Send Save The Dates ASAP As Possible
A little Office humor there, did you catch it? Though in all seriousness a destination wedding often means more vacation days are needed, flights are more expensive, and accommodations needs to be arranged.
Be Flexible With The Big Date
Since our guest list was small we were able to narrow down dates with everyone before committing to one. For example, August 3 this year fell on Canadian August long weekend so my relatives were able to spend an extra couple days vacationing that they wouldn’t have had if we picked the next weekend.
Since guests are coming specifically for your wedding, you have the flexibility to choose any day of the week, which can provide more savings and more booking availability. We chose a Friday so our guests only needed to use two or three vacation days because they would have the weekend off anyway and be able to make it back for work on Monday if they wanted.
This is just a suggestion that worked for us. A few more guests were able to attend then if we had selected a different date, but by all means if your heart is set on a July 20th wedding, have your wedding on July 20.
Hire A Planner.
Wedding planning can be a full-time job so why not leave the responsibility and nitty-gritty to the people whose full-time job is actually wedding planning? Especially for a destination wedding, there is no substitute for hiding a planner who is familiar with the area and specifically your venue. Better even if they are already on-the-ground; if you need a measurement or a deliver picked up, they are already there. Plus they will know which vendors are affordable or worth the splurge, which are reliable, and which are a pleasure to work with.
At the very list, I’d recommend a day-of coordinator. They will ensure that everything flows smoothly on your big day and be able to organize everything from vendor deliveries to event timelines.
Plan A Recon Visit
We booked our venue without seeing it in-person and were fully prepared to not see it until our rehearsal; however, when we came across some cheap flight deals we couldn't pass up the opportunity to check it out.
Our planner set up meetings and tastings with potential vendors prior to our visit so when we arrived we hit the ground running. Having time on-site made the whole experience feel more real, like we were actually getting married. We also got to walk around the venue which helped us decide the layout and make decisions on whether we actually needed some decor elements or not.
We were fortunate enough to be able to spend the afternoons enjoying the island and seeing some of the sights, which allowed us to make recommendations for our guest, and ultimately relax more during our wedding trip, not feeling pressure to explore the island in addition to everything else happening.
We understand this may not be financially possible (though go ahead and set up some price alerts), but definitely something to consider before committing to destination wedding.
Remember Your Location When Dress Shopping
You’re not going to be comfortable in a skin-tight, velvet dress on the beach in Maui mid-Summer. That’s just a fact.
Same goes for accessories. We were getting married in olive grove with uneven grassy ground so I made sure my shoes had fat heels (so as not to sink in the soft ground) and my veil was dress length so it didn’t get caught by a unexpected twig on my way down the aisle.
Front Load The Trip
In hindsight we wished we would have arrange the time frame everyone was in town a little differently. Have guests arrive, do the wedding events, and then spend the next couple days relaxing with everyone. Most of our guests came for a few days before the wedding, which still worked, but we had to duck out at some point everyday to finalize remaining wedding details and therefore didn’t get as much hanging out time as we had anticipated.
LeBraun and I arrived a couple days before our families which allowed us to unpack, get organized, run some errands, and make sure we didn’t forget anything. This also gave us time to put together the welcome bags, get our marriage license, finalize a few things with our vendors, and to decompress before everyone arrived.
Don’t Check Your Dress
I would even say anything that is vital, pack as carry on. Not all airlines have room in their closets to store your dress (especially if it’s poofy) so just be prepared. I kept my dress in its original cotton bag and purchase a waterproof extra wide suit bag to which carried my dress, folded in half), and LeBraun’s suit/shirt/pants.
My small roller bag had our shoes and accessories in it, as well as our rings and a couple sentimental gifts we had purchased for our parents.
That way if the worst happened, we would at least have our wedding attire.
Also be sure to arrange for your attire to be pressed upon arrival.
Send Things Ahead
Our planner allowed us to send some items directly to their office, which eliminated the need for us to bring it in our bags. However if the items are coming home with you after, just remember to leave room in your suitcase for them when you’re packing.
It was also helpful to make a list of what we were bringing, what the planner had, and what we were leaving with so we didn’t forget anything. You can’t just have someone run by your house if you forgot something.
Anything You DIY, You’ll Need to Pack
I’m a crafter and ended up doing a ton for our wedding. Just remember whatever you create you will need to transport. Items like our menus, programs, place cards, and itineraries were small enough to fit in our carry-on, but our large signage was easier, and more cost-effective, to purchase when we arrived on island and complete there.
If you have DIY tasks to do when you arrive, just remember to budget time to complete these.
Take Care Of Your Guests
Chances are if someone made the cut for your intimate destination wedding they mean a lot to you, so show them how much you care. They are taking the time and money to travel to celebrate you and your fiancé.
Greet them with a welcome bag filled with local and personal goodies, a list or map of activities to do while in town, itineraries for the weekend, and transportation to and from wedding-related events. These seemingly small gestures can really make your guests feel loved and valued.
For inspiration, check out fun things we put in our destination wedding welcome bags.
Communicate with Your Guests
Setting up a wedding website was a great way for us to share everything our guests needed to know, which in turn saved us time answering text messages about what to pack, where to eat where to be when, what to do, etc.
Consider a Room Block
Hotels will typically give you a discount if a certain number of rooms can be promised and filled. It’s a great way to save some money and often come with some perks. We were upgraded to a suite because we exceeded our room block minimum.
Depending on the location, Airbnbs or house rentals may be a more practical option. My family particular loves rooms with small kitchens or at least a fridge which allows us to keep breakfast foods and snacks on hand so we don’t spend as much money on food when we’re out and about.
If It’s Sunny, Watch Your Tan Lines
Sunscreen is your friend. You should be wearing it everyday anyway, but especially layer it on in advance of your wedding if your destination is sunny.
Less applicable for the groom in a full suit (minus his face), but us brides need to consider cut of our dress, especially on the top half. You don’t want a farmer t-shirt tan with your strapless dress or burnt criss-cross lines in your open-back dress. Doesn’t matter how cute that swimsuit is. Save it for after the wedding.
Request Less of Your Wedding Party
Nowadays attendants are expected to financially cover hotel, travel, attire, showers, gifts, and bachelor/bachelorette party. For many that is quite a financial burden, and with the general cost of hotel and travel being higher for a destination wedding, pitch in where you can. Let them know you don’t expect gifts from them or at least pay for your own drinks at your bachelorette party. You don’t want your best friends leaving the wedding broke.
Destination Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties
Good idea? Actually we think it’s a great idea! With the bridal party being spread across the U.S. it just made more financial sense for us to party in Maui. Everyone was already in town for the wedding (no separate travel needed) and we got to do something totally unique and local to the destination.
Recognize Party Investments
Sometimes the best cost saving ideas are an investment up front. For example, we purchased alcohol at Costco and even bought a blender. Margaritas at the hotel bar were priced at $18 and the blender cost $55 so for the cost of 2.5 hotel margs, our blender had paid for itself, and we were able to buy a couple handles of tequila and marg mix with the cash we saved.
Bring An Invitation For The Photographer
Everyone loves those photos of wedding bands on the invitations and if you want one for yourself, you’ve got to remember to pack one.
Be Flexible In Your Expectations
The best part of destination weddings is that the couple, families, and guests get to spend more time together than just during the event. Meet up at the bar, gather at the beach, or plan a group activity like hiking.
That being said, be careful not to over-book your guests. Everyone vacations differently so let them do their thing. Keep people posted on where you two are and what you’re up to, so they can join if they want but don’t feel pressured to be with you 24/7. Trust me, you’ll want your own time too. It’s quite tiresome coordinating and entertaining people constantly for multiple days. It’s unnecessary pressure.