A destination wedding has a lot of appeal; who doesn’t love the idea of bringing all their friends and family together at a picture-perfect locale. Some couples choose to bring their friends and family to a place that’s special to them, while others choose a new destination that everyone can explore together. Some venture a few hours away from home while others travel thousands of miles. Whether you choose a location that’s near or far, familiar or uncharted, in the US or abroad, here are some things to think about when planning.
How much time will it take guests to get there?
Consider how long it will take your guests to reach your wedding — and not just how long the flight is, but how long it will take them door to door. Traveling on a direct flight that lasts five hours actually takes much less time in the long run than a trip that requires two one-hour flights, a lengthy connection, and then a long drive to the final destination from the airport.
How safe is the location perceived to be?
While most couples wouldn’t willfully choose an unsafe location, if your guests are less adventurous or well-traveled, consider how they might perceive the location in terms of safety and be sure to look at the potential dangers from their perspective (for example, Zika is less worrisome to a single man than a pregnant woman). If the area has a less-than-stellar rep, you may want to proactively reassure them that there’s little to worry about.
Can you secure any group discounts?
No matter what the cost of traveling to your wedding, no doubt your guests would appreciate any discounts. Many hotels offer group discounts for more than a dozen or so rooms, depending on the size of the property. You can also snag group discounts for tours and activities or help everyone save money on transport by booking a van or bus for groups arriving at the same time.
Will your guests need a passport or visa?
If you’re getting married in a foreign country, or if some of your guests are coming from outside the US, consider whether or not they will need a passport or visa—and how easy it will be for them to get one. Make sure they have ample time to arrange the proper documents to travel.
Is there emergency health care nearby?
Most foreign countries have health care that is as good as, or better, than that found in the US. But, depending on how remote your location, there may not be a hospital that’s all that close by. While it’s unlikely any of your guests would need emergency care, you may want to consider whether or not you have any elderly guests and what would happen if emergency care was required.
Will the food be vegetarian friendly?
Some countries just do vegetarian fare better than others and if you know you’ve got strict vegetarian or vegan guests, you may want to take that into consideration when choosing the location, and especially when booking the venue. For example, if you have your heart set on an Argentine parilla (barbecue), it would be wise to request some extra vegetable dishes and salads for your herbivore guests.
Is there a backup plan in case of inclement weather?
Whether you’ve chosen a mountaintop resort, a tropical beach, a rustic barn, or a fairytale forest, make sure there is a backup plan in case of extreme weather. At the very least, ensure your venue has sufficient coverage in case of rain; and if your wedding takes place during a season known for sudden extreme weather (hurricanes, blizzards), it’s wise to plan for your guests to arrive a few days early so that any delays don’t mean they miss the big day.
How complicated is the legal paperwork?
Some destinations make it easy for out-of-towners to get legally married there. In some cases, you can get a marriage license on the spot or shortly before the ceremony or you may even be able to handle the process by mail. However, some destinations require a more lengthy lead time, so check into the rules of your destination and make sure you can meet the timeline (or consider getting getting legally married at home before or after the destination celebration).
Is it family friendly?
Decide early on if your wedding will be open to kids. If not, consider that some guests with kids will be left with the choice: stay home entirely or bring the kids on the trip and find care while they’re at the event. If you think many of your guests will opt for the latter, you may want to look for a location that’s family friendly; you could also go the extra mile and arrange (or suggest a local agency) for child care during the event.