My wife and I chose to have a destination wedding, mostly out of necessity. When we got engaged in 2008, there were only a handful of states where we could legally get married. We were living in Washington DC at the time and our options were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Iowa, and California.
And while I know we could have had a wedding anywhere, it was important to us to be able to have a legal celebration, just like any straight couple could.
We got excited and started planning right away. And since Heather is from the west coast and neither of us had any ties to New England, we decided that California was the right place for us to plan our wedding.
Unfortunately, California passed Proposition 8 in November 2008 which made same-sex marriage illegal across the state again.
We contemplated our options, but decided that we really wanted our California wedding. So, even though we were doing what we didn’t originally want to do (get married somewhere it wasn’t legal), we decided to have a legal courthouse ceremony AND a more traditional wedding in California.
With that being said, we learned a TON about wedding planning from out of state. And since I’m now a wedding photographer in a state that is considered a destination spot (hello Colorado and the Rocky Mountains), I think that makes me a little bit of an expert on planning destination weddings.
So I’m here to share my top 6 tips for planning a destination wedding.
6 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding
1. Make your wedding a vacation
If you’re going to go to all the trouble of planning a wedding somewhere out of the way, you might as well make it a vacation. Don’t be afraid to plan to arrive a few days before the wedding and stay for a few days after. Not only does this give you a chance to get acclimated to your surroundings (which is important if you’re flying to Colorado from someplace at sea level), but you’ll have time to enjoy the lead up to your wedding day without feeling rushed. And if lots of your guests are flying in, you’ll have more time to spend with them around your wedding day. Which is always a bonus in my book!
2. Hire a Day of Coordinator
Our biggest regret from our destination wedding was that we didn’t hire a day of coordinator. At the time I didn’t even know that I should consider having one, but in hindsight it would have made our wedding day so much less stressful. As much of a planner as I am, I was not good at being in charge on the day of our wedding. I got distracted, I couldn’t focus on the details, and I was a little “everything is great, do whatever” in mindset. Which wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but it probably put a bunch of added stress on my wife. Plus, we were the ones answering all questions for our vendors, including questions coming in about five minutes before we walked down the aisle.
So, do yourself a favor–hire a coordinator! Not just a friend or a guest, but an actual real-life professional.
3. Don’t ask your friends to do everything
This goes hand in hand with tip #2. We planned a bunch of DIY details for our wedding and spent a bunch of time crafting leading up to the wedding. But because we didn’t have a coordinator, we were asking our guests/ friends to help us decorate and put out those details on the wedding day. And while I’m sure most of them were happy to help, I think it would have been nice for them not to have to have any responsibilities and to just enjoy the wedding day.
Of course, I’m not against asking your friends to help you out and be in charge of some things, but I’d suggest thinking critically about what you’re asking of them.
4. Find a wedding outfit that travels well
I was not thinking about traveling across the country when I picked out my wedding dress. I chose a rather puffy ballgown that was not the lightest thing out there. And while I LOVED my wedding dress, it was not very travel friendly. I remember my wife and I asked to board our planes early, specifically so I could find room in the overhead bins for my dress. And yes, it took up an entire overhead bin. We’re very lucky that we weren’t made to gate check the dress or pay extra for it. We, and the dress, made it, but it was probably not the smartest option for a destination wedding dress.
5. Think about postponing your big honeymoon for a month of two after your wedding
If you’re planning a destination wedding, you might already be planning to turn your wedding trip into a honeymoon trip. And this might make a lot of sense for you. But if you’re planning to go somewhere else for your honeymoon, you might consider waiting a couple of months for that trip. For us, we flew from DC to California for our wedding week, then flew back to DC to drop off stuff, then immediately flew to Mexico. It was a whirlwind two week trip that involved a lot of time in airports. I absolutely LOVED our honeymoon and think we made the right call for us, but if we could have avoided the stress of all the airports and cross-country travel, that would have been amazing too.
I think a trend today for destination couples is to have a mini honeymoon in their destination location, and then to take a bigger international trip a few months later. Definitely something to consider!
6. Hire local wedding professionals when possible
As a photographer, I’m always up for traveling and adventuring with my couples. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with bringing a vendor (particularly a photographer) with you from your home base town. Especially if you have worked with them before or have a personal relationship with them prior to your wedding. But if you have no connections and are planning a destination wedding, I would hire local if possible. Not only do local professionals have the inside knowledge of your locations and venues, they also have great networks and communities at their disposal to help you plan the best wedding day possible. And you’ll be supporting a local community, which always feels good.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for planning a destination wedding! Please reach out if I can help you plan your wedding day vision!
Planning a destination wedding to Colorado? Check out the guides below to help you plan the perfect day!
Then, let’s chat!