Do you want a destination wedding, but not sure where? That's a difficult position to be in when you want to start your wedding planning. Not everybody can afford the trip, or the extra time off, to visit several wedding destinations (or even one) prior to making their decision.
Going in blind is never a good idea, but if you can't visit in person, you can do extensive research on the destination that's your first choice before you start signing contracts. Make sure you get the answer to the following four questions:
1. How much does it cost to travel to the destination for my wedding date?
The cost of accommodations and travel for your wedding guests will change depending on the season. Most destination accommodations have high and low seasons, and even higher rates at holiday times. Airfares to the Caribbean, for example, are a lot higher from the week before Christmas until May, than any other time of year.
2. Does this destination require any of my guests to obtain special paperwork?
If you're not getting married in the United States or one of its territories, you need to research this carefully, especially if you have international guests. While US citizens may not be required to have a travel visa for the destination you've chosen, some of your guests who aren't US citizens may not have it as easy. It's also a good idea to check out the State Department travel advisories to make sure your guests will feel safe at your destination.
3. What do other brides and grooms say about the destination?
Do your homework and check out other couples' reviews of the destination, and their accommodations, and their actual wedding experience. For the accommodations, Trip Advisor is always a good place to start. WeddingWire vendor reviews are also a great place to hunt for other brides and grooms, but don't discount general travel blogs about the areas you're considering. If the wedding is unbelievable, but the guests have a less than great experience with the travel, hotel, or destination in general, the destination wedding will not be a great memory for everybody.
4. Who will be my point person at the destination?
It's one thing to plan a wedding thousands of miles from home, but if you don't have a specific person there to work with when you start planning, you're in trouble. Independent wedding planners are your best bet if you're planning to ship down lots of things and have events in numerous locations. Most big hotels will have an onsite event manager that will be your point person, but you have to find out exactly how much they're willing to do for you.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.