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All Your Destination Wedding Questions Answered

The idea of a destination wedding is not only magical but so romantic. To be wed to the man or woman of your dreams in the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen is something you do once in a lifetime. However, destination weddings add another level of stress that you might not have when planning a local wedding.

There are a lot of different things to think about and questions that get asked in regards to destination weddings. I hope that these will help you in deciding if you should plan a romantic destination wedding!

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The Destination Wedding Basics

What is considered a destination wedding? A destination wedding is any wedding that requires the bride, groom, and most of the guests to travel a long distance to get to the location. It’s also considered a destination wedding when the ceremony/reception is taking place at a vacation destination. There is a huge debate about the actual definition of a “destination wedding” but in all simplicity, if the wedding party and guests have to travel for hours to get to the location, it’s a destination wedding.

Are destination wedding selfish? There are times and reason why a destination wedding is perfectly fine and other times when it is considered selfish. You could be planning a destination wedding simply because you don’t want a whole crowd of guests. Maybe your entire family can’t be there so you want not make them feel left out by having a big event without them. Then no, a destination wedding is not selfish. However, if you a planning a destination wedding with the expectation that all your invited guests should be willing to fork over the cash to make the trip, then yes, your being selfish. It’s all about the intent of the heart, even if some people accuse you of being selfish, you know what you want and why you chose to go this route.

Can you cancel a destination wedding? Yes, technically you can cancel a destination wedding, but not without some issues to work around. First of all, you need to review all of your contracts and the cancellation policies – what is refundable, what is not, how much notice do you need to give, etc. You also need to think about how many guests have already purchased plane tickets or made plans to be at your wedding. How much damage will this cost them? Canceling a destination wedding can cause a lot of headaches and possibly strained relationships, so it should be done with much thought and consideration. However, if you have a serious reason why the wedding had to be canceled, I’m sure your guests will understand and help you out.

Is my destination wedding legal in the US? Every country has their own rules for issuing marriage licenses, requirements, and regulations. You need to consult a lawyer to find out for certain. The best way to get around the legality issue is to take care of all the legal things like getting and signing the marriage certificate in your state and then having a symbolic destination wedding ceremony.

Should I get insurance for my destination wedding? When you are possibly spending $20,000+ for your destination wedding, it’s not a bad idea to purchase wedding insurance. For $200 to $800 you can have coverage in case of natural disaster, personal illness, rogue vendors, loss or damaged gown and other essentials, and personal liability if someone gets hurt at your wedding. All these are great reasons why wedding insurance is a necessary expense for destination weddings.

Destination Wedding Costs

Are destination weddings cheaper? You can definitely do a destination wedding cheaper than a traditional wedding! Depending on where you go, the average destination wedding costs around $20,000 whereas traditional weddings cost $30,000 on average in the United States. You can get some wedding destination packages that offer all-inclusive options which save you money on hiring separate vendors. Additionally, because your destination wedding will most likely be in a beautiful location, you don’t need to buy as many decorations. You do have to think about travel expenses, but it tends to balance itself out by having fewer guests and all-inclusive options. Also, you honeymoon is included as part of the cost for the wedding, which is saving a lot of money too!

How much are destination wedding packages? Most destination wedding packages at an all-inclusive resort typically cost between $3,000 and $6,000 depending on the location, the number of guests, and options. Most packages include a specified number of guests, so if you go over that you’ll need to pay extra. Keep in mind this cost does not include travel expenses. The packages generally only include the use of the facility, hotel stay, and food. If you plan to pay for your guests to come, you’ll need to budget for an additional $800 to $1,200 per person for a three night all-inclusive stay at the resort.

How to budget for a destination wedding? In order to budget for a destination wedding, you need a base line for all the expected expenses. You also need to have an idea of how many guests you plan to invite and whether or not you plan to pay for their travel expenses, or at least a portion of it. Here is the breakdown:

  1. All-Inclusive Venue: $3,000 – $6,000

  2. Domestic Travel Costs: $500

  3. International Travel Costs: $1,500

  4. Guest Travel Costs: $2,000 to $4,000

  5. Hotel Accommodations (for resorts that are not all-inclusive): $100 – $200 per room, per night

  6. Wedding Planner/Coordinator: $1,000 to $2,500

Who pays for what at a destination wedding? Destination wedding costs can get a little touchy because your guests will likely end up having to spend more than if you had a traditionally local wedding. You are not obligated to pay for all of your guest’s airfare or accommodations, however, you should check with your hotel to see if they offer any group rates or free rooms after so many have been booked. You should also host and pay for a welcome party before the wedding or farewell brunch after the wedding. Additionally, depending on how long your guests stay, you may want to have some group activities planned to entertain your guests. This will keep most of them from grumbling about the travel expenses. There may be a few guests that you just couldn’t imagine not having there but they can’t afford the travel costs. You may want to nonchalantly pay their way, but be careful not to make other guests jealous.

Planning a Destination Wedding

How to plan a destination wedding? The first thing you should do is consider the location. It could be a meaningful place, for example maybe it’s the place where your family vacationed every year when you were a kid. It could be a scenic location with a beach or maybe in the mountains. Do you want to stay in the United States or go international? Maybe a wedding in the Caribbean? Next, if your desired location doesn’t have a hotel on site, are there nearby options that won’t break the bank? You’ll want to make sure to make arrangements as least complicated as possible. Next, decided if you want an all-inclusive resort or if you want to have the freedom to choose your own vendors. All-inclusive wedding packages normally include the food, florist, venue, photographer, DJ, etc. so that you don’t have to stress about finding vendors. However, some people like to find their own people, which is perfectly fine too (but might cost you more). Also, you need to determine your activities and timeline. Will you be having a “welcome brunch” or “farewell party” for your guests? Are you planning any group activites around your destination?

What is destination wedding etiquette? You should be sure to give your guests as much information up front as possible so they know exactly what to expect and how to plan their trip. Your guests will likely be your closest friends and family, so it might be a good idea to have a full reception back home for the rest of the people who might want to celebrate with you. Save the dates should be sent out at least 6-months in advance to give guests enough time to book flights, hotels, update their passports, etc. You are not obligated to pay for your wedding party’s travel, but you should make things as inexpensive for them as possible by finding group rates and discounts.

What is a destination wedding dress? Destination wedding dresses usually come in the sheath or short style. These styles are easier to travel with and still look beautiful overlooking the ocean or with a mountainous backdrop. Short style dresses are great for beach weddings where the surf might get a longer dress wet. Destination wedding dresses can look a tad more casual or they can be elegant and classy. When choosing a destination wedding dress, you’ll want to consider the material and pick something lightweight and breathable. You also need to think about the necessity of a train. It might night be a good idea if you’re on the beach or hiking through a woodsy area.

What is a destination wedding planner? A destination wedding planner is someone who will help you find vendors and make arrangements when you can’t physically be there. If you can fit it in your budget, a destination wedding planner is definitely worth hiring. The best thing you can do when looking for a destination wedding planner is read their reviews. This will give you a great idea of how other people liked their services and if they can do a good job. This needs to be a person you can trust to get the job done without you constantly looking over their shoulder. You also need to make sure that your destination wedding planner speaks the same language as you. You can do this easily with a phone call or video chat to get to know the person and make sure there won’t be a language barrier to complicate things.

What to put in destination wedding welcome bags? A welcome bag is a great way to make your guests feel appreciated and informed. There are a few key things that you should include in their welcome bag to make the weekend go smoothly. Here is your list of things to include:

  1. The contact information of the couple and key members of your wedding party or planners.

  2. A nice note telling your guest how thankful you are that they’ve joined you for this special occasion and how much you appreciate them.

  3. A detailed timeline or schedule of events from the welcome party to the farewell brunch. Be sure to include dates, times, and locations so everyone arrives where they should be at the right time.

  4. A map of the area is a great idea in case anyone wants to go exploring for a while in between festivities. Many guests will treat this as a vacation and want to do their own sightseeing.

  5. Local transportation information is important if your guests are not planning on renting a car. Depending on the venue, they may not need transportation but if they want to explore around town, they should be aware of trolley’s, taxis, etc.

  6. A list of local restaurants since not all meals will be coved by the wedding activities.

  7. Fun snacks and trinkets that are specially chosen by the couple to match their wedding theme is a must-have. You could even add some sort of personalized wedding favor to each bag.

When to have a destination wedding? This will largely depend on where you plan on going for your destination wedding, but there are a few times to keep in mind that you should avoid. For Caribbean weddings, you’ll want to keep in mind that hurricane season typically lasts from May to November. You also want to stay away from Spring Break time and big holidays as this is high travel time for vacations. That can really limit you for planning your Caribbean wedding, especially since the winter months are the high season for resorts. Your best bet will probably be to plan your destination wedding in mid to late April if you want the best chance of avoiding the above conflicts. The best thing you could do is just ask your preferred venue when the best time of year is and what their rates are.

How far in advance should you plan a destination wedding? You need to give your guests at least 6 months notice to make arrangement, request time off work, arrange child care if needed, get or renew passports, etc. Therefore, you need to start planning at least 8 months in advance. The more time you have the better. Some couples like to travel and see their location before committing to it as well, so you’ll need enough time to plan for that as well. The farther ahead you can plan, the more options your have for dates and possible off-season discounts. Destination weddings aren’t the easiest if you’re planning a short engagement, unless you only plan to go a few hours away.

Destination Wedding Locations

Where to have a destination wedding? Obviously, most people choose a beach or Caribbean wedding but the options are actually unlimited! Here are a few great ideas:

  1. Caribbean

  2. Mexico

  3. Hawaii

  4. North Eastern US coastal beaches

  5. In the Arizona desert

  6. San Francisco, California

  7. Southern United States beaches

  8. Western United States mountains

  9. Las Vegas

  10. The Great Lakes

  11. Vineyards of California

  12. New York City

  13. European countryside

  14. Australia

  15. African Safari

Where are the most popular wedding locations? From Caribbean beaches to rustic views, there are some great destination wedding venues to choose from. Here are just a few:

  1. La Antigua, Guatemala features a 16th-century monastery that is now being used as a top wedding venue. The Casa Santo Domingo Hotel has a variety of indoor and outdoor venue options, catering and destination wedding packages.

  2. Marrakech, Morocco offers some exceptional views and intricate beauty, perfect for an intimate wedding. The Royal Mansour offers an intimate setting with all the traditional Moroccan decor you could dream of. From flowery terraces, lush alleyways and intimate alcoves to stunning lounges and event spaces, you’re sure to remember your Moroccan wedding forever!

  3. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic has simply breathtaking views that you will adore for your Caribbean wedding. The Punta Cana Resort Club offers destination wedding packages that include everything from the catering to floral arrangements to your wedding cake. Needless to say, you’ll be simply delighted with any of the amazing views that their venues have to offer.

  4. Dunton, Colorado offers rustic charm with cabins and natural mineral springs. Dunton Hot Springs is the perfect place for a magical wedding with on-site activities, old buildings to rent, and even an organic kitchen. You’ll never get over the breathtaking views that make this a perfect setting for a destination wedding.

  5. Santa Barabra, California has some of the most stunning beach-front venues in the United States. At the Four Season Resort the Biltmore, you can have a beautiful wedding with the Caribbean feel without leaving the country. Featuring 19 different event spaces, you can get just the right feel for your wedding!

What is the cheapest destination wedding locations? The Skinner Barn in Vermont is an excellent option for an inexpensive destination wedding. For just under $4,000 you get their barn and grounds from 10am to 10pm, use of tables and chairs, help with setup and breakdown, and more. A great option! The Sea Ranch Resort in North Carolina is a great option for a beach wedding venue that is inexpensive… reception venues are around $1600 and the ceremony venue is around $600. Not too shabby!

Invitations & Save the Date Cards

How to send destination wedding invitations? Your guests need plenty of time to book and plan their trip, so you should first send out Save-the-date cards 12-9 months in advance. At 6-months you should send out your wedding invitations with all the details of your wedding day. You can also set up a wedding website to make displaying all the details easier.

What to include on a destination wedding invitation? Your guests are going to need all the important details in order to make arrangements. Due to the amount of information you need to provide, you may need to consider a multi-page invitation or packet. The less expensive way is to set up a wedding website where all the details and links to the hotel accomdations can be provided. Here are some of the necessities you need to give your guests, either way:

  1. Date and time

  2. City/country

  3. Venue name

  4. Name of the resort or hotel where you have blocked rooms

  5. Additional instructions for booking their trip

  6. When and how to RSVP

  7. Invitations to pre- and post-wedding events (i.e. rehearsal dinner, welcome reception, farewell dinner, special activities, etc)

  8. A link to your wedding website for more details

Who to invite to a destination wedding? This is a pretty big debate. If your venue has space for 100 guests, should you invite 100 people? Some people invite their 100 people with the expectation that about 50% will come, others say it’s rude to invite people who probably couldn’t come anyway. The best approach to this is, you know your guests and if you know they’ll understand and appreciate that you invited them, then send the invitations. To those who you think might be offended, leave them off the list and just added them to the in-town reception/party after you get home. However, don’t automatically assume 50% won’t come… you can’t risk inviting more than your venue can hold and then have more people show up than you have room or money for.

Who to invite to destination wedding rehearsal dinner? A part of their thank you for traveling and incurring the expense of being at your destination wedding, your guests should be included in the rehearsal dinner. This might be complicated and expensive if you are having a multitude of guests. In this case, you should treat your rehearsal the same as if you were hosting a local wedding, inviting the wedding party and immediate family.

What wording should I put on save the date for destination wedding? You’ll want your invitees to know that you are planning a destination wedding so that they’ll have a good idea of the expenses they’ll incur if they decide to come. Your save the date cards should say something like this:

He asked. She said yes. Please save the date! We’re getting married on the sparkling beaches of {location}. Wedding details and invitation to follow.
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Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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