The lure of a destination wedding is hard to resist – a trip to somewhere out of the norm, where the bride and groom will make that significant and symbolic jump to starting their lives together as a married couple. Destination weddings are popular for several reasons, including that they make it possible for couples to have an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience away from home. Just like all other weddings, couples can customize their destination wedding to suit their preferences, inviting as many, or as few guests as they would like. Whether they’re dreaming about a beach wedding, a traditional church affair, a garden wedding, an elopement wedding, or something more unconventional, a destination wedding will give love birds plenty of room to bring their wedding aspirations to life.
What is a destination wedding?
A destination wedding is a wedding that takes place at a location that is far enough for a majority of the guests to make travel arrangements and book nearby accommodation. Destination weddings can be hosted in the country the majority of the guests live in, but these kinds of events are normally hosted abroad. Destination weddings often take place in an unusual setting, breaking free from the norm. Since these ceremonies are typically smaller in size, compared to traditional weddings, destination weddings tend to result in lower costs.
Why choose a destination wedding?
Beachfront wedding at Beaches Turks & Caicos
There are many reasons couples decide to have a destination wedding, and one of these is that it allows them to have a wedding in a foreign, and often exotic location, without having to break the bank. Money can be saved in some areas and spent more in others… or save all around. Having a resort destination wedding for example, ups the excitement, and provides the couple with a wedding planner or coordinator who will help ensure things run smoothly on the day. Here are some of the other reasons people choose destination weddings:
- If the couple chooses a resort wedding, they won’t have to worry about the little details and can plan their wedding easily from a distance. Once they get there, resort staff will ensure everything goes according to plan, even helping to plan group activities in and out of the resort.
- Many people feel more at ease with destination weddings, as in most cases the planning is left up to them, with little input from friends and family. Destination weddings can, in some ways, be compared to elopement weddings in their execution, but overall, these are two separate concepts. Read this blog about planning on elopement wedding here: How To Plan An Elopement Wedding: The Ultimate Checklist.
- Fewer guests mean lighter costs, and that’s a major draw for couples looking for an economical, yet special, wedding option. Resorts like Sandals offer all-inclusive packages, some of which include a free wedding as part of the stay, if the couple meets the requirements for the number of nights and/or room bookings.
- A destination wedding will allow the couple to have a wedding and honeymoon in one, which is a huge plus, and an experience they are sure to enjoy.
Even with all these benefits, destination weddings are simply not for everyone. Couples who want to invite more people, but do not want to be financially constrained regarding the number of people attending, would likely do better with more traditional options. Couples with not much time to spare for a vacation, and those with other family obligations also would not likely find a destination wedding to be the most ideal option. Nevertheless, if the couple can afford to get away, and make the time, then it’s likely to be one of the best experiences of their lives.
How to plan a destination wedding?
1. Make a checklist
To start off the wedding planning process, first create a checklist. This is basically a wedding to-do list which will help streamline what needs to be done, and when. Once the type of wedding is decided, the couple will be able to get things together fairly quickly with a wedding checklist.
Insider tip: Planning a beach wedding? Here’s important information: Beach Wedding: Inspiration, Venues & Tips from Experts.
2. Decide on a budget
A destination wedding can sometimes be cheaper than a ceremony closer to home. To save money on a destination wedding, the key thing is to prioritize. Knowing what the couple won’t be spending on will let them know how much more room they have in other areas to spend a bit more. Money can be saved on things like flowers, by giving the florist room to choose between flowers of the same colors or shades, rather than selecting a single flower type, which may be more expensive. All and all, the best way to save money is to shop around!
3. Decide who to invite
Before going crazy with the invites, first think about the budget, and whether it will be a large or small wedding. If the decision is made to have a destination wedding, which friends and family members will be able to travel to your location for the event needs to be taken into consideration ,as well as how long it will take them to get there if they do. A good rule of thumb for destination weddings is to invite the most important people that will make a positive impact on the day with their presence. If a few people get cut from the list, don’t worry so much as a reception for them can be planned for once the couples returns home.
4. Choose a destination & venue
Over-the-water chapel, available at Sandals South Coast
The first step would be to decide on a destination which would both fit within the budget of the couple, as well as the budget of the most important guests.
Visit ‘Exotic destination wedding location ideas’ to get some inspiration!
After a destination has been selected, the next stop is the venue. Think about where the ceremony will take place, and where the reception/party will be. These could both of course be the same venue. Consider the various aspects to include, like a bar for example. Will it be an open bar, and what kinds of drinks and finger-food will be served? Some people pull out all the stops in this regard, giving guests plenty of options, while others go for bars sans alcohol. The choice is up to the couple!
Expert tip: Don’t want to worry about how much money to spend on food and drinks for the guests? Host a wedding at an all-inclusive resort where all meals and (alcoholic) beverages are included!
Some unconventional venues include a forest wedding, a ceremony at a private home or villa, a luxury resort, or on a tropical beach (often the last two pair together). Some couples even choose ruins, cabins, warehouses, and barns as their wedding venue. Another amazing option maybe not have thought of before, is one of Sandals’ overwater chapels.
For more inspiration on wedding venues, go to ‘8 Most Romantic Destination Wedding Venues in the Caribbean’.
5. Make a list of the documents needed
Some of the common documents required for a destination wedding include a birth certificate and passport, proof of divorce or death certificate (for divorcees), change of name documents, written authorization for parties under 18, and a marriage license.
There are some places where the couple will need to establish residency before getting married. In most cases this can be done within a 48–72 hour residency period. Check whether the marriage will be recognized as legal in the country you live. For some destinations, couples must be of the legal age to marry or have consent from both parents if under the age of 21.
6. Decide who will marry the couple
Friends can officiate the wedding in some destinations. This is totally possible – just do some research within the territory where the wedding will be held to find out if and how this applies. Some couples do this to save money and make their wedding extra special. Otherwise, a certified officiant to ensure the ceremony is completely legalized is perfectly fine.
7. Send out invitations early!
Some couples choose to include a map of the venue in their invites. This is great when the wedding is taking place in a remote destination. Think about whether the invite is going to be designed or if something pre-made will be bought. Send invites out as early as possible, so guests can save up for their travel arrangements and get some time off.
8. Choose a theme & color scheme
If the couple has an artistic touch, or they know what they want, selecting a theme and color scheme will come easily, otherwise it might be best to leave this up to the wedding planner, giving them hints of what is wanted as the final result. If guests are to dress according to a particular theme, or wear a certain color, include this in the save-the-date cards or official wedding invites.
A welcome sign is one of those details that can be personalized to suit the couple, which helps guests feel welcome once they arrive. This is a great touch for a destination wedding as it helps to bring people together and feel more comfortable.
Place cards are fun because they can be customized to suit the theme. They don’t even necessarily need to be written on paper; some people use leaves, napkins, and other elements to make this super fun.
Flowers are often a big part of weddings but are not a must. However, if flowers are incorporated, consider whether the wedding will be indoors or outdoors. With beach weddings for example, flowers than can withstand the heat and potentially some wind need to chosen.
Cakes are popular, but also still optional. A large or elaborate cake can be chosen or there is the option of tastefully decorated cupcakes. Either way, it’s entirely up to the couple and how the cake ties into the venue. Consider whether there’s room to store the cake once it’s been cut, as leaving it out in the sun for too long is not advisable. If getting married outdoors, have the cake decorator use ingredients that will stand up to the sun for the icing. If staying at a resort, find out if a cake is included in the destination wedding package.
9. Take care of the seating arrangement
Seashell seating arrangement beach wedding at Beaches Negril
A seating chart, or carefully arranged place cards (or both), will help everyone to their seats for the ceremony. Get a map of the wedding venue, spend some time figuring out who should sit where, and theme the chart or place cards to suit the other elements of the wedding.
10. Organize the food and drinks
For a destination wedding, couples will want to make sure there are food options for everyone. Ask about preferences during the RSVP process and find out about allergies; the menu can even be shared in advance. Most caterers charge per person, so keep that in mind when putting together the guest list. Organize the wedding at an all-inclusive resort, and that takes the worry about food and drinks off the list.
Read more about the wedding menus at Sandals (the menus come with dedicated service to the group).
Read more about the dining options that are already included at Sandals.
11. Set up a gift/card box
This is the perfect place for guests to leave sweet notes, gift cards, and other little trinkets. Put this box in a safe place, which is also easy to spot when guests walk in. Leave someone from the wedding party in charge of this area, so everyone who comes in knows what goes where. This person can also put the box away somewhere safe once all deposits are made.
12. Hire an amazing photographer!
Wedding photos are half the fun, and couples will have to budget carefully for this. Think about whether there will be a professional (recommended), or if this job can be done by a family member or friend. Most resorts offer this service, some at added cost. Tell the photographer in advance the kind of photos wanted and how involved s/he is to be in directing the shots.
Destination weddings made easy
Couple enjoying wedding day at Sandals Ochi
Planning a destination wedding can be challenging, but these helpful steps may help stay on top of things, ahead of the wedding event. Planning an all-inclusive resort wedding at Sandals? Let their professional wedding planners help. Call 1-877-263257.