Planning for the future may be challenging right now with so many uncertainties, travel restrictions, and health concerns, but the idea of hosting a destination wedding may be on the minds of many newly engaged couples. After all, there is definitely romance surrounding the thought of holding a meaningful wedding ceremony with your toes in the sand on a tropical beach or celebrating with your loved ones in the mountain air, encompassed by an ancient forest. The thought of traveling to a beautiful resort with extended family and friends to experience a new culture and create new memories sounds pretty darn exciting to me!

What are the Benefits and Challenges?
The wedding planner in me evaluates every decision by creating a list of the Pros and Cons. For this conversation, I will refer to the Pros as Benefits and the Cons as Challenges, things to consider or questions to ask yourself.

Your family and friends are gathered together in a different country or region of this country to celebrate your love and commitment to one another, all while relaxing, exploring, and enjoying another culture or climate. If the destination you choose is already important to you both, this is an opportunity to include your family in your special location. If it’s a new-to-you location, this is a chance for everyone to experience it together!

Your guests will have the ability to turn your wedding week or weekend into a vacation if they wish. This could be just the start of a whirlwind trip for them and could kick off a great honeymoon for you!

Hosting a destination wedding may be your chance to invite only those closest to you. We know a large event is not everyone’s dream and destination weddings tend to be smaller in scale due to travel, time, and financial logistics (keep reading for more on that), so your guest list has the ability to feature only those in your immediate circle. This may free up space in your budget for other aspects of your wedding you’d like to prioritize.

In the wedding industry, location does not limit a lot of wedding vendors. Most photographers, videographers, and bands have travel clauses in their contracts that ask the client to cover the cost of flights and hotels if they are traveling outside of a certain radius of their hometown. So your favorite photographer can travel with you, which would make for some gorgeous and unique wedding photos!

The first big one, and the one that no one has control over, is Mother Nature. Mother Nature is present at all weddings, especially outdoor ones, but it’s important to be aware of weather patterns and climates in locales with which you may be unfamiliar. Many tropical destinations have daily afternoon rain showers, just as many higher elevation destinations could experience surprise snowfall during fall and spring. How would you feel if it rained on your wedding day? What would the rain plan be at your wedding venue? Would you be able to live with this plan?

Consider all logistics involved. Not only the travel and hotel logistics for you and your guests, but take a look at your guest list and think about the time and cost that you are asking your guests to take on. Will the expense be too much for some?

How will you ship your dress and all of your fashion accessories?

Do any of your guests have young children? Will you be including children at your wedding? Does the venue have a reliable babysitting service?

What about proximity to health care? In the event of an emergency, would your guests have access to good health care?

After you’ve selected the destination and venue for your wedding, if you need hotel rooms, research hotels and negotiate room blocks for all your guests.

It’s very important to provide the best option for transportation between the hotel and your wedding venue. **This becomes a crucial piece of the wedding planning puzzle. Getting your guests to and from the wedding weekend activities needs to be carefully thought through and a system needs to be defined for pick up and drop off. How will the vehicles negotiate the property? If it rains, is there coverage where the guests are being dropped off?

Both you and your partner should identify the worst-case scenario and come up with a plan to solve that problem.

My team is focused on your guests’ comfort; we want to create a pleasant experience for all and details such as these will matter.

What comes next
Once you’ve done your research and made your decision to host a destination wedding, my best advice is to trust your wedding planner, trust your venue and vendors, and allow them to guide you through the process so that you can enjoy the planning and look forward to your wedding celebration!

Whether you’re hosting a hometown wedding or a destination wedding, starting the planning process is the same: Define your guest list and guest count. The next task is to set your budget. Thirdly, you, your partner, and your families need to establish your priorities so that your planner can have a sense of what is most important to you.

When we have a clear sense of these three things, then we can start the Research and Development process to select your venue and vendors. For destination weddings especially, when you are doing your research and trying to select your venue, I recommend you look at the venue’s list of preferred vendors. This will tell you a lot about the style and expectations of past clients. It’s very important that you get referrals from the venue, their preferred vendors, and contact couples who have worked with them to hear what they have to say.

A woman in a white dress and a man in a gray suit hold hands in a hotel on the coast of Mexico with a palm tree and couch with yellow cushions

On a personal note
In 2018, I was the Mother of the Groom at my son’s wedding that he and his wife Kristen planned at an amazing resort in Tulum, Mexico. I was able to experience first hand all of the benefits of planning a destination wedding: We went to a really beautiful resort, Hotel Esencia, and spent five days with family and close friends lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, eating amazing food, and drinking tequila…what could be better? We created unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

In 2019, I was hired by a Philadelphia family to plan and produce their daughter’s wedding. They were considering two options: one was a tented wedding at their home in Villanova, and the other at their winter community, The Lost Tree Club in Palm Beach, Florida. We evaluated the options, from both the perspective of the guest experience and the financial details. It can be very hard to compare apples to apples in the special event industry because so many venues and vendors have different business models and ways of making their profits, it can be difficult to choose what will be best for your event. At the end of the day, my client selected to plan a destination wedding. (Click here to see the amazing photographs and the story of our lovely couple who got married 2.20.20) Looking back now, we realize how incredibly lucky we were that our biggest challenge that weekend was Mother Nature. Had they been planning their wedding for a March or April date, the wedding would have been postponed.

One of the things I love the most about planning weddings outside of the tri-state area is that I meet new vendors and build new relationships. In February 2020, I was incredibly lucky to work with Capehart Photography and Tashy Marie Makeup at our wedding in Palm Beach, Florida. Meeting and collaborating with different vendors is one of the many benefits of being a special event designer. The more people we work with, the better we can plan and design your events!

I know planning for the future can seem daunting right now, but I recommend using this time to gather inspiration and conduct research. There’s still a lot of planning from home that can be done and the excitement and anticipation for your wedding will only build as time goes on.

For any questions regarding planning your destination wedding with our team, contact us!

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