Destination Weddings: Getting Started

Thinking about planning a far-flung celebration? Here's what you need to know first.

Photo by Sol Tamargo

Thinking about planning a far-flung celebration? Here are the top tips to pull off a flawless destination wedding.

1. First Things First

Choose a location based on your wedding style and nonnegotiable guest list (if any). Unlike a hometown affair, you can't assume everyone will be able to spend the money and vacation days to attend, so you'll need to wait to get a read on how many people can come before you choose a venue. You'll want to compare event facilities and, if you're getting married at a hotel, room amenities, activity options, and potential group discounts.

2. Think Thrifty

If friends and family are invited along for the ride, go easy on their bank accounts: Consider an all-ages, all-inclusive resort or cruise during low season (generally May through November at resorts in the Caribbean or Mexico), to keep costs down and provide a bevy of built-in activity options. Guests should pay all their own expenses -- it helps if you insist they not buy you gifts, and ask your travel agent or wedding coordinator about group discounts on air and hotels.

For specific info, call the tourism office nearest you for the country you're interested in. Find a worldwide directory of tourism offices online, then contact the Association of Bridal Consultants at (860) 355-0464 to find the perfect planner to help you pull it off.

3. Start Early

Unless you're doing a drive-through in Vegas, start researching and planning your destination wedding as soon as possible. Not only do you have to reserve your venue, but fulfilling the marriage requirements of the country in which you are to be wed may take a few months. For example, some countries require that documents be translated, public notices posted, and residency requirements fulfilled (ranging from nonexistent to one month).

4. Ask the Right Questions

Two maxims to keep in mind here: No question is stupid and you'll never know until -- and unless! -- you ask. Achieving your dream wedding means having all the information you need to make the perfect choices.

5. Be Flexible

In some locales, you may only be able to marry Monday through Friday only. Some places do not permit civil (nonreligious) ceremonies. And unless you're packing your family priest, be open-minded about who officiates your big day.

6. Work With Those in the Know

Stress not! Work with a bridal consultant who specializes in destination weddings and/or a wedding planner based in the area where you'll be married to help you navigate a city's marriage requirements (these can vary by country and within countries). Planners also serve as expert eyes for finding -- and overseeing -- local vendors.

7. Guide Your Guests

If you've chosen a far-flung locale, make sure each guest has a passport or provide them with information on how to get one. Be sure to place a gift basket in each room that is full of essentials for the trip (suntan lotion, bug spray, etc.) and goodies that will remind them of the setting -- samples of native food or crafts from local artisans, for example.

8. Arrive Early

Plan to fly in a few days before the main event to assure that the paperwork is processed and to nail down any final details. In faraway locales, this will help you shake residual jet lag, too.

9. Get It in Writing

One last tip: Make sure you confirm all agreements in writing before you let a single dollar bill leave your wallet!

-- Lori Seto

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