How to Plan a Destination Wedding You'll Remember Forever
Jess Levin Conroy began her career at Burch Creative Capital, where she helped manage investments and brand development for a portfolio that included C. Wonder and Tory Burch LLC. After earning her MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Jess saw an opportunity in the wedding space to help empower the businesses at the top end of the market. She founded Carats & Cake in 2013. Currently, the company works with over 25,000 businesses across the U.S. and has become the go-to resource for couples looking for the best the wedding industry has to offer.
Destination weddings are definitely having their moment in the spotlight. There is something so magical about whisking your guests off to a fabulous location to create the ultimate setting for the beginning of your happily-ever-after. Whether this means going tropical or rustic, gathering all of your loved ones in a remote locale creates the perfect environment for guests to really bond and get to know each other throughout the festivities.
However, planning a destination affair shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only are there a lot of moving parts, there is also typically more pressure to create an experience and entertain your guests beyond the standard wedding night. To help you navigate the destination wedding-planning process, we reached out to some of the wedding industry’s experts on this subject matter to get their inside tips. Read on below to learn how to throw the ultimate destination wedding from start to finish.
Think About Accommodations
“Before falling totally in love with a remote or exotic destination, be sure to think about where all of your guests will stay. The venue may be fabulous, but are there enough accommodations and amenities for your guests at a variety of price points?” — Lynn Easton, owner, Easton Events
Make Your Invitations Exciting
“Make your invitation pop! Your destination wedding invitation is the perfect place to incorporate the style of your destination—and give guests all the information they need to travel. Include an itinerary booklet outlining the weekend’s events, including any events surrounding the wedding, like a welcome party or excursion.” — Candice Coppola, owner, Jubilee Events
Hire a Planner
“Investing in a full-service planner to help you plan your destination wedding is the best thing you can do to ensure a flawless celebration. Planning a wedding local to home requires a lot of time, but taking things thousands of miles away and across the pond requires a different set of skills that are often best left to professionals. A planner will be your eyes and ears as you navigate an unfamiliar place; help make sense of cultural traditions and rules where applicable; and, better yet, enable you to really truly enjoy whatever gorgeous part of the world you’ve decided to say ‘I do’ in.” — Rhiannon Bosse, founder and creative director, Rhiannon Bosse Celebrations
Welcome Guests With a Gift
“Welcome your guests to the beautiful destination you’ve chosen with a well-curated gift bag (or box) of goodies. It’s important to remember to think quality over quantity when selecting items to impress your guests.” — Kate Ryan and Chelsea Dillon, partners, Gold Leaf Event Design & Production
Make It Official
“If you are getting married in a different country, understand what the legal requirements are for marriages in that region/country. If it is not too clear, a good backup plan is to be married in your hometown, legally, before you travel for the wedding.” — Stephanie Cole and Sarah Drake, founders, Cole Drake Events
Take Advantage of the Scenery
“Schedule in some time before your rehearsal dinner (or welcome dinner earlier in the weekend) to take some scenic portraits with your significant other. Often with destination weddings, the various events are hosted in multiple locations, allowing for some great variety in backdrops and landscapes. You booked that destination for its beauty; you might as well use it!” — Brian Leahy, owner, Brian Leahy Photography
Incorporate Local Flavors
“Work with your destination, and if you are planning something in a tropical location, use what it has to offer to your advantage. Opt to have your welcome dinner on the sand or at a favorite local restaurant; incorporate local décor, music, and florals into your events; and select local gifts or foods for the welcome bags to fully immerse your guests in the destination.” — Kristin Alexander, owner, Esoteric Events
Communicate With Your Guests
“Getting information to your guests is the most important part of planning a destination wedding. Make sure that you have the schedule of events presented to them early and often. From the save-the-date to the website to the welcome bags, clear and concise information is imperative for you to have a weekend that flows easily.” — Julie Bunkley, owner and creative director, Invision Events
Give Your Guests Options
“Many times couples are looking to make a destination wedding a weeklong or weekend experience with their guests. Make sure you give your guests options on events to attend, but also don’t take it personally if they want to experience some of the local travel sites alone. By keeping your wedding website updated and your welcome bag informative with options of things to do as well as your weeklong agenda, your guests will know through the entire planning process (and when they arrive on-site) what they are invited to, and what they can and cannot attend.” — Stacie Shea, owner and creative director, Stacie Shea Events
“Make getting around as easy as possible for your guests. You could arrange for a shuttle from the airport, a trolley to transfer guests to the welcome dinner, or even golf carts if you are staying at a large resort.” — Wendy Kay, owner and creative director, Birds of a Feather Events
Keep Guests Entertained
“Activities are key in a destination wedding. You want your guests to embrace the culture and location, so provide them with interesting activities during the weekend. For this destination wedding, we planned a wine tour and traditional Portuguese lunch to kick off the festivities.” — Kaitlyn Hostetler, event planner and director of marketing, Evoke
Highlight the Venue
“Not all destinations have to be exotic! Some couples love parts of the country and want to share their love for the area with their guests. It is important to keep your location in mind during the entire planning process. Consider the prettiest views, and ensure the placement of your events throughout the day maximize those items to guarantee your guests love your destination wedding as much as you do!” — Diana Venditto, owner and creative director, Eventi Floral & Events
What destination would choose for the wedding of your dreams? Share your ideas and inspiration with us.