What if you and your fiancé have decided that you definitely want to have a destination wedding but you're not entirely sure where? How do you begin planning your wedding? Simple Answer: You can't begin planning a wedding until you have definitely decided exactly where you want to get married.
Many couples want to get married "anywhere" but at home so they have a whole lot of different options to choose from and that's good, but it can also be confusing. Asking yourselves — and answering — the following questions should help you narrow down your options quite a bit:
1. Cold weather or hot weather? A mountain top or a beach? Fall leaves or aqua seas? Figure out what time of year you're getting married and what kind of optimal weather you'd like to have on your wedding weekend.
2. Passports required or not? Do all of your guests have passports or will this become a nuisance factor that prevents many of your guests from accepting the invitation? While you don't have to poll your guest list, you should have some idea as to how well-traveled they are. When it doubt, think Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin islands if you want a tropical destination wedding. No passports required in those destination for U.S. citizens.
3. Do you need to have handicap accessibility at your wedding venue? There are great historic estates and amazing island villas that are wholly inappropriate venues if you have somebody in an electric wheelchair attending who cannot be easily lifted up a short staircase. Historic buildings and venues outside the continental United States may not meet ADA standards so you have to do your research based on your guests' needs.
4. Are you concerned about your guests' budgets? All-inclusive resorts may sound easy, but really, they're only affordable to the bride and groom because they place the cost obligation on the guests who attend your big day. Everybody is paying for all their own food and beverage, you're just dictating what they get to eat at your specific events. Some of your guests may want to stay at a different hotel or event rent a house, so you have to factor in how that affects your all-inclusive wedding package. Also, there may be multiple weddings going on the same day or weekend at that resort. Do you care?
5. How private or public do you want your wedding ceremony and reception to be? Many historic landmarks can be rented for ceremonies, but they don't shut down the property to the general public. The same with parks, beaches and many hotels. If you want to get married in a field with nobody but your nearest and dearest, make sure you're using private property or can obtain a permit for a private event. Make sure your hotel has a reception venue space that isn't in the middle of the general hotel chaos — it's weird to have people in wet bathing suits or bathrobes walking through the background of all your candid photos.
*Owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico, Sandy Malone has helped countless couples plan their big day since 2007. *