Last December, I wrote a post called “Three Big Signs a Destination Wedding is Right For You.”
Now that I’ve had my own destination wedding, I think it’s only fair that I update you on my experiences.
In April, Matt and I dragged 50 of our closest friends and family to Now Larimar, a beautiful property on Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Did we have an amazing time YES! Did we learn a lot? DOUBLE YES!
As we discussed in this post, a Destination Wedding isn’t right for everyone! It is a huge undertaking, one that I honestly underestimated at first. In the end, it was worth every bit of time, energy and every dollar spent.
Now that I’m an experienced travel agent AND an experienced Destination Bride, here’s my list of insider tips!
5 Tips for Planning Your Destination Wedding:
Tip #1: Consider Your Guests Comfort when choosing a location. This is a controversial statement, but this part of the process is not about you. If you are asking your friends and family to spend thousands of dollars and travel for hours for your wedding, shouldn’t their comfort be considered?
I am not suggesting that you abandon your dreams to please the masses, but think about this: If your goal is to be accommodating for as many guests as possible, thinking about this now can save tons of stress and anxiety in the long run.
What’s the saying, don’t force a square peg in a round hole? That applies here.
When choosing a location, think about your guest list and ask yourself these questions:
- Do my guests have a budget?
- Are my guests experienced travelers?
- Does everyone have a passport (or can they reasonably get one?)
- Will they be comfortable with a language barrier?
- Will they be comfortable with a large resort that involves lots of walking, or is a smaller resort a better option?
- Will they want lots of entertainment options nearby?
- Will children attend? This eliminates “adults only” resort options
- How LGBT friendly is the country we are considering? This one is especially important for some guests as certain countries can still be very discriminatory.
- Does anyone in my group have any travel restrictions? Note on this one: This was actually a concern for us and one not to be taken lightly. Many of our guests (including my husband!) are active duty military. At times, the military can place restrictions on where service members can travel. In our case, this eliminated some parts of Mexico and eventually led us to Punta Cana.
One last question I will add: Does any of this matter to you? If you’re looking for a small, exclusive event, abandon all of this and do what you want! These tips can also be used as a barrier, if necessary (wink, wink)
Tip #2: Consider How Far Your Guests Will Travel. For our wedding, we had guests flying in from eight different cities across the US. Eight!
We chose Punta Cana because it was a direct flight for many of our east coast guests and a short layover away from our Kansas City guests.
Tip #3: Don’t Forget the Drive Time. This is one that most people forget, even when planning a “regular” vacation. When you arrive at your destination airport, how fast do you want to get to the fun? Do you want to be near the airport, or is a more remote location preferred?
For example, we only considered resorts that were under 30 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. This helped ease the travel burden on our guests and helped everyone start their vacation as quickly as possible.
Some couples may want a more remote location! Tulum is a popular spot for those looking at a quiet, off the beaten path area. However, Tulum is nearly an hour away from the Cancun airport. Discuss with your partner and decide what is right for you.
Tip #4: Plan a Group Excursion to Break the Ice. I cannot recommend this one enough. Weddings are wonderful because they bring lots of different people and personalities together. Sometimes those personalities mix well, sometimes they don’t!
For our destination wedding, we planned a group snorkeling trip on the Sanael, a catamaran in Punta Cana. This was our gift to our guests for traveling so far to celebrate our marriage. For three hours, our guests drank, snorkeled and got to know each other on an entirely different level. After all, it’s hard to be shy when you’re all wearing flippers and masks!
The excursion was the highlight of our trip (after the actual wedding of course!) It was so good, we received thank you notes from our guests! Imagine that! By the time our wedding reception rolled around, everyone was great friends and had a fantastic time.
Tip #5: Stay Longer Than Your Tribe. This is the single best advice I can give you. When your guests are with you, you will be running around, attending to their needs, answering questions and enjoying their company. You’ll also be meeting with the wedding coordinator, the photographer, the hair and makeup person, etc. It’s busy and you may not have a lot of time to relax.
Near the end, you’ll start to crave some downtime.
I recommend that you and your partner stay for a few extra days after your friends and family depart. Better yet, move to a new resort and see a new place! This will give you some separation between “wedding” and “honeymoon,” which offers a chance to relax.
This word is over used, but our wedding was AMAZING. At many points during the week, I teared up thinking about how much effort everyone made to be there for us. I also have some hilarious memories, such as my dad zooming down an inflatable water slide with my best friends!
Are you considering a destination wedding? Are you overwhelmed by the details? Did this post make you break out in a sweat? Relax, I am here to help! Working with an experienced travel agent will pay back tenfold in saving you time, money and stress. This is the most important day of your lives, not something you want to DIY.