Groom Duties

8 Things To Remember When Planning Your Destination Wedding

(with a little help from Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We don’t often quote philosophers here at The Plunge, but recently we stumbled on a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it struck a chord. Old Ralph Waldo was married twice, you see, so he knew a thing or two about weddings. We looked through his works in order to figure out his take on destination wedding hacks–and, despite having been written over 150 years ago–a lot of it is surprisingly relevant.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

If you thought mustering up the courage to pop the question was tough, wait until you and your fiancée start planning a destination wedding. This type of wedding is amazing, but putting it together combines all the complexity of both a regular wedding and a honeymoon.

Make sure you agree on what you’re doing. You’re certain you both want a destination wedding? You both are totally into the location? Great. Grab her hand, dive in together, and try to remember to have fun.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

A bride has a taco in the back of the limo with her groom

Do your destination wedding your way, not someone else’s. For a start, this means embracing your own budget with honesty. If you don’t have Russian oligarch money, don’t let yourself be talked into throwing a Russian oligarch wedding.

You and your wife-to-be can have a magnificent destination wedding on a budget. For a start, look at “all-inclusive” packages. All inclusive doesn’t have to mean an all-you-can-eat buffet table with sliced melon, damp ham, and pudding. That downscale rep is outdated.

Do a little research online—start at Destinations like Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico offer really elegant wedding packages to impress even your most discriminating aunt or in-law. They also are great places for your honeymoon: you’ll save money if you combine the two locations.

Take no shame in the limits of your own bank account.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

In other words, follow that rogue streak that got you to consider a destination wedding in the first place. You have the freedom to add unconventional touches to your ceremony: it’s much easier to tweak the typical customs and rituals of a wedding when your guests are sitting on a sandy beach or perched on log benches in the mountains. Mail-order ministers, your dog as best man, fire breathers prior to the kiss—go where this is no path!

Of course, in a literal sense, you do want a path–an easy one, since your guests do need to reach the ceremony, and older relatives might not be so light on their feet.

This applies as much to the digital space as to the physical location. With a destination wedding, it’s particularly important to create a wedding website that includes all the information your guests will need–how to get there, where to stay, etc. There are a lot of platforms that allow you to create a wedding site, like, to say nothing of general web services like

Some scholars argue that when he wrote ‘leave a trail,’ he meant go straight from your destination wedding to your honeymoon in the same locale. It’s a brilliant bit of BOGO savings. Ralph Waldo for the win!

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

Three men celebrate at the wedding reception.

This is probably Ralph Waldo’s most important bit of destination wedding advice. Be considerate.  This destination wedding is your dream, not the dream of your guests and family who will still have to pay to travel to the event.

Tell your potential groomsmen where the wedding will be before you ask them to be in your wedding party. It gives them an opportunity to gracefully beg off.

Don’t take it personally if even close friends can’t afford to make the trip. If their presence is absolutely essential, you may have to help fund the trip for them.

Once there, remember that your friends and family have committed serious funds to be with you on this golden day. Show some appreciation, i.e.:

* Wedding favors are especially crucial at destination weddings. Make sure there is something nice awaiting your guests in their rooms when they arrive.
* Give all guests a detailed schedule of the proceedings, along with a lists of things they can do on their own time. You don’t want to have to babysit them, after all–nor do you want them to get lost and miss the ceremony.
* Make the rehearsal dinner open to every guest, not just the bridal party.
* Try to get a deal on hotel rooms. Use this site or negotiate directly with the hotel.
* Employ an app like so you can keep track of not just your own travel details, but those of your wedding party, too.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

If you’re the type who wants to really create an event from scratch, Ralph Waldo says go for it. But expect to spend more time and possibly more money, too.

Maybe you want to create a special event at the summer camp where you met, or celebrate at an annual pumpkin hurling competition. Get on the phone and see what you can build. If you’re not sure what you want, start browsing at a site like the Venue Report, or poke around on an app like that can help you make the arrangements.

Also, you might have to venture into the scary world of the wedding industrial complex to experiment with apps specially designed for wedding planning, such as: – to make your website – to do all the planning – to find a locale. The real weddings tab offers lots of suggestions for destination weddings.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

Man in a blue suit

Know yourself and plan accordingly. If you don’t handle stress well, best to make sure any destination wedding takes place in a country where you speak the language.

A destination wedding by necessity will shrink your guest list. You need not invite all those co-workers so boring they make your eyes water, the fraternity brothers you only pretended to like in college, or the distant cousin who just sits in the corner and stares awkwardly at you.

Another aspect that could prove peaceful: There are unheralded advantages to a destination wedding. By their very nature a destination wedding can quell any squabbling between the soon-to-be in-laws because nobody has home field advantage. Even the most imperious mother-of-the-bride is on strange new footing when the wedding is thousands of miles from her home base.

“To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Your destination wedding will be great, but Ralph Waldo reminds us that even greatness has its downsides. As mentioned, fewer of your friends will be able to come, and that could create friction. Handle that tension with kid gloves—remember they’re salty because they can’t join you at your wedding. That’s nice.

Misunderstandings are inevitable; take it all in stride. Even in English speaking countries, cultural barriers are bound to create awkward gaffes. What seems tacky in Chicago could be the height of glamour in Caracas.

The worst possible misunderstanding, of course, is the realization that you and your bride are not actually legally wed. Make sure your marriage will be legal in the country where it happens.

—Alix Clyburn

Bottom Line

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

That’s marriage, my friend. That’s life. Be brave, new groom—you have a destination wedding to conquer.

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