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ultimate guide to destination weddings

Your Ultimate Guide to Destination Weddings (2024)

Feeling a little overwhelmed?

We get it…

Planning a destination wedding can make you a little cooky.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help.  🙌

Our team of planners live & breathe destination weddings, so you’re in good hands.

This guide has everything you need…

You’ll explore locations, venue options, costs, timelines. (the works)

Ready to start planning your dream day?

Let’s dive in!

Ultimate Guide to Destination Weddings

1. Why Have A Destination Wedding?

There are many reasons why you might choose to have a destination wedding.

destination weddings

Some of the most popular reasons include:

  • Celebrating with distant friends & family 
  • Having a 1-of-a-kind wedding that reflects their personality
  • Taking advantage of an amazing location they couldn’t afford to host a traditional wedding in
  • Saving some moola

2. When Should I Start Planning My Destination Wedding?

The best time to start planning your destination wedding is about 12-18 months before the date.

It’ll give you enough time to book flights & hotels and make arrangements for catering & entertainment.

planning destination weddings

If you’re on a tight timeline, don’t worry – you can still plan a destination wedding in as little as 6 months!

Just be prepared to make some compromises for the big day.

3. Are Destination Weddings Legal?

Destination weddings are recognized as legal and/or legitimate.

Each country has its own requirements.

Usually, couples get legally married back home and have a religious or symbolic ceremony at destination.

It’s important to do your research and understand the local laws before you finalize any plans.

legal destination weddings

Get more details on how to legally get married in Mexico.

4. How Do I Start Planning My Destination Wedding?

Creating a checklist is the best way to start planning your destination wedding.

Here’s a basic checklist of what you’ll need to consider…

destination weddings planning

Your Destination Wedding Checklist

✓ Location

The 1st step in planning your destination wedding is choosing the perfect location.

To start planning, include:

  • Your budget
  • The number of guests
  • The type of atmosphere you want

Not sure where to start?

Here are a few popular destination wedding locations:

1. Mexico

Mexico is a popular destination for weddings due to its stunning beaches & affordable prices.

Some popular Mexican spots include Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, & Puerto Vallarta.

beach wedding viceroy riviera maya

Thinking of getting married here?

Check out our complete guide to planning a destination wedding in Mexico.

2. Caribbean

The Caribbean is another popular destination for weddings for its tropical climate & beautiful beaches.

Popular Caribbean destinations include Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia.

beach wedding reception

3. Italy

If you’re looking for a romantic European destination wedding, Italy is a great choice.

Some popular Italian wedding destinations include Rome, Venice, and Tuscany.

italy destination weddings

4. Australia

If you’re looking for a unique location, Australia is a great option.

Some popular Australian wedding locations include Sydney, the Gold Coast, and Byron Bay.

australia destination weddings

✓ Budget

Once you’ve chosen your wedding location, it’s time to start planning your budget.

Your budget will depend on many factors, including:

  • The type of venue you choose
  • Length of your stay
  • The type of catering you require

destination weddings budget

To help you get started, here are some estimated costs for a destination wedding:

Venue: $500 – $5000.

Hotel Accommodations: $100 – $400/night per room.

Airfare: $200 – $1000/person, depending on your location.

Catering: Varies depending on your options – most wedding packages include it.

Photography/Videography: Varies – some wedding packages include it.

Entertainment: Varies depending on the type of entertainment – popular packages include it.

How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Small Budget

If you’re on a tight budget, there are a few things you can do to keep costs down.

counting american money

Here are a few tips:
  • Look into free wedding packages – many 5-star resorts offer them!
  • Choose a less popular destination 
  • Stay at a local hotel or Airbnb instead of renting out an entire villa
  • Have a more casual reception with light snacks instead of a full meal
  • Cut your stay short

✓ Guests

Now it’s time to start thinking about who you want to invite.

It’s important to think about who will make the most impact at your wedding.

Some factors to consider when choosing your guests include:

1. The Location

If you’re having your wedding in Mexico, for example, you may want to invite all of your friends & family since it’s a short distance from the U.S. & Canada.


But if you’re getting married in Italy, you may only want to invite guests who are able to travel to Europe.

2. The Budget

If your budget is tight, you may want to limit the number of guests you invite.

3. The Relationship With Your Guests

If you only want close friends & family at your wedding, you may not want to invite co-workers or distant relatives.

100 person wedding

Do Guests Pay for Destination Weddings?

Guests generally do not pay for destination weddings.

The cost of a destination wedding is typically split between the couple and their guests.

destination weddings guests

This means that guests are responsible for their own travel, food & accommodation costs.

What Should I Do If Some of My Guests Can't Make It?

If some of your guests can’t make it to your destination wedding, don’t worry!

There are a few things you can do:

  • Have a smaller ceremony with just the people who are able to attend
  • Hold the ceremony & reception at different locations
  • Send out digital invitations which allow guests to watch the ceremony online

zoom call

✓ Book Your Airfare & Accommodations

Now it’s time to start booking your airfare & hotel.

This can get expensive, so be sure to start planning early so you get lower rates.

iberostar paraiso lindo weddings

Keep in mind that many resorts offer a discounted rate when you reserve a number of rooms!

So starting a group chat with your guests to share info would be a good idea!

✓ Book Your Wedding Venues

If you’re having both a ceremony & reception, you will need to find wedding venues that can accommodate both events.

catholic ceremony

Many popular destination wedding locations have exclusive wedding venues that can only be booked by couples getting married at the location.

Be sure to book your venue as soon as possible, as spaces fill up quickly.

✓ Hire A Wedding Planner if You're Not Local

If you’re not familiar with your destination, it’s a good idea to hire a local wedding planner.

A wedding planner can help you find the best vendors, navigate the local laws & customs, and help you stay on budget.

wedding planner

✓ Plan Your Ceremony

Do you want a formal ceremony or a more casual celebration?

Depending on your location, you may need to get special permits or licenses to hold your ceremony or reception.

Your wedding planner can help you with this process.

Also, you’ll need to decide on the type of food & drinks you want to be served at your wedding.

Most destination wedding packages are all-inclusive of food & drinks…

But in case you’re not a fan of the options, it’s good to have an idea of the local vendors.

You’ll also need to choose music for your ceremony & reception, as well as any other entertainment options.

And finally, you will need to choose your wedding attire.

But don’t worry, we have a complete guide to destination wedding attire for you, too.

✓ Send Out Invitations

It’s time to send out invitations!

Make sure to give guests plenty of notice, so they can book their airfare & hotel accommodations.

wedding invitations trends

Be sure to include the following info in your invitations:

  • Location
  • Date
  • Time
  • Dress code 
  • RSVP deadline
  • Any special instructions (i.e. passport or visa requirements)

What Should I Pack For My Destination Wedding?

There are a few general things you will likely need no matter where you go:

  • Passport & Visa (if required)
  • Legalized marriage certificate (if required)
  • Proof of return flight & accommodation
  • Cash or credit cards
  • Sunscreen & insect repellent
  • Appropriate clothing for the climate

packing suitcase

The longer you stay, the more expensive your destination wedding will be.

When it comes to destination weddings, the old saying “you get what you pay for” definitely holds true.

If you’re looking to have a luxurious, all-inclusive wedding, be prepared to spend big bucks.

However, if you’re willing to compromise on some of the finer details, you can have a beautiful destination wedding without breaking the bank.

Your Destination Wedding Planning Timeline

Now that you have a general idea of what needs to be done, let’s take a look at a wedding planning timeline:

12-18 Months Before the Wedding

  • Determine your budget & set realistic goals for what you can afford
  • Start researching locations & decide on a destination
  • Determine how many guests will be attending
  • Book transportation & accommodations 
  • Reserve venues for the ceremony & reception
  • Hire a wedding planner if you don’t want to do everything yourself
  • Start planning out the details of your wedding, such as the theme, colors, etc.
  • Order invitations & begin mailing them out

wedding invitations

11-12 Months Before the Wedding

  • Finalize the details & make sure everything is planned to perfection
  • Purchase wedding attire, accessories & gifts for your bridal party
  • Book hair & makeup appointments and send out final payments/deposits
  • Arrange for transportation to/from the airport & during the wedding weekend
  • Prepare a welcome bag for your guests with info about the area, local restaurants, etc.

bridesmaids wedding attire

6 Months Before the Wedding

  • Send out RSVPs & collect final numbers from guests
  • Purchase flowers & décor for the ceremony & reception venues
  • Order cake or catering service if necessary & send out final payments
  • Finalize details with your wedding planner
  • Begin packing for your honeymoon!

wedding cake

1 Month Before the Wedding

  • Make a list of what you need to do in the days leading up to the wedding
  • Pack for your trip & make sure you have everything you need
  • Get manicures, pedicures, & hair appointments booked
  • Meet with vendors (or get your planner to) 1 last time to go over all the details



1 Day Before the Wedding

  • Double-check that you have packed everything you need for your trip
  • Make a list of items to pack in your “emergency kit” 
  • Relax & enjoy your last day as a single person!

woman laying on sofa

Your Wedding Day

  • Have fun & enjoy your big day!

beach wedding

After the Wedding

  • Be sure to send thank you cards to everyone who attended or helped 

thank you cards

Now it’s planning your 1-year anniversary trip! 🙂

Useful Resources

Need Help Planning?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ve got your back.

Our wedding planners at can help take care of all the little details so you can relax and enjoy your big day.

Just give us a call at 877-737-0177 or contact us here.

Let’s start planning your dream day today!

Hi, I’m Najah! If you're planning a destination wedding in Mexico, I'm your girl. Our team of experts at help me create these posts to prepare you for magic! Whether you’re just looking for information or need help planning, we’ve got your back. Have any questions? Reach out in the comments below!

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