How to plan a destination wedding

Photo: Barcelo Puerto Vallarta

Photo: Barcelo Puerto Vallarta

You did it - you got engaged to your perfect person! With all the excitement that this entails, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of beginning the wedding planning process. But planning a destination wedding doesn’t have to take over your life. With the right team behind you, it can be an enjoyable once in a lifetime experience that you will cherish.

1. Destination Wedding Specialist

As you begin researching the planning process, you may notice that there are resources available to you, sometimes at minimal or no charge. Working with a Destination Wedding Specialist or a Travel Agent who focuses exclusively on weddings can save you time, money and reduce stress.

2. Budget

The second piece of the puzzle to start thinking about is your budget. This is a two-part question: How much do you want your guests to spend on their holiday? How much do you want to spend on your wedding day? Be upfront with your Destination Wedding Specialist from the beginning so that they can ensure that your location list fits your budget.

3. Location

The next big decision that you will have to make is where you will hold your destination wedding. You might choose to have an all-inclusive wedding location or you may opt to reserve condo-villa style residence where your guests can do their own cooking. Ask yourself what kind of travelers you are and which type of holiday you and your guests would prefer. Work with your Destination Wedding Specialist on your “must haves list” and narrow it down to two or three selections.

4. Travel Dates

Some couples have strict travel dates in mind based on work-schedules or other circumstances. If this is the case, ensure that your Destination Wedding Specialist checks with the resort to make sure that your wedding date is available. Often times resorts will require you to be there for three full days prior to your wedding day in order to finalize the details. If you are flexible with your travel dates, make an effort to avoid booking during peak season/holidays.

5. Save the Date

It’s important to begin alerting your guests to the fact that you will be having a destination wedding as soon as you can so that they can make arrangements. If possible, send your Save the Date invite at least 10-12 months prior to your travel dates. This should include your estimated travel/deposit dates, budget for flights/accommodations and an introduction to your Destination Wedding Specialist in case guests have any travel related questions. It’s also a great way to have your guests provide a tentative RSVP to get an idea of your group size.

6. Group Quotes

Once you have narrowed down your top locations, request a group quote from your Destination Wedding Specialist/Travel Agent. Certain resorts will offer better promotions and discounts for group travel than others. Your Destination Wedding Specialist should be able to clearly communicate how these different promotions can benefit you and your group. Once you see the amazing perks available when booking your travel as a group, you may have some clarity on which location to choose. As soon as you select your venue, reserve your wedding date with the resort. Most places only perform a certain amount of weddings each day, so it’s common for more popular venues to book up in advance.

7. Wedding Website

Another tool which centralizes the planning process is creating a wedding website for your guests. The site should be largely informational in nature, including details about the venue, the group booking process, what guests should bring etc. Coral Tide Travel provides complimentary professional electronic Save the Date invite and personalized Wedding Website at no charge to you!

8. Room Block Reservation

Once you have selected your location, secured your wedding date and created a first draft of your guest list, it’s time to secure a room block at your chosen resort. In order to get a room block, you will be given a group rate, which you will secure with a small deposit. This is the only way to guarantee that your guests will have their space reserved in advance. It gives you the opportunity to provide your guests with an exact dollar amount for the cost of their trip and ensures that this price will not go up as the resort books up through the year. Having your guests book individually is dangerous, since you will have no control over the resort's inventory and therefore no control over your guest list. When guests book individually, they will also have to pay in full upfront for their trip. Once the room block is secured, your guests will only have to pay a small deposit to reserve, and their full payment is not due until months later. Your Destination Wedding Specialist will take care of deposits, payment plans and final payments to ensure that your entire guest list is reserved correctly.

9. Day of Details

Your day-of details are typically taken care of by your resort coordinator. Depending on the style of wedding you choose, they may not begin planning these details until a month or two prior to your wedding date. Don’t panic! They are professionals who sometimes plan hundreds of weddings per year and they will come through to help you get the ceremony and reception of your dreams. 

10. Extras

There are tons of extra ideas like organizing group excursions and preparing to leave welcome bags in your guests rooms. Talk to your Destination Wedding Specialist to organize these types of additions, which can help to create unique memories for you and your guests! 

Coral Tide is a licensed destination wedding travel agency. We have helped clients across North America plan their destination weddings in Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and more. Contact info@coraltidetravel.com for your free initial consultation!