by Alexandra Hill Speciale
Destination weddings can be the most magical of experiences for you, your betrothed, and your cherished family and friends.
As a professional wedding and event planner, I’ve orchestrated many a destination wedding for my clients, to dreamy and romantic places like the sea swept coast of Honduras and a French chateau in the Loire Valley.
I heart destination weddings so much that, when my special day came, I also ventured afar and tied the knot at a medieval church on the Croatian island of Hvar.
These types of weddings look fun, fabulous and carefree in photos, but, undoubtedly, there is a lot of planning, logistics and information dissemination going on behind the scenes.
Whether you plan to hire a wedding planner or DIY, here are my top tips on how you can plan an unforgettable destination wedding that is perfect in every way!
WHERE TO GO
Magic & Meaning
A destination wedding is especially memorable and sentimental if the location holds some importance to you and your fiancé.
Consider holding your nuptials at a destination related to, or reminiscent of, the Meet-Cute place where your love story first took flight. Or, a locale where you have strong family or ancestral ties.
Or, a dreamy isle you know your guests would love to jet set to… resulting in more Yes’s on your RSVP list.
Ease of Access
While there are some truly magical destinations out there, some of them are a hassle to get to, requiring multiple modes of transport just to get to the front door.
You want to ensure everyone is able to enjoy a comfortable and economical journey to and from your wedding. So choose a destination that’s easy to get to, for all of the ages on your guest list—especially parents with babes and young children; as well as elderly guests with limited mobility.
If possible, organize private transfers from the airport either via your hotel concierge or a local vendor that comes highly recommended.
Once you’ve mapped out all of the transportation logistics, be sure to share it, in granular detail, with your guests ahead of time on your wedding website.
WHEN TO GO
Weather Or Not…
No matter the destination, weather should always be a deciding factor when choosing a date for your Big Day.
It may be your dream to say, “I, Do” on New Year’s Eve, on the tropical sands of an Indonesian beach. But the reality could end up being a nightmare, because that’s when monsoon season is in full swing.
Or, you may be dreaming of an outdoor wedding in Las Vegas on the anniversary of your first date. But if that date is in July, when temperatures can soar over 100° Fahrenheit (40° C), Sin City could end up feeling a lot like Hell for you and your guests.
So, once you have a dream destination in mind, be sure to research—via sites like Holiday Weather, Weather Spark and Weather and Climate—the perfect time to visit… when hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons and other natural disasters are out of season…
And when the weather will be lovely and agreeable….
Big events can often suck up all of the desirable hotel rooms and lodging options in a vicinity. Making it harder and more expensive for your guests to find a place to stay… or a flight, even.
So check to make sure a major sporting or music event, convention, conference or the like won’t be taking place during your dates.
WHERE TO STAY
Location, Location, Location
It’s your wedding, so you should totally stay where you wanna. Whether that be a 5-star resort, a medieval castle or a mystical ashram.
But don’t expect that your guests will want to pony up (or down) for your luxurious, adventurous or monastic accommodations.
When honing in on where to stay during your wedding, be sure to take your guests’ range of budgets and travel styles into account.
All for One, One for All
You could, perhaps, rent a large villa. Or a glamp camp with cabins and luxury tents. Or a scenic estate with a main house and guest cottages.
Though the overall price may seem high, once everyone chips in, it could end up being less expensive than staying in a fancy hotel. Your guests won’t have to worry about finding and booking hotel reservations; they can just send their share to you directly via check or PayPal ahead of time.
Plus, all of your guests will be together in one place, which will make your time together more special and memorable.
Separate, but Happy
Alternatively, if you elect to stay at a dreamy hotel, be sure to choose one that’s conveniently close to other accommodation options ranging in price and amenities.
You can usually ask your hotel for a list of other hotels nearby where you can set up a Wedding Rate for your guests.
‘Save The Date’ Way in Advance
Your soon-to-be-invited guests lead busy lives with monthly bills, bills, bills; limited vacation days; and equally limited travel funds.
It’s courteous and imperative that you give them enough time to save and plan for your wedding—especially if it’s to a locale that’s expensive and far away.
This will give your guests enough time to save up for the trip; and to schedule their vacation days accordingly. Plus, if they’re budget-conscious, this will give them enough leeway to hunt for great airfare and hotel deals, to save on costs.
Ultimately, the more time you give friends and fam to save and plan for your wedding, the more Yes’s you’ll get in response to your Save-the-Date.
Extra, Extra, Read All About It!
Well-informed guests are happy guests.
The more depth-of-information you share with your wedding party and guests far in advance, the less stressful things will be for all involved…
And the less you’ll have to field questions on the days and hours leading up to your Big Day.
- All of the wedding-related locations (wedding ceremony, reception, accommodation options, etc.)
- The weather forecast
- What to wear & pack
- Babysitting services info
- A detailed map of where everything is located
Also, print copies of your wedding’s daily itinerary. Send a copy to all of your older guests who aren’t digitally savvy and prefer to read text on good ol’ fashioned paper.
Also bring or ship copies to your accommodations, enough for each set of guests who are staying in the same room. This is especially important if you’re journeying to a remote locale where wifi isn’t readily available.