I'll own it — I've always preached that you don't NEED a travel agent to help plan your destination wedding. I stand by that, most of the time. But, there are exceptions to every rule. And planning how you're going to get a bunch of your friends from point A to point B for your wedding weekend may be an exception depending on how organized you are and where exactly you're getting married.
If you're not using a wedding planner and you aren't very experienced getting to and from your wedding destination, it's a very good idea to look to a travel professional for guidance. You don't have to book a group travel package, but you can research the costs and benefits of obligating you and your guests to something like that, and then decide if you'd rather simply provide your guests with the basic information and let them decide what to do.
Lots of people have their own travel agents they like to use. Folks who horde their American Express points tend to swear by the travel services they provide. Everybody has their own preferences. It's best to let guests choose what they like.
There are three situations that indicate you should definitely consider using a travel agent for your wedding:
1. Destinations that require visas or other paperwork literally scream for the assistance of a travel professional. You may have all the shots you need to travel to remote regions of South America, but are all your guests so worldly? If not, you'll have to not only provide them with the information about what's required, but basic instructions on how to accomplish all of it. Offering the services of a travel agent who can assist your guests if they want is a nice thing to do, for you and your guests. If you have to help everybody coordinate all their details, it will make you crazy, and take a lot of time.
2. All-inclusive resorts that do wedding packages daily (several times a day, actually) often have hidden perks and charges buried in the cost per person you're offering to your guests. Working with a travel agent who has a relationship with all of the major brand resorts can help you and all of your guests get some free stuff thrown in, and coupons for other activities, that you wouldn't have had access to as a bride.
3. You know if most of your wedding guests have never travelled outside their home state, and if they're likely to be intimidated trying to plan their trip to your destination. Providing contact information for a reliable travel agent who is familiar with your wedding may be the deciding factor in whether your guests feel comfortable accepting your wedding invitation. Travel-savvy guests don't have to use the travel agent, unless they want to, but you're making it easier for the rest of the guests.
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.