Tips for Planning a Romantic Destination Wedding

Is the thought of saying your vows on a white, sandy beach as the sun colors the horizon a rich shade of red-orange appealing? Destination weddings are becoming increasingly popular as couples want to go the extra mile when they get married. In an age of social media, there is a strong sense of one-upmanship, with brides seeking to outdo each other in the wedding photo stakes. We are not all lucky enough to be Pippa Middleton and marry a billionaire, but we can plan a gorgeous destination wedding and make our Facebook friends sick with envy.

romantic destination wedding
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There is a lot that can go wrong when planning a destination wedding. From hurricanes to food poisoning, the more complicated your wedding arrangements are, the higher the likelihood of problems arising at some point in the proceedings. Despite this, most brides would kill for a luxury destination wedding. There is nothing wrong with a traditional ceremony in the local church, as Pippa Middleton illustrated to great effect, but a beach wedding in the Caribbean or a simple ceremony on the shores of Lake Como will look fantastic in the wedding photos.

Now you are drooling at the thought of declaring your undying love under a setting sun, preferably somewhere hot and tropical, let’s look at how best to plan a destination wedding if you don’t have the budget for a wedding planner.

In theory, it is possible to get married anywhere. These days, you don’t need a clergyman or official registrar to oversee your wedding. Anyone can register online to become a wedding officiant for US weddings. It is a relatively simple procedure, but you should check the relevant laws in your state. If a wedding ceremony is officiated illegally, the state will impose hefty fines, so be very careful. However, if you decide to organize a wedding in a National Park or on the beach, or even the US Virgin Islands, a friend or loved one can conduct the ceremony. How awesome is that?

Location, Location, Location

Once you have figured out whether you want to ask a friend or family member to act as an officiant, the next job is to choose a destination. The world is your oyster in this regard, so make a list of bucket list wedding destinations and see if there are any you can agree on Beach weddings are always popular. It is hard to beat the romance of a white, sandy beach with palm trees swaying in the background and the ocean lapping the shore. Because you are already in paradise, you also have the honeymoon covered, which is handy. However, even if a tropical beach wedding in Mauritius ticks all of your boxes, it doesn’t mean it is a good choice for everyone else.

Beaches may be romantic, but there are a hundred and one other destinations worth considering. Kim Kardashian and the Clooneys both chose to get married in Italy. Venice is incredibly romantic, as is Florence or Naples, but there are many other European cities with stacks of history and charm.

Choose a destination that has some extra meaning, perhaps the resort where you took your first vacation together or a beauty spot where you had your first kiss. The more meaningful it is, the more romantic the ceremony will be – at least for the two of you.

The Cost of a Destination Wedding

Destination weddings can be costly, which is off-putting for guests. Not everyone can afford to travel to a foreign location for a week, so bear this in mind when planning a wedding abroad. Your close family might be willing to foot the bill for flights and a hotel, but it is unreasonable to expect everyone else to book what is essentially an extra vacation.

Unless you are willing to cover some of the costs or organize a second celebration at home where the majority of guests are invited, it is wise to look at destinations on the same continent at least. The alternative is to accept that your wedding party will be a small and intimate affair.

Once you have nailed the destination (with a nod to the cost of course), it is sensible to look at other ways to save money, assuming you are not marrying a billionaire.

There are many ways to keep costs down. Firstly, plan your destination wedding with peak travel times in mind. For example, whilst getting married around Christmas is romantic, especially if you elect to travel to Iceland to say your vows, it will be extremely expensive.

Flights and accommodation costs are much higher at peak travel times, so it is wise to plan your destination wedding when travel costs are lower. However, do pay attention to the local weather patterns, as getting married during hurricane season in the Caribbean is not advisable.

Make sure any destination you choose has a range of different accommodation options. You are entitled to spend your wedding and honeymoon in a 5* luxury resort, but your guests may not have such deep pockets. If there are some budget hotels nearby, it will help guests keep their costs down. Alternatively, hire a large villa for your wedding party, so everyone stays on-site. If the villa has a beautiful garden or beachside location, you can even have the wedding ceremony there.

Use local flowers and cuisine to keep the costs down. Local specialties are bound to be cheaper than imported goods, so embrace the local dishes and experiment with locally produced wines and spirits.

Wedding Packages

Wedding packages are a stress-free way of organizing a destination wedding. Many travel operators offer destination wedding packages as an extra service. Instead of making your own arrangements, the travel company assigns a wedding planner who oversees everything, including the legalities of the ceremony.

For many couples, this is perfect. Instead of traveling to the destination a week prior to the wedding in order to apply for a marriage license and fulfill residency conditions, the wedding planner takes care of everything.

On the downside, there will be an extra cost associated with the service, so do your sums and decide whether it is worth paying extra. For a low-key wedding in an English-speaking destination, it should be relatively easy to make your own arrangements, but if you dislike the idea of things going wrong, a package wedding is probably a better idea.

The Wedding Dress

For the bride, the wedding dress is the single most important piece of the wedding jigsaw. If the dress is wrong, everything else falls apart. A bride wants to feel like the most beautiful woman in the world on her wedding day, so her dress needs to be perfect. However, the dress needs to be suitable for the climate, as a heavy dress in a tropical climate is a recipe for disaster.

Beware of crumpled fabrics. Some fabrics, for example, cotton and silk, crease very easily and can be a nightmare to straighten out. Do you really want your wedding photos ruined by a crumpled dress?

Don’t place your wedding dress in checked luggage, either. It would be a disaster if you reached the destination but your luggage took the scenic route and missed the wedding completely.

Lightweight, breathable fabrics work best in hot climates, but if you are plotting to get hitched in a cold country, choose a long-sleeved dress that will keep you warm. And don’t forget about shoes. Heels are not going to work on the beach, but sandals are perfect. You could even opt to walk down the beach barefoot, but on a hot day, watch out for fried feet.

Wedding Photographer

Photos preserve your memories of a wonderful day. With the help of gorgeous photos, you can look back at your wedding in years to come and be reminded of how amazing it was. If you want professional photos, hire a professional such as Mark Winder Photography. Most professional wedding photographers are happy to travel to destination weddings, for a cost.

It is definitely worth paying extra for a professional photographer whose work you know and love, but if your budget won’t quite stretch that far, hire a local photographer or opt for DIY photos.

Ask all the guests to upload their wedding photos to a shared cloud folder so you can sift through and pick the best photos. Once you have a selection of candid photos, share them on social media or post them on your wedding blog.

The Devil is in the Detail

There is a lot to think about when planning a destination wedding, so make a list, check it at least three times, and tick off tasks as you complete them. Simple things, like who is in charge of carrying the rings and other essentials, are all important.

Remember, your name might change once you get married, so it is essential that you sort out the legalities and your passport before you leave the country. It wouldn’t be very romantic to end up stranded in a foreign country with an invalid passport.

Are you planning a destination wedding? Tell us more in the comments!


  1. Last time when I thought about wedding organizing was last summer when my best friend got married. It was so emotional! I am so happy that I have found the how to plan a wedding resource just on time. From that website I got many fantastic ideas that we used in the ceremony. They have so inspiring pictures! Recommend to all the bride.

  2. Well, such kind of wedding can work well in movies, but I don't really see how it could work in the real life. Maybe this post will be great help for you, if you have tons of money or little amount of relatives. But such wedding isn't for me, with my huge family and not such big salary.

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