Photo + Design


Destination Wedding Planning Checklist

Destination Weddings Abroad

Destination weddings continue to become increasingly popular. The idea of jetting off to a picturesque spot in Europe, a vibrant, tropical beach, or a historical chateau is nothing short of dreamy. And while destination weddings certainly do require quite a bit of logistical planning, it’s all worth it. Nothing compares to the experience of a destination wedding. After my first 10 Destination Weddings, I knew I had hit expert status and was excited to begin to put together This Destination Wedding Planning Checklist for any other couple considering a destination wedding.

General Planning Advice

With a destination wedding, it’s good to plan as far out as possible. This gives you, and your guests, the opportunity to budget and Save the Date for the big day. A year is advisable, but some of my couples have even begun planning at the year and a half to two-year mark. That’s not an absolute must if you have a smaller group or budgeting is not a factor in your planning.

I often advise getting legally married in your home-state during an intimate celebration to avoid the necessary research into legal marriages abroad. Martha Stweart really explains it well in her article Six Reasons to Get Legally Married Before your Wedding Day. Be sure to also take time to see what the requirements to enter the country are. After traveling for weddings during COVID, you absolutely learn to adapt and look ahead. The US Embassy clearly outlines what you need. Here are a few of my frequent destination requirements: Mexico, Spain, and Italy.

Your Destination Wedding Planning Checklist

The true beauty of wedding planning is that you truly have infinite options to make the big day your own. This destination wedding planning checklist is a condensed version of what I counsel my real couples on. For a little more information, I love the advice my friends over at Wed2b have! One piece of advice relevant to all couples is to keep budget in mind. Creating your wedding checklist is a key element of planning a budget, as it allows you to prioritize which aspects of your special day are worth spending the most money on. This helpful resource from Wed2B offers a complete guide to creating your wedding planning checklist and it can easily be adapted to suit any aesthetic and location.

If you’d like to stay within the United States, but still travel and wow guests, use Breezeit to help find your wedding! Breezeit is a no-cost platform that makes it a breeze for couples-to-be to plan their dream weddings.

Beach Wedding Ideas for Ceremony

Ten Months to a Year Out:

  • Determine your budget. Remember to factor in travel expenses, such as airfare, insurance and visa fees.
  • Narrow down a wedding location and a season. Be aware of the rainy and tourist seasons.
  • Choose a wedding planner. This is often through your resort, but there’s also merit to hiring your own destination wedding planner.
  • If possible, schedule a scouting trip.
  • Create the guest list. With a destination wedding, about 40% of guests will be able to attend.
  • Choose your wedding party. It’s good to ensure they all have enough time to save for the trip.
  • Send save-the-dates. The earlier the better for destination weddings.

Eight to Ten Months Out:

  • Renew your passports, apply for visas and look into destination-specific marriage laws and other entry requirements, like vaccinations.
  • Select vendors for flowers/decor, transportation, cake and entertainment. Typically, this is done with your venue coordinator and these should be locals.
  • Choose an officiant.
  • Select your destination photographer. It is often the same price to hire a destination photographer over a local one.
  • Find your wedding dress!
  • Investigate any ethnic customs or cultural traditions you might want to incorporate into your event.
  • Register for gifts or create a honeymoon registry. Recently, I’ve had guests use to even do wedding day registries for experiences on the trip.

unique Sunset wedding photos

Six to Eight Months Out:

  • Research group excursions; typically, the rehearsal dinner day is a great time to do one
  • Research accommodations for guests and reserve a block of rooms.
  • Launch your wedding website with registry.
  • Look into some Facebook groups for support and advice.
  • If you haven’t already begun working with a travel agent, we love 100 Palm Travel & Events or Luxury Travel Boutique.
  • Order invitations to send out around 6-7 months

Four to Six Months Out:

  • Send invitations with plenty of resources for guest. Make sure your website is up-to-date.
  • Finalize florals, décor, rentals and cake.

destination Bride and Groom

Two to Four Months Out:

  • Plan the welcome party and rehearsal dinner.
  • Finalize menus.
  • Confirm the hair-and-makeup trial and day-of-appointments.
  • Send schedule of group events.
  • Schedule dress fittings. Do this closer to four months prior.

One Month Out:

  • Write your wedding vows!
  • Choose welcome-bag goodies, guest favors and gifts for the wedding party.
  • Create a timeline with your planner and photographer.
  • Finalize ceremony programs and other stationery and signs.
  • Nail down the playlist with the DJ.
  • Confirm honeymoon plans and travel itineraries with your travel agent.
  • Ship items in advance to avoid holdups at customs. Often your hotel will accept on your behalf.

On Arrival:

  • Meet with your planner and officiant to review the timeline, event spaces and ceremony.
  • Distribute welcome bags to your guests’ rooms.

Wedding Destination Photography

Before you begin your search for the perfect destination photographer, you will want to really understand the value of wedding photography. One reason to invest in a true wedding expert as your photographer is they will be knowledgeable enough to help you create a wedding timeline for your day – one that you can actually follow.” My greatest joy is to help you slow down and be fully present on your wedding day. Your experience is what matters most to me.

A Mexico resort Photographer can cost up to $7,000 for an older style of photography. If you are looking for a very traditional, posed and true-to-color style, this is an easy option for you! However, if you book your own photographer with accommodations, you will likely save money. Above all, your own personal photographer will ensure the entire weekend is photographed – from arrival to the last sunset. Our couples have custom wedding collections that perfectly fit their wedding’s needs.

To book your own Destination Wedding Photography today, or to learn more about Alexandra Robyn and her photography services, click here.

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