- Flickr/Kyle Taylor
- Destination weddings can seem like a dream, but it’s important to consider the logistics and expenses that go into planning one.
- If having all of your family and friends show up is important, a destination wedding may not be the best idea.
- Here are nine things people who had destination weddings wish they had known before their big day.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
While many people tie the knot in their hometowns, others decide to go off to another city or country for a destination wedding.
However, sometimes the fantasy sounds more appealing than the reality.
A recent survey of 1,502 Americans found that about 42% of respondents said that they may skip a destination wedding due to the cost of travel.
Destination weddings may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, pairing dreams of traveling the world and experiencing a new culture with family and friends. But they’re not for everyone, said Lauren Grech, cofounder and CEO of LLG Events, an international event management and design firm that specializes in luxury destination weddings.
“Destination weddings are a great choice for couples that are more laid-back with their wedding planning, as they often won’t get to see the venue or destination before their wedding, or meet all of their vendors in person prior to the celebration,” she told Business Insider.
We asked people who had destination weddings themselves what they wish they had known beforehand. Read on to see what they had to say.
Set a budget and make your travel plans accordingly.
Courtnie Nichols, founder and CEO of boutique travel company TravelBash, not only helps couples plan destination weddings, but also had one herself. She and her husband live in Gainesville, Florida, and their wedding was in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
When they got engaged they were living overseas, and Nichols said a destination wedding seemed easier, since they loved traveling anyway.
When it comes to destination weddings, her first piece of advice is to set a budget.
“People hate talking about this, but there are several free packages available to you, and every resort is ready to make a sale,” she said. “Once you have your vision set, figure out how much that is going to cost you and plan accordingly because there are little details you do not think of that add up quickly.”
Similarly, think about your location and time of year, she said. For instance, do you want a Caribbean wedding or a snowy wedding in the Alps? If you are looking at a Caribbean wedding, pay attention to high season from mid-December to mid-April, when prices will be higher.
“You can score deals in July, August, and September, but hurricane season runs from June to November,” Nichols said. “On the flip side, mid-June to August in Europe is high season and you will pay a premium, although the off-season is in the winter months.”
Don’t expect all — or even most — of your guests to attend.
Rachel Davidson lives in Chandler, Arizona, but she and her husband decided to get married in Half Moon Bay, California.
“The idea of a destination wedding came up, and we thought, what better way to make our wedding really feel like a once-in-a-lifetime event other than holding it in a place we and our guests had never been to?” she told Business Insider.
But early on during the planning phase, Davidson discovered that several of her close friends and relatives wouldn’t be able to make the trip, including three bridesmaids she had picked out before she was engaged. Out of 150 invited guests, 74 attended.
“For me, this was the biggest downside of a destination wedding – not being able to share your special day with all your loved ones,” she said. “They just couldn’t afford to travel to another state or country because of budget and time constraints. At this point, I kept wishing I’d win the lottery so I could afford to fly them all to my wedding.”
John Frigo, who lives with his wife in Chicago, said a lower turnout was something they had to accept with having their destination wedding in Negril, Jamaica.
“I never considered a non-destination wedding,” he told Business Insider in an email. “Personally, I don’t like being the center of attention, so I never wanted a big wedding with a lot of people. We both wanted something smaller.”
He said it was an intimate event and he didn’t have to make the rounds talking to everyone, so he actually got to enjoy himself. Frigo also said he loved that he didn’t have to handle all the prep work of organizing the event, since the hotel did it.
“But before having a destination wedding, I wish I would have known how few people would attend,” he said. “I realized that not everyone can get off work, not everyone has the money to spend, or wants to spend their money on a vacation I’d ‘chosen’ for them. Despite knowing all this going in, I was still a little disappointed that I didn’t have a better turnout.”
Expect some people to be upset that you chose to have a destination wedding.
Erica Jabali married her husband in a destination wedding in Maui, and said about 35 guests made the trip. She said to expect some people to be unhappy with your choice.
“Unless you are paying for guests’ travel and lodging, you have to be OK with people not attending, including very close relatives,” she said. “Of course, you have to also prepare yourself for people who will find it offensive that you had the audacity to have a destination wedding. Many people still see weddings as an event planned for the guests, rather than the couple getting married.”
Jabali said she just told herself that people are always going to be mad at something, so they might as well be 100% sure it was the right decision for her and her partner than compromise and still have people be unhappy.
Make sure you can legally get married in your destination wedding location.
- Shutterstock/Andrii Kobryn
Nichols said another thing to consider with weddings held abroad is whether you can actually get married there, or if you need to have a civil marriage ceremony in advance in your home country.
“Legal requirements differ depending on where you get married,” she said. “I got married in Mexico, but the legal wedding requirements caused for me to get blood drawn, and that was a no-no, as I am deathly afraid of needles. So this is something you will want to think about.”
As a compromise, Nichols said she and her husband chose to have a symbolic ceremony in Mexico instead and got legally married in their hometown the day before they left for Mexico.
“Also, on that note, because the primary language is not English in Mexico, if we would have gone through with the legal ceremony, the officiant would have been someone from the government and the ceremony would have been held in Spanish with a translator,” she said. “So if that’s not your cup of tea, you will want to look at residency requirements at home.”
Take into account all aspects of the wedding destination, including the weather and what you will wear.
Writer Briana Nixon and her husband live in Atlanta, but decided to get married in Destin, Florida, in September.
“I was obsessed with getting married on the beach,” she told Business Insider. “Destin was the winner because of the water on the Gulf and the clean sand, and I found the perfect reception venue located minutes away.”
She said although she had the time of her life, she has a few regrets, including getting married on a beach.
“It was like a light bulb went off in my head after we said ‘I do,'” she said. “I noticed how crowded the beach was and how close in proximity the ceremony site was to other beachgoers. For example, there were two older women sunbathing within 25 feet of us. I haven’t received my wedding photos back yet, but I am paranoid about seeing random people everywhere.”
On top of that, she said the sand and the wind got in the way as they were taking their wedding photos.
“I also couldn’t use my personalized aisle runner I’d spent so much time researching and customizing because the sand was too soft and it caused a tripping hazard,” she said.
Frigo also said to consider your wedding location when deciding what you and your future spouse are going to wear.
“If you’re getting married on the beach in a warm destination, don’t do the traditional suit or tux,” he said. “I wore a light pair of linen pants and a light shirt, and my wife Gia wore a sundress. We looked great and were comfortable.”
The next day, they saw another couple getting married at the hotel next to theirs – the guy was in a tux, the bride was in a traditional wedding dress, and they were dripping in sweat, Frigo said.
Nichols also said that besides taking the weather into account, take into account how you will transport all your wedding gear to your destination.
“Speaking of what you will wear, how will you get it to your destination?” she said. “A tip: Never check it – always carry it on.”
Expect to run into your guests during your honeymoon.
- KristianGjorgjiev/Getty Images
“When we said goodbye to our guests after the wedding, we meant it,” Davidson said. “What we didn’t expect was for their extended vacation plans to be identical with our honeymoon itinerary.”
For example, Davidson said she and her husband weren’t expecting the guests to join them scuba diving on the third day of their honeymoon. Nor were they expecting to share a breakfast with them at a remote beach restaurant.
“It was amusing and pleasing at first, but every time we ran into a familiar face from home, it kind of felt like less of a destination wedding,” Davidson said.
On a similar note, Nichols said to keep in mind if you want your wedding to be family-friendly or for adults only.
“Will you stay at the same resort for your honeymoon or honeymoon-hop to a different resort or island?” she said.
You will probably have to hire a wedding planner and other vendors — and you likely won’t meet them in person beforehand.
For her destination wedding, Jabali said they definitely needed a wedding planner.
“You have to have someone in the area who knows the vendors,” she said. “This not only helps with the logistics, but it’s important that the local vendors have a local relationship that they care about to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of.”
Nichols said a big thing to consider is what kind of help you’ll need to hire – like a wedding planner or a photographer. You should ask yourself, for example, if you’ll need a wedding planner that specializes in Bali weddings, and if you’ll fly your own photographer or use one employed by the resort. Similarly, will you hire someone to do your hair and makeup? Or perhaps a friend will be willing to help.
“These are big questions,” Nichols said. “I ended up bringing my photographer with me because that was one of my biggest must-haves, as I wanted to look back and document the weekend.”
She said, if possible, you should consider visiting your destination beforehand.
“If you can swing it, think about doing a site visit of the property and walking through all the details with everyone,” she said.
A lot of the planning will be out of your control.
- Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Wedding Paper Divas
Davidson said she’s a pretty obsessive person when it comes to planning things.
“You can only imagine the extra effort and energy I gave to planning my wedding,” she said. “Before flying out to our venue, I was confident I had everything covered, from the hotel accommodations of relatives down to making sure the local caterer does not serve anything that our guests are allergic to. But that’s never the case with a destination wedding, it seems.”
She said she had guests who missed their flights, or got their flights delayed and canceled, and her father-in-law’s bag was lost at the airport.
“Plus, the local band we hired backed out at the last minute,” Davidson said. “My husband-to-be spent the whole day before our wedding arduously consoling the Bridezilla-me.”
Jabali, too, said to expect that you won’t be able to plan or manage every change.
“While we loved our destination wedding and would do it all over again, we were surprised by how some of the vendors made changes without our consent,” she said. “For example, our cake maker changed the flavor of our cutting cake and the gift boxes of cookies were much smaller than the samples they provided when we booked them. And, the ‘highly recommended’ videographer literally fell over during our ceremony and didn’t edit the crash out of the video.”
She said the reality is that they are just not as concerned with referral business when it comes to destination weddings, because you don’t live there and can’t really do anything to impact their reputation.
“A destination wedding is more about capturing the essence and vibe of a particular place for your special day, and less about being able to control all of the tiny details. If you are the type that wants complete creative control and will lose sleep over any small detail gone awry, then a destination wedding is not for you,” Jabali said.
Keep in mind what is most important to you on your wedding day, such as being surrounded by family and friends.
- Flickr/Kyle Taylor
Nixon said that she’d tell people who are considering a destination wedding to first weigh what is truly important to them.
“If being surrounded by friends and family is important, consider the fact that not everyone will be able to afford to celebrate your day,” she said. “Travel expenses, lodging accommodations, and eating out is very costly, and with a destination wedding, you’ll have to spend at least a few days out in your destination before the actual wedding day to tie up loose ends.”
She also said that having only half of their family show up was a letdown, something she did not fully consider in advance.
“I wasn’t a Bridezilla or anything, but I did have the mindset that if I’m spending all this money, then I wanted my one day to be everything I envisioned,” she said.