The Best Destination Wedding Advice From Global Wedding Experts

Here are 12 tips to live by when planning a destination wedding from afar, from top wedding pros around the world.
harmony walton the knot wedding industry expert
by Harmony Walton
harmony walton the knot wedding industry expert
Harmony Walton
Wedding Industry Expert
  • Harmony Walton is the founder of The Bridal Bar and Jet Fête.
  • Harmony is the host of iHeartRadio’s Bridal Bar Radio.
  • Harmony is a wedding TV spokesperson, marketer, and writer.
Updated Dec 14, 2018

Planning a destination wedding is a bit different than saying "I do" at home. So we asked some of the top destination wedding experts around the world to help you get married away with ease.

1. Narrow the location search.

Normally, I advise newly engaged couples to hire their planner first so they can help the couple find their ideal venue. However, when planning a destination wedding and several regions are being considered, sometimes the couple has to choose their locale first. With this in mind, I advise that the couple consider which location makes them feel the happiest. Do the Tetons of Jackson Hole or the white sand beaches of Turks and Caicos create a high level of excitement? If so, go with your gut and the rest will fall into place. Factors such as cost of wedding, logistics to get to destination and date availability are always going to pose challenges for couples, so it truly comes down to choosing a location that brings joy. —Emily Campbell, Bella Design & Planning

2. Consider your group.

When you are newly engaged and planning a destination affair, it can feel overwhelming to narrow down your options and plan your wedding from afar. I recommend choosing a place that's meaningful to you, but also practical for your guests to travel to. For instance, if you're inviting an intimate group of closest family and friends, a remote destination may be perfect, but if you're inviting a larger crowd, you may want to choose something that's close to a major airport and has accessibility to larger hotels. This will definitely make the planning process easier not only for you, but also for all of your guests. —Tyler Speier, Tyler Speier Events

3. Plan accordingly for accommodations.

Choose a hotel as a venue instead of a private location—that way you and your guests will enjoy the weekend together and take advantage of the destination wedding. Then try to set a budget for decor—at least a ballpark number so the local vendor can have a better idea of what you're hoping for and suggest the best options. It's great to share your style or color palette, but keep your options open, explore other ideas with local flowers and take more advantage of the locally sourced items. —Gabi Lavor, Canteiro Weddings

4. Work with a destination wedding planner.

Planning a destination wedding can have many challenges and for us, the most crucial decision that you can make as a newly engaged couple is selecting your wedding planner or wedding coordinator. Our clients come from all over the world and rely on us not only for our design and planning expertise, but for our on the ground knowledge and relationships with trusted, local vendors and suppliers. More importantly, they rely on us for transparency, full and detailed communication throughout the planning process, respect, trust and professionalism. Make sure that when choosing your planner, you research their work, view their portfolio, speak with their former clients if possible and don't be afraid to have an interview process. Planning a wedding should be exciting, fun and fabulous, so make sure to ask your potential planner plenty of questions to ensure you find the perfect match and personality fit for you. —Olivia Buckley, Olivia Buckley International

5. Weave in a sense of place.

In my experience, the most important factors for couples choosing a destination wedding venue are: Is this going to provide an experience that we and every one of our guests are going to remember fondly and talk about for years to come? Does the venue fit the personality of our guests and us? Does the venue have an awe-inspiring setting for a ceremony, amazing cuisine and a memorable experience outside of just the wedding day? We see that most to-be-weds want their guests to have a comfortable mix of both activities at leisure and one with the larger group. For example, what better way for the groomsmen to bond than over a competitive shoot at the Sporting Clays range or the bridesmaids fishing together on the creek? Lastly is making sure that the sense of place is woven into the wedding weekend. At The Ranch at Rock Creek, our horses are the stars of The Ranch and they're usually involved in the ceremony in some way. Whether the running of the 75 horses is timed perfectly to the kiss or a bride arrives on horseback, the experience is unforgettable. —Jon Martin, The Ranch at Rock Creek

6. Budget for additional travel.

Don't forget to account for "planning trips." I recommend my clients flying out at least once (ideally twice) to the destination location in order to have their catering tasting, see a table mock-up, stay at the hotel and experience the guest rooms and to meet any other pros in person. Traveling to your destination ahead of time will save you so much stress in the planning process and ensure that your vision and expectations are clearly articulated to the team planning your event. —Tyler Speier, Tyler Speier Events

7. Go the extra mile.

The biggest different between a destination wedding itinerary and a honeymoon itinerary is that you have more people to please with a destination wedding. If you expect people to invest their time and money to fly in and join you on your wedding day, you owe it to them to take really good care of them—not just at the wedding itself, but with your host-hotel selection, suggested activities and even contacts for things like airport transfers. You don't have to pay for everyone to get from the airport to your hotel, but you should at the very least present them with the name and website of a reputable taxi company (especially key for older guests who may not use or trust Uber). —Susan Moynihan, The Honeymoonist

8. Consider the weather when wedding dress shopping.

Although I don't love limiting your gown choices based off your destination, it's important to adjust your expectations, be proactive when it comes to challenges and be fully aware of variables beyond your control. If you're getting married in a warm climate but really want that long sleeve look, it's important to know and accept that you're going to be hot. If you're getting married on a beach, but want a ball gown, it's important to know and accept that walking in the sand will be a bit tougher. Of course, there are accessories and tailoring choices that can really help destination wedding challenges, such as being open to a shawl or fancy coat if you know it'll be cold, or opting out of a petticoat to make walking easier. It's also important to get a sense of the weather possibilities and expect the unexpected. There's nothing better than having a fun and lighthearted reaction when something happens beyond your control. —Hayley Paige, Hayley Paige

9. Use the destination as your inspiration.

Destination wedding stationery can definitely go beyond the faux passport invitation or save-the-date. We encourage all of our couples to think about how they can reflect the cities and places they've selected for their nuptials at every guest touch point. Perhaps they send something locally made, or gain inspiration from the venue where we can bring in textures, like ceramics or natural fibers, to set the tone of what the guests will experience when they arrive. —Kaleigh Wiese, Méldeen

10. Plan more than the wedding day.

This may seem obvious, but it's thoughtful for couples to plan or suggest an activity for their guests that's meaningful and memorable to the location. Outside of welcome parties and rehearsal dinners, we recommend an adventure like sailing or horseback riding that really adds to the entire weekend. It's a great way for your photographers to get to know people and get great shots too. —James Christianson and Otto Schulze, James x Schulze Photography

11. Plan the honeymoon early.

The wedding is the most important event, obviously, but I think it's important to at least start talking about your honeymoon when you start destination wedding planning. It's good to get on the same page up-front about logistics, such as how long you can take off from work for both events, and how big of a trip you both want. Then you can factor that in as you're making wedding decisions. For instance, if your hearts are set on a bucket list (aka pricey) honeymoon—like an African safari—you may want to cut some costs from your wedding in order to add to your honeymoon budget. (I'd take lion sightings over chair covers any day, but I'm obviously biased!) —Susan Moynihan, The Honeymoonist

12. Transfer hotels after the wedding.

Don't expect guests to leave right after the wedding; many guests will extend their trip if they have the time. Which means that if you want to start your honeymoon in privacy right after the wedding, you're better off moving to a different hotel to ensure that happens. If you're all hanging around the same resort for the next week, they'll expect to see you and hang out with you, even if it's your honeymoon. —Susan Moynihan,The Honeymoonist

Armed with this advice, you'll find smooth sailing as you plan the destination wedding that's just right for the two of you (and your group!).

Harmony Walton is the founder of The Bridal Bar, host of Bridal Bar Radioairing on iHeartRadio and editor of the destination wedding blog, Jet Fete by Bridal Bar. With a vast celebrity clientele and over a dozen years of experience, her brands have been recognized around the world and featured in media outlets such as The Associated Press, The New Yorker, The Knot, The New York Times, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and many more.

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