So, you want to have a destination wedding…
Here’s how to begin:
(1) Work on your budget. How much do you have to spend on your wedding? Talk to your family to see if they are willing to help and, if so, how much, for what, and how do they want to pay (e.g., directly to the vendor, give you a check, etc.).
(2) Join BestDestinationWedding.com. It is the best resource for brides considering, planning, and returning from their destination weddings.
(3) Find a few different travel agents. Get their opinion on locations if you haven’t picked one.
(4) Pick a location (city/state/country). To figure out your location, answer a few questions. What feel do you want the wedding to have? Do you want warm weather or cold weather? Do you want a mountain, garden, indoor, beach or cliff side wedding? Are you getting legally married in that location? If so, make sure to check the country’s marriage restrictions and whether you can abide by the laws/regulations to get legally married there. Some countries even require blood tests or have in-country stay requirements. Also, are you fine with a marriage certificate in another language? If not, make sure to choose an English-speaking location or find out if they have the option of having the certificate in English. Finally, how far are your guests willing to travel?
(5) Once you pick the destination, pick the resort and/or location for the ceremony/reception. Ask travel agents for their recommendations for weddings in that particular city/state/country. Then check the pricing of the resorts to see which ones are affordable for your guests. Also, check reviews of the resort on TripAdvisor, BestDestinationWedding.com, and other websites. Finally, make sure to find out the cost of a wedding at the resorts/locations that you are looking at. Pricing can really differ at the resorts and also ask if you can use outside vendors if you have particular vendors you want to work with.
(6) Talk to the resort/location and get a date locked down.
(7) Get price quotes from a few travel agents and pick whichever travel agent gives you the best quote, mixed with the one that you work well with (are they easy to get ahold of?), and that gives you good benefits (e.g., free stay for the wedding couple, champagne in the room, etc.). Sign a group booking contract with your travel agent.
(8) Once you have your particular location of the wedding weekend, see if your travel agent has any past brides that you can talk to. Also, look for the forums for your location on BestDestinationWedding.com and if there are any on Facebook. For example, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, the resort where my wedding was held, has three forums on Facebook and a few on BestDestinationWedding.com. These forums can be very helpful since it can be hard to reach wedding coordinators at popular resorts.
(9) Talk to vendors. Read their reviews. Check WeddingWire, Facebook, Google, and BestDestinationWedding.com. Find out if their price point fits your budget. Book them early. 10 months prior to my wedding, a lot of vendors were already booked. Really talk to vendors early and book them!
(10) Make a thorough Excel chart with (a) vendors, (b) guests, (c) gifts, (d) budget, (e) tables (place cards), (f) wedding songs, (g) schedule, (h) wedding tasks, (i) packing list, and (j) miscellaneous. Get organized early on!
(11) Lastly, tell your guests early on about your plans to have a destination wedding. Send out save the dates, create a wedding website, and get your guests in touch with your travel agent.
Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com for more wedding and travel planning advice…