While many brides and grooms dream of a hometown church or reception hall filled with all 200 of their closest family members and friends, you’ve always imagined that you would have to take a plane (or a boat or a train) to get to your dream wedding destination. Whether you want to get married on an island, on top of a glacier, or in the middle of a forest, planning a destination wedding is exciting and can be logistically tricky. However, with a little extra organization and having a good grasp on your budget, you’ll be able to plan your dreamy destination wedding with ease.
First Things First: Where Are You Going?
Sure, you’ve thought about having a destination wedding, but have you actually thought about where you would have it? Now that your wedding fantasy is a reality, it’s time to think about where you want to say your vows and start booking things for the ceremony and trip.
When you think about location, one of the main hindrances is, of course, going to be your budget. If you plan on inviting guests you should also try to think of their individual budgets as well. For a great money-saving destination wedding, many couples that want a beach wedding will often choose all-inclusive resorts or short cruises that conveniently come in a package that your guests can purchase easily. If you go this route, there are many websites that will help you plan based on how many people, the date, and what country you want to get married in.
If you and your future spouse are planning to elope and do the trip on your own, then your options can be a bit less restricted. The important thing to keep in the back of your mind is your overall budget for the entire wedding. Think about calculating the costs of the flight, the hotel, the ceremony, and meals that you’ll have while you’re there.
Make Sure Your Marriage Ceremony Will Be Legal
When you get married in another country the process is different than it is in the United States. Before you even book the hotel in Sevilla or e-mail a wedding photographer in London, you’ll need to see what the process is for making sure that when you have your wedding that the marriage is actually legal.
Some countries may require that you are a resident in order to get married there, so be sure to check with the country’s consulate that’s here in the US or visit their website to ask what the requirements are for a marriage ceremony. You’ll also need to know what you’ll have to do when you arrive in the country before the wedding (such as get a marriage license).
If you are working with a wedding coordinator on a cruise or a resort, they should be able to give you all the legal information that you will need to know and what to prepare before the trip.
Ask the Hotel or Resort What Services They Offer for Weddings
Once you’ve picked out your destination, check out hotels and resorts in the area to see what kind of wedding packages they offer. When you’re planning the ceremony from a (quite lengthy) distance, the easier you can make it on yourself the better. The hotel will typically help you take care of all the arrangements, from setting up the ceremony space to booking a photographer, saving you a lot of time and headache. Hopefully all you’ll need to do is show up, put on your dress, and say “I do.”
Tell Your Guests Early
If you are not planning on eloping and want to invite guests to your destination wedding, you should do this as early as possible. Your friends and family will need to make sure they can get off work and save up money for making travel arrangements. As soon as you book the hotel and confirm a date, send out a save the date and make a wedding website with info on dates, travel itinerary, and any group booking information that would be useful. Have your guests let you know their itineraries once they book so that you know when everyone is arriving and what kind of headcount to expect so that you can tell the venue.
Remember to not get upset if someone can’t make it to your wedding. Destination weddings can be too expensive for some families, and some may just not be able to take the time off. Be sensitive to their needs and try not to be too bummed out. If you’re finding that a lot of people are disappointed they can’t share in your big day, consider having a casual reception where you can hang out with those who won’t be able to attend the ceremony.
Let the Scenery Be the Decor
One of the best things about planning a destination wedding is that you won’t have to spend a bunch of money on decorating a space. Let the ocean (or the mountains or the beautiful town square) be your backdrop. There’s no need to spend money on floral arrangements for the tables if you’re surrounded by natural beauty.
Plan Fun Things for Your Guests When they Arrive
The whole point of having a destination wedding is to make it a very special vacation—and that goes for your guests as well. Schedule a few dinners, brunches, or special outings with all your friends and family after they arrive. Though they don’t need to feel pressured to spend every minute with you, giving them the option to join you for a fishing expedition, surfing lessons, a museum trip, or a walk into town would make them feel part of the celebration.