perfect as it usually looks on social media, thanks to a variety of different factors. But if exchanging vows in sunny paradise is your dream, then it’s definitely doable—as long as you give yourself a good ol’ reality check that it might not always be a beach.

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