Destination Wedding Questions Answered

From your dress to your hotel block, we break down the need-to-know info for all things destination wedding.
By: 
Rachel Jacoby

Q: What should we consider when choosing a location?

A: No surprises here: accessibility, climate and affordability. After considering these factors, most couples choose a setting that is special to them. Outdoorsy types might opt for a mountain retreat; beach bums, a barefoot seaside ceremony.

Q: When should we let guests know we're having a destination wedding?

A: As soon as you set the date and book a location, just as you would for a wedding closer to home. Aim to send save-the-dates 9-12 months before your affair so guests can make all the necessary travel arrangements.

Q: Am I crazy for thinking I can plan my destination wedding solo? Do I need a planner?

A: To answer both questions: yes. It's vital to enlist help when planning a wedding away. In addition to having vendor contacts and advising your guests on travel matters, a planner will relieve you of tons of stress. The key is getting some assistance, even if it's not a full-fledged coordinator. Many resorts offer planning as part of a package, which can be an affordable alternative. Just make sure to ask specifics, like what the planner will be responsible for.

Q: Is there any way to include guests who can't come?

A: A party in a more accessible location is a great way to celebrate the marriage and include those who couldn't make the ceremony. You don't need to repeat your vows-- a fun bash will do. Just be sure to leave yourselves enough time after the honeymoon to plan so you aren't stressed.

Q: I'm worried that I can't meet any of our wedding vendors in person. How do I know they're reliable?

A: References! Get recommendations from your hotel, planner or newlyweds who were married in the same location. Online message boards where you can ask recent brides for their opinons are also helpful. Once you have options, contact the vendors and ask to speak with past clients. Get a sense of the quality of service the vendor provided, how accommidating they were and the clients' satisfaction. E-mail photos to illustrate your style and save all correspondence so there are no major disputes before (or on) your big day.

Q: What costs do guests cover and what should we pay for?

A: Guests know they're responsible for their own airfare and hotel accommodations. However, you should plan to foot the bill for the reception, any planned activities you're hosting and transportation to and from your nuptials.

Q: What surprise expenses should we factor in?

A: Almost any planner will tell you that no matter where you're getting married, unexpected costs come up. A pro can help you avoid surprise fees, but some things to look out for are setup and cleanup costs, furniture rentals, special permits, and shipping and customs fees. Before signing any contracts, make sure your quotes include standard service fees and taxes.

Q: Will my marriage be legal if I marry abroad?

A: In most cases, your marriage will be legal in the United States as long as you meet the specific requirements in the country where you're getting married. For example, the U.K. has a seven-day residency restriction before couples can legally tie the knot, and Mexico requires a blood test, so it's important to do your research. And remember that you can always take out a marriage license closer to home and have it processed when you return.

Q: How do I get my dress to my destination?

A: Do not check your gown with the rest of your luggage. To ensure safe delivery and avoid the chances of your dress getting lost, carry it in a garment bag onto the plane and ask one of the flight attendants to hang it in the first-class closet.

Q: Can we start our honeymoon as soon as the reception ends?

A: Keep in mind that your guests have traveled to celebrate with you, so sending them off is a nice touch. You don't need to escort everyone to the airport, but most couples host an informal good-bye event, such as a post-wedding brunch, as a way of saying thanks one last time. Plus, you'll want to give yourselves at least 24 hours to regroup and repack.