How to plan a destination wedding: bride and groom happily looking at each other

Planning a destination wedding is an experience like no other. There’s so much to consider — from what the legal requirements are to how many guests you want to invite. If you’re wondering how to plan a destination wedding the easy way, you’re in the right place.

We’re here to help you with tips on how to plan a destination wedding from start to finish. From finding the perfect location and selecting vendors to creating an unforgettable experience for your guests, discover how to make your dream destination wedding a reality.

How to Plan a Destination Wedding: 15 Tips from Start to Finish

Before you can enjoy your special day, you’ve first got to plan it. Here’s how to plan a destination wedding like a pro thanks to our expert wedding planning tips and destination wedding ideas.

1. Determine Your Wedding Budget

Destination wedding costs can be considerably higher than your average hometown wedding, so creating a wedding budget is essential. Sit down with your significant other and work out how much you can spend, where you need to cut costs, and which areas you definitely want to splurge on. 

Having a wedding budget breakdown is essential when you’re figuring out how to plan a destination wedding. This will give you a clear picture of what you’ll be spending for your big day without getting in over your head.

2. Hire a Destination Wedding Planner

For most weddings, a wedding planner isn’t a must-have — but for a destination wedding, hiring a local wedding planner can be an incredibly smart investment. Destination wedding planners have years of experience dealing with various logistics, and they can assist with the complexities of the destination wedding planning process. 

For instance, they can help you find a local officiant, navigate language barriers, recommend vendors, and be there on the ground to scope out ideas and potential challenges.

3. Decide on Your Dream Destination

How to plan a destination wedding: Italian Street Invitation

Design: Becky Nimoy Stationery

Once you set your budget, you can start thinking about where you want to host your special day. To decide on your destination wedding location, spend some time together dreaming up your ideal destinations. Then, research potential locations online or with the help of your wedding planner. 

A beachside wedding in the Caribbean or Mexico will look very different than planning your nuptials at a castle in Italy or a fjord in the Netherlands, so this step of the process will help you narrow down your ideas and put them into motion. It’ll also help you find a fun matching destination wedding invitation, like this Italian Street design that you can customize with your own details.

4. Select Your Wedding Venue

With your ideal location in mind, you can enjoy one of the most fun parts of the wedding planning process — finding the perfect place for your wedding ceremony and reception. Consider the options available in your chosen location, then build a shortlist to find your perfect wedding venue based on your wants and needs. If you can, tour the venues well ahead of time — or ask your local wedding planner to do this on your behalf.

5. Sort Out Your Insurance and Other Necessary Paperwork 

Every wedding comes with paperwork and legal requirements, but these can get confusing and more complex with a destination wedding. Seek advice on exactly what you’re required to do ahead of your wedding for your chosen location so you have everything sorted ahead of your wedding date. Make preparations for your marriage license, have your passports ready, and consider investing in wedding insurance that specifically covers destination weddings.

6. Create Your Guest List

Unless you have a major budget, your destination wedding guest list is likely to be significantly smaller than a traditional wedding. Creating a wedding guest list within your budget will ultimately create more of a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Include your family members, close friends, and wedding party — with plus-ones only if there’s space. And if you’re really disappointed that you can’t invite everyone on your dream list, you can always host a post-nuptial celebration back home (more on this idea later).

7. Book a Pre-Wedding Trip

While you should always plan for the unexpected on your wedding day, a pre-wedding visit can help you uncover any potential problems so you can fix them ahead of time. If you can, plan a trip to your chosen location at least a month before the big day. 

Tour the venue, meet with your wedding planner and wedding vendors, and discuss any potential last-minute snafus that you can address. This way, you’ll get a feel for what your wedding day will look and feel like.

8. Keep Your Wedding Attire Practical

It’s your big day, so you don’t need to feel bound by rules or expectations when it comes to what you wear. But it’s important to consider the fabrics and styles you choose for your wedding dress(es), suit(s), and the wedding party’s outfits. 

While a floor-length ball gown might look stunning, it’s likely to be impractical for a beach wedding. Heavy fabrics offer little breathability for humid climates, and you’ll also need to consider any cultural norms of your chosen destination. Be sure to share guidelines about your wedding dress code on your invitations so guests can plan accordingly.

9. Consider Going All-Inclusive

One of the biggest challenges with planning a destination wedding is selecting the right vendors and hotel. While having a local wedding planner can ease this pain, planning the whole thing yourself can quickly eat up your time. 

To simplify the process, consider choosing an all-inclusive wedding package with your venue and using their suggested caterers, photographers, videographers, florists, and stylists. Not only does this get these items off your wedding checklist, but it can help your special day run more smoothly with everything handled in one place.

10. Plan a Series of Events

If your destination wedding takes place far from home, it makes sense to turn your wedding day into a full weekend or mini getaway. Use this as an opportunity to host a series of events for your loved ones or create a suggested itinerary for their time with you. Host a rehearsal dinner or welcome party, plan an afternoon of games, or suggest you all watch the sunset together before the celebrations come to a close.

11. Invite Your Guests Early

Into the Tropics Invitation

Design: Robinson Creative House

While you’re figuring out how to plan a destination wedding, don’t forget that your guests will need to plan too. Attending a destination wedding takes time and money on your guests’ parts. Destination wedding etiquette suggests you send your wedding invites out three to four months in advance to give your guests as much notice as possible.

When it comes to choosing your invites, digital destination wedding invites — like this stunning Into the Tropics design — make an ideal choice. They’re fully customizable, so you can get that bespoke look without taking precious funds away from your wedding budget. 

Choose your colors and fonts, and add photos to create an invite that feels as special as the two of you. Our online invitations are also practical, allowing you to share additional details and easily track RSVPs so you can cut down on pre-wedding admin.

12. Help Your Loved Ones Plan Their Trip

After your wedding guests have sent their RSVPs, they might be wondering what to do next. Help smooth over any anxiety about planning a trip by providing relevant and thoughtful advice and support. 

Create a wedding website and share information on the best places to save on airfare, how to book with your hotel room blocks, and the best ways to navigate around the location. Provide details on the paperwork they’ll need, how to prepare for their travels, and even what kinds of restaurants they’ll find nearby. If this amount of planning feels overwhelming, ask your wedding party for support in researching and creating your wedding website. You’ll have enough going on! 

13. Welcome Your Guests with a Gift

Set the tone for a festive celebration by having a welcome bag for each guest when they arrive. Create a bag or basket filled with care essentials and treats — like fresh local fruits, sweets, skincare, and maybe even painkillers for the morning after your reception. Leave these in your guests’ rooms or hand them out at your welcome party.

14. Showcase Local Food, Decor, and Culture

If you’ve traveled far for your destination wedding, you might be somewhere that has a different culture than your own. Use this as an opportunity to introduce your loved ones to all the amazing things your destination has to offer. A locally-sourced wedding menu, traditional decor from the region, and other cultural elements will add more meaningful layers to your special day.

15. Host a Wedding Reception Back Home

Lemon Orchard Invitation

Design: frau brandt

While all your loved ones wish they could join you for your dream wedding, sometimes it’s just not possible. Create an opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate by hosting a wedding reception in your hometown after your honeymoon. 

Choose an affordable venue or a great outdoor space, like a family backyard. Invite everyone over for a BBQ and drinks or a garden party, and use this sweet Lemon Orchard invitation to ask your guests to join you.

Plan the Destination Wedding of Your Dreams

When you’re wondering how to plan a destination wedding, it can be tough to know where to start. Use this guide as a checklist to help you cover all the bases, uncover your best ideas, and plan your ideal destination wedding.

Once you’ve got the basics sorted, use our destination wedding invitations to share the news about your upcoming nuptials, track RSVPs, and send updates all from one central location. By simplifying the planning process, you can enjoy more moments leading up to your dream destination wedding and well beyond.