9 Steps for Canadians Planning a Destination Wedding
How do you plan a destination wedding? What are the first steps to planning a destination wedding? There is literally SO MANY THINGS to consider when planning a destination wedding but we have sumarized it into 9 easy-ish steps. And of course, if you want more direction (and to save a heck of a lot of time), we have our Destination Wedding Planning guide. And if you want EVEN MORE direction and help (and you are based in Canada), fill out the form at the bottom of the page and one of us here will get in touch. We are getting excited already!
the world is big so whatever you want in a destination wedding, you will be able to find it. It is so much easier to find a perfect match when you know exactly what you are looking for trust me. Start thinking about your guest list at this point too. Nobody expects you to know the exact amount of guests but you should have an idea whether it will be ten people or one hundred.
Our guide really breaks it up but here is a short version. In the beginning, you need to decide on a wedding budget and a travel budget. That’s right – two separate budgets! And you thought destination wedding planning was easy ;). The average travel budget from Alberta is close to $1850 per person for a week abroad. This gets you a 4* resort in a destination like Mexico during shoulder season (May/November) – just to give you an idea.
In terms of actual wedding budget, we can’t guess on this blog post. There is too big of a range (we have definitely seem budgets from $3,000-$30,000). Like local weddings, bigger guest lists usually require bigger budgets. We would actually encourage you to consider a “per person” budget when looking at “what is realistic”. A $200/person budget (ie. $6000 for 30 people) will usually get you something more basic, whereas $2000/person ($60,000 for 30 people) will get you something remarkable.
BRING IN THE EXPERTS
Maybe us? You will need a travel agent to arrange everything for you and your guests. You may also want to consider hiring a destination wedding planner. Find out the difference and who you need to hire in this post here. Although we recognize a planner might seem like “an optional expense” and we certainly don’t want to pressure anyone, the longer we do this, the more we realize how much our couples benefit from planner services so this is definitely worth considering if you can fit it into your budget.
CHOOSE A LOCATION
Mexico or Paris? All-inclusive or a la carte? What is your wedding style? Think about where you are flying from and which destinations offer direct flights or at most one layover. Hopefully you have established your vision (step 1) and have hired your experts (step 3). From there, it should be easy to narrow down a location & venue that is a near perfect fit. Please consider that different destinations have different requirements for legal ceremonies so depending how important that is to you will be a major factor as well. We usually recommend location first, venue second although certain venues are worth compromising on “location” for.
SAVE THE DATE
As soon as you have decided on a location, you need to save the date. Usually locations abroad book a year in advance and many venues or resorts cap a certain amount of weddings per week. The farther in advance you plan the more notice you can give your guests as well. Expect to pay a deposit of $200-$500 per person for travel and $250-$1000 to save the date with the venue/resort. Usually the venue will charge in USD regardless of where in the world you are getting married so make sure to confirm currency. This is also the best time to buy wedding and travel insurance (cancellation/interruption/medical).
SEND SAVE THE DATES & SET UP YOUR WEDDING WEBSITE
Gosh, do we ever love wax seals #offtopic . Obviously this should happen as soon as you actually save the date. There is no way you can fit all the information into a save the date email or invitation so a wedding website is a good resource and their are lots of websites that provide free websites with their slug (.wordpress.com, .weebly.com, .weddingwire.com to name a few). Email “save the dates” are a popular choice for destination wedding brides because you can instantly get in touch with your guests. They also have access to the information they need to put down their deposits at work (which, to be honest, is usually when they end up booking).
ENJOY (& BE AS BUSY AS YOU WANT TO BE)
Part of the beauty of a destination wedding is that you can do almost nothing to plan and still have a beautiful wedding. Trust us, we have seen it! Take some time to enjoy being engaged and enjoy the wedding planning process. Typically the resort doesn’t start planning with you until three months before the wedding. This is the time when most couples can get a little stir crazy but this downtime is part of the process. We wrote about a few things you can fill your time with here though for all you overachievers.
This is where you finalize everything you dreamt about in Step 1. The venue coordinator will be in contact and will finalize all the details for you. Final payment for you and your guests travel will likely fall around the 60-75 day before travel mark but it might be sooner for additional discounts (often called an Early Booking Bonus – EBB. At this point we think it is nice touch to send out information to your guests as well. You may have a few different events like welcome cocktails, thank you catamaran excursion, etc that you want to let them know about. You may not have known the time of the wedding ceremony when you sent your save the dates but you do now. We love any excuse for beautiful stationary.
HAVE AN AMAZING WEDDING
Enough said. Don’t forget to send thank you cards to everyone who attended as well. You can set up a photo sharing site so all of your guests can upload their photos from the week to share as well. The best part about a destination wedding really is the entire week. Let’s make memories, okayyyy.
Ready to start planning? Want to dive into conversation? Fill out the form below telling us what you are looking for and we will contact you within 2 business days. None of the fields are required by the way, but the more specific you are, the more helpful I can be right out of the gate.
[PSSSST: So glad you found us here! It can be so frustrating to spend hours searching for wedding planning information when a majority of what you find online is either *so old* or completely geared toward all inclusive resort weddings. WE MADE THIS FOR YOU. In this 70+ page guide, there is information about all inclusive weddings (of course) but there is also PAGES & PAGES of budgeting, hiring vendors (when they aren’t all put in a nice little package for you), choosing a destination, arranging travel for your guests when you are planning destination weddings that are not all inclusive and so much more]