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16 Destination Wedding Planning Tips AND Pitfalls From The Pros!!

Planning a destination wedding or event?! YOU MUST READ THIS GUIDE ASAP. We have compiled the best tips and pitfalls from seasoned pros. We know the drill. You get engaged and think.. “Gosh, planning a local wedding sounds like soooo much work. What if we have a small destination wedding instead!” You start reaching out to far away vendors, booking flights and all of a sudden you realize.. “Wow, this is actually MUCH harder than I thought”. We know this story all too well! Planning from afar is much harder than planning a large local wedding. So we asked destination wedding pros for TIPS and planning pitfalls to avoid like the plague based on their years of experience! 

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Tip #1: Ship Items Ahead!

Destination
Catherine Cindy Leo from CCL Weddings and Events says to Ship things ahead (at least 2-3 weeks). "If you plan to bring a lot of décor with you overseas, especially fragile items, make sure to ship it to the destination at least 2-3 weeks prior. This gives ample time for delivery without paying ridiculous costs in shipping, and allowing for inspection on the other end in case anything does break or become damaged." Photo: Christine Farah Photography

 

 

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Tip #2 - Hire A Local Planner

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Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions recommends Hiring a planner. "Hire a planner who either knows the location well or specializes in destination weddings. They will be able to help you sort through the options of local vendors, best area activities and venues. They will also have knowledge of fun “insider” information to make your wedding or event even more personalized and custom." 

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Tip #3: Local Planners have the local scoop!

Destination

Planner Jamie Bohlin at Cape Cod Celebrations says Hire a Local Wedding Planner! "Now I know I am self promoting here, but planning a destination wedding can be a full-time job, and most likely the bride has her own full-time job where she actually gets paid! Planners will help you by being the main point person for  vendors, assist you with your time line, come up with new creative ideas and be in charge of the set-up and details the weekend of your wedding. Planners also have huge vendor lists and can assist you in finding the perfect setting for your ceremony, a photographer that fits your style, a florist that will work with your budget and so much more. Photography: Lara Kimmerer

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Tip #4 - Planners Help With both Family AND Weather Drama

Destination

Emma Petievich also agrees with Tip #3.. Hire a Planner! They will help with iffy weather and uncomfortable family situations. "The on-site venue coordinator is not enough!  Many destination venues will sell their "planning services" as part of the package. They promise to refer local vendors, assist with decor details, running the show, etc. suggesting that no additional coordination will be needed.  When all is said and done, it is imperative that you have one person that can oversee all the parts and pieces of your event from invitations & travel to welcome bags, layouts and seating assignments, decor management, rehearsal dinner, photo shot lists, planning the after party, and the list goes on...as an example (from a wedding I planned in Sayulita, Mexico last weekend), if you need to implement a last minute rain plan, you want someone that knows the key players: someone that can help rework the seating chart when the new space demands 8 tables instead of 10 (without accidentally putting the divorced parents next to each other!). Photo: Nancy Neil 

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Tip #5: Planners Will Save You Money!

Destination
Planner Jamie Bohlin at Cape Cod Celebration's biggest tip.. Planners can actually save you money! "Even though it will cost you to hire a planner, it will save you a ton of time, money (hopefully the same amount you pay them!) and stress.  Even if you think you cannot fit a planner into your budget, it never hurts to look into it and ask for all options." Photography: Lara Kimmerer
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Tip #6: Be Hospitable!

Destination
Kate Turner of Kate & Company, LLC is all about Hospitality. "Remember that your guests are traveling to visit you and your beloved!  They are coming from long distances, so take the steps to ensure they feel right at home.  Things like welcome boxes, activities to do while in town, maps, itineraries and even games to play in their hotel rooms will make your guests feel that they’re loved and valued during their stay." 
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Tip #7: Don't Forget To Give Guests The Scoop ASAP

Destination
Heidi Hughett of event planning company Coastside Couture recommends "communicating with your guests  about details such as things to do in the area, what the itinerary of events will be and weather so they can pack accordingly. We always have a wedding website for these clients so they can include it on their save the dates and their guests can start planning. Also we love using local products in the guest welcome bags to give them a feel for the destination." Photo: Susannah Gill Photography
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Tip #8: Back Up Welcome Bags With E-Mails

Destination
Amy Abbot Events & Weddings, loves greeting weary guests with a nice welcome bag! " Fill them with all of the basics, from Mini Biz, and add water and a little favor or two from something regional to the location. Take the time, to provide them with a detailed itinerary and a list of activities as well as your event planners contact information and they are  good to go!! This item should also be sent via email, so the information is assessable should guests misplace their information. If the budget allows, nightly turn down gifts relevant to the next days events are a  fun add on and much appreciated by guests." Photo: Bows and Arrow Photography 
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Tip #9: Create An Experience For Your Guests

Destination

Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions  encourages her clients to create an experience. "Your guests are likely traveling from all over and have not experienced the destination. Be sure to orient your guests to the various amenities and activities the location has to offer. Plan some fun activities for them to maximize their time!"

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Tip #10: If All Else Fails, SMILE!

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Emma Petievich  says roll with the punches. "When planning a destination event, some things are bound to get lost in translation (even when language is not a barrier!).  Someone will miss their flight.  Someone will lose their luggage.  And even the most organized bride will forget something.  Above all, remember to enjoy every moment.  Smile in every photo.  Laugh a TON.  Hug everyone that made the trek to join you, and have a blast!" Photo: Samuel Lippke
 

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Tip #11: Pay it Forward!

Destination
Amy Abbot Events  & Weddings, Los Cabos encourages her clients and guests to volunteer in the destination!!! "So many of the beautiful destination wedding locations, despite their 5 star resorts, and world class service, suffer with respect to the economy. GIVE back to the community, by  visiting a nonprofit that is close to your heart.  Your Event planner should be able to arrange this for you  and you will be glad you took the time.   You can also in lieu of favors, make a donation in your guests names." Photo: Bows And Arrow Photography
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Tip #12: Avoid Busy Weekends

Destination
 Jamie Bohlin of Cape Cod Celebrations  says Stay away from busy weekends! "Not everyone knows how busy popular tourist destinations can be, so when planning a wedding at a destination over a holiday weekend, especially on the Cape, you may want to take into consideration the travel details of getting your guests to your wedding. Some locations start their peak seasons over certain holiday weekends or school vacation periods. You do not want to make your guests deal with a ton of traffic getting to or from your destination or have them pay high prices for airfare or hotels rooms if you can help it. And in turn, you will most likely be paying top rate those weekends as well. Photo: Emelie Inc
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Tip #13: Ask Nicely. It Doesn't Hurt.

Destination
 Kate & Company says It never hurts to ask! "There may not always be a travel fee associated with your vendor team. Some vendors, like photographers and videographers [and planners! ;)] would love the opportunity to be involved in destination events for their portfolio and could waive a travel fee.  Plus, don’t feel trapped by your destination city’s vendor choices.  If you’re in love with a vendor in your hometown, it never hurts to ask if they can join you in your special day." 
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Tip #14: Send Save The Dates EARLY.

Destination

Amy Abbot Events  really recommends that her clients Send Save the dates as early as possible! "AND send the actual invites 90 days before with RSVPS 60 days prior to the event.  Allowing guests time to save and plan for your wedding weekend . Often it evolves into a longer stay for guests and they are able to make a vacation of it. When booking your room block and rates, make sure that the rate is good 3 days before and 3 days after the wedding date. Photo: Sarah Richardson Photography

 

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Tip #15: Small Touches go a Long Way

Destination
Catherine Cindy Leo of CCL Weddings and Events is all about the small touches. "If it is a destination that a lot of your guests have not yet been to, I would HIGHLY suggest creating a list of all important information on the country that your guests need to know. For one of our weddings we created a “travel book” with all the important information on exchange rates, transportation, cultural differences, and some of favorite phrases! A small touch that goes a long way for your guests to be better prepared for your destination event!" 
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Tip #16: Don't Forget To Have A Room Block

Destination
Amy Abbot Events & Weddings says Don't forget to book a room block for your guests! Having All Guests stay in a central location is essential to the ease and enjoyment of yourselves and the guests. It allows them the opportunity to all be together and if transportation is necessary, than it makes it very easy to gather everyone together. Photo: Sarah Richardson

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