We know planning a destination wedding can be A LOT more stressful than planning a stateside one, so we’ve compiled a list of our favorite destination wedding planning tips as well as some tips for coordinating with guests and vendors beforehand to keep things running smoothly! Bookmark this blog post if you’re planning a destination wedding because I promise, there are some essentials in here!
Vendors Abroad & Tips for How to Work with Them
Hosting a destination wedding can be stressful because you’re not only getting married somewhere far away from home, but you’re also having to choose a venue, decorate, coordinate menus, etc from across the globe! Shipping all of your wedding decorations across the country or across the ocean can get costly, so we recommend working with local vendors. In this section, we’ll provide you with tips on how to make working with local vendors a breeze as well as all of the reasons why you should opt to choose local in the decision making process!
Why it is Essential To Have A Wedding Planner for Your Wedding Abroad
Assuming that your destination wedding is abroad, or even just somewhere that you are not totally familiar with, it could be hard to find everything that you’re looking for in the area to make your destination wedding a success. Researching vendors, venues, plans, places to stay, transportation, and the like could turn into a full time job. You don’t have time for that!
So, we highly suggest taking some of the stress off of yourself by hiring a wedding planner. Making sure that your wedding planner is local to the city that your destination wedding will be taking place in will ensure that you receive the best recommendations! They also will have existing relationships with the top vendors in the area. We interviewed a top destination wedding planner in Cabo not too long ago–give that blog post a read if you’d like destination wedding planning tips directly from a destination wedding planner.
Why You Should Choose Wedding Decorations in the Location Of Your Wedding
Not only will it be incredibly expensive to ship flowers, chairs, arbors, tables, and linens across the country or sea, but it will also be hard to keep those items fresh for your wedding if they are being transported in cargo ships or airplanes over a period of several days or weeks.
Not to mention, depending on whether your wedding will be in the same climate or hemisphere as your hometown or not will determine whether your wedding flowers will be in season. We highly recommend visiting your destination at least a year in advance to determine which flowers will be in season at the time of your wedding and planning to purchase local for this reason. Visiting your destination in advance will also help you network with other potential vendors and scout locations.
As for other decorations like chairs, tables, linens, and the like, renting local will remove the added stress of having to keep track of shipping your decorations to your destination. We recommend coordinating with your wedding planner to find the right local vendors for your wedding decorations.
Why You Should Source Food Locally
Again, you will more than likely not be familiar with what foods are in season at the time of your wedding if you choose an abroad destination. You also may not know what their local specialities are. This could cause complications if you’re hoping for a “hometown” inspired menu. This may be an area where letting go of the reins could lead to a great outcome. Trusting your planner and the local chefs to prepare meals with their local flare will give that special touch to your wedding. This may involve being more general when asking invitees their food preferences. Instead of “Steak, chicken, vegetarian” as options, it may be better to just collect food restrictions (i.e. plant-based, pescatarian, gluten-free, none, etc.)
That doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate with local food vendors and caterers well in advance to determine which foods will be in season during your wedding. Who doesn’t love a sneak peak? But be flexible and allow the local professionals to make the judgment call for what food options will be freshest for your wedding day.
Tips for Coordinating with Guests While Planning Your Destination Wedding
Coordinating with guests is one of the most stressful parts of a destination wedding because you are essentially planning a vacation for yourself and 20+ other people! So, to cut back on coordination and transportation mishaps, we’ve shared some of our best wedding guest coordination tips for your wedding abroad below!
Keep in touch with Text Alerts
If you’re planning a destination wedding, keeping in touch with guests before and during your wedding celebration should be at the top of your priority list. Sometimes making sure all of your guests receive updates can be difficult; however, with Guestie’s Text Alert feature, you can send all of your guests the same update with the click of a button!
Send guests a detailed itinerary at least 9 months in advance
Destination weddings require a lot of planning–not only for the couple-to-be, but also for their guests! Your guests will likely have to take some time off in order to make it to your ceremony, so be as considerate as possible and try to send them an invitation or itinerary for your wedding at least 9 months in advance.
Be transparent about accommodations
Planning a destination wedding isn’t just stressful–it can be very expensive. So, be upfront with guests about what they should and shouldn’t expect to take care of on their own. You don’t have to cover your guest’s hotels, rides, or food. The only expectation is that you will cover the costs of the event, but being transparent about the costs that guests can anticipate in order to join in the celebration. Including links to recommended transportation, lodging, and restaurants can allow guests to quickly get a sense of what joining the destination wedding will cost. We promise they’re not expecting you to shell out the big bucks to cover everyone’s expenses!
Be Clear About Who’s Invited
When you’re planning a destination wedding, there isn’t a ton of wiggle room for your bestie to bring an extra plus one. You’ve only got so many chairs and just like your guests, you’re getting ready for the wedding AND planning from across the country or sea, so you can’t just make more chairs appear. You also have to coordinate with the hotel everyone will be staying at, so additional guests could really throw a wrench in your planning. For this reason, it is SO important that you are totally clear with guests about who is or isn’t invited. A great way to get this message across is in the initial invite that you send. Including a line about “due to limited space, we only have space for those listed on this invitation.” If they’re allowed a plus one, make sure you have RSVPs well in advance so that you are able to make room for their additional guest.
Transportation at Your Destination Wedding
While it would be incredibly thoughtful of you to provide transportation for all guests to and from the airport, hotel, and venue during their stay, sometimes this isn’t possible. Be sure to let your guests know well in advance–preferably in your 9 months out itinerary–what expectations you have for them as far as transportation goes. If they’ll have to find their own ride from the airport to the hotel but you will provide transportation from the hotel to the venue, let them know as far in advance as possible.
Transportation tip: One sweet thing you can do for guests at your destination wedding is provide them with a small uber, lyft, or local taxi service gift card. That way at least some of their transportation will be covered; however, don’t feel obligated to do this if it isn’t within your budget!
How Big Should Your Guest List Be?
While planning your destination, really consider how many people you would like to attend. If you would like to have a bigger guest list, we recommend you start planning earlier than you would if you were okay with a smaller guest list. Remember, the more people you invite, the more expensive your wedding will be. Keep in mind that it is typical for around 30% of RVSP’s to come back as a “no.”
We also want to mention that destination weddings are a major commitment. Not only for the couple-to-be, but also for the guests! Guests have to schedule time off work, hire pet sitters, coordinate babysitters, etc. So, if some of your important guests aren’t able to make it, try not to be too disappointed. We promise you they want to come! Sometimes, it just isn’t doable, and that’s okay! Be understanding with guests that won’t be able to make it and set aside some time either before you leave or after you get back to celebrate with them separately.
Booking Hotel Blocks
We highly recommend booking hotel blocks for your guests whether your destination wedding is stateside or abroad! Chances are, your guests aren’t totally familiar with the location you’ve chosen for your wedding! Booking wedding blocks will encourage them to mingle, allow them the opportunity to ride-share, share drinks at the hotel bar to get to know each other better, and stay on schedule because everyone will be coming and going at the same times! Booking a hotel block will give your wedding a sense of community. It will also give you, as the host, celebration vibes from the moment you all arrive!
Tips for Getting The Most Out Of Your Destination Wedding
While your destination wedding may be stressful to plan, we still want you to have the time of your life once the celebration begins! So, how can you get the most out of your destination wedding? Keep reading to find out!
Choosing Your Destination
So, you know you want to have a destination wedding, but you’re not sure where yet. Let yourself dream! Where have you always wanted to visit? What has been your favorite vacation thus far? Choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere you’ve always loved visiting. You might also consider how far most of your invitees will have to travel to get there so you can have realistic expectations of the number of people that will RSVP “yes.” A quick trip to a neighboring State or down to the Caribbean will likely bring more guests than a trip to the other side of the globe. If you need a few destination ideas, you can find a few of our favorite destination wedding locations on the blog!
Don’t Let Small Mishaps Ruin Your Wedding
Hosting a wedding across the country or across the ocean means that mishaps are bound to happen. You, your financé, and all of your guests are out of your comfort zones. Your vendors may speak a different language. You may not have cell service when you need it the most. If your florist loses one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets or the caterer forgets to bring one of the side dishes, know that it isn’t the end of the world. Not everything has to be perfect. In fact, nothing ever is. So, don’t expect it to be. Just go in to your wedding day knowing that no matter what happens, you’re in this beautiful place surrounded by people that love you dearly. Don’t let one tiny thing ruin your day! Chances are, you’ll more than likely be one of the only people that even notices, so let it roll off your back and keep partying!
Enjoy and Indulge in the Local Culture
Want to make your destination wedding feel more authentic to the destination you’ve chosen? Explore and include elements of the local culture into your wedding. This can go hand-in-hand with choosing local vendors. If you’re having a wedding in Cabo, incorporate local dishes, drinks, and music into your ceremony.
If you’ve already got your entire ceremony and reception planned to a T and can’t add any cultural elements into your party, you can still enjoy the local culture before or after your ceremony! Spend some time with your friends and family exploring, trying local food, and seeing the sights during the days following your wedding.
Book Some Extra Vacation Time After The Celebration
You’ve just hosted an incredible wedding and coordinated, quite possibly, the biggest party of your LIFE. Do you think you’re immediately going to have the energy to pack everything back up, head home, and get back to work the day after your wedding ends? Probably not. So, be sure to book some extra time at the location you’ve chosen for your destination wedding. We promise, you’ll need the mini vacation. Whether it’s a long weekend or an additional week, you won’t regret spending a few extra days relaxing with your shiny, brand new Husband or Wife in a cozy hotel with room service.
Stick to Your Budget If You Have One
It’s especially easy to throw your budget to the wind when planning a destination wedding because it’s a once in a lifetime experience. However, planning an amazing fairytale wedding isn’t worth going into debt over. You don’t have to have a ton of money to plan the wedding of your dreams. So, stick within your budget and don’t be afraid to compromise! I promise you’ll be much happier by the end of your wedding if you’ve staying within or under budget. Not to mention, saving some money on the wedding will make for an even more beautiful honeymoon!
Get ready for the time of your life
Lastly, get ready for the time of your life! Planning your destination wedding may be one of the most stressful things you ever do, but the pay-off will be so worth it. You’ll get to spend extra time with friends and family after your celebration and you’ll also get a mini vacation before your honeymoon! Sounds like a win to us!