1. Start early. You may think you have plenty of time, but when you start investigating your first choice locale, you may learn it’s a lot pricier than you thought, or getting there is too complicated for you and your guests. And speaking of guests, they need lots of time, too. While six to eight weeks ahead is fine for sending invites to a traditional wedding, you’ll need to give six to eight months’ notice, minimum to guests invited to a destination wedding.
2. Stick to your budget. While it’s true that it’s easier to keep costs in check with destination weddings, it’s still wise to keep an upper limit firmly in mind. That way, if you happen to start tooling around online and see the ever so slightly ritzier resort just a few steps down the beach from the first place you loved, you’ll be far less inclined to spend more.
3. Be communicative. Send out save-the-date cards as soon as you know when and where you’ll be wed. It’s always a good idea to set up a wedding website to keep guests apprised of details. Let them know if you’ve set aside blocks of hotel rooms and provide them with the contact information of your travel agent or wedding planner that will take care of answering their questions and making their travel arrangements. Provide them information on what to pack, what the itinerary of the event will be and so on. Provide them pictures of the resort and get them excited as this is their vacation also.
4. Put together welcome bags. This is simple to do and well received by travel-weary guests. Offer things like a
map and a list of local attractions, an itinerary for wedding-related activities, bottles of water and snacks for the room. And toss in some fun stuff—flip-flops for your beach wedding, a waterproof one-time-use camera, or a spa gift certificate.
5. Investigate activity options to please a wide range of ages and proclivities. If your locale is great for hiking, kayaking or windsurfing, schedule a group activity for the day before or after the wedding. For those who may not want to take part, arrange a sightseeing tour or even schedule a spa day or a guy’s day out zip-lining. Your travel agent or wedding planner can take care of arranging this for you.
6. Figure out if anyone will need special assistance, and take care of it. Does your grandmother need a wheelchair or your sister a crib for her baby? Let your travel agent know these things with the hotel in advance. If there will be children, check with the resort about babysitting services.
7. Make reserving the stay for your guests a no-brainer. Provide your travel agent a list of all guest that you sent an invitation to. Let them know up front about any special needs that a guest may have. Make sure the travel agent is knowledgeable about the resort and can answer your guest questions and help them coordinate their plans and special needs. You want to be the special couple not the special travel provider or wedding planner for your guests.
8. Choose a location that’s easy (or easy-ish) to get to. Remember the average guest stay is 3 or 4 nights so you don’t want to have guests spending the first day of the trip and the last day traveling 12 hours or all they will remember of the trip are the travel days. Make sure that the resort you select is less than an hour ride from the airport. Your travel agent can look at where your guests are flying from and that will help you select a location. If you are dreaming of Europe or some far off Pacific paradise and you live in Charlotte it might not be realistic to think guests will attend. Think of those locations as a place for your honeymoon.
9. Choose an experience Travel Agent or Planner. When planning a wedding from far away, you’ll definitely need a professional that is familiar with the resorts, the area and the vendors. Going with a planner will help you to personalize your wedding to your tastes. Ask the Agent or Planner if they have worked with the resort before and some differences between the various locations you are evaluating. Ask about setting up site visits either with the Agent or on your own. Ask them about resorts that have special programs such as El Dorado Resort Bridal Dress Rehearsal.
10. Ask the hotel or resort about other events taking place that weekend. While most luxury resorts wouldn’t be so tacky as to have several weddings going on at the same time, it’s worth asking if any events are taking place on the same date you plan to have your wedding. Ask if there are any other large groups that will also be there at the same time. Imagine if you have a bunch of business people on their annual trip going bananas at the pool on your wedding weekend?” Most resorts will have multiple events at the same time but will limit the number as well as the ceremony locations.
11. Mail invites early. Some guests won’t book flights and hotel rooms until they have the official invite so get a save the date to them early and provide them the information of your travel agent.
12. Check local laws and hotel restrictions before hiring vendors from the U.S. Many couples will fly in their own photographer and videographer, and sometimes a DJ or makeup artist as well. But not all countries allow the use of outside vendors, so check with your travel agent or wedding planner or your contact at the wedding venue. If you are bringing your own vendors make sure to budget for their flights and hotels if you are the one paying for them.
13. Call Vacationeeze to help you plan a fun stress free Destination wedding
1. Invite everyone you know. While it is possible to have a large destination wedding, a lot of couples prefer to keep the setting a bit more intimate. Typically 30% of the people you invite will actually attend. Remember that even though you are not paying for their travel there will be expenses that you will be paying for plus you will need to spend 3-5 days with these guests.
2. Plan on paying the bill for your guests’ airfare or resort stay (unless you want to). Couples are not expected to pay for the guests’ accommodations or travel. It’s also not custom for the bride and groom to pay for flight and hotel for the wedding party, although some do. If you have guests who cannot afford the trip but it’s important to you that they attend, alleviate some of the cost by paying for a few extra rooms and have people share for the weekend.
3. Leave guests to figure out their own transportation. Make sure your travel agent has set up the transportation from the airport to the resort and back. They should be able to book your guests flights if necessary, but they should definitely coordinate all of the guests experience once the guests arrive at the destination.
4. Spend a lot on ceremony flowers. One of the main reasons to have a destination wedding (besides the built-in vacation) is the beautiful scenery. Many couples choose to have an outdoor ceremony, in which case, there’s little need for the elaborate floral arrangements you might have at an indoor ceremony back home. You might have specific flowers you are dreaming about which are not available. Work with your planner to find a local flower that is similar to what you want so that you are not paying to have your favorite flowers shipped in from home.
5. Work with a resort or venue that does not have experience – You may have seen a great resort while on your vacation or seen amazing pictures on Pinterest, but unless that resort or venue has experience in hosting weddings you don’t want to be one of their first clients.
6. Expect everything to be the same as at home –the food may taste slightly different, the pace maybe slightly slower and the napkins may feel slightly different. Each destination has some limitations. Make sure to meet with the wedding planner at the resort once you arrive to review all of your selections. If you need to make last minute changes do so and all will be good.
7. Plan on getting free guest passes -many resorts will sell you a limited number of guest passes for those guests that don’t want to stay at the resort hosting your event. Make sure to find the cost and number up front so you don’t find out that you can’t get all you need 1 day before the event.
8. Expect to have a child attend “just the ceremony” at an adults only resort – it is called adults only for a reason and most resorts will not allow you to bring in any children at all, even your cute cousin to be the flower girl for only 20 minutes.
9. Expect the resort to upgrade you to the Penthouse Suite because you are booking 50 of their rooms – This is where your travel agent comes in. As part of negotiating with resort ask for this up front. Most of the times the resorts will tell you they will upgrade you based upon availability. If you are dreaming of the swim out suite right on the beach with butler service then you should plan on paying for it.
10. Ship your dress or anything you require for the wedding – If you are going to ship anything to the resort talk to the planner at the resort to find which company such as FED Ex or DHL is the most reliable. Make sure to ship early. Also determine if there will be government taxes or custom charges. You don’t want to end up owing the government $200 for importing your wedding dress.
11. Expect the airlines to upgrade you to first class or hang your wedding dress – flights are more crowed than ever. If you want to sit in first class you should buy the first class seat. Airplanes no longer have as many closets to hang things and many planes don’t have any coat closets.
Ask the flight attendant upon boarding if they can hang it, but if they say no then you will be fighting for overhead bin space for your dress. Once everyone puts in their roller boards just place your dress on top.