How To Plan Your Dream Destination Wedding: 15 Top Tips / by Francesca Depledge

Planning a dream destination wedding is an exciting time, yet it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Especially when you throw in the added complication of distance and possible language barriers.  

With a little know-how, the help of a wedding planner to take care of the details, you will soon be jetting off to tie the knot.

So here is what you need to know to pull off your dream destination wedding.

1. Pick Your Destination

Location and venue sit pretty high on the list of wedding priorities. It determines not only the mood (bohemian, beachy, rustic, modern) but it will impact your budget and logistics.

You and your partner should start by listing your dream wedding destinations. Is it a place you first holidayed together? A place that holds special meaning, or the place you first met?

Sea view of Crete in Greece for destination weddings.jpg

Once that’s decided, consider the venue itself. Are you looking for small and intimate? Do you need a blank canvas? How will you and your guests travel to and from the venue? What nearby accommodation is available for your guests?

You want to make sure the location and style reflects the two of you and have your guests thinking “Wow! This is them.”

Remember to balance what is a necessity vs. what you would like from a venue, whilst considering guest numbers, logistics and budget.

2. Timing is Everything

Whatever year you choose think about how much time you need to save and how much notice you need to give your guests. Not everyone can commit at the drop of a hat so my suggestion is to give everyone the heads up 9-12 months in advance.

3. Pick a Date

Hotter months generally attract more visitors and higher rates. If a peak season wedding is essential for you, then aim to book your venue and hotels well in advance. Consider whether you can opt for the shoulder seasons to save a few pounds and have more flexibility whilst still enjoying good weather. 

When my husband and I got married it was important that the wedding was during the school holidays. I have many teacher friends and friends with kids whose holidays are dictated by when the schools break up, so give this some thought. Pay attention to national holidays and any local festivals dates too.

If you chose peak season think about the time of day you decide to wed. In the UK it is quite common to marry around 12-3 pm, yet in warmer climates, this is when the sun is at its hottest. Avoid a melting-bride moment and your guests will thank you for it too.  

Weekday vs. weekend? You will often find weekdays are cheaper so make sure you ask if there is any difference. Remember to check flight schedules to make sure your guests can arrive in good time for the big day and any pre-wedding activities.

Rustic Italian destination wedding .jpg

4. Visit in Advance

For me, this is a must…unless you live the other side of the world. I know of couples who leave everything to their wedding planner and turn up a few days before their big day. This is fine but my advice is to visit at least once where possible, 2 or 3 times ideally. Photos, Skype and video are great but there’s nothing like seeing and feeling the real thing in person.

Start by scouting venues, hotels and activities for you and your guests to enjoy during the wedding week. Meet with vendors such as florists, caterers, hair and make-up and transportation services. Arrange tasting sessions, check on availability, costs and logistics. But before you start thinking “There is so much to do!” remember that this seemingly complicated process can be taken care of for you with the help of a wedding planner like Love Stories by Francesca.

5. Find Your Style

Create mood boards that you can later share with your wedding planner, florist, cake designer, photographer and friends/family. This will help those involved with planning your big day understand your vision.

Start with Pinterest and visit blogs like The Perfect Palette if you are looking for colour inspiration.

Orange and red rustic flowers at destination wedding.jpg

6. Research the Legal Stuff

Believe it or not, people tend to forget about the legal aspects and actually it can be one of the most important things.

Dealing with an unfamiliar legal system and the added obstacle of a language barrier is daunting and can be somewhat complicated. If you have enlisted a wedding planner then do not fret. Ask them what is required for legal documentation, residency requirements, visas and timings and let them take care of any legal obligations for you.

If it’s incredibly complex to have the wedding legally recognised in your chosen country, then the alternative is to consider completing the formalities before you leave your home country and have a symbolic ceremony abroad.  

It is quite common for couples to legally get married in their home country first and this way your wedding day will be just how you want it, in front of your guests and not driven by local legal requirements.

7. Have a Plan B

Just because you decide to wed in a hot country does not guarantee good weather and believe me I know.

Our wedding took place in August on the island of Crete and it rained all the way up to 4 pm on our wedding day. Thankfully the dining area, although outside, did have a covered area and lucky for us it stopped by the time our ceremony started. According to Greek tradition, rain on your wedding day brings you a lifetime of good luck – I’ll take that.

But in all seriousness, consider the elements and establish a backup plan. Check if the venue has an indoor option? Can the outside area be covered?

Use it as an opportunity to let your guests know that you have considered them too. Handout paper fans in case it is hot or provide umbrellas in case the heavens do decide to open.  

8. Don’t Do Everything Yourself

Don’t be a control freak and do everything yourself. You will burn out and not enjoy the day to its full speaking as someone who knows.

Entrust family and friends both in country and at home. Delegate delegate delegate! Even better hire yourself a pro by enlisting a wedding planner or coordinator.  

9. Be Selective When it Comes to Vendors

Once you start writing down those lists, you soon realise just how many vendors you are going to need to engage with. Caterers, photographers, florists, cake suppliers, musicians…the list goes on.

Make sure you vet each one carefully and look at past examples of their work. Do your research and ask people for referrals. It is vital that you trust each and every one of the team as you are leaving a lot in their hands.

This is also why a pre-visit is important as it allows you to meet with vendors in person. If this is next to impossible then ensure you arrange a video call. Or if you have a wedding planner, ask them to screen each vendor and provide you with a short list to decide from.

10. Hire a Pro

Being a busy bride with the added obstacle of not being based in the country where you are marrying requires help and lots of it. Your wedding planner will work with you to make your vision become a reality, she/he can be your wo/man on the ground, assist with budget and make decisions on your behalf according to your brief.

Long table wedding reception in Italy.jpg

11. Be Flexible and Have Some Patience

Keep an open mind and remember at times you may need to compromise and have a little patience. Local protocol and response times differ in every country. Don’t mistake their laid-back easy going attitude for incompetence.  

When things aren’t quite going the way that you imagined take a step back or even remove yourself from the situation and return to it later. Think about how important it is in the grand scheme of things.  

The more relaxed that you are, the happier you’ll be throughout the entire planning process. I’m not saying be a complete Bridechilla and not care but do not sweat the small stuff. You will only look back and think “Did I really get that stressed over the table linen?”

Married couple at wedding in Italy.jpg

12. Get Personal

It’s often the little things that stand out. Not only can the small details reflect you and your partner’s style and taste, it is also an opportunity to show appreciation to your guests.

Throw in pairs of flip-flops for each guest at your beach wedding. Offer homemade ice cold lemonade to keep your guests cool and hydrated whilst waiting around for the photos. Provide welcome packs for your guests on arrival with a detailed itinerary of the wedding week. This will reduce questions, and give clarification to your wedding party.

13. Go With Your Gut Instinct

It’s great to involve family and friends throughout the planning process but be clear from the outset on what is important to you and your other.

Everyone will have an opinion but remember what is important to you, and don’t ignore your gut feeling if you feel something just needs to be so.

14. Don’t Over Promise

Telling your best friend she can bring a plus-one before you’ve attacked the guest-list, or deciding on flowers based on your mother-in-law’s demands before you’ve finalised your colour scheme, will only backfire in time. Be mindful and feel confident to tell people that you have not decided yet.

Wild flower wedding bouquets.jpg

15. Hello Lists and Welcome Spreadsheets

So there is lots to do and for this reason alone Excel will become your new best friend. Write everything down including your to-do list, ideas, inspiration, list your vendors, dates, times and any questions that you have.

And if I can finish off by saying...remember to enjoy the planning process and look forward to saying “I do” to your other half. I mean who doesn’t want a wedding, a holiday and the opportunity to honeymoon all rolled into one? 

If you found this article helpful, then please consider sharing it with your friends.

Also, make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Facebook for more useful inspiration and ideas, or feel free to contact me, I would love to hear from you.

Francesca x