5 Things to Consider For Your Destination Wedding
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
Where do you picture that eternal wedding picture kiss? The one where you’re leaning back in your soon-to-be-husband’s arms and the last rays of the evening sun are glinting off your shoulder?
Are you on a mountaintop with The Sound of Music theme tune dancing through your mind? Or perhaps white lace is cascading off your sun kissed-body, there’s sand beneath your toes and the only sound you hear are the crashing waves of the Mexican coastline.
If wild, uninhibited nature is not really your thing, perhaps you picture yourself on a cobblestone street in an old, European city, or on a dazzling vineyard somewhere in California…
Whatever the place, brides are clamoring for remote destinations for their weddings. Maybe it’s the Instagram effect that has us all seeking exotic locales. Whatever the reason, it’s important not to be fooled by effortless-looking pictures; destination weddings require planning… at least as much planning as a local wedding.
So here, we’ve broken down five things to consider if you are considering a destination wedding.
1. You’ll need more than just passports if you want your wedding abroad to be legally recognized in the States.
Different Destinations have different requirements. The best way to figure out what you’ll need to do to have a legally-recognized marriage abroad is to pay a visit to your US consulate. If that feels like too much of a hassle, an easy workaround is to do a courthouse ceremony in the states before you actually head overseas. Your overseas ceremony, in this case, will be purely symbolic, and won’t require any additional documentation.
2. Your wedding will be smaller. So will your gift-haul.
When you throw a destination wedding, it’s important to come to terms with the fact that some people, even some of your nearest and dearest, won’t be able to make the trip.
No matter how amazing or thoughtful your destination, there are bound to be some friends and family who won’t have the vacation days available, or who can’t swing the funds to join you. It’s more common than you might think for people to have to bow out, even people who have been asked to be in the wedding party. If you’re thinking of throwing a destination wedding, give your guests loads of advanced notice, and be sure you’re truly comfortable with the idea that some of the people you love most won’t be able to be there.
Those who do come, very often, don’t bring gifts. Destination weddings are expensive on guests, and so wedding-gift etiquette is different for destination weddings than it is for local, backyard affairs. The additional costs of travel, plus the constraints of transporting a wedding gift to a destination, is enough to deter many guests from bringing them. If gifts are important to you, that’s okay! A lot of couples rely on their weddings to help them get set up. Just know that if you throw a destination wedding, this is one of those things you may be foregoing.
3. Pay for extra baggage, and find a way to make your dress a carry-on.
Contrary to advice about not folding your wedding dress, in this one instance, you’ll want to make the gown as small as it can possibly be, and be sure to carry it on the plane with you. Just make sure your hotel has a steamer, or pre-arrange a steaming session with a tailor or laundry service at your destination.
It’s a fact that luggage gets lost, sometimes for weeks, and depending on where you are planning to get married, there is no guarantee of finding a comparable gown once at your destination.
As for extra luggage, some people may bring gifts and that means you will need to find a way to get those gifts back home. Shipping items will cost you a lot more than checking one extra bag will.
Even if you said no gifts, someone may break the rules, or you and your spouse may find a perfect souvenir of your wedding trip. Plan ahead by committing to having the extra space available should you need it.
4. You’ll have to visit the destination at least once before your big day.
Back to Instagram for a moment… sometimes, pictures lie. You don’t want to book your venue based on photos alone. The same goes for your hotel, florist, caterer, hair and makeup… you get the idea. Relying exclusively on photos is a recipe for disappointment. It’s really important to get a feel for a place before you ask all your guests to show up there. Remember, four stars in America may not be the same as four stars elsewhere. Seeing is believing. Make sure you see it first.
In addition to your pre-wedding trip, plan on getting to your destination days before your actual wedding day. You’ll want time on the ground to get your last-minute details in order before your guests arrive.
5. Destination weddings can be brutal on the environment, but they don’t have to be.
When you throw a destination wedding, thanks to air travel, your carbon footprint goes way up. If the environment is important to you (and we sincerely hope it is), consider these options to offset the negative impact:
Embrace all things local. Incorporate greenery that is native to your destination. This means hibiscus trees may be perfect either side of your Florida alter, but you may want to go with Edelweiss in the mountains and olive branches or grape leaves in Napa.
The same rule applies for food. If you hate seafood, rethink a wedding in the Maldives. Flying in non-local ingredients is costly to you and the environment, and food quality diminishes the longer an ingredient is in transit.
Look into Eco-resorts and throw your ceremony at the resort your guests are staying at to lessen ground transportation.
You can even go a step further and buy wind credits to offset your wedding’s carbon footprint. You’ll find loads of wedding day carbon calculators online, and you can even ask guests to make a donation in your name in lieu of traditional wedding gifts.
The key to a successful destination wedding really is planning.
Make like the best insta-photographers, and scout your location (and every other detail) ahead of time.
Give your guests their best shot at being there by sending out save-the-dates at least six months prior to your big day, and consider discussing your destination plans with your nearest and dearest before you actually send out any invites. This way you’ll have some notion of who will and won’t make it before you’re locked into anything.
Finally, once your plans are made, treat your wedding website like a mini-guidebook for your guests. They're making a huge investment of time and money in order to witness your wedding day; they’ll likely want to feel like they got a vacation out of it, too. Preparing a guidebook is the sort of extra effort that lets your guests know you are considering them in your planning, and it may be a deciding factor to help sway those families that are on the fence about whether or not to make the trip.