Destination weddings are breathtakingly beautiful and totally worth it. They are also overwhelmingly stressful and confusing if you don’t do your research in advance! I absolutely love shooting destination weddings and have picked up several tricks of the trade along the way—both from fellow vendors and personal experience. Here are six major do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind before embarking on your destination wedding planning journey!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Destination Wedding Planning Do’s
- Destination Wedding Planning Don’ts
- Hiring a Destination Wedding Planner and Travel Agent
- Hiring A Luxury Destination Wedding Photographer
Destination Wedding Planning Do’s
#1: DO Create a destination wedding welcome bag for guests
When you decide to plan a destination wedding, you’re likely expecting guests to pay their way. Whether it’s the cost of an overseas flight or their time and energy invested in a cross-country road trip, guests are going out of their way to witness your big day. Not to mention, they’re probably still doing all the things you’d expect for a local wedding: purchasing a new outfit, getting hair and makeup done, buying a gift, etc. It’s important to show your appreciation for the money and time they’ve invested to be with you on your special day.
Creating a wedding guest welcome gift is a thoughtful way to show guests how thankful you are and will make them feel welcome upon their arrival.
Ideas for items to include in a destination wedding guest welcome bag:
- A reusable bag, such as a cute tote or beach bag
- Mini champagne bottle
- Emergency kit (pain reliever, sewing kit, bandages)
- Luxury brand spa items (lotion, shampoo, mini perfumes, bath salts)
- A personalized note from the couple
- Coozie to keep drinks cool
- Sweet treat, snacks, or chocolate (bonus points if it’s themed or local to your destination)
- Wedding favor or monogrammed token to remember your day
- Wedding Weekend itinerary
Keep items functional, useful, and TSA-friendly for guests who are flying. If you’re planning a more intimate affair and the budget allows for a bit of a splurge, your guests will really appreciate the extra effort and thought that went into a luxury personalized gift.
#2: DO Bring your vendors with you
To me, this is one of the most important things to keep in mind for your destination wedding. In most cases, meeting your vendors in person well before your big day is crucial to ensuring a smooth planning process. Make sure they’re experienced in servicing destination weddings and plan to budget for their travel to your location.
Several vendors that are absolutely essential to book in advance are:
- Wedding planner and coordinator
- Hair and makeup artist
Local vendors who are familiar with the location and venue are better equipped to service items such as florals, rentals, and catering.
#3: DO Stay hydrated
It is so important for you and your partner to stay hydrated leading up to and during the whirlwind of activity surrounding your big day. Especially if your destination wedding is in a tropical location or a hot climate, it’s easy to get dehydrated without even realizing it. We don’t want any fainting brides out here.
Proper hydration will help you:
- Avoid bloating
- Keep your skin glowing (your makeup artist will thank you!)
- Keep sun headaches at bay
- Maintain high energy levels
- Avoid a major post-ceremony hangover
It’s also essential that your vendors and guests stay hydrated throughout the weekend to avoid any medical emergencies.
Some other things to keep in mind:
- Be mindful of older guests or relatives in attendance who may need a little extra attention.
- Ask your venue to provide ample water stations around the ceremony and reception locations.
- Make sure your wedding planner carries a water bottle for you to sip on while taking photos and throughout the evening.
I may be a registered nurse, but I’m really hoping I don’t need to use my medical license on your wedding day (worst-case scenario, I got you).
Destination Wedding Planning Don’ts
#1: DON’T gatekeep information about your wedding destination
There’s always an exciting element of the unknown surrounding a destination wedding. While it may be fun to keep several aspects of the wedding a surprise, your guests need to have enough information before their arrival so they’re not confused about the weekend’s events.
Make sure to create a wedding website that houses all essential travel and location information in one place. I highly recommend using the FAQ section of the website to address any ambiguous questions your guests may have. I also recommend providing a printed itinerary to guests upon their arrival so no one is late for any of the planned events.
#2: DON’T Choose the wrong time for an outdoor ceremony
As a destination wedding photographer, I see this mistake happen all too often. The last thing you want are ceremony photos taken in super bright, direct sunlight. Not only will it blow out the exposure in all your photos, but it will also make for a very uncomfortable experience for your guests.
Tropical locations tend to have less cloud coverage, so make sure outdoor ceremony locations are backlit or shaded so you aren’t squinting through your ceremony. Tropical locations can also be hot and humid, so keep in mind the time of year and time zone when choosing your ceremony timeframe. If your ceremony is outdoors between July and August, make arrangements to start at 5 p.m. or later.
#3: DON’T Forget to arrange activities for your guests
It’s highly likely that many of your guests are visiting your destination for the very first time and won’t be familiar with the venue or surroundings. While a few adventurous guests may take the initiative to explore, the more likely scenario is that your guests will be looking for something to do upon arrival and in the hours leading up to your ceremony.
Here are some ideas of what to arrange with the help of your wedding planner or venue:
- Arrival happy hour, cocktail hour, or meet and greet
- Wedding day breakfast or brunch
- Printed guide of area highlights and things to do close by (make sure to arrange transportation or shuttle services for guests since they will not have their own vehicles)
- Chartered boat tour
- Spa treatment appointment block
- Send off breakfast or brunch
One of my destination wedding couples from last March, Jaime and Craig, had a blast throwing a day-after pool party for their wedding guests during their tropical beachfront destination wedding. Check out the full recap of their Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana resort wedding in Punta Cana here!
Hiring a Destination Wedding Planner and Travel Agent
Last but not least, don’t overlook booking a dedicated destination wedding planner. Your destination wedding planner is truly the glue that will keep your wedding plans from falling apart. They will help you find the best destination wedding spots or resorts in the Caribbean or other tropical locations and secure the best vendor team for your needs.
It’s crucial to research your options and make sure whoever you book has extensive experience planning a wedding of your size and complexity at the destination you’ve chosen. Securing a travel agent isn’t a bad idea either. They can arrange transportation and lodging, which is a huge help when you have a large guest list and want to make sure everyone is taken care of.
Here are some destination wedding planning and travel vendors I’ve worked with in the past and highly recommend:
Hiring A Luxury Destination Wedding Photographer
Your photography vision is best achieved when you have a photographer who doubles as a great travel companion! Whether we’re traveling across states or to an exotic overseas destination, I’ll be with you every step of the way to capture this milestone moment in your love story. To inquire about my travel availability, rates, and destination wedding photography packages, fill out my wedding photography inquiry form here. I can’t wait to start this adventure with you!