How To Plan a Destination Wedding

When it comes to planning a destination wedding, there are many questions to ask yourself. What type of venue do you prefer? Where will you hold the ceremony? Who will officiate? How long will you be away? And what about guests? Destination weddings can be harder to plan because you don’t have access to all the services you need. But with the right planning, it doesn’t have to be a big headache. So let’s talk about how to plan a destination wedding.

You should start by making a few decisions such as:

  • How big do you want your wedding to be
  • Where you’d want to have your wedding
  • How much money you want to spend 
  • Where you would like to honeymoon

Once those decisions are made, you can begin the planning process. The time of year may or may not be important to you. If you have your heart set on getting married in a certain location, it may come down to when the location is available. You may not have a lot of choice in this area. The farther out you plan, the more options you’ll have. 

Start Your Research

If you don’t know exactly where you want to go, start by researching popular destinations. Look up hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Once you’ve narrowed down the options, look into the weather patterns and seasons.

The best months to travel to certain places depends on the area. For example, springtime is great in Florida because of the warm temperatures and beautiful flowers. Summer is ideal in Hawaii because of the balmy climate and the chance to enjoy activities such as surfing and snorkeling.

In some cases, you’ll find that you can book specific dates based on your location. Some people choose to host their weddings during the winter holidays, while others decide to celebrate over Christmas break.

Set a Budget

Before you start looking into venues and picking out decorations, it’s important to establish a realistic budget. A good rule of thumb is to set aside at least 30% of your total budget for your reception site. This amount covers everything from catering, alcohol, rentals, entertainment, etc. Once you have determined this number, use our Wedding Venue Cost Calculator to help determine what type of venue you want to rent. You can see how much each option costs, including the price per square foot.

Create a Wedding Planning Checklist

Now you’re back from your trip. You have a clear vision of how you want your wedding day to proceed. Consider using a digital wedding planner.  This allows you to manage every detail of your wedding day. Create a checklist of important items to do before you travel, add notes for yourself along the way, and send out reminders via email to let everyone know what needs to happen next.

Budget For Conversion Rates and International Taxes

When planning an international destination wedding, it’s important to account for currency fluctuations. If you’re planning a summer destination wedding in Europe, you’ll want to pay most of your bills during the winter months, when Euros are stronger because people aren’t traveling and spending money. On the flip side, if you’re planning your wedding during the high season in Europe, you may find yourself having to pay more in exchange rates than expected.

Conversion rates vary widely depending on where your guests live and where you plan to host the event. In the United States, a typical wedding guest spends $1,200-$2,500 per person. However, in Mexico, the average cost is just $400-$600. So, if you’re inviting 500 guests, you’d spend anywhere from $10,000-$20,000. You may be able to negotiate a discount with your venue or caterer based on how many guests you invite. But, don’t forget to factor in the costs associated with travel, accommodation, and food.

In addition to currency fluctuations, you may also encounter different tax rates in each country. While you may be used to paying 21% sales tax in the US, in France, it’s 20%. And while you may assume that 21% is the same as 20%, it’s actually 22%. 

FAQ’s About Destination Weddings

Here are some questions and answer about planning a destination wedding

Consider All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive weddings are becoming increasingly popular among couples looking to cut costs without compromising on quality. They offer everything included in a typical wedding package, including catering, photography, florist, DJ, entertainment, transportation, and even accommodations. Couples typically start saving around $10,000 to $20,000 off the cost of a traditional wedding once they’ve booked their venue and chosen their vendors.

how to plan a destination wedding - Paris

An all-inclusive wedding package usually includes lodging, meals, beverages, activities, and entertainment throughout the day. Some include a ceremony site, while others don’t. You can choose whether you want a beachfront location, a mountain retreat, or a romantic villa. There are plenty of options out there, and it really depends on what you want.

You can even add additional extras such as honeymoon flights, spa treatments, and alcohol. You won’t find those amenities in a typical wedding package.

Take A Trip

Planning your wedding in a year or more gives you the opportunity to scout out wedding locations. While it might seem like a hassle to travel halfway across the world just for a weekend, it could actually help you find the ideal setting for your nuptials. You’ll save money, enjoy better weather, and have plenty of time to plan everything from the ceremony to the reception.

Once you narrow down the location, check out the amenities. Again, making a personal trip to the location is very helpful. If a wedding is in progress at your location, try to talk to people about their experience. It’s even better if you can talk to the couple getting married but that may be too difficult for them. This is also the perfect opportunity to set up an appointment with a potential wedding planner or arrange a day to interview several if there are other hotels in the area you are considering. 

Find a Knowledgeable Wedding Planner

If you are not working with a dedicated wedding planner at your chosen location,  find someone in the area who specializes in weddings. For example, if you are getting married in San Francisco, you might want to hire a wedding planner who works in the Bay Area. This way, he or she will know what vendors work best in the region.

Send Save the Dates Early – Keep Guests Informed

Destination weddings require more preparation for your guests as well so be sure to give them ample time to make plans to attend. They will need to coordinate things like flights, hotel, car rental, time off work, and childcare. 

How many months in advance should you have a destination wedding?

The further away your guests have to travel, the more lead time you should give them. Anywhere from 1-3 months is a good rule of thumb.

how to plan a destination wedding

Having a website for your wedding is a great way to keep guests up to date on any special instructions and any other information necessary to make their travel run smoothly. 

Make sure you have enough time to make any adjustments when setting an RSVP date. 

Find Lodging Recommendations For Guests

If you are working with a dedicated wedding planner at your destination wedding location, you will most likely be offered a set of rooms at a discounted rate for your guests. This makes it very convenient for your guests to make their own arrangements and still enjoy your wedding day. 

You can also accommodate your guests traveling with children by finding hotels near parks, tourist attractions, and restaurants. 

Research Local Marriage Requirements

Make sure you are prepared for the legal paperwork involved. There are lots of different rules around marriage depending on where you live, so make sure you know what you need to bring with you.

Check out local laws regarding residency requirements, age limits, and whether you need a special certificate or permit to marry. In some places, you’ll need to provide proof of identities, such as passports, birth certificates, or ID cards.

If you plan to tie the knot in another country, you’ll also need to find out if there are additional documents required. For example, some countries require couples to obtain a “certificate of no impediment,” which confirms that both parties aren’t already married or engaged.

The main thing you need to know is how long it will take to get a marriage license. Once you know this, you can get all the paperwork together to begin the process. Your wedding planner should be able to guide you. 

Plan Your Ceremony

Decide what type of ceremony you want. Traditional ceremonies tend to be held outdoors, often on a beach. Civil ceremonies can take place indoors or outside, depending on the venue. Religious ceremonies typically require a church or temple and someone to officiate the ceremony. Work with your wedding planner and the officiant so you have a clear understanding of how the ceremony will proceed.

These are some of the big things you need to think about when planning your destination wedding. Of course, there are a million little things you’ll need to organize as well such as rehearsal dinner, how to transport your wedding dress, and a million other little things. But this will get you started on planning your destination wedding!

Have you ever planned a destination wedding? Let us know in the comments below!

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