Groom Duties

Top Destination Wedding Planning Hacks

So you and your fiancé have decided on a destination wedding. Bold! You guys are not messing around: a destination wedding is the gazelle flip of marriage ceremonies: tricky to pull off, but glorious when everything goes right. But to make it go right, you gotta put some extra energy into planning. Read on, you man of action.

Come Up With A Budget And Stick To It

Destination weddings can be cheaper (generally the ceremony will be smaller, because you’ll be inviting less people). But you can also find yourself in a situation where expenses can unexpectedly soar. Somewhere between “yes” and picking your destination, you and your fiancée eed to come up with a reasonable budget. Then you have to stick with it through all the steps that follow.

Work with a Local Vendor and Travel Agent

Listen, we’re all for taking advantage of the amazing resources the Internet has to offer. Hell, we’re one of those resources. But because you are basically planning a campaign in a foreign territory, you want someone who knows the terrain. They do this all the time, so they’ll have a checklist in their head that might take you days to put together yourself–and even then you’d probably miss something. Sure, you’ll have to pay them, but in the end it will probably save you money. It will certainly save you time and spare you a good deal of avoidable stress.

Scout Out Your Location

A bride emerges from a tent in her wedding dress
Photo by Priscila Valentina

You think Martin Scorsese ever starts filming in a location he’s never seen before? You can definitely plan your destination wedding from a distance–especially if you heed our advice and hire a local planner. But you can swing it, take a trip to scope things out before you commit to the location for the Biggest Day of Your Lives.

Lock It In Yesterday…

Book your destination AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Here’s why: you are not the only couple in the world that thinks getting married on the sugar sand beaches of Playa Bavaro in the Dominican Republic in March.

In fact, on any given weekend you choose for any given location that interests you, you should assume that 100 other couples had the same thought. Remember that people sometimes book this shiz years in advance. Don’t get discouraged if your first (or second, or third…) choice is unavailable, move to the next choice and get it booked.

…And Then Let Your Guests Know ASAP

Destination weddings generally have much smaller guest lists than close-to-home ones. While that means you don’t have to send out 200 invitations, you do need to let the 20-or-so people closest to you know when and where your wedding will be. They too need to make proper arrangements – booking flights and hotels, getting the time off of work, saving up a little extra scratch, etc. The more advance notice you give them, the easier it is for them to make it happen.

Make Them Glad They Came 

A wedding party poses in front of and on top of a red VW van.
Photo by Cassie Rosch

If you’re dragging people to some exotic locale for your wedding and justifying it by saying, “Hey, it’s a vacation for you, too!” then you better make good on that.

Guests should not have to think about anything themselves. Work with a travel agent on some optional group tours or individual activities, or to put together a comprehensive guide of things to do/sights to see near everyone’s lodging. Work out transportation options to get people to and from the ceremony and reception. You can even plan a day for everyone to enjoy some sort of adventure together (for which you will have to pick up the tab, of course).

The point is: don’t force people to fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to honor your marriage and not take their own comfort and enjoyment into consideration.

Plan For Bad Weather

Sure, you are a type-A personality who considers himself the master of his fate. But not even you–decisive, powerful, tremendous you–can control the weather. But you can plan for it.

Even if your perfect beach wedding gets rained out, an indoor, beach-adjacent wedding in the middle of a dramatic tropical storm can be just as lovely. At least that’s what you need to tell your fiancée, over and over and over again. “The weather doesn’t matter as long as we still have each other, darling.” Maybe she’ll believe you. Maybe she’ll just pretend. Bottom line: have a bad weather contingency plan you’re both happy with.

Know That People Are Going To Complain, Because: People

Your family and friends love you, but because they are human beings, they also love to complain.

No matter how fabulous the destination or how spectacular a deal you got on group vacation packages or how much pre-planning you do on their behalf, people are still going to grouse. “The hotel is so expensive,” and “I’m using half my vacation days for this,” and “Why can’t you just get married at the VFW Hall like your mother and I did” are all variations of things you can expect to hear–unless all of your family and friends are independently wealthy, or retired, or funemployed. We don’t have any advice for this–we’re not therapists, you know. Just expect it and have your most generically diplomatic answer available at the ready.

Plan A Second Reception For Everyone Back Home

This does not have to be a big Thing. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars. A backyard barbecue or cocktails and cucumber sandwiches in someone’s house will do just fine.

Make A Checklist

There are hundreds of To-Do list apps out there, anyone of which you could use to help keep track of the things you need to do. The revolution in office productivity software can be used just as easily for this project as for any professional one you undertake. This time your your “team members” are you, your fiancée, your travel agent and anyone else who’s helping you.

—Nicole Rupersberg

Bottom Line

A destination wedding can be amazing and memorable–but only if you keep yourself organized and on point. Try to wing this and you’ll regret it. Hard.

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