What is a destination wedding?

Turning Points 3 min read

Destination weddings take place somewhere other than where the bride and groom live. They can occur anywhere in the world — a two-hour drive from the happy couple’s hometown or in a different country. We spoke with Carrie Zack, owner of Carrie Zack Events, about how to plan a destination wedding and the costs to consider. She also gave us her thoughts on the pros and cons of traveling for your nuptials.

How to plan a destination wedding

Local and destination weddings have many things in common. But if you travel for your wedding, it’s important to be aware of additional costs and considerations. The following steps can help you get started.

1. Set your budget

Establishing a budget will help you narrow down potential locations. Difficult-to-access sites are often more expensive than more easily accessible ones because it’s more challenging to send supplies to the destination.

2. Do your research

Planning a destination wedding requires due diligence. Before selecting a venue, research the local area, including the climate, safety, airports, and hotels. Also, remember to check the distance to the local fire department, hospitals, local stores, and attractions your guests may want to see.

3. Choose a location and venue

Conduct a site visit before committing to a venue, even if it means hopping on a plane or taking a long road trip. Discussing policies is always a good idea, so you know what happens if the wedding venue cancels your date or overbooks.

4. Review the fine print

Before signing a contract, have a wedding planner review it to ensure you understand the terms and conditions.

5. Reserve a room block

Work with local hotels to set aside rooms for your guests, making it easy for them to find lodging for your big day.

6. Let your guests know

When planning a destination wedding, it’s important to give guests plenty of time to make travel arrangements. Be sure to send “save the dates” well before the wedding date.

7. Line up vendors and an officiant

After choosing a location, choose wedding vendors for your event. Depending on the location, you may be able to hire everyone locally. Or you may need to hire some vendors from home and get them to travel with you for the big day.

8. Get your paperwork in order

No matter where you get married, you need a marriage license to make your union legal. Depending on the destination, you may also need a passport, work permits for vendors, and visas.

9. Organize activities for the weekend

When people travel for a wedding, it’s important to be mindful of what you plan for them once they’re there. “You want them to enjoy the weekend and have a good time. You don’t want them to feel like they must work,” Zach said.

10. Get wedding and event insurance

A destination wedding is a significant investment. Wedding and event insurance can help protect you from property damage or injuries to guests. It can also reimburse you for non-refundable expenses if you must cancel or postpone your wedding.

Are destination weddings cheaper than local weddings?

It depends, but probably not. In general, fewer invitees attend destination weddings. However, these events often have expenses local weddings don’t, including airfare, baggage fees, and transportation to and from the airport. Remember travel costs associated with the site visit and other pre-planning events, such as food tastings.

Destination weddings outside the United States may cost even more. They could include vendor work permits, shipping costs, duties, and taxes. Managing a wedding budget can be difficult for even a modest destination wedding. Learn some tips for making your wedding budget work.

Should I have a destination wedding?

It depends on what you envision for your big day. A destination wedding may be a good idea if you want to have a smaller wedding and keep your guest count low. Also, most guests will generally stay at the same property for a destination wedding. Having your guests close by gives you multiple opportunities to connect with family and friends outside the wedding reception.

Downsides to destination weddings can include unpredictable travel and logistical challenges, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when considering a destination wedding. Once you’ve decided on the type of wedding you’ll have, it’s time to think about something even more important: your dress. Learn more about whether you should get wedding dress insurance.

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