The Secrets to an Effortless Destination Wedding

How to plan a memorable out-of-town wedding weekend with minimal stress.

Have confidence in the fact that your wedding will be remembered as a one-of-a-kind event, and keep the following dos and don'ts in mind to ensure that your planning process is as seamless and streamlined as possible.

wedding photo destination wedding villa balbiano in lake como italy bride in off shoulder sparkle gown dock wooden boat
Photo: The Day by Ira Lippke

By deciding to say “I do” in a setting that’s removed from your everyday experience, you have automatically set the stage for a celebration that feels like a vacation for everyone involved… including you! Have confidence in the fact that your wedding will be remembered as a one-of-a-kind event, and keep the following dos and don'ts in mind, including some not-to-miss pieces of advice relating to destination wedding etiquette, to ensure that your planning process is as seamless and streamlined as possible.

Photo by Karlisch Photography; From Real Wedding: Elegant Beachside Destination Wedding in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Read the dos and don'ts below in order to have an an effortless destination wedding experience:

Destination Wedding Attire

Do call your airline in advance to determine whether or not you can carry your gown on the plane with you. 

Don't rely on a destination rental shop to secure tuxedos for the groomsmen. Smaller shops don’t always carry a full stock of inventory, so the groom and groomsmen should pre-arrange their attire with a national company ahead of time.

Destination Wedding Tips for the Ceremony & Reception

Do check your destination’s marriage-license laws several months in advance of your wedding date. In the Bahamas, for example, you must be married between sunrise and sunset, and a Bahamian minister must officiate your ceremony. These are the kind of unique-to-the-destination details you’ll definitely want to plan around! 

Don't spend a lot of money on décor if you don’t need to. Most destination wedding locations are inherently beautiful, so select décor that complements, rather than competes with, the natural look of your surroundings. 

Destination Wedding Entertainment

Do think outside of the box for wedding entertainment. Cigar rollers, flamenco dancers… the possibilities for live entertainment are endless throughout your destination weekend of events! 

Don't forget to scope out local talent. Although you might want to consider flying your favorite wedding band to your location, a set of steel drums or music from a local mariachi band can instill an atmosphere of authentic flavor to your welcome party, rehearsal dinner, or wedding day.

Destination Wedding Food & Beverage

Do request information about additional taxes on various food and beverage items so that you can accurately determine the all-in price of your wedding. 

Don't neglect local fare when building your wedding menu. If you’re getting married in Hilton Head, give guests a taste of the Lowcountry via a plate of shrimp and grits. If you’re going to Sante Fe, mole sauce is a must.

Destination Wedding Invitations

Do provide as much information as possible on your destination wedding invitations and wedding website – airport codes, room blocks, modes of transportation available at your destination – on your save-the-date cards so that guests can request vacation time and make necessary travel arrangements sooner rather than later. 

Don't forget to request an early reply from your invited guests, so that you can properly budget for your wedding according to guest count. 

Destination Wedding Location, Accommodations & Travel

Do select a location that allows for convenient, hassle-free travel for you and your guests. A full day of travel cuts into your guests’ vacation time, ups their travel expenditures, and shortens the time they’re able to spend enjoying your event. Be cognizant of your guests’ time and budgetary boundaries by selecting a destination that’s as accessible as it is gorgeous! 

Don't select a tropical location during hurricane season, or plan your wedding close to a major holiday (Christmas in particular) or event (like the World Cup). Travel and accommodation costs skyrocket during these times, which could limit your guest count.

Destination Wedding Vendor Team

Do hire a wedding planner located near your hometown if you require full-service coordination. You’ll be working with your planner for months leading up to your event, so it’s worth investing in their travel expenses. 

Don't let your wedding day be the first time you meet your wedding photographer. Taking engagement photos and bridal portraits in advance of your wedding date is a great way to feel more comfortable on the day you say “I do.”

Destination Wedding Welcome Gifts

Do give guests welcome gifts or destination-themed wedding welcome bags filled with items unique to your destination. 

Don't ship too many items from your hometown. Your amenity bags will feel more authentic if you fill them with local items, and you’ll save money by avoiding shipping costs!

To be perfectly honest, it’s difficult to mess up a destination wedding. Typically, no one goes to a destination wedding unhappy and no one leaves a destination wedding unhappy, so enjoy the rest of the wedding-planning process and know that every aspect of your day will be a “DO” no matter what happens!