It's totally natural to know you want a destination wedding, but have no idea where you actually want to get married. Chances are you're picturing either palm trees or snow in your wedding photos — and that's exactly where you should start planning.
Most wedding planning is about what the bride and groom want — figuring how to reflect your own taste and style in the food and décor. But when you're initially choosing where you're going to get married, you have to take your guests into consideration before making a final decision. If it's important to have your closest family and friends with you on your wedding day, make sure you choose someplace they can actually join you.
Here are the five questions you need to ask yourself before finalizing your wedding location.
1. Are any of your VIP guests unable to fly?
If so, you need to choose a destination within driving distance of that person if your wedding day would be incomplete without their presence. Historic landmarks and beautiful vineyards can be fun, drive-able destinations.
2. Do your guests have passports?
If you're considering getting married outside the United States, this is an issue for some guests. You don't need a passport for Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, and you don't even have to go through U.S. Customs for Puerto Rico, making travel even easier. But if you're considering Mexico or Jamaica or Italy or another international destination, be sure to give your guests the information at least six months ahead of time so they can get their passports if they don't already have them.
3. Have you traveled someplace in the past that made an indelible mark on your memory?
Perhaps someplace you visited with your fiancé. You may have stayed in a yurt, or just visited a spot for a day on a cruise, but if you liked the destination, research potential wedding venues. If it's an important place to you and your hubby-to-be, sharing an important day there with your family could be spectacular.
4. What is there for your guests to do at your destination, other than attend your wedding?
They're spending a lot of time and money to travel to be with you, so their accommodations and entertainment should be of paramount importance to your planning. If you're getting married in the mountains in the winter, try to leave a free day for those who want to ski. Likewise with beach time for your guests in the tropics. But also keep in mind what activities are available for those who don't ski or beach in their downtime. You want to keep everybody as busy as they want to be.
5. Can your guests afford the accommodations available at your destination?
Are you signing a contract that requires everybody to stay together someplace in order for you to meet your numbers, and if so, can your guests handle that expense? It's better to offer a variety of price-point options for your guests because some of them will turn your wedding weekend into their extended vacation, and want to spend less and stay longer.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.