A is for Activities
Your guests have come a long way to watch you say “I do”: Make them feel welcome by planning one group gathering—in addition to dinner—each day. On a tight budget? Snorkeling trips are crowd-pleasers, but beach volleyball won't cost a thing.
B is for Burn
If you're getting married in a sunny clime, slather on the sunscreen. After all, a sun-kissed glow is great, but a beet-red hue is hard to hide. Oh, and that strappy bikini? Probably not a perfect match for your strapless dress.
C is for Coordinator
Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that your hotel has an in-house wedding coordinator. This will save you money, since you won't have to hire a wedding planner, and it will save you stress, since you won't have to do everything yourself.
D is for Dress
Make sure your site and your outfit are simpatico. If you're marrying on the beach, a satin ball gown will seem out of place. Shop for light, breathable fabrics.
E is for Estate
For a small wedding, consider renting a private villa. Having your immediate family, and his, under one roof can create an unparalleled sense of community, and it will keep you from feeling lost in a bustling resort complex.
F is for Flowers
Getting specific flowers can be tricky in remote destinations, where you're dependent on shipments. Rely on local flora (such as bougainvillea and hibiscus) or create centerpieces out of hurricane vases, pillar candles, shells and sand. Check area shops for souvenirs like starfish, which make site-appropriate cake toppers and eliminate the need for elaborate sugar work.
G is for Grandparents
Can't imagine your day without Grandma or Great-aunt Jane? Make sure they're up to the trip before planning a distant affair.
H is for Hair
Pros of booking a pro: She'll know her way around a curling iron. Cons: She might be a member of the big-hair-for-brides club. If you don't have time for a pre-wedding run-through, avoid uncertainty by asking a stylish friend to do your hair and makeup. Choose a simple look, and remember: Practice makes perfect. The easiest DIY option for those who want an updo? A neat, tight chignon.
I is for Internet
Many hotel Web sites post menus, pricing plans and photos of ceremony and reception locales. Bonus: You can log on to message boards to read other brides' opinions of local vendors.
J is for Jet Lag
Falling asleep during your rehearsal dinner is a no-no. If you're traversing a time zone or two, you'll want to arrive at your wedding location a couple of days early to adjust to the local clock before your guests arrive.
K is for Kids
If you're including children in your ceremony, pick a date that allows them to attend the wedding without missing school days. Depending on how far they have to travel, that could mean sticking to summer vacation or planning your event for a long weekend like Memorial Day.
L is for Leverage
Planning a destination wedding with a lengthy guest list gives you bargaining power—especially if many of your guests are planning to stay at the resort. When you sit down to negotiate a contract, ask about possible freebies, such as an extra hour in the beach pavilion or free parking.
M is for Maids
Your bridesmaids are traveling to your wedding on their own dime (they're responsible for their airfare and hotel). Expecting them to drop a wad of cash on an elaborate shower and bachelorette party is less than gracious.
N is for Nonstop Flights
If you're hoping for a high percentage of “Yes” RSVPs, choose a destination most of your guests can reach via an inexpensive nonstop flight. The easier it is to get there, the more likely they are to attend.
O is for Officiant
Nervous about the ceremony? First, ask your hotel's wedding planner for recommendations (specify your religion, or if you want a secular service), then contact each contender via e-mail and ask for his or her overall approach to weddings. Set up phone calls to determine whose personality you prefer and ask for the ceremony text, so you can tweak the content. Confidence will ensue.
P is for Packing
Repeat after us: I will carry my wedding dress on the plane. You don't have to buy an extra seat; most flight crews will help you find a place for it, even if that means sticking it in their own closet.
Q is for Quarantine
Staying away from the groom on your wedding day can get tricky at a resort. Strategy #1: Spend the night before with friends or family at separate hotels. Strategy #2: Stay in the same hotel, but in separate rooms, and divide the property (the beach for him, the pool for you).
R is for Rehearsal
Even if you've been to a million weddings, doing a ceremony walk-through is a must. (Seriously, your wedding party won't know where to stand unless you tell them.) Schedule your rehearsal for the same time of day as your ceremony so that you have time to adjust for the sunset, the tide and any glare-in-the-eyes issues.
S is for Site
Getting married on the beach may be a dream come true, but seaside receptions have their complications: Chairs and heels sink in the sand, and wind blows the grains, well, everywhere. Have your ceremony on the sand and then move on to a terrace or lawn for your reception.
T is for Transportation
Arranging transportation between hotels and event locations is essential. An easy alternative: Give your guests a couple of hotels to choose from (one budget, one fab), but hold all events at a single resort.
U is for Ukulele
Flying to Hawaii for your vows? Hand your guests leis and serenade them with Hawaiian music. Saying “I do” in the Caribbean? Mark the occasion with a steel pan band. Incorporating regional food, flowers and music into your wedding lends authenticity to your festivities and could save you from a culinary disaster. (You don't want to insist on rack of lamb if the chef usually grills seafood.)
V is for Vows
You chose your destination for a reason. Mentioning that reason in your vows or welcome toast will help guests draw the connection between the setting and the commitment you are making to each other.
W is for Welcome Basket
Nothing says “thanks” like goodies. Stuff each basket with an itinerary, brochures and maps (free from the tourism board) and treats bought on arrival. Good choices include local snacks (Mexican pumpkin seeds) and regional drinks (we like Jamaican Ting).
X is for X Marks the Spot
Plan ahead for a day- before meeting with your hotel contact to finalize the ceremony site and resolve any last-minute concerns. Examine the scene carefully: Is a construction site marring the view? Are Jet Skis and sailboats cluttering the beach? Did half of the strand get swept away in a recent storm?
Y is for Yes
For hometown affairs, 85 to 90 percent of invitees RSVP “yes,” but numbers vary widely for destination weddings. Our advice: Get your ducks in a row early. Set your RSVP deadline a full month before your event so you know how many people are coming and can plan accordingly.
Z is for Zen
Don't complicate matters—pick a place that's easy on the paperwork and residency requirements or do a quick city hall ceremony before the big day. And remember that unless you're planning on moving to your destination for a year, you're not going to be able to micromanage this production. That means you can't sweat the small stuff—which may be the best reason of all to take your wedding on the road.