HECK YEAH, planning a destination wedding is SO fun!
Choosing to forego tradition and travel for your wedding is pretty magical if you ask me. But sometimes it can feel a bit like, “where do I even start?!” As a destination wedding photographer and travel fanatic, I’ve got a few tips to help you get started!
But before I dive into all of the good stuff, maybe I should take a second to tell you why I’m even qualified to be giving you this advice, yeah? Of all of the passions this life has given me, photography and travel are undoubtedly the top two. And when I get the chance to merge them? HOLY MOLY it’s bliss.
Not only have I traveled to countless places, like the remote tundra of Antarctica and the seaside cliffs of Spain to the breathtaking views of Santorini, I’ve also had the absolute privilege of capturing love along the way. And I’ve had a chance to make a mistake or two, while learning lessons with every trip. So why not share them with my fellow travel lovers who can use it to plan the best freakin’ day ever?! (I’m talking about YOU!)
Okay, let’s start with why you are planning a destination wedding. Is it for you?
Short answer YES! I don’t care who you are, how much you’ve traveled, where you want to go – you can choose a destination wedding! You might catch yourself saying…
- Are we adventurous enough?
- Is it in our budget?
- What will our families and friends think?
- How will we even put that off?
But the reality is that it is possible. It’s possible to get married in a beautiful place. It’s possible for a variety of budgets. It’s possible to incorporate loved ones, near and far. And it’s not as scary to plan as you might think! You just have to have the right people in your corner. (Hint hint, I’d love for it to be me!)
It all just comes down to one thing – your why.
- Do you want to get married somewhere beautiful?
- Are you dreaming of checking off a bucket list destination?
- Is there somewhere sentimental that just feels right?
- Are you looking for an entire experience rather than just a ceremony?
There are endless reasons why you might choose a destination wedding and they are all good enough reasons to just GO FOR IT!
When you decided to go all in on planning a destination wedding, where was the first place that came to mind?
Was it somewhere in the mountains? Or seaside? Maybe it was the city where you got engaged. Or even some far-off land that you’ve always dreamed of going!
As I said before, you might have chosen the location for many different reasons. But now it’s time to consider the maybe more stressful part of travel weddings – the logistics.
Write down that picture-perfect place you first imagined. And then write down a second and third option, too.
Now below each of those destinations, it’s time to consider everything it would take to plan a wedding in this place. While there are many moving parts to planning a destination wedding, here are the most important factors.
Guests: Are you eloping, just the two of you? Inviting close friends? Throwing the biggest party of the year? It’s important to first think about how many guests you’ll invite as you plan other logistics.
Season: What are the seasons like where you are headed? Seasons and climate can greatly affect your plans. Here are just a few reasons you’ll need to think about the season in the location you’ve chosen.
Climate – The climate in the mountains is very different from by the sea. The same for one country to another! Make sure your date aligns with the type of weather you are looking for.
Experiences – Is there something you’d like to experience (skiing, hiking, festivals, beach days) and does that have a particular season?
Crowds + closures – What is tourism like? Will high season and low season affect your plans (i.e too many crowds in high season or closed amenities in low season)
Budget – Time of year will also greatly affect the budget. High season brings high prices, so make sure to do your research! Alternatively, if you are on a strict budget, consider going in low season to be cost-effective!
Travel: How will you get there? Is it accessible for guests? Is the travel (flights, trains, cars) in your overall budget? Is it an easy drive or multiple connection flights? Not just to the location, but travel within the location as well. Here are some things to consider as far as transit:
- Travel from the airport to accommodation
- Travel from accommodation to the ceremony site
- How accessible is the ceremony site? Is hiking or strenuous activity involved?
- Available types of transportation – buses, Ubers, trains, ferries?
- Is transportation available year-round?
You’ll hear me say this over and over again, but I mean it! Do your research. You’ll have less stress when it comes time to get married and more fun too!
Accommodation: You probably get the importance of a place to sleep and a roof over your head. But your accommodation can really be a big part of your experience!
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- How much privacy do we want? This might help decide between an Airbnb and a resort for example.
- What is our budget? For obvious reasons.
- Will we bring guests? Where will they stay?
- Do we want photos at our accommodation? Light and aesthetics might come into play.
- Do we want our accommodation to serve as a venue? Many offer services!
Vendors: Just because you’re hopping to a new destination to get married, doesn’t mean you need to skip out on all of the fun details! Finding vendors who specialize in destination weddings or are local to the area, is a great way to ensure a seamless and beautiful wedding day! They just get it.
Link up with a florist to bring along floral arrangements for the ceremony site. Kari and Bobbi brought in stunning floral arrangements for their desert elopement! It absolutely added beauty to their already incredible day. Or you could hire a private chef to make an intimate meal to celebrate! Get creative with putting your own twist on elements of a traditional day!
Permits + licenses: Legalities can get a little tricky when planning a destination wedding! You’ll want to check into the rules for getting married in the location, especially if it is outside of the USA!
Pro-tip: Many couples choose to get legally married in the US and symbolically married abroad.
Paperwork really depends on where you are getting married, but overall, here are some potential permits you might need!
- Marriage license
- Special use permits (for the ceremony site)
- Photography permits
- Park entrance tickets (if getting married in a national park, etc)
COVID: As the world adjusts and evolves to the realities of COVID, rules and regulations are getting easier to track. Just because there might not be specific rules where you are, doesn’t mean your destination doesn’t have them. Do your research and make sure you meet their requirements (and warn guests too!)
When should you start planning a destination wedding?
It’s never too early. While you might not be able to plan every last detail from the get-go, you could always start with research and go from there! But the reality of planning a destination wedding is that it takes time.
Wedding photographers book one to two years in advance especially for destination weddings. Venues and other vendors as well!
Accommodation, depending on the time of year, can book months to years out.
Flight costs will ebb and flow, so I recommend turning on notifications for Google Flights or getting an app like Hopper to track when is the best time to book!
If you’re inviting guests, they’ll need time to plan. Give them plenty!
Do you want some seriously incredible wedding photos? Here’s how to get images that’ll make you feel like you’re reliving the celebration every time you see them.
If you’re planning a destination wedding, chances are you are looking forward to those epic, once-in-a-lifetime, freakin’ stunning photos!
Movement – Movement is everything. With clothing, with accessories, with yourselves. Stay moving and it’ll keep things natural!
Location scouting – Think about what you are envisioning as your backdrop and make sure to communicate that with your photographer! For example, I’ll always location scout for the perfect spots in new areas before our shoot!
Sentimental details – Bring ‘em along! Flowers that you love. Vow books. Letters to each other. Letters from your family. Whatever brings you joy and adds love to your day!
Planning an experience – Doing something fun takes away from the stress of it all. Plan something you love and you’ll forget the camera is there! A picnic, riding bikes, playing cards, hiking, kayaking, reading to each other – whatever it is will make you feel comfortable and your photos look natural.
Choosing vendors you vibe with – This might seem obvious, but choosing vendors that truly see your vision and know how to bring it to life is so important! You’ll be hanging with them all day so you’ll want to like them and feel comfy with them!
What if I’m not planning a destination wedding, but I still want a destination-style photoshoot?
You are speaking my language! You can absolutely plan a destination shoot, regardless of what style wedding you are planning. You can plan destination engagement photos, a honeymoon photoshoot, or even a just for fun couples shoot!
Abbey and Daniel did just that when they invited me to a Horseshoe Bend photoshoot! Check out their stunning gallery for some inspiration!
So tell me friend, where are you headed? If you are needing a little inspiration, I’ve shared my bucket list over on my travel page! Plus there is a little bit more about me, my travels, and booking me for a destination wedding.
And because what is a blog post without some stunning photos to share? If the travel wedding bug has bitten you yet, it surely will after you see these images from Croatia! I mean?!?! If this doesn’t make you want to dive into planning a destination wedding, I don’t know what will!
To inquire about booking a destination wedding, tap the link! Let’s go explore somewhere beautiful, shall we?
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