How to Plan a Destination Wedding

In the past destination weddings were reserved for those who decided to elope or for those who were extremely wealthy and could afford to ship their guests wherever they wanted. Now destination weddings can be for anyone, if you start planning early and do your research. You may need a larger budget than you would for a regular wedding, but if you are a savvy shopper and great at bargaining, you might be able to get the destination wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.

The first thing you need to do is to figure out what kind of budget you have. An elaborate destination wedding can be extremely expensive, while a simple wedding can end up being cheaper than a regular one at home. Some resorts offer all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon combo packages while others offer free weddings if you book your honeymoon stay with them. Make sure you go over all the details and fine print, because their version of a wedding may not be what you had in mind and the upgrades may be pricey. You need to know what the wedding package includes and what you will still need to provide.

The second thing you need to do is research and plenty of it. You might even want to take a trip and check out the location long before you put any money down on reservations. Things may not always be as they appear in a brochure or virtual tour. Something this important requires an in-person inspection. Another thing to research is the weather. Plan your visit at the same time of year your wedding will take place. You don't want to plan a tropical wedding and find out too late you are getting married in hurricane season.

The next thing you need to do is find out legal requirements. Some countries require you to be there for a certain amount of time before you can wed. Tahiti and Bora Bora require you to be there for 40 days and you have to file for residency. Ireland requires that you be there for 15 days, while Greece, Scotland and Italy let you marry right away.

Planning a destination wedding can be very time-consuming and even more stressful than planning a traditional wedding. You might want to consider hiring a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings to do some of the work for you. She should be able to save you money and stop you from making costly mistakes. Pick a wedding planner that has plenty of experience with the destination you have chosen, and make sure to check references.

You don't have to pay for your guests' or your wedding party's travel expenses, but you should think about keeping the wedding party to the minimum of best man and maid of honor and possibly chip in on their expenses, depending on their financial situation. When thinking about who to invite, consider who will be able to come and if they can afford to travel. If you have close family or friends that you know cannot afford to travel, consider paying their expenses too. Another option is to have anl intimate destination wedding, then have a big party or reception when you get home. You could also have a live Webcast of your wedding for the friends and family that could not attend.

Arrange for discounted rooms and look for group rates from hotels. If you are having your wedding at a resort, they should offer discounted rates for your guests. You could also try to negotiate discount air travel. Do not expect gifts from those who do attend; paying to be there to share your day should be considered the gift.

When you have the details set, you will want to notify guests in advance. Send out save-the-date notices as early as six to eight months ahead so travel arrangements can be made. Send out invitations three to six months ahead of time, along with travel packets, sent separately from the invitations. For those who do want to send gifts, ask that they be sent to your home, not the destination. The last thing you want is to lug a bunch of gifts home with you on the plane or have the extra expense of shipping them all home.

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