Destination weddings are very on trend this year. Couples are flying worldwide to celebrate the most important day of their lives in spectacular locations. We've put together the complete guide to destination weddings to help with everything from planning to budget, from choosing a venue to how to make it more guest-friendly. This is everything you need to know about destination weddings.
How To Plan A Destination Wedding
It all starts with a vision: So, you've ticked off the first part: you've chosen a destination wedding. The next step is to begin a vision board of sorts. This doesn't have to be literal, it can be using Instagram, Pinterest, or screenshots sorted into an album on your phone, or you can print them out if that works; do what works best for you.
Create a vision of how you'd want your dream wedding to look. Is it beaches? Is it the big-city New York skyline in the background style? Is it out in nature in a forest or national park? The options are endless, but start imagining yourself in these scenarios and looking at pictures of different weddings. When you see images you love, save them, and use them in the preferred method of organization we discussed above.
Pick a destination: With your vision board created, you'll be able to create a theme and style of wedding based on a specific environment. If it's big-city skylines, start googling lists of places that match. It might be Toronto, and it might be New York City, it might be Sydney; there are a lot of options. Once you've got a list of applicable destinations that match your vibe, you can sit down with your partner and weed out what works and doesn't based on your expected budget restrictions.
When choosing a destination, it's essential to also do your research into how local marriage requirements work to be on the safe side. Local governments will often have pages dedicated to this.
Choose the date: Now you know you'll be having a destination wedding, where it'll be, and how it might look, you can now take the next leap and set your wedding date. When choosing a date, consider the weather in that location, or if anything significant might happen locally, just in case something monumental happens. (Example: getting married in Brisbane during the Olympics will cause the cost of accommodation to go through the roof for your guests and make finding venues difficult).
Also, remember that the weather could dictate the type of gown or attire you might wear. Wearing a heavy dress in January for a gold coast wedding when temperatures are peaking might cause issues with how you'll feel on the day.
Send out invitations: You've got a date and a destination. Now it's time to give your guests a heads up on when you'll be having your wedding so they can prepare or let you know if they can't make it. Regarding wedding invitations, 'the earlier, the better' is the best way to approach things.
Research and book in vendors: At this point, it's time to start locking in local vendors. As always, it's essential to do your research. Use google reviews, social media, and google search to see what people say about them, look at their work history, and then contact them or check their website for pricing options.
Once you find a vendor that suits your needs, you'll want to reach out and book them in as early as possible to get everything locked in. This may require FaceTime meetings to ensure you gel with each vendor, creating less stress for both of you on the wedding day.
You've got the destination, the venue, the vendors, the date, and the guests. Now all you'll need to do is get married!
Frequently Asked Questions: Destination Weddings
What is a destination wedding?
A destination wedding is hosting your wedding ceremony somewhere other than where you live, requiring travel for the bridal party and potentially most guests. An example of a destination wedding would be if you lived in Auckland, New Zealand, but wanted to get married on the Gold Coast, Australia. It would require your wedding party and guests to fly to the Gold Coast from Auckland to carry out the ceremony.
Why do couples do destination weddings?After travel restrictions crushed the destination wedding concept from 2020 to 2022, they're back and in full effect in 2023. There are a whole range of reasons couples may opt for a destination wedding, including;
- You can have the wedding and the honeymoon in the same place.
- If you went on a holiday together or originally lived somewhere together as a couple, returning there to get married is a meaningful experience, adding an extra layer of beautiful emotion to your wedding day.
- You want a specific theme for your wedding that can only be carried out where you live, such as a beach wedding, but you live centrally to a country with beaches.
- It can sometimes be more cost-effective. For example, many couples have been heading to Bali for destination weddings over the years because the price to carry out the wedding, including flights and accommodation, can be cheaper than their options locally.
- You get to have an extended vacation with your loved ones, with the bonus of a wedding thrown in.
- Smaller, more intimate ceremonies with a handful of guests.
How long do you stay for a destination wedding?
For guests at a destination wedding, it's common for guests to stay for 2-3 days typically, but this can depend on the wedding, the destination, and the theme. Smaller intimate ceremonies may be a family affair that lasts a week or more. For more significant ceremonies, guests may generally only have limited time off from jobs or family commitments, so they'll fly in the day before and fly out the day after.
As a guest, this is ultimately a decision you should make while weighing up factors like work or personal responsibilities, financial aspects, or anything else that may impact your day-to-day life.
Tips to make your destination wedding budget friendly
Book an all-inclusive package: when you're designing your destination wedding instead of trying to juggle all the pieces of different options and vendors. Once you've looked at all the local opportunities and their packages, you can weigh the cost vs. the value you'll receive. One of the best things about an all-inclusive package is there are no extra hidden costs that can so easily sneak up on you when you're planning a wedding; it'll be a specific offer with a set price.
You'll often find that the venue's package options may be the best for you, but be sure to research and check every available package to find the best for your budget.
If you cannot find all-inclusive packages at your preferred destination, it's not the end of the world; just the start of a little more work on your end. You'll need to find your vendors locally to the destination of your wedding, and one of the best ways to keep prices down is to use local cuisine for your food and local vendors for each option.
Use the surroundings: the whole idea of a destination wedding is to be somewhere gorgeous that has meaning. With this in mind, don't worry too much about extra ceremony details when you'll have a thoughtful or beautiful destination to backdrop the wedding. From the beaches in Bali to the waters of the Maldives, these places look breathtaking, and you can use this to your advantage; you don't need to go overboard on florals or decorations if you've got a fantastic backdrop behind you as you tie the knot.
The ceremony turned honeymoon: The brilliant thing about a destination wedding is that you can honeymoon right there where you get married. Combining the two will save you a LOT on accommodation, fewer flights, less travel, and, best of all, less stress from less planning!
Keep the guest list small: one of the most important things to remember for a destination wedding is that smaller will always be cheaper. Narrowing down your guest list to create a smaller and more intimate wedding will keep costs down for you regarding the food you'll serve, the size of the venue, the setup options, and more.
Weekday weddings = cost-effective: Generally speaking, the average couple ties the knot on the weekend, which makes it easier for guests to make a day trip to wherever the event may be held. When it comes to a destination wedding, your guests will take time away from their everyday lives to attend, so you don't have to worry about it being a weekend. The bonus with getting married on a weekday is that prices are generally lower because it is not in demand.
Etiquette tips to help with guest stress
Keep it short & simple: Keeping your guest list short and simple (close friends and family) is a surefire way to reduce much of your wedding planning stress. While it makes it more intimate, it keeps things straightforward and less stressful for you and your partner. This also means you avoid the awkwardness of people not wanting to go and spend money because you might not be as close to them as others.
Give guests a heads-up: You must give them ample time to plan because they might need to organize things like time off from work, babysitters, pet-sitters, and someone to tend to personal affairs like their garden, feeding a pet, etc. Couples typically send save-the-date cards at least ten months before the wedding, so their guests have time to save, plan, and prepare.
Who's paying for what: When planning your wedding, it's considered proper etiquette to be upfront with what your guests must pay for. Now, you don't exactly need a specific list, but if they know in advance that they'll need to pay for flights to the destination, accommodation, and their food & drink for the time they stay, it helps them know up front, and no feel caught up with unexpected costs.
Spell out what will happen after the wedding: If you are planning a wedding with the expectation that, after the wedding, you'll go on honeymoon as a newly married couple, then it's essential to be upfront about this. For example, say you get married, and you and your partner want alone time to explore the location, sight-see, or just be alone. Still, all your guests are coming to you expecting events, socializing, and group time, then you'll find yourself in an awkward spot.
Keep your guests in the loop: There are so many details, logistics to handle, and things to cross off your to-do list at the wedding. When planning and executing your dream wedding, keeping your guests informed about what you'll be doing, who will do what, and where goes a long way. Creating a wedding website or a Facebook event group is a great suggestion here; it helps store all the info in one place, let people know who else will be there, and can even allow your guests to assist each other with things like room sharing, accommodation, or just a friend to be with around the wedding itself.
Make your guests feel wanted and welcome: As a guest, if you arrive at a wedding and something needs to be more organized or set up for the days beforehand, it can be an awkward time of feeling a bit lost or out of place. It's a good idea to have some icebreaker events for guests if many people don't know each other. Suggest activities for them to do, plan a party on arrival day, or have welcome bags for your guests. Making them feel like you genuinely want them there sets a beautiful vibe, especially for a destination wedding where you'll all be together for a few days.
4 Tips for planning around guests at your wedding
- If the event is family-friendly and children are invited, ensure the venue you've chosen supports this. If your resort is not all-inclusive, it could cause problems for couples bringing children. (Reminder: you don't HAVE TO allow kids at your wedding, many couples don't, but it's important to state this upfront when you invite people so that they know this and can plan around it or decline the invitation without causing any bad blood)
- It's essential to create a relaxing and fun environment for your guests. While you may be stressed at your wedding, allowing your guests to have a nice vacation and keeping the vibes joyful will make the overall wedding stay much better and more memorable.
- Pick accessible and easy-to-find accommodations so your guests won't have trouble navigating.
- Destination weddings are costly as a guest, and you must pay for flights, accommodation, meals, and more. Giving your guests ample time to save, budget, and plan is always encouraged to make the process smooth for everyone.
Carry on vs. checked luggage: How to travel for a destination wedding.
Packing for a destination wedding can be stressful; you must take a lot with you, but you're also limited by how much extra luggage airlines will allow you and your partner to take with you. Deciding between what you'll carry on and what you'll take as checked-in luggage is essential.
Luggage to take via carry-on for a destination wedding:
- wedding attire
- Legal documents
The items you'll be taking as carry-on are all of the most important ones. For instance, suppose you have bad luck, and something happens to your checked luggage. Your suitcase may get delayed, and if your wedding gown is in there, you might have nothing to wear on your wedding day. It's a good idea to carry on all the necessary items, giving you some control over what can go wrong with a destination wedding.
Luggage to take via check-in for a destination wedding:
- Honeymoon attire
- Wedding favors or gifts
- Other non-essential items
When you're checking in luggage, as I mentioned above, if something goes wrong, everything in your checked-in baggage is replaceable if it needs to be. While it is not ideal to replace your clothes, it's better than being stuck without wedding rings or a gown!
If you've got trustworthy close guests, like mum or dad, your sister, your best friend, or someone similar, you can foot the bill and ask them to take more in their luggage for you if they've got the room. It will cost them for excess baggage, and you should pay for this yourself, but it's a great way to get more of what you need to your wedding destination.
Remember, the number one priority for everyone involved with a destination wedding is to celebrate love and have an incredible time. Use this guide to help reduce the stress of planning and executing a destination wedding. Enjoy yourself, fall in love with the process, and have the best wedding ever!