WRITTEN BY Gina Anderson, Urban Allure Events | Photo by Cat Galletti
Are you dreaming of saying your vows atop the mountains of Aspen or perhaps barefoot on a gorgeous beach off the Pacific Ocean? What about among the lush treetops in the jungles of Costa Rica? The world is your oyster and there are a lot of visions to decide between! Before you dive deep into destination wedding planning, start by clearly discussing with your partner about what you both want. But wherever your destination wedding vision takes you, here’s everything you need to know.
1. HIRE THE RIGHT DESTINATION PLANNER FOR YOU
You can find your planner through a variety of channels. Maybe it’s a referral from a friend or family member, or someone you feel connected to through social media. Whatever way you choose to go about it, find a wedding planner that you feel ultra comfortable with. You’ll be working with them for a LONG time, so make sure you select the one that you feel is a perfect fit and set all realistic expectations ahead of time.
Every planner approaches destination planning differently, but you can expect your destination planner to do the following:
- Help narrow down locations
- Provide guidance on local marriage laws, permits and requirements
- Work directly with venue contacts to set up meetings (even if they’re virtual)
- Comb through contracts
- Set the planning timeline of deadlines and expectations
- Build a budget tracker
- Be there to help take the stress and overwhelming feelings away
HOT TIP: Separately write out your desires for your wedding — where you imagine it taking place, the overall setting and scenery, how many guests you’ll want, what time of year, any specific season that calls to you and also what you DON’T want. Take turns sharing with your partner what you’ve come up with and discuss the similarities and differences. Once you’ve narrowed down what you both want, it’s time to get started!
2. UNDERSTAND YOUR FINANCIAL COMFORT ZONE (AKA BUDGET)
What are you and your partner comfortable with spending? It is imperative to talk about money — both as a couple and with your planner. Be as transparent as possible! Before we get into vendor and venue costs, factors that will initially play into the budget of your wedding include:
- The market you want to have your celebration in — a wedding in Bali will cost differently from a Maui wedding.
- Amount of guests you want to have — are you thinking of an intimate wedding with 50 guests or fewer or does your guest list include over 50 people?
- The duration of your wedding — do you want a multiple-day excursion with an event or activity each day?
- Time of year and seasonality — each state, continent and country have its own peak seasons where you can expect to pay a premium price versus off-season pricing.
- Are you going to cover the cost of accommodation and travel for all of your guests?
3. CONSIDER THE GUEST EXPERIENCE
The best destination weddings are the ones where the couple keeps their guest experience at the forefront of planning. Some questions to think about as you plan:
- Do the venues you love provide accommodations on property for you and your guests?
- If that’s not the case, how far are accommodations from the venue?
- Is the venue complicated to get to? Will your guests need to take multiple methods of transportation in order to arrive?
- Are there restaurants, shops and things to do nearby or on-property?
- How much will flights or transportation cost?
- Is the venue handicap accessible or will guests be walking on uneven ground, traversing hills or across cobblestone?
One of the hottest wedding destinations everyone is talking about is Lake Como. But did you know that in order to get to popular venues like Villa del Balbianello in Tremezzina, Lake Como, it is not possible to reach directly by car, bus or public transport services? One option is to walk a 1-km footpath from Via Degli Artigiani, which no planner would recommend you or your guests do on your wedding day. The other more reasonable option is by a taxi-boat from the Lenno beach, which takes less than 10 minutes. See, it’s not as easy as a plane, train, car or bus ride! It takes thought and consideration to plan such details.
HOT TIP: Keep travel and transport under 20 minutes, if possible.
4. VETTING YOUR VENDORS
Before you start doing your own vendor research, communicate with your partner about what is important to you both. Do you want a 10-piece band or a high-energy DJ set? Is it a top priority that the food be personally curated along with an open bar of exceptional options? Or are the florals, rentals and design what you need to complete the dream vision? Once those details have been communicated to your planner, they will start vetting vendor options. The first decision to work through is if your venue has a preferred or a required list of vendors to select from. If not, the decision comes down to either hiring someone local to the area or bringing someone from your home location to the destination. This ties back to your financial comfort zone — do you have the flexibility to pay for vendor travel and accommodation costs?
There are many things to consider when planning your destination wedding, but if you start with these basics early, it will be less overwhelming. And of course, a great planner will be with you every step of the way.
Annie & Ben’s Colorado Wedding