How to Plan a Destination Wedding

How to Plan a Destination Wedding - Image by Koby Brown

As a New Orleans Wedding Planner, I’m constantly planning Destination Weddings. This means that the couple I’m serving doesn’t live in New Orleans, which brings about it’s own set of challenges.

Location, Location, Location

You want to pick a location for your destination wedding that has special meaning to you as a couple. Somewhere you’ve lived before or somewhere you love traveling together are the most common, but don’t rule out a place you’ve always dreamt of visiting. There is no better way to personalize an experience for your guests than by bringing them to a magical place that means the world to you.

Work With a Planner

This is a non-negotiable. Wondering how to hire a planner? We have a YouTube video for just that!

When planning a destination wedding, you really want to hire a planner that has experience with communication across time zones and someone that is able to consistently travel to your destination location. Make sure that person is also well-connected! Even if your planner doesn’t live in your destination, they need to have a network of vendors on the ground locally to keep travel and labor costs down.

Interested in a very remote location? While this can be extra special, it can also be so difficult to coordinate logistics and travel, so you really need someone tapped into that area that can advise on cultural norms, government permitting, and logistical needs.

Draft an Intentional Guest List

This is the essential element that guides the rest of your planning. How much square footage you need in a venue, service style, and obviously budget. You know how I feel about this. Just because you’re having a destination wedding, it doesn’t mean you can have tons of “courtesy invitations” – you will be surprised how many people will say yes. It’s an excuse to use vacation time! Cut that guest list down – it gives you a more intimate celebration and so much more flexibility with your budget and specialty items. You’ll truly be able to invest in your guest experience.

Pick a Time of Year That’s Best for Your Destination Location

Don’t pick your date before your destination and venue. You’ll be up against festivals, conventions, weather, etc. You want to avoid high-season to keep costs low for your guests. If you HAVE to book during high-season, try booking at the front or backend, especially if you’re traveling to a resort town.

Avoid active weather conditions. That could be rainy season or when your destination is exorbitantly hot. We know Mother Nature loves to show up uninvited and you want to avoid any stresses you can. If you’re getting married where it’s known for hurricanes, you really want to avoid that time period as places may close down and there may be limited resources.

The Honeymoon Begins When You Land

To maximize your celebration and keep your stress at bay, you want to plan to be in the location you’re getting married for at least a week. A few days before and a few days after your wedding. Let yourself get adjusted to jetlag, have time to prep for all events (welcome party, brunch, rehearsal dinner, etc.)

Did you know many other countries celebrate weddings during the week? You don’t HAVE to have a wedding on a Saturday! For American destination events, Fridays and Sundays are well within the norm.

Take Care of Your Paperwork Where You Live

I highly recommend signing your marriage license where you live, not where the wedding is taking place. This will not take away from your actual celebration and dealing with the legality and stress isn’t worth it! Maybe invite one or two people close to you to a short ceremony with a judge and make a day of it!

Experience and Excited Destination Vendors

You need a team familiar in the location and well-versed in travel events. There are plenty of vendors like your planner, photographer, and video team that travel often (even internationally). Having a team that’s shooting a new location with fresh eyes, is amazing as well and can create truly beautiful art. An entertainment agency can also find you a great mix of travelers and local entertainers.

Destination weddings are really our cup of tea at Sapphire Events! What could be more magical than celebrating your love in a special environment? Your guests will never be together in that location again, they are there to celebrate your love! What’s more meaningful than that?!

Feature photo by Koby Brown