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  • Writer's pictureKrystal Shuhyta

12 Tips To Planning Your Destination Wedding

Destination Weddings are a great way to start the honeymoon early, celebrate in a location that is meaningful to you both, and a great excuse to go on that trip you have always wanted to. Your wedding is a reflection of you as a couple - so go big and choose the perfect place for you. If you have decided that planning a destination wedding is the right choice for you both to say I do then read on! I have rounded up the biggest things to consider while planning your destination wedding.

Canmore wedding photos with couple

I know that the planning can feel overwhelming and fortunately for you, I specialize in destination weddings! I am a traveller at heart and there is not much that I love more than capturing your special moments in your location of choice. Rest assured I know exactly how this feels and I have put together this list to help you as you begin or continue to plan your perfect day -  and I am here if you have questions, please reach out.

Unsure if you are planning a destination wedding or elopement? Generally, if your wedding has twelve guests or less you are planning an elopement, if you are over twelve for your guest list then you are looking at planning a destination wedding. Here’s the great news, I can help you with either one! Whether it is an elopement or a destination wedding - I have what you need to get started on your planning journey.

Step 1: Determine an Exact or Estimated Budget

Okay, okay, I know budget talks are not exactly the most exciting thing but you will save yourself a mountain of anxiety and frustration if you establish this from the get-go. Knowing a ballpark or exactly what you have to work with will help you eliminate the ideas that are outside of your budget and narrow in on the ones that are just right for you. Being realistic about what you can and are willing to spend on your destination wedding makes planning the whole thing much more simple. Reaching out to vendors for quotes and working with real numbers is very helpful as planning an entire wedding on estimated costs can become problematic - at the very least, I recommend leaving a little wiggle room. The difference between a Costa Rican beach wedding and a beautiful Rocky Mountain ceremony in Alberta’s backyard can be vast - just as photography for ceremony and reception only or full-day photography can differ. With both of you on the same page for costs, you’ll be able to move forward with sound decision-making. Don’t forget, after you are all set with your budget you can get to the fun stuff!

Step 2: Select the Perfect Location

Once you have established your budget you can get started on location. Whether you love a sandy beach, a lush forest, a breathtaking mountain peak, or a modern cityscape - choose a destination that speaks to your hearts and represents you both well. Maybe it’s the place you had your first date or a memorable sunrise hike. Consider the season, weather, and travel requirements when selecting the location for your special day. All of these will factor into the best time of year, travel arrangements, how you dress, and so on. As you can see, there is a real rhyme and reason to this! Above all, choose a location that represents you and the love you share - you are going to have your most memorable moments there.

Step 3: Decide on the Best Time of Year

Now that you know where you want to go it is worth putting some time and thought into the time of year that works best - both for you and for the location! Is it rainy season in June? Do they host a large-scale festival in September? Make sure you have done your research on the local weather as well as local goings-on - prices may vary substantially when booking during a warmer season or when there is a big attraction in town. Line it all up with your vacation and a time of year that works well for you as a couple. Look no further if you are hoping for a little help with this! After my fair share of destination weddings, I am always more than happy to help couples determine the best location and season for them. Without skipping ahead to Step 12, consider what you want to wear for your big day - this may help you choose the right season!

Step 4: Book your Destination Photographer 

Hi, it's me. Just kidding - but I specialize in destination weddings, helping with the planning, and capturing it all on film!! I have experienced many weddings and know the excitement, anticipation, and planning that goes into this - I am your wedding bestie and I will be there for you through it all. Whether I am exploring new locations, sharing my experience at various locations where I have already been, or helping to plan the details, and supporting your decision - I’ve got you! Choosing a photographer that is right for you both makes a big difference. I strongly suggest finding someone who shares your values and sees your vision. Consider bringing a Canadian photographer with you! This is a great way to not only develop a strong relationship with your photographer but it is handy for your budget!

Step 5: All-Inclusive or Not!

Many people assume a destination wedding means all-inclusive but it doesn’t have to! There are many benefits to choosing an all-inclusive. Most resorts that host weddings have a dedicated team and trusted vendors for you to work with. Many will take care of the details and help your wedding run smoothly. This doesn't mean that you must choose an all-inclusive! Think Hawaii, Scotland, Costa Rica (have I mentioned this is essentially my second home?) - whether it is a tropical island or snowy mountain top, your destination wedding can go ahead there without an all-inclusive. If you are choosing not to host your wedding at an all-inclusive then it is also time to plan your lodging and travel arrangements. With so many options like Air B’n’B, cozy tiny homes, or luxury hotels to rest your head and planes, trains, or good old-fashioned automobiles for travel - it is exciting to choose the ones that feel best for you. Make sure to share some options with your guests so that they feel confident when booking their stay and travel.

Step 6: Research Marriage Laws and Requirements

Before jetting off to your dream destination, make sure to research the marriage laws and requirements of the country, state, or province where you plan to be married. Some locations have specific documentation and waiting periods, so it's important to understand the legalities to ensure your marriage is valid and that you are able to attain all required documents in time for your special day. Alternatively, some couples opt to take care of all of the legal stuff at home. This keeps things nice and simple while giving additional flexibility and reducing stress. Whichever you choose, a little internet research will lead you to your answers and you’ll check one more thing off your wedding planning list!

Step 7: Find the Right Vendors

While a destination wedding may mean a more intimate affair, you'll still need a few essential vendors to make your day perfect. It is helpful to write down a list of the support and extras you need and want and go from there. Look for local vendors at your destination who specialize in weddings, including officiants, florists, and any other services you may need or want. Their expertise will help bring your vision to life and ensure your day goes as planned. Choosing professionals who have done this before can lend to a less stressful lead-up and day-of as you are working with seasoned vets. Above all, I recommend that you choose vendors who see and support your vision for the day - if you need any top-notch recommendations we have a list of tried and true vendors that we have worked with many times and trust completely.

Step 8: Navigate the RSVPs

You know who you are working with, now you’ll want to know how many you are hosting! Be sure to ask your vendors - catering is a big one - when the deadline is to give them final numbers. Once you have this deadline you can communicate clear guidelines to your guests so that they know when they need to let you know by. Having guest totals well ahead of time makes for easier planning as you work with your vendors and the big day grows closer.

Looking for a way to include those who are not joining you?

You’re not alone! Here are some creative and heartfelt ways to include those who are not able to join you. Simple things like having your family and friends write you letters or notes to open and read after your ceremony or sharing a video call with loved ones from your location are great ways to include others without them being physically present. Consider an wedding videographer and bring the ceremony to your loved ones afterwards with a beautifully crafted keepsake of your big day.

Step 9: Plan Your Timeline

Planning an itinerary for the day is essential. Consider the logistics of getting to your ceremony location, any special activities or excursions you'd like to incorporate, whether or not you’ll have a first look ahead of the ceremony, and any post-ceremony meals or receptions you plan to have. Fun fact, we have a guide with fifty different ideas to get your creative juices flowing - this one is exclusive for our clients only! A well-planned itinerary will ensure your day runs smoothly. Your experienced professionals (remember, Steps 4 & 7?) can help with planning your day-of timeline. I love helping you plan your day - remember, wedding bestie - I am here to ensure your day goes just the way you want it to.

Step 10: Personalize Your Ceremony

One of the joys of a wedding is the absolute freedom to personalize your ceremony to reflect your unique love story - that’s what this is all about. Write your vows and share them quietly, choose meaningful readings or play your favourite songs yourself on your instrument of choice, and incorporate any special rituals or traditions that are significant to you as a couple. If you want an idea partner or need suggestions - I’ve got you - I love helping clients sort out all of the big and little details for their wedding. This is your chance to create a truly personal and heartfelt ceremony - and we highly recommend it!

Step 11: Order Wedding Attire 

Destination weddings can maintain tradition or throw it to the wind! You may be picturing your big day in a white dress and tuxedo or you may envision something completely different - the best part about this is that you get to choose. Let your imagination wander with this one as you’ve already chosen the path less taken for your wedding - be free with your outfit as well. Maybe you’ll give a nod to your favourite activity together in matching tracksuits or wear your heritage with pride with an outfit that is distinctly you. Once you have both decided on what you’ll wear you will want to ensure that you have purchased, ordered, sewn, or found your outfit with time to spare. When ordering online or purchasing from a local vendor be sure to confirm the expected date of delivery to avoid any unwanted pre-wedding stress.

Step 12: Celebrate Your Love

After you've said "I do" in your ideal destination, take some time to celebrate your love, dedication to each other, and all of the hard work you have put into planning this perfect day. Whether it's a big beach-side reception, a private dinner under the stars, a champagne toast at sunset, or an adrenaline-pumping adventure - savour the moment, honour the commitment you have both made, and revel in the joy of your new life together. Cheers, it’s time for happily ever after!

Planning a Destination Wedding

Don’t let planning your destination wedding overwhelm you - I promise it is much easier with the help of an experienced wedding bestie - some like me! I have covered a few destination weddings and I would love to help with yours. Together we can plan your location, choose trusted vendors, establish your dreams for videography and photography, and even day-of coordination. I would love to chat further - send me a message so we can chat it through.

Till next time friend,

Xo Krystal

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