Expert Tips on Planning a Perfect Destination Wedding

How to decide if a destination wedding is right for you.

Image courtesy Justine Kang Photography.

There’s something romantic about the idea of a destination wedding — whether it’s beach side “I do’s” in the Caribbean or an upscale resort in a dreamy locale. The travel aspect, smaller guest list and potentially lower cost of having a destination wedding are all pluses, however there is definitely more work involved in having a wedding away from home. Add an exotic, airplane-ride required destination and well, you’re in for some major planning.

To give us the scoop on everything from how to pick your destination, to what questions to ask the resort we spoke to Tara Soloway, Co-Founder of LUXE Destinations Weddings in Toronto — a boutique travel agency specializing in unforgettable destination weddings in stunning locations like Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. But before you go telling your family and friends to start packing, read on to find out what’s involved in planning a destination wedding and if it’s right for you.

What’s the first thing couples should consider when planning a destination wedding?

Is a destination wedding the right thing for you as a couple? There’s a very romantic notion of strolling along the beach barefoot with some flowers in your hair, surrounded by your closest family and friends… but then your parents/uncle/best friend and their cat give you 100 reasons not to have a destination wedding. Have an honest talk with each other before your go down this long path. Ask yourself, “Is this the right decision?” You’ll know if it’s right for you.

Picking a destination can be overwhelming, since there are so many amazing places to choose from. How do you suggest a couple narrows down their options?

It really comes down to budget, who’s in attendance (i.e. children, elderly guests), and the couple’s style. Asking guests to join you at your destination wedding is well… a lot to ask. So before you opt for the coolest, most off the beaten path, unique locale that can only be reached by plane, ferry and golf cart, put on your realistic thinking cap and make a decision that is part love and part reality.

When it comes to making the guest list, what do you recommend?

The guest list goes one of two ways: 1) Invite everyone you would invite to a local wedding and then whoever can make it, makes it. 2) Keep the invite list very small and limited to close family and friends. Don’t over think this decision either — it’s wonderful if people want to attend your destination wedding.

Are there certain things couples have to give up when having a destination wedding?

Control is the most obvious answer. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit in advance, or if you decide to have a destination wedding without the help of a professional wedding planner, then there is definitely an element of chance, and big deal of giving up control to the hotel or onsite venue’s representative.

If you’re planning on booking your own destination wedding, are there certain questions you should ask?

What’s the weather like during the time we will be travelling? What type of local vendors will I be able to hire? Is the beach nice? Are there any huge service taxes added to hotel and wedding packages that are in the fine print, but could end up costing a significant portion of the wedding budge (some countries can show up to 25% in taxes)?

Is it more budget-friendly to have destination wedding?

It can be. When considering the number of attendees at a destination wedding vs. a local wedding, the per person cost in  numbers alone is a budget saver. And with a beautiful backdrop as your canvas, you can cut down on ceremony decor.

Do couples need to factor in visiting the destination before the actual wedding?

It’s a “nice to have” option, but in my experience, the majority of brides don’t do a pre-site visit. It’s usually a combination of budget, time off work and a short window between engagement and wedding day.

What are some advantages of going through a travel agency (such as yours) vs. doing it yourself?

A major advantage is not having to play the role of group travel agent with your family and friends. I think many people underestimate the amount of time and work that goes into booking a group to a destination wedding as well as planning the details from afar. And talking about money with your nearest and dearest is never a fun thing to do. In any field where you have the option of hiring a professional vs. doing the work by yourself (and especially when it comes to something as important as your wedding away), it’s always better to leave such expertise to the experts.

What’s your favourite part about planning destination weddings for couples?

True destination wedding couples are laid back, interesting, exciting and a lot of fun to work with. And as a former destination bride, I can’t think of a better place to get married.

More from Travel & Style
5 Reasons to Have a Destination Wedding
How to Pack and Save Space
Avoid Gaining Weight When Travelling