Is a Destination Wedding Right for You?
So you’re engaged (or thinking of getting engaged)? Congrats! This is an exciting time and you’ve got a big decision to make: Where should the wedding be?
Of course, you could stick close to home, but there are a lot of advantages of a destination wedding. First of all, you’ll have more time to spend with friends and family, since many will be at the destination before and after the actual wedding.
Any dream locales—such as a deserted beach, a castle in Europe, or a mountaintop resort—can become a reality, and, while distance and language barriers can create some issues, destination weddings can often be easier—and cheaper—to plan. Another plus: You won’t have to invite that second cousin you haven’t spoken to in a decade or your entire office, since destination weddings tend to be smaller and only for close friends and family. You’ll also have a built-in honeymoon; you can stick around after the wedding for more relaxation, or head to a nearby hotel if you want a break from your guests.
Does that sound pretty great? A destination wedding can be fabulous, especially for couples who want a smaller event that lasts more than just an afternoon or evening. However, there are some downsides. When you’re planning from so far away it’s hard to be super picky about the details. You’ll mainly be communicating via email and phone (or possibly a trip before the wedding if you can swing it) and will have to trust the vendors you hire to deliver something beautiful. But if you’re not someone who cares whether your bouquet is peonies or roses, you’ll likely be just fine with this arrangement.
Before you start planning your destination wedding, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions so you can begin to hone in on where your ideal location would be:
1. Are any of your VIP guests (parents, siblings, best friends) unable to travel by plane for health or other reasons? If so, you’ll want to stick to places within driving or train distance.
2. What sort of vibe are you after for your wedding? Something casual and beachy? Old World romantic? Far flung and exotic? If you’re not sure, spend some time looking around Pinterest, wedding blogs, and magazines and see what catches your eye the most.
3. What’s your budget? A European-style wedding might be your dream, but if you can’t afford to fly to France, maybe you can look into Montreal. Or if you want to be barefoot in the sand you can stick close to home with a Hawaii or Florida wedding, or head out to Tahiti or the Bahamas. Consider flights and hotels and don’t forget to be considerate of your guests’ financial situations too (unless you’re planning on helping to foot their bill, in which case, go with whatever you’re comfortable with).
4. Can you actually get married there? Once you’ve got a shortlist of destinations in mind, look into the necessary steps to getting married in that country (if you’re heading outside the United States). Some countries require you to be there for a certain number of days beforehand, show certain legal documents, or have a civil ceremony first. For example, in Switzerland, you need to first have a civil ceremony in the area where you’re getting married (these can only be performed at courthouses and other government buildings) before you can have a religious or symbolic ceremony elsewhere.
Even if you can’t legally be married in your destination of choice, you can always have a small civil ceremony back home and have a symbolic ceremony at your destination (rumor has it that’s what Kim and Kanye did). To find out the regulations, check out the country’s official website. You can also get in touch with a local wedding planner, who should be well-versed in the requirements.
5. How much time do you have? The good news is you don’t necessarily need more time to plan a destination wedding than one at home, especially if your guest list is small. However, many of the best hotels and event spaces book up to a year in advance, so if you’ve got your heart set on a place contact them ASAP to see what dates they have available. If you are short on time, try to be flexible with your date, and don’t think twice about getting married on a Monday or Tuesday. If your guests are staying several days anyway, they won’t care what day it’s on and many hotels have deals if you get married during the week.
Ideally you should give yourself between six months to a year to plan a destination wedding. That’ll give you enough time to do some research, book your favorite venue, and maybe even take a quick planning trip to the location before the wedding. For more help planning your dream wedding, check out Destination42’s destination wedding planning guide.