5 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding
Lindsay Foerster

Do you dream of getting married in a picturesque location? A recent study published by theKnot.com reveals that 24% of couples are ditching the traditional ceremony and its location for a more intimate affair with their closest friends and family in attendance. Planning a destination wedding can be overwhelming. These tips will ensure that your walk down the aisle is much more pleasant.

Choose the Right Destination

First, choose the right destination.  The Caribbean and Mexico are among the most popular regions for destination weddings in the world. It is important to note that each country within the region has its own geographical makeup, climate, and culture. Thus, traveling to Jamaica for an October destination wedding will warrant a different experience than that of Mexico in mid-July.  Likewise, traveling to The Bahamas in September will differ from Costa Rica in January.  (More about this in the next tip.)

Brides and grooms should also consider the legality of a destination wedding in the country of their choice. There are two types of ceremonies that can be performed.  There is a legal ceremony and a symbolic ceremony. A legal ceremony, or civil ceremony, is recognized in the United States as well as the country in which the bride and groom wed.  Furthermore, a legal ceremony is legal and binding. A symbolic ceremony is not legally recognized in the United States, nor in the country in which the ceremony is performed.  A symbolic ceremony is just that – symbolic.

In many of the Caribbean countries a civil ceremony is a simple process. The bride and groom must meet residency requirements (arriving to the country 24-72 hours prior to the ceremony date) and submit the proper paperwork and forms of identification to receive a marriage license. In Mexico, for example, a legal ceremony is slightly different. Brides and grooms are required to get blood work completed while meeting the 96 business hour residency requirement. A large portion – the legal portion – of the ceremony is also performed in Spanish.

Civil versus Symbolic? Many brides and grooms will legally wed in the countries where the hoopla of marrying does not overshadow the fun that goes into planning the destination wedding. In countries where the marriage requirements are more strict, such as Mexico, many choose a symbolic ceremony whereby they legally wed prior to departing for the destination wedding. The best part about choosing a symbolic ceremony in a country with strict requirements? Unless you tell your guests, no one will know the difference.

Timing is Everything!

Second, timing is everything!  When does it rain the most? When is it the warmest? What about hurricanes? How warm is the ocean/sea water? These questions are important to consider and can oftentimes be overlooked during the planning process. A bride and groom who are looking for a cool, breezy afternoon on the beach in Mexico in May or June will be very disappointed if they did not consider the climate, as it is very hot and humid during that time. It’s definitely not all about the weather though.

Understanding the difference between and date ranges for high travel season and low travel season will also be beneficial in planning a destination wedding. For instance, high travel season is Mid-December to Mid-April when airfare ​is the easiest to come by and resorts and prices are at their peak. Low travel season, mid-April through mid-December, is a great option for many brides and grooms who would like to wed during the North American summer vacation or would like to take advantage of some of the lower price points that are offered by the resorts. Above all, there are perks to both seasons so unless a bride and groom have a set date, neither should be discounted.  The best timeframe will most likely be chosen based on weather and price point for the guests to attend.

Dress the Part

Third, it’s important to dress the part.  When choosing wedding attire for a destination wedding, keep in mind the destination and the time of year. Wearing a heavy dress on the beach when it is 90-100F will not make for a happy bride. Keep the groom’s attire in mind, too. The dress is important – but ultimately, a comfortable groom is the only kind of groom to have. Instead of black attire, many brides elect to go with creams and shades of gray to keep the gentlemen cooler, and linen is always a plus.  Also, brides and grooms (and everyone in the wedding party) should travel with attire in hand, so that it is not misplaced in transit.

Get Help

Fourth, reach out to the experts and get help.  No one expects a bride to plan her wedding on her own, let alone her destination wedding! Choose a destination wedding travel professional to assist with the planning and booking process for your big day. Their expertise will keep travel itineraries organized – just imagine trying to keep track of the flight times and schedule changes for 20 or 30 or even 80 guests from around the globe for your big day. No need to stress – that is what travel experts are for! The connections they have within the industry will also aid in receiving more amenities and inclusions for your big day – contract negotiation, if you will. When hiring a travel professional to assist in planning a destination wedding, make sure to hire a no fee agency. There is no need to pay more for the assistance of a destination wedding professional when you simply do not have to do so.

Choosing the right destination wedding specialist? Destination wedding travel professionals should be well-versed in assisting through the entire process of booking the destination wedding. From travel arrangements to ceremony details, a good destination wedding professional will be there to help accomplish every task related to the big day!

Traits that are important to look for in a destination wedding expert are as follows: Communicator – make sure that the professional communicates in such a way that the bride and her family/friends are not confused by any of the details that are relayed. Booking a destination wedding can be overwhelming and confusing enough – so the professional must be able to help break down the process into easy steps that are not quite so overwhelming! Providing a destination wedding timeline from which to work is helpful to make sure that every task is being accomplished on time. Communication is essential. With that being said, brides must also realize that international destination weddings do take time to plan, so patience is key. Confidence – It is always important to work with someone who is confident in what they are doing. If they are not familiar with destination weddings because they only plan one or two a year, it might be a good idea to look for someone who is a little more skilled or has a niche/certification in this particular field. In many states, travel agents do not have to be licensed to sell travel, so if they are not certified as a destination wedding specialist, there are a lot of details they may miss when helping with the big day!​ Ultimately, the key is choosing someone with whom the bride and groom feel comfortable working.

Ready, set, GO!

Lastly, there is no time like the present to begin planning a destination wedding. Keep in mind that international vendors live on what is commonly referred to as “island time.” If that term is unfamiliar – simply put, they may not be so quick to respond, so it is imperative that the bride and groom begin the process early. When booking early, destination wedding travel experts have access to better travel rates, which can save the bride and her guests money.

The trends suggest that destination weddings will continue to increase in popularity over the next few years, and even more so in a post-pandemic world.  In the first month of 2021, Foerster Travel has as many destination weddings on the books as were planned throughout the entire 2019 calendar year (we are not considering 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns).  Brides and grooms are finding themselves soaking up the sun while the professionals take care of the rest. So, dive right in! It’s time to begin planning a destination wedding experience of a lifetime.


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