The Complete Guide to Hiring a Destination Wedding Planner

Destination Wedding Planner


It may come as no surprise that destination weddings require more coordination than local weddings. Paying close attention to detail is critical because not only are you planning an event from afar, you are also likely to be hosting multiple events over the course of the wedding weekend, not just the ceremony and reception. The good news is, destination wedding planners can help you with just that.

"I am obsessed with details—logistical details, styling details, the smallest details down to the placement of a fork," says premier destination wedding planner Kimiko Hosaki. "Timelines and seating plans are strategic puzzles to me that I love obsessing over for hours until they're just perfect, ensuring the most enjoyable experience for everyone." 

Meet the Expert

Kimiko Hosaki, Founder and Creative Director of Elements by K.H & co. specializes in destination weddings around the world. She has planned events in Hawaii, Canada, Australia, Central America, and Europe.

Hiring a professional planner will help support you and make executing your vision far less stressful. Read on for everything you need to know about hiring a planner for your destination wedding.

Reasons to Hire a Destination Wedding Planner

In addition to the comfort of knowing your wedding is in capable hands, destination wedding planners provide the following:

Peace of mind. 

Destination wedding planners ease the stress by being able to answer your questions, lay out the facts, and offer an unbiased, professional opinion. They are an invaluable asset if you have to make hard decisions like rain contingency plans, postponing your wedding date, or how to handle unforeseen road bumps.

Hands-on experience.

A top destination wedding planner has years of experience, connections, and relationships that they've built over time. They can handle any problem that arises with grace.

Local connections.

By selecting a planner who is familiar with your location or has excellent resources there, they’ll have the insight that is not available to you by simply searching online. In addition to knowing the best vendors to work with and suggesting the months for optimal weather, they can recommend the "off-the-beaten-path" places to visit and eat.

Cost of a Destination Wedding Planner

The cost will vary based on the planning services provided, the wedding location, and the number of guests. A premium wedding planner who provides event design as part of their services charges a minimum of 20% of your wedding budget. Often, it does not include the amount of additional labor or travel expenses that may be required to execute the wedding day or your other pre-wedding activities. There are four ways that planners price themselves:

  1. Flat fee: common for day-of planners and packages.
  2. Billable hours: the amount of time they'll be working.
  3. Percentage of vendor and venue invoices: dependent upon other wedding costs.
  4. Blended approach: design, planning retainer, and production fees at a flat fee, with vendor management and coordination at a percentage of 15-20% of those costs.

What Does a Destination Wedding Planner Do?

In addition to traditional wedding planning duties, here is a list of common tasks they are responsible for:

  • Provide guidance based on their knowledge and local research on laws, permits needed, marriage license requirements, etc.
  • Offer you select vendors and a venue best suited to your guest count, budget, and vision. 
  • Help you produce a realistic budget based on your needs and desires. They can offer suggestions on where you could cut back and what's worth the splurge.  
  • Offer travel guidance and advice to help you and your guests plan the trip with confidence.
  • Create contingency plans for rain and other unforeseen road bumps.
  • Coordinate with vendors and the venue, timeline management, and family management.
  • Manages RSVPs and guestlists.
  • Make recommendations for a florist, audio and lighting equipment rentals, and hair and makeup.
  • Catering negotiation, communication, and management.

How to Find a Destination Wedding Planner

Not sure where to begin your search? Here are some simple, helpful tips:

Ask the venue.

If you have your eye on a specific site, ask them who their favorite planners are to work with based on their customer service, vendor management, organization, and professionalism.

Hit up Instagram.

Find some of your favorite wedding images and look to see who designed and coordinated them. Wedding photographers for your destination on social media are also a good source because their pictures will show the planner's style. 

Look for testimonials.

Read what couples have said about their planners. You’ll want to feel confident that you can connect with your planner and trust them.

Set up a call.

Have an open conversation with the planner about what the vision is for your wedding. Many can put together a nice-looking wedding, but you also want a planner/team who can mediate and solve problems on-the-spot. Ask how many weddings they have produced and to tell you a story about when things went wrong at a wedding they planned. Also, inquire about their most memorable wedding moments to get a feel for why they love what they do.

You’ll want to know if your potential planner has experience at the destination. It does not have to be in the same town, city, or even on a specific island but just in the general area. For example, a destination planner with experience on Maui can also plan on Oahu, or a planner who has designed on Mallorca can easily do the same in Barcelona.

Additional Things to Consider

Anticipate paying for their travel expenses.

This includes transportation, lodging, and per diem to cover the cost of food during their stay. Your planner will need to fly in a few days before the wedding events to meet with your venue and vendors in advance. Ask your planner to review these costs with you within their proposal and contract.

Have them walk you through the venue if you can't get there yourself.

Some clients feel more comfortable traveling to their destination wedding location to tour potential venues and attend menu tastings, but it is not required. If flying out to your destination isn't within budget or your schedule does not permit, your planner can schedule a video chat with you and your vendors. They can even virtually walk the venue space with you.

"When planning at a venue I have not been to before, I prefer to personally inspect the venue or send one of my trusted team members that have worked with me for years and know what I look for," says Kimiko. "I have learned over the years that a successful wedding requires being able to understand your venue, its challenges, and how it will function on the day of the wedding."

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