The very first thing everyone asks me after they’ve decided to have a destination wedding is, Courtnie, how the heck am I going to pick my perfect destination wedding location??? I got you!
One of the first pieces you need to complete an unforgettable and unique wedding weekend is the PERFECT destination wedding location. This is one of the key elements to making your wedding day extra special.
But there are so many places and venues to choose from……I know I know, they are all on my list, too, but there are several factors in choosing the location that is right for YOU—and these will help you narrow that list down.
EARLY READING NOTE: Control Freaks beware, destination weddings are probably not for you. If you have dreamed of this special day since the age of 3 and have everything written down from dresses to hairstyles to food already picked out and you’re not willing to budge, destination weddings might not be for you.
But, if you’ve done all those things and you are still up for the challenge, take my advice and don’t be afraid to ask for HELP, and to ask for it EARLY in the process.
10 Steps to Picking the Perfect Destination Wedding Location
1. Start with your personality and vision.
Make a list of all your possible ideas, no literally make a list. Write down everything you envision your special day to be. Grab your partner and make them do the same.
Sound like a lot? Don’t worry I’ll help! Let’s brainstorm together.
…. Does it involve a garden full of flowers? Snowy mountains? Is it indoors? On the slopes? Maybe a secluded island, or a quaint little vineyard in Napa?
Who’s there? What does it look like? What time does it take place? Are there lots of people, or only a few?
The answers to these questions all affect what type of destination and venue are worth it for you.
It’s all about you.
2. Think about your style and your passion.
There are several different styles and themes for your destination wedding these days. You might have seen several magazines that feature nautical brides, bohemian brides and a hot one right now is country chic!
This all sets the scene for your location.
Do you want an urban venue in the capital of a major city? What are some things you like to do for fun? Does it involve surfing? Hiking? Or gambling? Think about what might be the best place to incorporate these 2nd loves of your life.
3. Consider travel time & distance.
Many of us forget travel time & distance. Do you have friends and family coming that will have to change planes twice, catch a boat then fly over 2 countries to get to your wedding?
Now, do you really think they are coming if you make them do all that?? That really isn’t how you want to start your wedding weekend. Consider all things travel. Jet Lag is real and your guest will not thank you for it.
What about your poor 80-year-old grandmother who needs help getting through the airport, is she really going to appreciate that 10-hour flight?? Or, even more importantly, do you want to make that trek yourself?
You should remember that guest will already spend a significant amount of time traveling to be there for your special day. You want their time to be just as fun as yours, right? Do them a favor and spare them the 2 plane rides and 1 ½ transfers to the resort.
You must also think about the ease of getting to your location. Maybe it’s not a 10-hour plane ride, but the location is small and remote and only 2 flights go out a week…. will that work for you and your guests? Is there a main airport or airline hub that can support your vision?
Which leads me to the next consideration. The ugly “B” word no one wants to mention….
4. We have to talk about BUDGET. B-U-D-G-E-T.
Don’t worry, I used to cringe, too. We all hate this word but the truth hurts, and if you are like me and have a taste for wine, I want to make sure you aren’t on a beer budget—if you know what I mean.
And no worries, if you are. There are several exotic locations that can give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Secret tip: opt for Mexico, Punta Cana & Jamaica…they are easy to get to and budget friendly.
5. Check the weather.
We are narrowing down locations and you decide to opt for a tropical ceremony in the Bahamas in AUGUST…. sounds good, but you forgot to check the weather!
Mother Nature can be the other “B” word sometimes...
Depending on what month you get married, this might affect your location. Making sure it’s cold enough to go snow tubing or warm enough to get married on the beach is sometimes challenging.
There is such a thing called a hurricane, believe me I live in Florida—here, we have several different seasons: rainy season, dry season, humid & hot thunderstorm season, etc.…
Several locations also have a peak and off-peak times, often due to how nice the weather is at that time of the year. (For most of the Caribbean, Dec-April is peak season, meaning you will pay premium prices at all the hotels and resorts will be packed full of people.)
You must also remember Hurricane Season runs differently depending on where you are and some islands are affected more than others. The official Caribbean Hurricane Season runs from June- November, however, resorts usually offer their best deals during that time. Sometimes, it’s worth taking advantage of the low rates and hoping you don’t get caught in a storm.
6. Look at local marriage requirements.
Different countries have different requirements. Make sure to go over them with your planner and/or travel agent.
I know when I was getting married, Mexico required you to have a blood test (are you freaking kidding me?) I couldn’t do it, so even though Mexico was my perfect location, I opted for the symbolic ceremony and jumped the broom legally before we left.
Bonus: Need help changing your name and making it more than #facebookOfficial? Check out Hitchswitch. This service saved me a lot of time and headache. Can you believe two guys came up with the idea?! Now back to choosing that location.
7. Think about every random thing.
Now that your brain is on overload here are a few more questions to ask yourself:
Is your wedding kid-friendly? Or, are you opting for Adults Only….
Where are you on all-inclusive (which in my opinion is the way to go) vs. exclusive? Do you want to pay for room and board/ceremony/reception/flight etc.… all individually along with your guests.
Sometimes you can customize the exclusive experience a lot easier than you would be able to with an all-inclusive, however, your budget might take a beating.
How many people do you want at this celebration? Different locations can only accommodate certain numbers of guest.
Let’s talk about guest numbers for a second.
In Belize, the Cayo Espanto will let you rent the whole island which accommodates only 18 guests. You read that right, the whole island—18 people.
In contrast, the Moon Palace in Cancun Mexico has several different options to accommodate a party of more than 200.
The new Azul Sensatori Jamaica can only do wedding ceremonies for parties under 25 guests.
Bottom line: Make sure you ask them how many people they can accommodate before booking.
8. Are you a DIY bride?
How do you pick your location? (…. tricky, tricky….) Some resorts don’t offer luxe packages, or if you do find one, be ready to pay.
I know you ladies are all about details and Etsy, but if you decide to make items, check first because they usually have a set-up fee for bringing items with you from home.
Certain resorts will likely try to discourage you from bringing anything with you. If you are the lucky few who are allowed, you still need to think about how you plan to carry over such items.
A lot of resorts do not let you store items or ship items over early because of liability reasons. This means you are hauling it with you in your luggage or giving it to a dear friend or family member.
9. What about activities/nightlife?
If you want to be off the beaten path, Zoetry resorts specialize in just that. You will not find too much nightlife available…no DJ's by the pool or loud crowds of kids running around, but you will be one with nature and have a great place to read a nice book.
Secret tip: These resorts are great for honeymoons.
If you want to turn it up a notch and are looking for a full-fledged party, resorts like Breathless and Hard Rock should keep you up all night.
How did you envision your wedding weekend? Take a look at your notes. Do you want your guests to have activities booked back-to-back, or would you just rather lounge by the pool, or head off the resort for a cultural experience? You want your perfect location to house the type of lifestyle you want to create while there.
10. Finally, the best part of the whole trip, think of the Honeymoon.
70% of brides & grooms stay put at their destination wedding location. So, if there were any special places you mentioned to one another for a honeymoon, that could potentially be the perfect wedding spot!
Don’t worry if you haven’t, the other 30% of people jump ship on the wedding location and move to a different resort down the street or an alternate location altogether.
Suggestions to Help You Put It All Together
Don’t forget to do a SITE VISIT!
Take advantage of any site visits and Bride’s Dress Rehearsals promotions. Resorts want your business and will do anything to get you there. Milk it!
Resorts will usually host you and a guest for 2 to 3 days at a discounted price, and give you credit toward your wedding if you decide to book. This is a no-brainer. Make sure to ask about this.
Site visits are the best way to see if the venue is right for you.
Note: New resorts are hit or miss, give them at least 6 months to work out all the kinks.
A lot to think about, huh?
I bet you hadn’t considered all of that, had you? Just like LeBron hadn’t considered KD & Steph together would combine for a season high of 41 points in the first half of Game 5! Wooo…geez—what a playoff series!
Sorry! Back to you: Championships start with preparation so GET TO WORK!
The perfect location for you might be different from the perfect location for me, or even your friend. If you do not take away anything else from this post, remember this:
Do what’s right for you.
If you do that, you are sure to choose the perfect destination wedding location, which at the end of the day will be a win-win for you and your guests!
For more step by step help, take a listen to our quick webinar where I outline industry tips and secrets for choosing the perfect wedding location.
If you do not have a better idea by the time you finish watching, call me!
As Always, Eat, Drink and Be Married Away,