How to Plan a Destination Wedding
Time It Right
Research locales to determine the best time of year to go. Destinations such as Florida and parts of the Caribbean, for example, can be risky during the hurricane season in October and November. Consider holidays, too: An Easter wedding in Santorini might sound great, but many vendors may be closed. Check summer festival schedules at closer destinations, like Rhode Island, to avoid an influx of tourists.
Compose a Realistic Guest List
The size of the average destination wedding is growing, says top destination wedding planner Michelle Rago, who's designed events from the Caribbean to the Côte d'Azur. She used to plan parties for about 20 to 50 guests, but in the past two years, lists have skyrocketed to include 225 people or more. In the past it may have been safe to assume that only about half of invited guests would actually attend, but with destination weddings gaining more and more popularity, you may be surprised at who says yes. Some planners recommend assuming that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the guest list will attend.
Consider a Wedding Planner
Planning a destination wedding can start to take over your days, so you may want to work with a professional planner, either at home or at your wedding locale, who will act as your representative and advocate. Some resorts are more hands-off, while others have in-house event coordinators.
Plan a Visit
Especially if you've never seen the wedding venue in person, consider two trips to your destination—one to make preliminary decisions, and another to finalize details. Pictures can only say so much. "What you imagine can be very different than what the reality is," Rago says.
Make It Legal
Some countries make it easy for U.S. citizens to get married on foreign soil: Naturally, American territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are the easiest places to tie the knot. The Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts, and Nevis have waiting periods of two days or less after you've arrived before a wedding can take place. However, it's quite difficult to get married at a church in France if you're not French. Many couples legally wed at home, and then treat the destination wedding as more of a symbolic ceremony. The upside: a lot less paperwork.
Say It In Pictures
To avoid miscommunication with vendors (your interpretation of "blue" may not be the same as someone else's), illustrate your ideas with photographs, storyboards, prototypes, and recipes. Pinterest is a great resource for creating inspiration boards to share with your venue or planner.
Rago suggests getting to the wedding locale at least four days in advance (no later than Wednesday for a Saturday wedding). "Couples need time to recover from jet lag and get business done," she says. This is when you'll finalize all the details with vendors, complete any paperwork if you're planning to legally marry at your destination, do any pre-wedding photo sessions, and adjust to the climate (so there's time to rethink your hair-style if it's very humid).