Destination Wedding Basics: Know Before You Go

You Call the Shots

A destination wedding may be just the way to buck tradition. While formal weddings hold meaning for many couples, others want the experience to be unique, with a ceremony and location that reflect their true colors. Without the restrictions of a traditional wedding in a traditional location, like your hometown or the place where you grew up, you will feel freer to make your own rules. Been obsessed with Cinderella since you were a kid? Have a Walt Disney World wedding and ride away in a horse-drawn carriage. You and yours are avid scuba divers? Marry underwater in the Caribbean.

Beyond the Beach

Rethink what the phrase “destination wedding" means. Even if you're not the types to kick off your shoes and marry on a beach with leis around your necks, that doesn't mean you still can't have a destination wedding. There are hundreds of country inns in bucolic settings, homegrown seaside and lakefront resorts, and wintry mountainside lodges that can be rented for the weekend. Think about choosing a favorite vacation spot and introducing it to the rest of your family and friends.

Family Reunion Factor

Inviting everyone you love to one place for several days of fun in the sun can be a good thing: How often do you have the opportunity to spend no-rush quality playtime with dear, far-flung friends and family? But before you plan a faraway affair, ask yourself if your essential friends and family will be up for the trip. Grandma may not want to fly to Italy for the week. Many couples compromise by hosting a post-wedding celebration back home for those who could not attend the actual event.

Control Freaks, Beware

If you're hosting a wedding in a distant locale, you will need to entrust at least part of the planning to someone else's capable hands. An on-location wedding coordinator (many resorts include a coordinator in their wedding packages) can shoulder the burden of researching and securing vendors, arranging airport transportation, and locating all those last-minute things, from dry cleaners to hiking tours, that may come up. Depending on your temperament, this can be a welcome reprieve or a scary proposition.

Cash Concerns

The affordability of many destination weddings -- especially at a beach resort -- has many couples speeding off to the airport faster than you can say I do. For instance, a couple can fly to an all-inclusive in Jamaica, get married, and stay for a deluxe weeklong honeymoon for as little as $3,000 to $4,000. The Napa Valley and Nantucket won't be as budget friendly, but the close proximity allows for easier access. Keep in mind you can spend as much or as little as you want on a destination wedding, just as you can at home -- there are no steadfast rules about which is less expensive. But don't forget to factor in at least a couple of prewedding research trips into your budget, even if the coordinator is doing the bulk of the work for you.

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