A destination wedding comes in many different forms. It might be opulent or economical. It could be a massive, multi-day affair with hundreds of guests, or micro-sized, just for two. It could take place in a church, on a mountain, at the beach, or under a waterfall. Whatever style or setting you prefer, there really is a wedding destination somewhere in the world that’s just right for you.
And thanks to the sheer number of wedding and travel sites on the web, it couldn’t be easier to plan a wedding abroad. You can browse potential locations and venues, read reviews, get inspiration, get quotes, and plan every detail of your wedding day (or days!), all without racking up a single frequent flyer point.
However . . .
As exciting as it all sounds, destination weddings aren’t the right choice for everyone.
What is a Destination Wedding?
First of all, let’s define exactly what a destination wedding is.
A destination wedding is a wedding that takes place in a location away from your hometown. It can be in a different country, or it can be held within your own country however, an overnight stay is required. The wedding ceremony and reception both take place at the wedding destination but quite often, the couple will also hold an at-home reception for a larger number of guests, or for any guests who couldn’t travel. It’s also common for couples to either start their honeymoon at the wedding destination or even spend their entire honeymoon there.
A destination wedding can be a dream come true for many couples looking to tie the knot in a unique and memorable way. However, it’s important to carefully consider whether a destination wedding is right for you.
What to Consider When Planning a Destination Wedding
Before you get caught up in the excitement of planning your wedding in some fantastic, exotic locale, it’s important to understand the realities of getting married overseas. There are a number of unique issues that you’ll need to consider when planning a destination wedding.
1) Some Wedding Guests Won’t Be Able To Travel
If you’ve always imagined your wedding day as a huge celebration shared with all of your nearest and dearest, a destination wedding might not be the best choice. Depending on the size of your guest list, it’s fair to assume that some people won’t make it to your wedding. There can be lots of reasons for this. Perhaps they can’t afford the expense, maybe they can’t get the time off work, or maybe an elderly relative isn’t quite up to a long-haul flight.
There are ways around this of course, and it’s best to engage with important guests early on. This might involve offering to help with expenses or even choosing a date or destination that’s going to be accessible and affordable for all.
Another common solution is to plan an at-home reception and invite a larger number of guests. This can be as simple or as formal as you like and is a great way to ensure that everyone feels included in your celebrations.
2) You Will Be Planning Your Wedding Remotely
If you’re someone who has very specific ideas and you like to be across all of the details, a destination wedding might pose some challenges for you.
Unless you’re planning a pre-wedding visit, it won’t be possible to actually view table settings and floral arrangements, or sample the menu in person ahead of the day. Trust in your local wedding vendors is key when planning a destination wedding. So, if it’s important to you to manage every last detail, you may find that wedding planning quickly becomes a stressful process.
If you’re happy to relinquish a little control however, it’s entirely possible to view all of your options online, or even submit ideas of your own, all without the need for a pre-wedding trip. It’s also important to remember that local experience from your venue or planner can be invaluable. You may have always pictured walking down an aisle strewn with rose petals, but a carpet of freshly picked frangipanis could be a really lovely local touch and a lasting memory of your beautiful beach wedding.
3) Your Wedding May Not Be Legal
Another point to consider is that not all foreign marriages will be legally recognized in your home country. And of those that are, some may involve a very lengthy application process or have certain residency requirements prior to the wedding day.
Language can also be a factor when arranging legal paperwork, so it’s a good idea to work with a knowledgeable local wedding planner whenever possible. It’s also important to investigate the legal requirements as early as possible. Sometimes local authorities will ask for additional documents, or for your paperwork to be translated or certified. This can add weeks to the process, so you should always allow more time than you expect.
Sometimes it’s just not possible to meet all of the requirements for legal marriage at your destination. In this case, you still have the option of legally marrying at home, and holding a symbolic wedding ceremony at your destination. This is actually far more common than most people realize.
5 Signs That a Destination Wedding is the Perfect Choice for You
We all want our wedding day to be unique and truly memorable. And as far as wedding venues go, It’s hard to imagine a more spectacular setting than a private white sand beach in the Caribbean or a mountain top in France. If you’re seeking the ‘Wow’ factor on your big day- and let’s be honest, who isn’t? – a destination wedding might just be your perfect choice, if . . .
1) You Want A Wedding Day That’s Completely Unique
With a list of options as big as your imagination, a wedding like no other is guaranteed. Whether you choose to marry inside a church or opt for a completely unconventional location, your wedding day is certain to be unique. And if you’re able to incorporate some local cuisine or local experiences into your day, not to mention a few beautiful backdrops for your wedding photos, you will elevate your entire wedding from an event into an experience.
And speaking of the experience, everyone at your wedding will be in holiday mode. A group of happy, relaxed travelers at your wedding celebration equals an atmosphere unlike any you could create at home.
2) You’d Prefer An Intimate Wedding
Sometimes, guest lists can be stressful. There can be expectations around who gets an invite, and this doesn’t always align with who you actually want to share your wedding day with. And if you’re trying to keep a limit on numbers, it can be almost impossible to trim the guest list without sparking a major family, friendship, or workplace drama.
An enormous guest list not only adds to the expense but can prevent you from spending time with those who are truly important on the day. In this case, an overseas wedding might offer the perfect solution.
Because you’re likely to be spending a number of days together as a group, it’s usually far more acceptable to invite only very close friends and family to a destination wedding. Your boss may expect an invite to your at-home reception, but they probably wouldn’t want to join you on holiday for a week.
3) Cost Is A factor
Surprisingly, a destination wedding can be a more affordable option than a traditional wedding day at home. This depends on the destination of course, not to mention the size of your guest list.
As we’ve seen above, a smaller guest list can definitely limit your costs, but there are other potential savings too. You might benefit from the currency exchange rate, and local suppliers may be much more affordable. For example, a fireworks display might be unthinkable at home, but perfectly doable at a Thai beach wedding. Or a luxury villa might double as your accommodation and your wedding venue, making it a surprisingly affordable option.
4) The Wedding Destination Or Local Culture Is Important To You
Weddings are one of the most important events in our lives and choosing a location that is personal to you as a couple absolutely adds to the significance of the day. You might choose a destination that you’ve always wanted to visit together, or maybe one that you’ve enjoyed together in the past. Or you might want to continue a family tradition by marrying at a wedding venue that has some significance to your family.
You also have the opportunity to incorporate the location into your wedding day. This might mean including local cuisine or local customs into your wedding. It could also mean visiting multiple locations or local highlights on your wedding day, and having your wedding photos shot at various landmarks.
5) Your Family and Friends Live Overseas
Perhaps your families are located on opposite sides of the world, or perhaps some of your closest friends have moved away from home. If one or more of your important guests would need to travel to your wedding, it can sometimes be more simple or fairer for everyone to travel.
You might choose a mid-way point or even just a destination that everyone is keen to visit.
So, if you’ve considered the pro and cons, and you feel that a destination wedding is the right fit for you and your guests, your next decision is which spectacular backdrop to choose!
Factors to Consider When Choosing The Perfect Destination
When choosing the perfect location for your destination wedding, it’s crucial to do your research. Think about what kind of atmosphere you want to create and what activities you and your guests would enjoy. Are you dreaming of a romantic beach ceremony or a more adventurous affair? Understanding the climate, local customs, and legal requirements of each potential location is also important.
Accessibility of Your Location
Think about the accessibility of the destination for both you and your guests. Consider travel and accommodation costs, flight availability, and ease of getting to the final destination once your guests arrive. It’s also wise to choose a location that offers a range of accommodations to suit different budgets as well.
Local Culture and Traditions
Think about any local traditions or customs that you might want to incorporate into your wedding day. Also be mindful of any local holidays, festivals, or religious celebrations that might occur in your chosen location. This could have an impact on the wedding date that you choose.
Weather and Seasons
This one is important! The climate in some locations can vary significantly, depending on the time of year. That dreamy field of wildflowers might be a beautiful ceremony location in June, but a snowfield in January. Do your research, understand what to expect at your chosen time of year, and plan accordingly.
Also, if you are planning an outdoor celebration of any kind, always, I repeat, always have a plan b. You wouldn’t want unexpected rain or extreme heat to ruin your celebration.
Availability of Wedding Vendors
Another factor to keep in mind is the availability of wedding services and vendors at your chosen destination. An offbeat location might be appealing to you, but it can sometimes be difficult to communicate your requirements and your vision if weddings aren’t common in the area.
Once you’ve determined that there are local vendors available, research the options to ensure they align with your vision and expectations. Try to find real wedding blog posts that will show you what is possible at your chosen destination.
Legal Marriage Requirements
Lastly, take into account any legal requirements, paperwork, or residency conditions needed for getting married in a foreign country. Understand if you can meet the conditions required for legal marriage at your chosen destination. If not, decide if you are happy to legally marry elsewhere and hold a symbolic ceremony at your destination.
Popular Locations For A Destination Wedding
When it comes to popular destination wedding locations, there’s an option for everyone. From the pristine beaches of the Maldives to the historic charm of Tuscany, each location has its own unique features that can make your special day even more memorable. It all comes down to your own preferences, and what the perfect destination wedding looks like to you.
If you’re dreaming of a tropical paradise, destinations such as Hawaii, Bali, or the Caribbean islands are perennial favorites. The crystal-clear waters and soft sandy beaches provide a picture-perfect backdrop for your wedding vows. Additionally, these destinations often have luxurious resorts that specialize in hosting weddings, making the planning process much easier.
If you prefer a more cultural and historical setting, cities like Paris, Rome, or Prague offer a romantic atmosphere. Imagine saying “I do” against the backdrop of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum. These destinations also provide plenty of opportunities for exploring countless artistic, historic, and culinary experiences.
For nature lovers, destinations like Costa Rica, Iceland or New Zealand offer breathtaking landscapes and outdoor adventures. From lush rainforests to vast glaciers or epic mountain ranges, these locations can leave you in awe on your wedding day.
Ultimately, when choosing a destination for your wedding, consider what speaks to you as a couple. Whether it’s a dreamy beach setting or a vibrant city, choosing a location that resonates with your personalities will guarantee a truly memorable destination wedding experience.
So if a destination wedding sounds right for you, it’s time to choose your adventure. The world really is your oyster here, so take some time to find the right wedding destination and get some inspiration from your favorite wedding blogs.
You’re about to have an experience unlike any other, so let the planning begin!
Photography By: Rick Collins of Love You Me Pictures