How to Plan A Destination Wedding: 11 Tips to Consider

Planner Laurie Arons reveals her secrets for putting together your big day from afar

Updated 12/18/17

Photo by Belathée Photography

Once you've picked out your ideal wedding locale overseas, the next step is figuring out how to plan a destination wedding miles away from home (and then take a few deep breaths). Throwing a destination wedding means you're in for a much more intimate ceremony and can basically enjoy a two-for one wedding and honeymoon. But, before you jet off to a foreign land to marry your love, you have some important details to consider as you start planning a destinayi. We sat down with San Francisco-based planner Laurie Arons, who knows a thing or two about throwing a fantastic wedding party with over 600 weddings and special events under her belt. Whether you’ve decided on a tropical celebration in the Bahamas, an island fête in Bali, or a romantic getaway in Tuscany, Italy (those are a few of her favorite places for a destination affair), Arons has all of your bases covered, from choosing the perfect venue to coordinating every last detail on the big day. Here, she offers her top tips for how to plan a destination wedding — regardless of where in the world you get hitched.

1. Choose a meaningful location.

Keep in mind that your destination must have all of the resources you need; that charming beach town where you spent your childhood summers won’t work if it only has one hotel that can’t accommodate all your guests.

2. Notify guests well in advance.

This is one of the most important destination wedding tips. It's important to give your nearest and dearest have plenty of time to calculate if they can afford the cost of traveling to your ceremony and reception.

3. Embrace the setting to save big.

Slash your décor budget by incorporating local blooms — think olive branches and grape leaves in Tuscany or exotic flowers and plants in the tropics — and serve local specialties at the reception, like conch fritters in the Bahamas or carnitas in Cabo, to cut catering costs.

4. Consider your guests.

Try to put everyone in one reasonably affordable hotel. If price is an issue, find a less expensive spot 10 minutes away — 15 tops. Don’t set your date until you’re sure there’s room availability for everyone.

5. Hire a pro.

Make sure to find a planner or coordinator that specializes in destination weddings. This way, instead of spending hours on phone calls trying to overcome a language barrier or making executive decisions about flowers and ceremony site from miles away, you have an expert on hand to take care of it all for you. Or, if a planner isn’t in your budget, look for a resort with a strong on-site coordinator.

6. Visit in advance.

Ideally, you’d see your venue once before booking and again three to four months before the wedding to finalize details. If a second trip’s not possible, arrive at least five days early to make those decisions and do a hair and makeup trial.

7. Pick your vendors in person.

In advance of your first site visit, set up meetings with the better-known florists and rental companies in your destination. But also ask for referrals from your venue on the ground; you might uncover local talent you didn’t know about.

8. Budget for vendors.

If you decide to bring specialists from home, expect to cover their travel and lodging costs; a clean, safe hotel within 30 minutes of your venue is a must. Negotiate these expenses up front so things don’t get out of control.

9. Stuff that suitcase.

I’ve yet to find a destination outside the continental U.S. that has the same quality and selection of rental linens. Shipping overseas is risky and expensive, so I always pack as much as possible into checked luggage.

10. Tailor your wedding dress to the destination.

Breathable fabrics work best in hot, humid locations. Lightweight lace in Mexico is stunning, as is an embellished ball gown at a villa in France.

11. Never check your dress.

Always carry your dress on board the plane, even if it means having to fold it. Just make sure someone at the other end can press and steam it.

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