10 Destination Wedding Planning Tips from a Bride Who's Been There

Honeymoons & Destination Weddings

Planning a wedding is tough enough as it is. Unless you already work in the wedding industry, chances are you've never put this much thought into invitations, rentals, or reception lighting before in your life. And when you're planning a wedding far from home, there's a whole new layer of logistics to deal with, often on the fly. So what's a bride to do? We've rounded up insider advice from a destination bride who's been there, done that, and is here to help you get it all figured out.

Casey Rodgers Fleming, the Director of Events for Bergdorf Goodman, wed Ross Fleming at an intimate wedding in St. Martin in the French West Indies on June 8th, 2013. Though the bride is from Texas and the couple lives in New York, Casey chose to go the destination route because, she says, "I wanted a smaller location where friends and family could spend the weekend together, get to know each other and enjoy several different events surrounding the wedding." So they brought together 114 guests at the beautiful La Samanna Resort for a weekend full of love, laughter and fun in the sun.

Back from their honeymoon in Bora Bora and settling happily into married life, Casey has given us ten tips for destination brides to keep in mind as they plan to say "I Do" in a far-off locale.

1. Pick a Location You Love
Casey grew up vacationing in the Caribbean with her family, and La Samanna Resort in St. Martin was always one of her favorite destinations. The beautiful venue, situated on the French side of the island, was conveniently close to restaurants, shops and activities, while also a short trip to the casinos and nightlife of the Dutch side, St. Maarten.

See more: The Most Heart-Stopping Destination Wedding Locations

2. Work With a Planner
Although Casey plans events for a living and chose to handle a lot of the design and details herself, she worked closely with La Samanna's onsite event planner, who was helpful when it came to working with local vendors and bringing all the details together.

3. Choose a Venue with Included Services
Not only did the resort's event planner help Casey connect with local vendors, but the resort itself offered some great services, as well. All of the catering was done in-house, and the resort's spa did the bride's hair and make-up on her wedding day.

4. Take Care of Your Dress
Casey bought her dress in Dallas, meaning her parents were able to help her transport it from Texas to Miami, and ultimately to St. Martin. Casey's travel tip: "My parents flew first class so they could be the first ones in line to board the plane. This ensured that there would be space to hang the dress in the closet upon boarding."

See more: What's the Best Way to Transport My Wedding Dress on a Plane?

5. Make Your Visits Count
The biggest challenge when it comes to planning a destination wedding may be the fact that visiting your venue before the big day is less feasible. Casey and Ross made two trips to La Samanna between December of 2012 and their wedding in June of 2013, and had to be as productive as possible to ensure smooth sailing during their wedding weekend. The first trip was more reconnaissance, while their second trip (along with Casey's parents) included their tastings and meetings with vendors.

6. You May Have to Make Sacrifices...
Because Casey purchased her dress in Dallas and her parents brought it with them to St. Martin, she wasn't able to take formal bridal portraits prior to her wedding day.

See more: Wedding Etiquette Tips for a Destination Wedding

7. ...But You Can Still Have the Wedding of Your Dreams
Though many Caribbean weddings take place barefoot on the beach, Casey had always wanted a traditional church wedding. So she and Ross had their ceremony at the Église Catholique Saint-Martin de Tours, a 200-year-old church in the island's French capital of Marigot.

8. Take Advantage of Your Location
Casey and Ross's guests joined them for the whole weekend, meaning the couple was able to plan events around the wedding to spend time with their guests and introduce them to St. Martin. They listened to a calypso band play during the welcome cocktail party, had an open-air rehearsal dinner as the sun set, and concluded their wedding reception with s'mores at a bonfire on the beach.

9. Get Your Fiancé Involved
Since planning a wedding from hundreds of miles away meant extra legwork, Casey turned to Ross for help. He handled all of the on-island transportation for the couple and their guests, making sure everyone got from place to place so they could celebrate together.

10. Enjoy Every Moment
Says Casey, "The best part of having a destination wedding was getting to spend time throughout the day with our family and friends who had touched our lives over the years in such a spectacular setting."

Ceremony Venue: Église Catholique Saint-Martin de Tours in Marigot || Reception Venue: La Samanna Resort || Bride's Wedding Dress: Anne Barge || Veil: Her Mother's || Shoes: Manolo Blahnik || Wedding Bands: Tiffany & Co. || Groom's Suit: Banana Republic || Florist: Au Temps Des Fleurs || Entertainment: Remo & The Barbwire Band || Invitations & Paper Goods: A. Marcus Group L.L.C., Ames Printing Company, Inc.. || Catering & Cake: La Samanna Resort || Photography: Alexandre Julien, Carlos Lippai Photography

—Jaimie Schoen

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