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Destination weddings sound like the easier, more romantic choice for nuptials. Simply give up the complicated planning of a reception and just get married by the beach at a beautiful resort, right? Wrong. There’s nothing easy and simple about planning a destination wedding but the rewards are often well worth the effort. Here are 15 helpful tips that cover just about everything you need to know to get started.

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When choosing a destination, allow for long travel times
When picking a destination, it’s important to consider your access to international airports. “If your guests have to change flights three or four times before even arriving at your destination and you expect them to party immediately, you will need to allow some rest periods in between,” says Tara Fay, owner of Xena Productions Bespoke Events.

Select the right date
Once you pick a location, it’s time to choose an ideal wedding date. “Remember, the Caribbean Islands, parts of the southern states and the East Coast of the United States are prone to hurricanes at certain times of the year,” says wedding planner Cristen Faherty, owner and creative director of Cristen & Co.  “We have already seen a very active and devastating hurricane season this year—pay attention to the weather and all the risks that may come into play when picking the wedding date. Unless, you are planning for that snowy mountain wedding!”

Consider the cost burden for guests
One thing to also bear in mind is that a destination wedding is an expense for guests, so try to pick a location that will be accessible financially for all your guests, offering a variety of accommodation options. “Be conscious of the travel they will have to endure when arriving at their destination,” says Fay. “Don’t make your guests travel long distances between each venue at their own expense.”

Consider an all-inclusive property. Many large all-inclusives, like Sandals and Secrets properties, offer a complimentary basic wedding package when staying for a minimum number of nights with them. “For brides on a budget, this is a huge value—and often leaves wiggle room to upgrade the wedding package and those few extra nights required can serve as your honeymoon destination,” says luxury travel agent and honeymoon expert Lindsey Epperly of Epperly Travel. “But, I suggest properties that have at least two of their hotels in one area so you can move from one resort to another to ensure you have some privacy from guests who might be turning the trip into a vacation themselves.”

Plan an itinerary, not just a wedding
When you have a destination wedding you have to be prepared to host weekend events. “Guests will be traveling from all over to celebrate with you, it is only appropriate to have a welcome gift upon arrival, a rehearsal party or dinner and a brunch following your wedding day that includes all your guests,” says Faherty. “Maybe even a welcome celebration for cocktails and fun! It is also a good idea to plan other fun activities throughout your guests stay, maybe it is a winery tour and tasting, fun water sport adventures, hiking or zip lining through the forest.”

Destination doesn’t have to mean international
“There are so many beautiful and unique destinations domestically as well as internationally,” says certified travel agent Jennifer Polito.  “Brides should weigh the pros and cons of each, and try and match the destination with whatever they are looking for their wedding,” says Jennifer Polito Waigand, CTA, a travel agent.

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Decide on type of ceremony
Couples who opt for symbolic ceremonies can often save a few hundred bucks and the hassle of extra paperwork over those who do legal ceremonies in their destinations of choice. “If you don’t want to jump through many hoops to be legally married (translating documents and the like), this is the best option and then you can be legally wed before/after in the States,” says Epperly.

Think about your family
Make sure you have a conversation with your parents first about the idea of having a destination wedding. “They may have strong opinions about it because maybe Grandma Sue won’t be able to travel the distance and it may be important to have her there,” says Faherty. “There are pros and cons to having a destination wedding and you need to list them out and discuss them with your future spouse and your immediate family members before locking in a venue.”

Consider immigration regulations
“As an immigration attorney, the biggest mistake I see individuals make when planning destination weddings is not checking whether a visa is necessary for that country; and whether the main guests will be able to attend,” says Renata Castro Alves, an immigration attorney with Castro Legal Group. “A recent client had her brother detained while returning from her wedding in Mexico because of an issue with his green card. It was resolved, but had she known, she would not have had a destination wedding as her brother’s trauma was a major issue for the family.”

Don’t forget about currency restrictions
Bear in mind the national currency and banking restrictions, as well as the potential rate of exchange issues. “Some countries have banking restrictions on the amount of cash that a person can bring into the country,” says Fay. “If you want to save on banking charges by paying suppliers in cash, check the feasibility of this first.”

Remember to factor in inclement weather
Weather can also play a big part in the selection process.  Some locations will offer more favorable rates for times of the year when weather occurrences can be more prevalent, (e.g. hurricane season). “In Ireland, we always plan for the rain or inclement weather so we not only have plan A, B, but usually C and D as well,” says Fay.

Time zones are everything
Time zones will play a role, especially when keeping in contact with your wedding day team, so be sure to discuss your vendor’s standard office hours and ways to stay in touch.

Select the right venue
Finding your venue will be one of your first to do’s, and will have a major impact on the rest of your decisions. “Considerations should include accommodation for your optimum number of guests,” says Fay. “Whether they can provide sufficient locations for your various events, their ability to work with specific dietary requirements and whether they have vendors who can handle your requests or if they are willing to work with your own suppliers,” she says.

Pack wisely
Fay works with a lot of stylists for her brides and one of the best things they will always do is create a look book for the wedding events.  “This enables couples to take the guesswork not only out of what to wear, but also for packing,” she says. “This is especially important if traveling to Europe where luggage restrictions apply on most airlines. If it’s a destination wedding in Ireland, I would always recommend to pack for all eventualities.”

Stay in touch
“Apart from the obvious of having a wedding website, we have recently started setting up What’s App groups for the wedding guests,” says Fay. “This helps us get information to attendees in the fastest friendliest way. This may include updates on any changes that may happen to an event (e.g. if an accident suddenly happens on an access road to a venue and a diversion in in place) to an easy way to reunite guests with lost property.”

Consider your dress
For shipping your dress, you’ll need to think about the logistics involved.  Some countries may have shipping restrictions on shipping personal effects and may charge you customs at the point of entry for your dress.  “You do also need to think about how to get your dress back,” says Fay. “Some airlines will make allowances for holding your dress on a flight or you may have to book a separate seat for your dress.  Do bear in mind the weight of the dress and the size of it if you have to transfer airports and flights as any monies saved carrying the dress yourself may be offset by the sheer stress and potential injuries you may cause yourself,” she says.  It’s always a good idea to discuss with your bridal store how they normally ship bridal garments.

Tagged: Caribbean, Family time, Hotels

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Aly Walansky
Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer.

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