How-to Book Vendors for a Destination Wedding

Wedding planning can come with a lot of baggage, but with a destination wedding, you can simplify and streamline so it is less about baggage and more about the luggage you are packing for your romantic getaway. More and more couples are discovering that destination weddings can eliminate much of the stress and some of the cost and hassle associated with having a more traditional wedding.

Before we get into the booking aspect, there are some major perks to having destination weddings that we want to mention for those of you who may still be undecided. Here goes...

Since destination weddings involve travel, it is easy to have a smaller guest list consisting of only your closest family and friends without anyone feeling intentionally left out. Your guests will likely be less inclined to ask to bring those plus-ones they haven’t even been dating that long. This prevents having all those people you barely know present for such an intimate moment.

Limiting your guest list to the people you are closest to will hopefully decrease the likelihood for someone behaving inappropriately. When it comes to the guest list for your destination wedding, some people who aren’t as close to you may opt out due to travel costs or getting time off. This means your wedding will naturally be more intimate and less expensive.

Destination weddings are a vacation for everyone in attendance and that is typically the vibe. Since the whole affair usually happens over the course of a long weekend, the bride and groom have plenty of time to mingle with their guests without feeling pressured, and guests will be relaxed in the vacation setting.

We have all heard the stereotype of “Bridezilla” stomping around and shrieking orders, but the relaxed nature of a destination wedding typically allows the bride and groom to focus on having a good time and leave the stress and planning to the wedding planner and/or vendors.

Because they do play such an important role in making the vision of your destination wedding a reality, here are some tips for booking the right vendors when you aren’t a local...

1. Where?

First things first, you need to decide where you want to have your destination wedding. After all, the wedding is a destination wedding. If the word “destination” is important enough to be part of the title, you know you need to give it plenty of consideration.

Although the most popular destinations are tropical and beachy, there are also winter wonderland spots, exotic locales like a Victorian mansion at the base of a volcano and even glass-bottom resorts where couples can stand over sea turtles and other sea life swimming around a beautiful reef. It all depends on what sparks your interest.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to get married in another country. If so, you will need to get acquainted with that nation’s wedding requirements like whether they require birth certificates, blood tests and additional fees and paperwork. You might have a wait period and even vaccinations you must have prior to getting married in other countries.

It also bears mentioning that in some countries same-sex weddings are not permitted, so research is necessary for getting acquainted with the rules of marriage in other countries prior to picking your destination.

To alleviate the added stress of finding out you may have to jump through hoops to get hitched, some couples who want an international destination wedding are getting married in the local town hall prior to traveling and then having a symbolic ceremony in the desired destination.

Of course, there are plenty of beautiful places both at home and abroad, so you may find your dream destination doesn’t necessarily require a passport.

What’s Your Budget?

When you are figuring out a budget for your destination wedding, a little knowledge of wedding etiquette can really help. For instance, classically the financial responsibility for the wedding has been with the parents of the bride. However, more and more couples are paying for weddings themselves, especially for those who have previously been married and are now remarrying.

For a destination wedding, it is understood that the wedding itself is either paid for by the couple or the parents or a bit of both, but the financial obligations for costs of travel and the accommodations are the responsibility of the guests.

If your parents or some other kind and generous soul is helping you out with the costs of your wedding, don’t forget to let them know how much you appreciate the help. Consider letting our florists at 1-800-Flowers Alhambra in Alhambra, CA send them a beautiful bouquet or charming gift basket once everything is settled.

Because a destination wedding involves the travel costs as well as time off work and arrangements for pet-sitters or baby-sitters, some people will not be able to attend your wedding. For those individuals who can attend, plenty of advance notice must be given to allow them to budget and make the necessary arrangements.

The planning process of most destination weddings involves sending out invitations one year in advance. Subsequently, the guest bookings are finalized between six and nine months from the time of the trip. This leaves about three or four months of planning, and since destination weddings are much simpler and often more streamlined, that is plenty of time to get all the elements into place.

Why Destination?

According to the website Tripsavvy, 25 percent of weddings are destination weddings. Of those destination weddings, 60 percent take place within the country and 40 percent take place in another country. The website touts the top spots for destination weddings as Las Vegas, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Bahamas, Mexico, California and Florida.

Depending on where your chosen spot is, some destination wedding venues are all-inclusive. All-inclusive spots are great for those couples who are all about convenience and simplicity. Resorts like Sandals already have all the vendors you will need assembled and offer different packages that are professionally designed by wedding planners and take care of practically everything you would like to have available for your big day. Options like those are affordable because the wedding itself is usually heavily discounted, depending on how many people you have traveling with you and how many nights they are staying. Check the websites of these resorts for specific details on what they offer.

Aside from resorts, cruises are another option that often include the vendors you will need. As they are basically floating resorts, cruise ships typically offer the same amenities, and some ships even have captains who can officiate the ceremony.

The drawback to all-inclusive affairs is that there is sometimes little room for outside vendors or for changes in what they typically offer for weddings. For these situations, make sure that you check with the venue if you want to bring in an outside vendor, so you understand any additional costs associated with doing so.

If you want to be more in control of your wedding and make it a bit more individual and unique, you will probably end up with a different venue than a resort or a cruise, which means part of your process will consist of you shopping for your own vendors to make your vision a reality.

One of the benefits of a destination wedding is that, unlike traditional wedding planning where grooms sometimes sit on the sidelines with little involvement, grooms are often more excited to be involved in planning destination weddings. They are more like trips and sometimes involve adventurous itinerary.

If the husband-to-be still doesn’t care about the flowers, cake or photographer, he can probably get onboard with planning some boating, scuba diving, tennis, golf or any other fun activities that may be available where you are planning your destination wedding.

The Devil’s in the Details.

Even if you want to be more involved in the planning of your destination wedding, bringing together the many elements of a destination wedding can be difficult since you aren’t nearby. You will probably want to relax during your wedding weekend, not stress over details. It is best to leave the major work to a wedding planner or a wedding coordinator. Basically, you need someone well-versed in weddings and savvy on the location that you can rely on to handle most of the heavy lifting for you. The investment is well worth it.

The best weddings are the result of the combined effort of multiple vendors handling aspects including: planning, florals, cake, food, music, officiating, hair and make-up, photography, video and coordinating activities on the day of the ceremony, etc.

Aside from determining your budget and potential guest list, the venue is the first major decision you will make, especially for a destination wedding. Your venue will be an excellent start for recommendations, as most venues have a lot of experience in working with vendors and have developed relationships with specific vendors.

If your venue does not give you the planning tools you need, consider hiring a wedding planner. Although it may be tempting to hire a planner from your hometown, this is a case of where you want a local who knows people and places.

By the time you are ready to choose vendors, you should already have a budget in mind. A wedding planner can help you pick great, local vendors who are within your budget and available for your wedding date. There is no point in wasting time talking to vendors who are not within your budget or available for your date.

Your wedding planner can also negotiate contracts, knows the best photo spots and can recommend restaurants and activities for your guests. Great wedding planners are worth their weight in gold as they can often save you money in the long run with their exclusive deals and insight into local vendors.

The savings of a good wedding planner also extend to time. Wedding planners already know what works and what doesn’t for different venues in their area. They can answer questions and help to alleviate a lot of the stress involved in planning.


Even if you love a vendor’s style, you want to also have a good rapport, so you will feel comfortable sharing ideas. You will be working together for quite some time on a very important project, so it is essential that you see eye-to-eye. A good vendor you connect with will be receptive to your suggestions. This is your day, and you will need open communication to bring all the elements together.

If you can make a trip or two to the location of your destination wedding beforehand, it will be beneficial to meet the vendors in person to make sure you get along and have the same vision. If you are unable to make these planning trips, technology can be a useful tool. Facetime and Skype are ways you can chat with vendors, giving it a personal touch without being present face-to-face.

Technology is not just beneficial as a communication tool. Technology is an invaluable intel-gathering tool. Your potential vendors will also likely have a presence online, and many couples planning destination weddings hop online and study the reviews of vendors they are considering hiring.

Most couples report using Google reviews, Wedding Wire reviews and Yelp when considering whether to hire a vendor when they are unable to meet them in person. Reviews are a great way to see how vendors perform from start to finish and whether they were able to communicate effectively. Research if they are flexible enough for your wedding schedule. Many vendors are also happy to show you their previous work.

Once you find the first one or two vendors you really like, ask them for recommendations. People who have similar tastes, styles or work attitudes often end up working together. The vendors you find who appreciate your ideas will be a valuable source for inspiration and information to propel your wedding forward, whether with vendor recommendations or any other fresh ideas.

Each time you do decide to hire a vendor, get everything in writing and make sure whatever is included is itemized and understood. Make sure that anything that needs to be brought to the location will be handled and ask for clarification if any detail is uncertain.

Once you have selected your vendors, you can relax. From now until your big day, just make sure to clearly communicate what you want during the planning process. Just as communication is essential for a happy marriage, it is also necessary for a successful destination wedding. Planning and honest communication are key. After all, you want everything to go off without a hitch when you are getting hitched!

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