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Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular – and it’s easy to see why. Getting married at home usually means you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lavish wedding, and every single person in your family expects to be invited. For most couples, weddings turn out to be more stressful than enjoyable.
A destination wedding, on the other hand, means you can escape most of the stress you’re facing with a wedding back home. First of all, you can pick a dream destination! Getting married on a white sand beach? Or in an Irish castle? On the Queen Mary 2? Nothing is impossible. And you can combine it with your honeymoon right away – perfect!
Since for most of your relatives it’ll be too pricey to fly halfway around the world to attend your wedding, a destination wedding are also a great way to keep it small. That way, you won’t have to cater to 100 or more people. If an intimate affair is more your thing than a big wedding bash, a destination wedding is perfect for you!
And while weddings mean big business in North America, you’ll find that most destinations, especially in the Caribbean and Mexico, two popular destinations for weddings, have much more affordable wedding providers.
If you love to travel, a destination wedding is absolutely for you. But of course it isn’t necessarily easy to plan a wedding in a foreign country – so many things can go wrong. Here are my top five tips to make sure your destination wedding is a great success:
1 Choose your destination wisely
Choosing the right destination is key for a successful destination wedding. There are several factors to consider when picking a place to tie the knot: Does it have enough hotels / AirBnbs to accommodate all of your guests? A small beach town in Mexico might be scenic, but only have a handful of hotels. If that’s the case, make sure to reserve rooms well in advance, or you might end up with fully booked hotels for the dates you’re getting married on.
Are there convenient flight connections for everyone in your wedding party? Some Caribbean islands may have daily flight connections to the city you live in, but what about the rest of your family – can they get there easily? If there only a few direct flights per week, it might be too complicated and pricey to get everyone to fly there. Make sure to pick a destination where getting to isn’t a hassle for some of your guests.
Another thing that you have to keep in mind when choosing a location are local weather conditions. In the Caribbean, you don’t want to plan a wedding during hurricane season (July – September), having to fear that your wedding will be canceled because a hurricane is headed towards your dream island. If there are local festivities in the country / destination of your choice, for example carnival, you also have to make sure you don’t happen to set your wedding date for a day that coincides with a local festival.
If you know 100 % that you want a destination wedding, but are unsure about the destination itself, here is some inspiration for you: Top 50 Destination Wedding Spots
By the way: it is a good idea to visit your chosen destination at least once before the wedding, even if you’re familiar with it. Meeting with the wedding planner and/ or local vendors onsite helps ensure everything goes smoothly on your wedding day. Budget for this additional trip to your destination when you sit down and start looking at your finances.
2 Buy your Dresses and Accessories Wisely
After choosing a destination, it’s time to pick a wedding dress. Choose wisely though – if you have decided to exchange vows in the Tropics, you have to be very careful with the fabrics of your dress and tuxedo, or you might end up being soaked in sweat on your special day.
Don’t wait until the very last minute to buy your wedding dress and tuxedo – leave enough time for the outfits to be altered, and don’t forget about all the accessories that you want to wear on your big day.
If you are flying in bridesmaids and groomsmen, don’t forget to order their outfits well in advance, too. Bridesmaids’ dresses can be ordered online for little money these days, but they usually have to be fitted and often altered a little bit. Make sure to have fittings with everyone in your wedding party early enough to have time for alterations – especially if you order the outfits online.
3 Wedding Planner: Yes or No?
If you decide to get married in a small town, the first thing you need to do is to find out if there are any local suppliers for things like flowers, a wedding cake, and the overall catering for your special day. This can be time-intense and difficult, especially if you are looking to tie the knot in a foreign country and don’t speak the local language.
You can easily avoid stressing yourself with these issues by choosing a location with hotels that offer destination wedding packages. That way, you usually have a wedding planner included who will help you with everything that needs to get planned and who interacts with the local suppliers on your behalf.
A local wedding planner can also help you plan your wedding according to your budget, since they’re familiar with local rates for wedding-related things, and can tell you quickly what is and what isn’t possible. A destination wedding package including a wedding planner is not a bad idea if you get overwhelmed easily – and if you are planning to get married in a country you don’t speak the local language of, they’re absolutely indispensable.
Larger destinations like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen in Mexico do have wedding planners who specialize in destination weddings – oftentimes expats who speak your language. It is definitely worth investing in one of those, if possible, since they’re usually familiar with American wedding customs and traditions and they know the local wedding suppliers and locations. If you are looking to have an affordable wedding, I’d say that the wedding planner is worth spending money on – unless you love planning everything yourself. There are plenty of DIY brides these days.
4 The Wedding Logistics
Speaking of DIY: These days, many couples are heavily involved in planning their weddings. Pinterest has made it easy for brides to get inspiration for décor and accessories, and to plan themed weddings all by themselves. If you are one of these brides, go you! That’s much more personal than having your biggest life event planned by somebody else. Keep in mind the logistical side though: How are you going to transport everything you want to use in the wedding to your destination? If you are getting married in Italy for example, how much does it cost to ship large boxes to Europe? Are you comfortable shipping this stuff overseas? Even if you are shipping it via registered mail and pay for extra insurance, there’s still a small chance it might get lost. Consider this when planning your destination wedding. If you want to bring everything you need for the special day in your luggage, find out luggage restrictions for the airline you’re planning to use, and costs for extra luggage. Don’t underestimate how much room in your luggage your dress, accessories, cosmetics and toiletries take.
Speaking of the wedding budget: If you want to ask your family and friends to support you financially rather than having them bring you a gift, the website Plumfund is a great way to do this. Plumfund is a free online crowdfunding websites which allows people to fund everything from a trip to a baby shower to – of course – weddings! Honeyfund, the website’s dedicated wedding crowdfunding section, is in fact the #1 honeymoon gift registry, and it is super easy to create a fundraising campaign on the website, making it less awkward to send your bank details over to all your relatives, and make them feel like they’re part of a sincere campaign instead.
5 Research Local Marriage Laws
Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with local marriage laws and requirements beforehand. This may also influence the choice of your destination. A lot of countries have a residency requirement which means you have to reside in the country for a certain amount of time before you can get married there. While in some places that’s only 24 hours, in some places it is considerably longer – France has a 40-day requirement, for example, which might make it difficult for some couples.
Also look into the legality of marriage. To guarantee your marriage is recognized in the US, you are usually required to go to the US Embassy in the country you’re getting married in, so that your wedding certificate can be verified. If that is too difficult in the destination of your choice, you can still have a destination wedding, but the official civil ceremony in your local city hall back home. Again – if you’re investing in a wedding planner, they will be able to help you with the legal stuff.