Planning a Destination Wedding

Tradition is grand, but so is bending the rules a little. Today, couples are becoming increasingly interested in throwing caution to the wind and having destination weddings where tradition becomes optional. So grab your luggage and stuff it with shorts and sunglasses, a beach bag, guidebook, and flip flops! What exactly is a destination wedding, you ask? Basically, it entails going somewhere outside your home state to be wed. It can be as simple as traveling across country or as lavish as puddle jumping to Fiji. Here are some of the major reasons for which people are opting for this style wedding:
* '''Small and intimate wedding'''. There's a big difference between an exquisite 200-person wedding in your home town and trying to get 200 people to fly to Mexico for a week. Because of that, destination weddings are known for being small and cozy -- just large enough for your closest of friends and family to attend (usually no more than 80 people). This is good for two reasons. The first is that it gets couples off the hook for inviting their distant family members who they would rather not invite anyway. The second is that it saves a lot of money. Also keep in mind that 65 to 70 percent of those invited come (less than the 80 to 90 percent that come when invited to a traditional wedding).

* '''More time to enjoy'''. Reception hall rental lasts for six hours And can cost several thousands of dollars not including other hidden expenses (know what to ask if you are renting one). However, with a destination wedding, you have plenty more time to enjoy it. Your family and closest friends will probably be the only ones in attendance, allowing you to share more quality time. In addition, the time will be spent in a new and exciting place, which most guests appreciate immensely as it becomes a vacation for them as well.

* '''Costs less'''. If the the experience itself doesn't seem worth it alone, consider that you'll get more quality for about the same amount or less than you would spend on a traditional wedding ($20,000 on average, but twice as much in big cities). You'll have fewer guests as it's hard for some of those invited to take off from work and others may not have the financial means to travel. This all translates to fewer expenses for you. Fewer decorations will be needed as the destination's backdrop will most likely be sufficient, if not more than you could ever ask for. And finally, you'll be one step closer to being on your honeymoon. You can either use the destination to double as your honeymoon site or use it as a stepping stone to arrive there.

* '''No bow ties or puffy dresses'''. For people who want to avoid the hassle of dealing with stifling formal attire or the other traditional wedding frills, a destination wedding is an easy way to escape those trends. Plus, with less formality involved you can take advantage of playing with themes that revolve around the location in which you are being married.

* '''Perfect for a second marriage'''. Wedding planning is a huge commitment and if you've already done it, you probably want to do it differently second time around. However, celebrating is still important so don't skimp, just do it differently this time around. A destination wedding offers you and your fiancé a chance to get away, party, spend time with each other, and keep the affair to a minimal.

* '''Less stress overall'''. Add up the above advantages: less money, less formality, a beautiful location, more time to relax, plus a vacation in itself, and you've got one amazing experience that you will remember forever. In addition, since the wedding is taking place far from where you can easily control the details you'll probably let someone else take care of it instead of stressing. One note in this respect though is that if you are very detail-oriented you may need to invest more time and effort into getting things to look the way you want them to. In any matter, avoid stressing over things too much, especially if you are planning on the Caribbean or something of the like where things just seem to move slower in general.

* '''No extra traveling'''. If you and your family live far apart anyway, a destination wedding is a good way to make good use of people's travel time.

Quick Tips for Having a Destination Wedding

* You'll need to send save-the-dates as far in advance as possible so that you give your guests the opportunity to arrange travel and accommodation. Usually, six to eight months is the minimum lead time to send the notices. In the save-the-date cards, make sure to include pertinent information such as the location and date, hotels in the area, airlines that fly there and the average round trip cost, the temperature and weather expected, attire required for the event, and a basic itinerary of what you expect the week to look like. You may also include all of this information on a wedding Web site for Internet users to learn more about the details.

* When it comes to gifts, if you are planning an expensive wedding, be kind to your guests and let them off the hook with gifts. Let them know that if they would like to send a gift, to do so beforehand back home. Suggest that they don't bring gifts to the destination, as you won't be able to fit the items in your luggage or you will pay hefty fees to ship things home.

* Destination weddings are not as easy to control because you'll be so far away, so you have to be willing to make compromises. This goes hand in hand with understanding the location you choose may not have all the traditional amenities that you are used to and you'll have to work around what is "local" and native to the particular area.

* You won't get off the hook for planning when it comes to destination weddings. You'll need just as much prep time to plan things, especially when you must ship items to the location. Furthermore, remember when budgeting to include these shipping costs in your overall budget.

Where to Marry

The first thing that you'll want to do is choose a few places you like. Do some research on the different locales to determine the following things before committing to a location.
* The average cost (see the section below about budgeting).
* Find the vendors available for your date and learn about the services they can offer. Some small islands are very limited and it's better to know these things in advance.
* Research a bit about what the weather is like and if it will fit into your idea of how the wedding should look. Know when hurricane season is if you are traveling to the Caribbean.
* Is English widely spoken or will you and your guests have issues with a language barrier? You might need to buy an electronic translator.
* Who will plan the wedding?
** ''Yourself?'' That's hard because you'll have to do the most research and spend a lot of time figuring out the details. Nonetheless, you will have the maximum control over what the wedding looks like and how the details are carried out.
** ''A Wedding Chapel?'' Think Vegas-style eloping. It's quick, easy, and fairly informal. All the decorations are provided, but the services tend to be rushed.
** ''A Planner?'' Wedding planners will control what goes on from bargaining with vendors to setting up the details. All you have to do is give them an idea of what you want. It's perfect when you don't know the area well but you'll have to be very flexible.
** ''All-inclusive Providers?'' Many resorts offer wedding packages. This is a great way to get a deal on the wedding and have the details taken care of so you can relax.
* What are the marriage laws? Marrying out of country can be a big process. See the guide on Marriage Licenses for more info.
** Is the ceremony valid in the US?
** Are there residency requirements for marrying in the country? In other words, how long must you be there before you are allowed to wed?
** Must you bring extra documentation to marry there or send it in advance? Some items include blood tests, birth certificates, and divorce documents. Make sure that you translate them if needed.
** Are there any requirements for having your wedding validated back home with your house of worship?


You'll have to consider that you will incur different costs than you would in a traditional wedding budget. So, to give you an idea of where your money will be going, check out these tips on what to watch out for.
* Inquire with hotels to see if you can get discounts for you and your guests. Hotels often offer free weddings for very small parties. They typically include basics such as some champagne, a bouquet and boutonniere, a cake, and other things. If they include things that you won't make use of ask to get credit or an exchange for a room upgrade.

* Check with airline companies before booking or sending invites. Many offer a five to ten percent discount on group packages of 10 people or more.

* Airline tickets and/or transportation costs are standard. However, don't forget airport taxes, departure fees, and ground transportation from the airport to the hotel. The cost of tickets varies on the season and where you are traveling to, and airport fees depend on the country. Remember that guest often won't want to travel somewhere if it costs more than six or seven hundred dollars a ticket.

* Accommodation for a few days to a week may cost up to $300 a night depending on where you are staying. For guests, on the other hand, make sure that there is lodging available to them at lower costs, a maximum of $200 a night.

* Daily expenses, including food and drink, shopping, transportation, tips, and entertainment will add up fast. Get an idea of the location to which you are traveling and see what typical vacations cost there before committing to a location.

* Shipping of items in advance can be quite costly, especially if you wait until the last moments to do so. Also be aware that if your luggage is over weight, you will incur more fees. Consider asking others to help carry some of the supplies if needed. Don't forget that you are packing for two events: the wedding ''and'' the honeymoon.

* To safeguard yourself, always use credit cards. This helps in case a vendor cancels or doesn't show up on you.

Taking Care of Your Guests

'''Those Who Can Make It'''
: One thing that you should certainly plan on is arranging to have a group discount rate available at the hotel you plan to stay at. Otherwise, shuttle buses or other transportation should be provided for guests to travel between their lodging and the wedding event. Other expenses must be paid out of pocket by the guests, including airfare and incidentals. The welcome dinner, rehearsal dinner, and post-wedding brunch should be paid for by you and your parents if they are pitching in on the bill.
: Upon arriving to their destination, a nice favor to offer them is a welcome basket. These should include a few little gifts to say thanks and to give them a taste of what's to come. Let the gifts speak the language of the land. For example, in Italy include wine glasses and a bottle of Chianti, in Mexico throw in some hot sauces or suntan lotion and a hat.
: The welcome basket should also have a schedule of the weeks activities included with it. This helps designate time to spend together and leave free time for guests to explore the location on their own. Don't try to pack the week full of events. Many guests need free time to themselves. However, a group outing or two that highlights what the location has to offer is usually a good idea. For example, a trip to the mountains warrants a river boat ride; Europe, a walking tour of the old portion of the city, wine country, a day at a local vineyard for tastings. The possibilities are endless.

'''Those That Can't '''
: Obviously you won't be able to invite everyone to the wedding and many you invite won't be able to come. You can, however, let them all know that you have been wed by sending wedding announcements after the wedding stating where and when the wedding took place with a photo. With this announcement you may choose to invite them to a formal reception or an informal party back in your home town after you return from your honeymoon. This allows you to celebrate with everyone, even if it isn't the main event that they are attending.