Why should you plan a destination wedding?
The reason I love destination weddings so much is not just because of the beautiful scenery that you can get if you get married on the beach or somewhere super picturesque, but I love the fact that if everyone is flying to this destination you can spend some real quality time over the course of several days with the people that you love. It’s not just a few hours of excitement where you may or may not be able to talk to everybody. Instead, you can really spend time with each and every person who came to your wedding.
Money, money, money, money:
Destination weddings are not necessarily that much cheaper than a wedding at home the only big difference is that you may pay less for individual people’s dinners because you may not have as many guests at a destination wedding. You still have all of the additional costs of the apparel, accessories, photography, hair and make up, a DJ, decorations etc.
Try to be mindful of cost when you are planning a desitation wedding. There are some really gorgeous and amazing wedding venues out there that won’t break the bank for you our your guests. Think about the people you really really want to be at your wedding and ask yourself:
Can they can afford the flight to that destination?
Will getting to the resort be a direct flight or will there be multiple layovers?
How much is the hotel going to cost per person?
If you want to have as many people there as possible try to budget accordingly. Something you can try to do is talk to your wedding coordinator and ask them for a discounted rate because you are bringing so many people to the venue. We did this with our resort in Mexico and I actually negotiated the price down two times so that people could get the best possible rate. Try to strike that balance between finding a resort that is affordable but also one that has good quality accommodations and food. For an all-inclusive resort, I would recommend staying under $150 per person, per night and find a resort where kids are free.
Go and visit the resort before you book it! Don’t just look something up online. Take a tour, eat the food, and meet the wedding coordinator on site. You don’t necessarily need to stay at the resort but go and check the place out. When we got engaged we had coincidentally booked a trip to Mexico already to a location that we had been to a few times before that we really loved so we knew the area quite well and we felt comfortable there. When we were on our trip we decided to go to several hotels and check out what their rates were for the different wedding options, what the rooms looked like, and most importantly with the food tasted like.
Also think about the weather and the time of year that you are planning your wedding. For example, if you want to get married in Mexico make sure that you are mindful of what times are the rainy seasons for your particular location because if you want to have a wedding on the beach but it’s the rainy season you might get rained out and that would be really upsetting. This happened to a friend of ours and we were so sad. Although we still had a good time, everyone made the best of it, and the hotel was really accommodating, it was upsetting to the bride and groom to not have the wedding that they had envisioned.
We chose to get married in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico because it is a desert area so the likelihood of rain is a lot less, especially in the summertime, so even though our wedding day was really hot and sweaty at least we didn’t get rained out. Also think about the size of the resort that you may be getting married at- is it a mega resort where you may not be able to even find your friends and family while they are staying at the resort as well or is it a smaller more intimate setting where everyone can hang out at the main pool together in the days leading up to the wedding or the days after the wedding?
Make sure that whatever resort you choose has a wedding planner on staff that is responsive to your emails and will be there on your big day to handle all of the preparations. We found that there were things that came up and our wedding planner was very responsive in the months leading up to the wedding to help me get organized and would talk me through any kind of concerns I had about food options, desserts, decorations, centerpieces etc. If you are worried about a language barrier make sure to talk to the wedding coordinator on site and make sure that they speak the same language as you because it would be difficult to have to translate everything so try to make sure that you are comfortable with the language of the country are getting married in or that the wedding coordinator at the resort is fluent in the language that you speak.
Give your friends and family plenty of advance warning if you are getting married out of the country that you live in or even in a far away destination in your home country. Some people may need to get passports, some may need to get time off of work, some people may need to plan for babysitting for their children if they are not bringing them with them on the trip, and many people may need the time to save the money because destination weddings can be quite expensive. Also don’t be surprised if you
don’t get as many wedding gifts as a result of your destination wedding. If people are spending a lot of money to come and celebrate with you, buying a plane ticket and pay for a hotel, they may not have the resources to then also be generous with a gift to give you. We didn’t get very many wedding gifts outside of our immediate family but we felt that the gift that was given was the fact that so many of our friends and family members flew to Mexico to celebrate with us and to celebrate for several days on vacation. I felt that that was a priceless gift and I was so happy that so many people came… I didn’t really need more wine glasses anyways.
I strongly recommend allowing children to be invited to a destination wedding. There are some people who ask that no children attend the wedding except for maybe the children that are the flower girl and ring bearer but if you are asking a family to travel and spend that much money, it would be kind to also allow them to include their children so they are not stressing about finding babysitting for multiple days while they are away. It also allows that family to have a special vacation together.
Have some contingency plans for your friends that you know may struggle with remembering things or making their flight on time. For our wedding we had two people missed their flights and one of which was a groomsman. They both made it just in time for the ceremony, thankfully! Just remember that if you’re counting on lots of people trying to be on time you may find that someone misses their flight or that their flight is delayed or canceled because of some unforeseen weather event or some other reason. Be prepared for some kind of travel related disappointment and don’t let it ruin your day if someone overslept and missed their flight. Also, you may have some disappointments when it comes to the food or the centerpieces or something that you may have discussed via email or over the phone but when you get there on the day of, it’s not what you were planning on seeing. Just remember that your guests are NOT going to remember how fancy your centerpieces were or in our case what our cake tasted like. They’re going to remember if they had fun with the people that they love and care about. In my experience, I really wanted a certain kind of cake and I even sent the recipe to the wedding planner and I brought a copy of the recipe a few days before the event just so we could have that particular cake. Lo and behold, on our wedding day, the cake was terrible: it was dry, it had no flavor, and you know what… nobody remembers that except for me. My husband doesn’t even remember that and by the time we got to the cake everyone just wanted to get out on the dance floor anyways so don’t worry about the little tiny details because if you guys have fun, if you’re happy and in love, that’s all that matters.
When arranging things ahead of time such as hair and make up it is really stressful because you may only get to have a hair and make up trial the day before the actual wedding so if you are nervous about that bring a lot of your own stuff and also bring pictures of exactly what you want for your hair and make up. You may also want to send those images in advance to your wedding planner and to the hair and make up people so that they have a good idea of what you were looking for yourself and for your wedding party.
I chose to pay for the hair and make up for all of my bridesmaids and I think it was nice because I knew they were spending so much to come to the wedding that I wanted that to be a nice gesture of my appreciation for them coming and being there for me.
When you are planning on bringing things to the wedding such as table labels, centerpieces, wedding favors, etc. make sure to think about whether or not they might break on the flight or travel to your destination. I made some really cute table labels so that everyone knew where they were seated. Unfortunately, I thought it would be a good idea to put them in frames and the glass broke in half of the frames in my suitcase before we got to our hotel. That was a very messy bummer. Make sure to book pressing for your clothing the night before the wedding and that you are sure that nothing is going to happen to your wedding clothes in route. I chose to carry my dress and a few essentials on the airplane just in case something happened to our checked bags. Also double and triple check with all of your wedding party to make sure that they are bringing their clothes that they are responsible for. For example my flower girl dress was forgotten by the mother of the flower girl and we had no way to buy her another dress before the wedding. If you are worried about people in your wedding being forgetful it’s better to just pack the items yourself and pay for an extra suitcase or two than to be frustrated and upset when you get to the wedding and know that someone left behind a key element to your day.
Things we brought in our suitcases to the wedding:
Favors for all of the wedding guests
A book for everyone to sign and write a cute thing about how they know us
CDs and a jump drive as back up of our slideshow for the rehearsal dinner
Gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsmen
A detailed schedule of the week for all of the guests to have
Pictures of the hair and makeup style that I wanted for myself and the bridal party
A notebook with a detailed schedule of the entire week, including copies of all of the speeches that were to be given in case someone forgot theirs.
I highly recommend booking a photographer and a videographer for your wedding. I recommend this for anyone, not just destination wedding people. That way you can have your friends and family not be on their phones taking pictures the whole time and you can have some incredible images and videos of the event to cherish forever. Your wedding is such a fun, exciting, and amazing blur that when you watch your video later you might actually see things that you don’t remember from the day of the wedding itself.
Also, don’t feel like you need to pay a bunch of money for some fancy floral centerpieces because if you’re getting married at a beach or somewhere really beautiful that in and of itself is the showcase of your wedding so you don’t need to waste a bunch of money on flowers when everyone’s going to be looking at the gorgeous ocean anyways. Also, if it’s hot where you’re getting married, the flowers will quickly wilt so don’t waste your money.
Don’t be shy about asking for things. If you are getting married at a resort and you are bringing maybe 20 to 100+ people to that resort, it means that you are bringing business to said resort so don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade to your room, maybe an extra room where you can get ready on the day of that’s clean and doesn’t have your stuff in it so that the photographs don’t have a bunch of luggage everywhere. Don’t be shy about asking for those things because you are bringing a lot of business to that resort. This is especially true if you get married at a resort that doesn’t do weddings every single day like the Dreams resorts or other similar venues do. Smaller resorts might actually give you a more personalized experience than the big ones that do weddings all of the time.
Another thing you can negotiate is closing down some of the restaurants on site for your party for the rehearsal dinner or other events. If it’s a resort that has multiple restaurants you can ask if one of them can be reserved just for your wedding party with a customized menu. We actually planned on two separate evenings of events for our guests. On Wednesday we did an arrival dinner where we welcomed everybody and it also happened to be my parents wedding anniversary that day so we celebrated them and then we also closed a separate restaurant on Friday for the rehearsal dinner where we had a slideshow that was set up by the hotel and we brought the images and music.
On Thursday we planned an optional activity for our guests where we rented a catamaran/“booze cruise” that went around for a few hours to watch the sunset. Although we booked the boat, we asked the guests who wanted to come to pitch in and if they didn’t want to come, it was no big deal. Please remember that when people are going to a destination wedding they may not spend every waking moment with you and your spouse-to-be. They may want to do some things just as a family; they may want to go golf, or go get a massage, or go shopping. It’s good to plan a few things for the whole group but also allow for some flexible time in the vacation so that people can do their own thing.
If you’re getting married an all-inclusive resort that also means all inclusive alcohol so just be careful the night before the wedding that you, your spouse-to-be, and your friends and family don’t get too wild and be hung over the next day for the wedding we ran into this a little bit for our wedding but it was nothing that some food and hydration couldn’t solve the next morning before the ceremony.
You may be surprised as to who comes to wedding and who does not. There may be some people who you think for sure are going to make it there and they just don’t get it together in time, or they don’t have the resources, or there are things in their life that are out of your control and they simply can’t come. Try your very best not to have your feelings hurt if someone you really care about cannot make it to your wedding. You can still be friends with them even if they weren’t there on your special day.
Overall I HIGHLY recommend having a destination wedding. They are fun and will be a memory that lasts a lifetime. Try not to get hung up on the little details and just enjoy time with your friends and family in paradise.