bride and groom standing hand and hand near the Tampa bay during a Florida Wedding

When most couples begin the wedding planning process, one of the first decisions they make is choosing the perfect location. From cozy chapels and grand cathedrals to rustic, southern ceremonies, there are so many romantic settings for you to choose from.

If a traditional wedding venue just isn’t your vibe, hosting a destination wedding may be your dream come true. While carbon-copy wedding days can feel overdone and uninspired, destination weddings open up a world of possibilities.

Planning one of these adventurous events can seem like a daunting task, so allow us to take some of the weight off your shoulders. If you want to know how to plan a destination wedding that will take your breath away, we’ve got you covered.

Set your wedding budget

Even the most traditional weddings can get expensive without a proper plan, so it’s critical to set your budget before getting down to business. While talking money may not be the most exciting conversation, trust us, it’ll save you plenty of time and energy in the long run.

If you’re planning a romantic getaway for your wedding ceremony, you’ll first need to determine how much money you’re willing to spend overall. As a starting point, we’ll note that the average cost of a destination wedding is about ~$30,000 for most couples.

It may be helpful to break down a vendor-specific budget, as some services and goods tend to be a bit more expensive than others. Once you and your partner have agreed on a budget and prioritized the high-value items, you’re ready to move on to the next step!

Find your dream wedding venue

Choosing your destination wedding location should be a personal, meaningful decision. When it comes to finding the perfect wedding spot, it’s important to consider your preferences, needs, and overall comfort level with the location.

All-inclusive resorts, for example, can be an excellent option for couples who plan to honeymoon in the same spot. Small villages and towns, however, may be more appropriate for couples who already have family living in the area.

If you haven’t visited the location yet, we’d highly suggest doing a little research first. This way, you can find out everything you need to know about the climate, political status, and potential health concerns before making your final decision. 

a landscape image of the Great Smoky Mountains

Book a professional planner

When it comes to planning a destination wedding, this is one vendor that we cannot recommend enough! With all of the challenges that can arise throughout this process, you need someone who knows the ins and outs of the wedding business.

Ideally, you should find a wedding planner who is either local to the area or has experience planning destination weddings. This way, you can ensure that this vendor has the wisdom and expertise necessary to check all of your boxes.

While you may have planned plenty of trips on your own, a wedding planner can connect you to travel agents, local vendors, and provide invaluable guidance. Instead of stressing out over Airbnbs or plane tickets, you can spend your engagement enjoying special moments with your partner.

Get your guest list

Now that we’ve gotten the ball rolling, the next step is deciding who to invite to your luxurious celebration. Whether you choose to invite only immediate family or welcome all of your favorite people, your wedding guests are in for an incredible experience.

When creating your guest list, it’s important to consider lodging options and travel constraints. For example, guests with young children may find it more difficult to make travel arrangements, so they may be more comfortable sending a gift rather than attending.

We highly recommend getting your invitations out early, as this will help you to get an accurate head count for the event. From there, you can choose to book hotel room blocks or start compiling a list of lodging recommendations for your guests.

Support local businesses

For destination brides, planning this type of wedding means that you may not have personal connections in the local industry. While you may find an experienced vendor who’s willing to make the trip, it’s sometimes helpful to check out the local talent as well.

Many local vendors offer destination wedding packages, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if a discount can be applied. You may end up saving yourself a nice chunk of change that you would have otherwise spent on travel fees.

Working with native vendors also means that you can rely on their understanding of the culture and expectations. This can help you to avoid any embarrassment and host an event that even the locals would love!

bride and groom sitting with each other by a pond at Sweetwater wetlands in Gainesville, Florida

Look before you book

If you get the chance, it’s definitely a good idea to visit your wedding venue before making the decision to book. Visiting in advance will give you time to take a tour, scout photo locations, and start fantasizing about the happiest day of your life.

In the same vein, we recommend meeting with your vendors well before the special day arrives. Most wedding vendors offer private consultations that allow you to ask questions, share expectations, and address any concerns throughout the planning process.

While reviews and images can give you some insight into how a vendor performs, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see for yourself. Having a destination wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s best to build a team that you can trust to honor your big day.

Plan dedicated guest experiences

If you’re planning a wedding that requires hours of roundtrip travel, why not just make a weekend of it? Shows, excursions, other recreational activities will keep your wedding guests engaged throughout the entire trip.

For beach weddings, you may want to plan a seaside experience for your loved ones, giving them a chance to make some unforgettable memories. When they reflect on your wedding weekend, they will be reminded of your hospitality, kindness, and amazing passion for life.

If you’d like to keep things a bit more low-key, you can always plan an adventure with the members of your wedding party. As your dearest friends, they would love to spend as much time as possible celebrating with you.

Expect the unexpected

As you continue planning your dream destination wedding, just remember that you can never be too prepared. While we’re wishing you all the best for your big day, we know that with weddings of all shapes and sizes, anything can happen.

Destination weddings can seem like a budget-friendly option that provides plenty of freedom, but with that freedom comes calculated risk. Wedding insurance can provide additional peace of mind, reassuring you that you’re covered in unforeseen circumstances.

If you want to avoid unnecessary wedding costs, the best strategy is to expect the unexpected. When you hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, you can rest knowing that nothing can ruin your wedding day.

Research marriage requirements

Marriage requirements can vary largely from one location to the next, so you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got every detail worked out before the day arrives. Even if you’re just planning to get married in a different location within your home country, it’s important to check their requirements well in advance.

Based on your findings, you may have to collect some essential documents to ensure that the event goes smoothly. This may include birth certificates and vaccination records, as well as a marriage license and letter of intent.

If traveling internationally, you’ll also have to remember to pack (or apply for) your passport before the big day. Making a checklist of each of the required documents can help you stay organized and sane in the months leading up to your wedding.

officiant signing marriage license at a Tampa Bay Wedding

Get packing

Once you’ve taken care of all the little details, there’s only one thing left for you to do! You two can finally start packing for this incredible adventure that you’ve planned.

As previously stated, you’ll want to be sure to pack your passport, marriage license, and any other essential documents. Make sure that your wedding gifts are securely packaged and labeled to avoid any confusion at the baggage claim.

Last, but certainly not least, remember to pack your wedding attire for the big event. From the wedding dress and tuxedo to the accessories and dancing shoes, bring everything you need to experience the journey of a lifetime with your soulmate.


Planning a destination wedding can be a stressful, challenging task, so it’s important to give yourself ample time to prepare. Be sure to do your research and communicate clearly with your partner, vendors, and wedding guests.

To avoid getting overwhelmed, take things one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional wedding planner. After all, this is your special day, and the two of you should be able to enjoy every moment together.

"I was absolutely thrilled with our weddings photos! They came out so gorgeous words cannot express my gratitude for Emily!

Mel & John



"I will never hire another photographer. I have found my photographer soul mate and her name is Emily Marie. Thank the stars!"

Jessica Knox



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