Planning a Destination Wedding

Planning a Destination Wedding

When you want somewhere away from home to celebrate your wedding, you have a million places to choose from. Finding the right one can be challenging. To begin, start here with our comprehensive guide on planning a destination wedding that works beautifully for the two of you.

Decide on Your Guest List First.

If you are eloping, the skies are the limit. You can choose anywhere on earth to tie the knot. No doubt you’ll want epic views and stunning landscapes to be part of your wedding planning. If, however, you want to spend the weekend with family and friends, you’ll have to consider their budget and preferences as well. While no one should expect you to pay for their airfare, you may need to help with accommodations and to pay for food, booze and the price of group activities. As soon as you know how many people you’ll be inviting and determine how far they’ll be willing to travel, you can start planning for the perfect place. Most venues will charge per person, so don’t miss this critical step.

Planning a destination wedding guide by Ruben Chan Photography
Photographed by Ruben Chan Photography - Riviera Maya, Mexico wedding photographers

Set Your Budget.

While it can be stressful, determining your budget is vital in the wedding planning process. Establish a realistic budget and allocate funds for travel, accommodations, and local expenses. Be mindful of currency exchange rates, as they can impact your overall costs. Setting a clear budget will help narrow down your options and prevent overspending. Planning a destination wedding is more complex than getting married near home and working with a local planner can be a cost-saving way to get things done.

Choose a place that reflects your personality.

Begin by reflecting on your personal style and the vision you have for your wedding day. Try to choose locations that will fit your aesthetic and personality and are located near where you want to honeymoon later.  Think out of the box, and choose a venue that fits the dress code and theme for your wedding. There are tons of resorts and hotels in the world, but there are also many private villas, ranches, farms, wineries, and gardens that can bring a more personal touch to your ceremony and reception.

Planning a destination wedding couple under umbrella against red barn Kate McElwee Photography
Photographed by Kate McElwee Photography - Boston, Massachusetts wedding photographers
Planning a destination wedding outdoor ceremony Half Moon Bay The Fourniers
Photographed by The Fourniers - Michigan wedding photographers
destination wedding bridal party portrait Amanda Adams Photography
Photographed by Amanda Adams Photography - Charlottesville, VA wedding photographers


Imagine the types of activities you want to enjoy with guests and prioritize having fun together. We’ve seen thousands of weddings over the years and here are just a few ideas from them that have made wedding weekends memorable:

Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, snorkeling, and sailing

Skiing, snowboarding, and sledding

Fireside chats, picnics, and roasting marshmallows

Culinary experiences, slow brunches, and dinners to savor

Games like golf, croquet, and soccer

Niche activities like pub crawls and pickle ball tournaments

Best men skiing at destination wedding Sylvain Bouzat Wedding Photography
Photographed by Sylvain Bouzat Photography - France wedding photographers
Destination wedding couple in canoe on lake Chris Arson Photography
Photographed by Chris Arson Photography - Boston, Massachusetts wedding photographers
Newlyweds on fun kiddie slide Jos and Tree
Photographed by Jos & Tree - Portland, Oregon wedding photographers

Length of Event.

Another big factor in planning a destination wedding is the length of your celebration. Most wedding planners suggest at least 48 hours, which allows for a rehearsal dinner, the wedding day, and a farewell brunch. 72 hours leaves time for things to unfold with less rush and gives you enough time to feel like you’ve all had a mini-vacation.

Transportation and Accessibility.

Factor in travel time, visa requirements, and the ease of transportation within the area. Choosing a location that is easily accessible will ensure a smoother experience for everyone involved. Be sure to check the reliability of transportation as well. Trains do not always run on time and planes are often delayed, so allow cushion before your ceremony to be sure all your guests can arrive on time.

Seasonal Considerations.

If you are used to thinking summer is dry and winter is rainy, you might be surprised by the weather in certain locations. For instance, the monsoon season in Mexico is from May to September. Be sure to check local weather patterns and plan accordingly.

Ceremony guests under rainbow umbrellas Lyndsey Goddard Photography
Photographed by Lyndsey Goddard Photography - London, UK wedding photographers

Research Local Marriage Requirements.

Each destination has its own set of marriage requirements and regulations. Research the legalities, documentation, and residency requirements for getting married in your chosen location. Some destinations may have specific waiting periods or paperwork that needs to be completed in advance. Planning a destination wedding can mean getting married at home and having a second ceremony at your location if government regulations become overwhelming.

Explore Numerous Accommodation Options.

If the place you’re getting married does not have accommodations available for all your guests, be sure everyone has options that are easy to get to and reasonable to afford. Be helpful by providing plenty of choices and getting deals on blocks of rooms when you can.

Waterfront Portofino ceremony Emiliano Russo Photography
Photographed by Emiliano Russo Photography - Amalfi Coast, Italy wedding photographers

Seek Advice From Local Professionals.

If your venue does not have a planner that is dedicated to weddings, you’ll find working with a trusted, local planner is the way to go. A professional with experience in organizing weddings in different locations can provide valuable insight, help navigate local regulations, and alleviate much of the stress associated with planning a destination wedding.

Need more ideas for planning a destination wedding? Check out the location section of our Photo Gallery.