Budget - Making a budget early on is a must for any wedding; preferably this is one of the first things you will do. In the excitement of getting engaged, and wedding planning, it might be way down on your list of priorities; but without a clear idea of what you have to spend and what you want to spend it on, things can easily get out of control. Making a list of “must haves” can help determine how to allocate your budget, and won’t leave you short of funds for something that is truly important to you.
Guest List - While we expect that not as many guests will attend a destination wedding, it is no longer the rule. With the tremendous increase in popularity of destination weddings over recent years, more and more people anticipate the possibility of being invited to them. Being “pretty sure” Uncle Joe won’t attend is by no means a guarantee. You’ll want to compile a guest list only with people that you want to attend, and that you can afford should 100% of the list say yes.
Honeymoon - If budget allows, stay on (or switch hotels) for a few days to a week after your guests return home. Trust me (as a former destination bride), you will need it. While everyone is there, even though you’re having a great time, you’re spending a lot of energy and time keeping all your guests happy. You’ll definitely want some downtime after, to relax and enjoy being a newlywed.
Insurance - I cannot stress enough the importance of both travel insurance and wedding insurance. Of course no one expects having to cancel their wedding, but insurance exists to cover unforeseeable events. Your destination wedding is an investment, and you should protect it.
Think Local - Incorporate some local flavor into your wedding. One of the reasons you’re getting married there is to enjoy what the destination has to offer, right? Consider incorporating local wedding traditions, food, or decor into your wedding. Also think about sourcing what you can locally, for anything from favors to photographers. Most destinations have a wealth of great vendors, and you will be giving back to the local economy.
Welcome Bags - It is a lovely idea to present guests with a gift for attending your destination wedding (and a thank you card is a must!), but it needn’t contain everything but the kitchen sink. If you have been looking at them on Pinterest, then you know what I mean. Tumblers, and hangover kits, and sunglasses, and beach balls, etc, etc, are cute, but perhaps not every guest will use them, and they will also need to take them home. Consider alternatives like a handwritten note paired with a bottle of wine and a nice beach bag, or book an excursion for everyone to enjoy together.
DIY - I love seeing cute new ideas for DIY wedding projects, and yes, they can be a great way to save. For a destination wedding however, there are a few additional considerations. Will you have to ship the items or pay excess baggage fees to get them there? Will the venue charge a setup fee? When comparing the prices of the local decor vendor and a DIY project, you need to consider the total cost of the project, and it’s safe arrival to your wedding, not just the materials.
Balance - Create your week itinerary with a mix of events and downtime. Having too many planned activities will not allow for guests to enjoy some leisure time making the most of their holiday and having none could make them feel less welcome. Make sure all guests receive the schedule, so everyone knows where they need to be and when
Don’t sweat the small stuff - This is imperative for any wedding, but even more so for a destination wedding. Yes, travel can be unpredictable. Yes, planning a wedding long distance does take extra patience. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t lose sleep over a 20 minute schedule change or the resort taking a few days to respond to emails.
Work with an Expert - Working with a consultant who specializes in destination weddings will take away the guesswork and stress; we have done this before, and know what to expect and how to handle anything that gets off track. You’ll also want to partner with someone you get along with; you will be working together for a long time and the process should be enjoyable.
Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Buchanan is a Certified Travel Counsellor, Certified Destination Wedding Coordinator, and owner of Paradise Weddings.