Yes, you can pull off the far-flung fete of your dreams. From island-friendly details to showing your guests a good time, we've got the secrets for a smooth celebration.
1. Figure out if a destination wedding is right for you.
Quiz time! True or false:
__ My fiancé and I (are attached to a certain place—the beach, the (city where we met, or somewhere we've always dreamed of traveling.
__ Many of my friends can afford the trip (and would be psyched (to turn our wedding (into a vacation.
__ I want my wedding to feel different from the other ones I've attended.
__ I'm okay if Grandma (or other elderly relatives can't make it.
__ I don't mind the extra planning and logistics involved, and I'm not one to micromanage—I can trust others to execute my vision.
If you answered "true" to at least four questions, you're ready for a destination wedding!
2. Pick somewhere meaningful.
You realized he was "the one" on that trip to Sonoma two years ago. So it makes total sense that you'd want to get married there and share this amazing place with your friends and family. Typically, most guests are fine with traveling if (a) there's a backstory on why you love the place, (b) it's insanely gorgeous, and (c) it's easy to get to. "But we want to marry (in a remote village in northern Thailand," you say. That's cool; just know that the more complicated you make your itinerary, the more people will say no. Or worse: They'll say yes and then resent you when they see their immunizations list and credit-card statement.
6. Time it right.
When you marry can be as important as where you marry. In the Caribbean, for example, the weather is best—and prices are highest—December through April, while hurricane season brings major bargains June through November. One strategy? Set your date during the shoulder season (the weeks before and after the high season), when the weather is still good but prices are lower. P.S. To avoid a kid-packed pool, don t book during school holidays.
7. Get to know the 'hood.
Scout a few venues.
Some resorts will host you for a night if you express interest in marrying there later. If you can't swing a visit, scour the Web (try TripAdvisor, Yelp, and, (of course, Brides.com) for user reviews. Hire a planner. You'll need help from someone who knows the local vendors and customs. Many resorts offer a (free!) on-site coordinator. If you go with someone who s not based at (your destination, ask her how many events she's planned there to make sure she's up to the task.
Vet outside vendors.
Hotel planners will have recommendations, but it s best to meet them in person to make sure they understand your vision. Can t make the journey? Skype will help you connect on a more personal level than email, says Melina Glavas, director of events at the Little Nell, in Aspen, Colorado, which hosts about 75 destination (I do s a year. If it s in your budget, you can also fly VIP vendors (a hairstylist, a photographer) from home; you can often arrange to pay for their flight and room in lieu (of their regular rate. 8 Hit these deadlines. Reserve room blocks (for guests at least (10 months ahead. (You ll be competing with (other travelers, so do (it the moment you ve set your date. Send save-the-dates (at least six months out and invites two to three months ahead. Arrive three to four (days before the wedding to relax and prep for everyone s arrival. 9 Register thoughtfully. Even though they re paying for plane tickets, people will still want (to shower you with (gifts. Do include lots of reasonably priced (options so no one feels stuck buying you the $500 mixer. 10 Eat, drink, (and be (merry locally. When in Rome or anywhere else using a local band and local food and booze gives guests (a sense of why you picked your magical location (in the first place. Caviar (and bubbly make sense for a French soiree; at a Mexican fiesta, a salsa bar and local tequila are less expensive and más festive.