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9 Destination Wedding Tips

Plan your dream destination wedding with some of our best tips to make your big day perfect. Explore our top venues and expert advice all in our guide.

By Hannah Purvis

When you close your eyes and picture your wedding day, what do you see?

For some couples, this vision takes place in a breathtaking exotic location, far from the familiarity of their hometown. With a world of amazing venues and destinations to choose from, we understand the appeal of a small but stunning destination wedding!

While daydreaming about it may be simple, the reality of planning a wedding abroad or outside of a familiar location can be challenging at times. That’s why we’ve compiled these destination wedding tips, so you can feel like you’re planning your special day alongside an experienced friend.

Should I Hire a Destination Wedding Planner?

While you can absolutely execute a beautiful wedding day without the help of a planner, it can be incredibly valuable to have local help when destination wedding planning. By hiring a destination wedding planner, you’re implementing a local liaison who can work hands-on with your vendors and meet on your behalf.

As with any planning team, you can typically decide whether you want full-service help, the month of, or even the day of. They’ll be able to work with all the vendors on the big day and workshop weather contingency plans, should anything out of the ordinary come up! So, while it’s entirely up to you, we would definitely recommend working with a local planner! Your venue may even have a team on deck ready to help with setup, catering, timeline planning, and more.

white folding chair in front of body of water
Photo by Matthew Essman on Unsplash

9-Step Destination Wedding Checklist

While you should still reference a standard wedding planning checklist and timeline to make sure you stay on top of all the details, we’ve outlined a few of the big things you’ll want to focus on when planning and booking a destination wedding.

1. Decide on Your Wedding Destination

Maybe you have a pre-planned shortlist of location ideas you’ve been dreaming of your whole life. Or, perhaps you and your fiancé like to live on the wild side and plan to close your eyes and pick a spot on the map at random! Regardless, the first step of the planning process is to choose where you want your ceremony to take place.

Pro-Tip: Research marriage laws by location in advance. It may not be as straightforward as your home state and you’ll want to guarantee your marriage is legal!

2. Research vendors local to your desired location

While researching vendors is part of the planning process, no matter where you’re tying the knot, it’s even more critical when you’re planning from far away. You may not be able to meet the vendors in person ahead of time, so you want to ensure you’re reading various reviews and even setting virtual appointments to discuss your vision ahead of time.

Pro-Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for video tours and additional reference photos so you can make sure you’re truly getting what you want for your special day.

shallow focus photo of pink and purple flowers
Photo by Rob Sarmiento on Unsplash

3. Choose a date and time

Select a date and time for the ceremony, making sure you’re mindful of the venue availability if you have your heart set on a specific location! Other considerations when choosing the wedding date are the temperature and seasonal weather in the area you’re booking. Is there a rainy season, storm season, or a busy tourist time of year that could obstruct your vision?

4. Visit

While we understand this may not be an option for every destination wedding location due to busy schedules and financial constraints, planning a site visit can help ease any worries you may have with planning from afar.

This will give you a chance to see the venue in person and make note of anything you may want to run by your wedding planner. It’s also a chance for you to connect with vendors face-to-face to make sure you’ve got the perfect dream team behind you for your big day!

Pro-Tip: If you’re curious about an all-inclusive destination wedding, many resorts offer special wedding package deals that also include a site visit before the special day.

5. Create your guest list and send invitations

Are you planning a huge destination wedding extravaganza or a small and intimate ceremony with only your closest family and friends? Consider the cost to your guests, time off, and how far you’ll be asking them to travel. Also, remember that the expense of hosting wedding guests abroad can be more pricey for the couple than a local wedding, depending on the destination.

Pro-Tip: Send out save the dates & invites well in advance so your guests have time to save up and get any travel documents and vaccinations ready!

white flower laying atop wedding veil

6. Set up a honeymoon registry

We understand that some couples may prefer not to set up a registry, as their guests are already budgeting for travel to the ceremony. However, if you do decide you want a wedding registry, consider a travel registry instead of a traditional gift registry.

This will allow friends and family, even those not attending, to contribute to an activity for you to enjoy while abroad. Examples of items typically found on honeymoon registries are:

  • Couples massages
  • Dinner for two
  • Snorkeling
  • Excursion contributions

To get started setting up your free registry today, create an account here.

7. Make sure your passport is ready

As a recent attendee of a destination wedding myself, I’ve seen passports hold people back from the big day firsthand. Don’t let passport delays be a hindrance to your nuptials! Plan for the longest window of time it may take to apply for or update your passport. It can take 3-4 months on the long end of the timeline, so make sure you account for that and get it done well in advance.

Pro-Tip: We encourage you to include this reminder on your wedding save the dates & invites so your guests have plenty of time to renew any passports or travel documents as well.

8. Book your travel with Celebration Wishes Travel

Book flights and lodging well in advance! Better yet, lean on our team of experienced travel planners to help get everything situated, so you can rest easy. Fill out our travel form today to get more information on how we can help make your dream destination wedding a reality.

brown wooden house on body of water under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Upgraded Points on Unsplash

9. Pack ahead of time

While sometimes packing early isn’t necessary, we highly recommend doing it for your wedding trip! By laying things out and grouping together different outfits, you’ll ensure that nothing is left behind. Plus, this will highlight anything you may be missing that you need to shop for prior to takeoff. Below are a few packing tips for your destination wedding!

  • Create a detailed list of events and excursions happening on your trip, and use these to make sure you have the proper dress for each occasion.
  • Carry on the necessities for your ceremony, including shoes, veil, rings, vows, and dress.
  • Pack your dress or suit in a garment bag, and ask your flight attendant for help storing it on the trip.
  • Look up duty-free tax rules for the area that you’re traveling! Keep receipts handy for any expensive items that you’re traveling with (such as wedding favors) in case they’re requested by customs.
  • Be sure to order/pack any adapters you may need for your electronics, hair tools, etc. Also, keep in mind different voltage allocations per country so you can ensure your devices can handle it without breaking.

groom and bride holding hands
Photo by Wu Jianxiong on Unsplash

The Most Important Part of the Day Is Saying 'I Do'

Remember to stay present throughout the wedding planning process! Although it may feel like solving a puzzle, some of the best destination weddings are those where the main focus is on friends and family celebrating you while enjoying a new and beautiful place. We promise that when all is said and done, the day will be amazing!

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