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Destination weddings are one of my favorite types of weddings. My own wedding was a destination event of sorts since we were married in another state. Destination weddings are fun to attend because most guests turn it into a weekend getaway, and as the bride and groom you get more opportunities to spend time with your guests outside the reception. That being said, they require an added level of planning and bring their own unique set of circumstances. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Manage expectations. Since you're asking guests to spend more money on travel than an average wedding, temper your expectations for attendance. Destination weddings tend to have smaller and more intimate guest lists. Only your nearest and dearest are likely to clear their schedules, make travel arrangements (and burden the additional cost) to celebrate your nuptials. Depending on the cost and how much travel is involved, some couples chose to invite only a handful of people to their wedding and have another reception when they return home for the friends and family who weren't able to attend.
Notify in advance. Allow extra time for notifying your guests of the wedding date. There is an added layer of logistics involved when your attendees have to request time off work, organize passports if needed, arrange for childcare and pet sitters, and book flights. So the sooner you can send out a "save the date" and allow planning to begin, the better!
Hire an experienced planner. It's a good idea to hire a planner who is local to where your wedding is being held. She or he will already know most of the best vendors to work with and will manage a lot of the logistics before you even arrive. It's a great idea to have someone "on the ground" who you trust to handle all the details in your absence. Even better? A planner who offers styling services or décor rentals will decrease the amount of items you have to rent elsewhere or bring with you when you travel.
Don't check anything important while flying. Plan to keep your wedding dress with you as a carryon for your flight. Most airlines allow you to take your wedding dress on the plane with you, and often the flight attendants will hang your dress in one of the closets on the plane. It's also a good idea to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to have their wedding attire in a carryon bag, so you're sure that everyone will at least have their respective outfits for the big day!
Think about your guests. Consider planning some events other than the wedding and reception, but don't feel obligated to host (and therefore pay for) all of them. It's always nice to invite your guests to a welcome dinner, especially if most of them are arriving the day before the rehearsal dinner. If your budget allows, also think about coordinating a brunch or informal breakfast the day following the reception. In addition to hosting one or two group meals, consider organizing events your guests could attend in groups during downtime — maybe a golf outing or a spa day, or sightseeing expeditions.
Know what is legal. Different countries — and even different states domestically — have varying laws surrounding marriage licenses. Be sure you know the law where you are marrying, or opt to take care of the legal aspects before you leave home.
Keep it simple. This can be said for almost all weddings, but is especially important for the added logistics of a destination event — the simpler it is, the easier it will be for all involved. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you've said "I do," so if carting monogrammed napkins halfway across the country is causing stress, just let it go. It's better to be relaxed and enjoy your day!
Bonus: Learn how to become a wedding planner. Enroll in the New York Institute of Art and Design's Wedding Planning Course today!