The Top 10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Planning a Destination Wedding


Whether you’ve always dreamed of a cliff-side wedding in front of an Irish castle or a little luau as a nuptial feast, a destination wedding takes even more prepping than one held in your usual stomping grounds. From making travel arrangements to researching what local customs govern typical ceremonies, getting hitched far from home poses several unique challenges.

Your wedding day marks one of the most special days in your life, and you want everything to be perfect. Understanding the pitfalls that may occur in planning a destination wedding will make exchanging I do’s a magical dream, not a tourist nightmare. Here are 10 of these common pitfalls.

1. Going Somewhere Brand New

Sure, your grandparents immigrated here from Italy, but have you ever been back to the old country yourself? If not, do everything possible to plan at least a short visit to scope out the local scene.

Ask yourself this — how amazing will your dream cruise wedding really be if you spend most of the time laid up in your cabin with motion sickness? A destination wedding is like a mini-vacation, so make sure you’re going to enjoy the trip!

2. Forgetting the Time of Year

True, you run little risk of shivering in your sleeveless wedding piece on the beaches of Jamaica even in the winter, but planning a wedding in the Caribbean during hurricane season can prove risky. Who prefers holing up in a storm shelter rather than dancing on the beach other the stars?

Planning to exchange vows in a traditional wedding sari in India? Keep in mind that parts of the nation experience monsoons. Choose the time of year wisely!

3. Or the Little Things

If you’re like me — not quite legally blind but standing on the front porch to it and ringing the bell — forgetting something as simple as spare contact lenses can dampen your big day. Having to choose between old horn rims or squinting in every photo is a choice no bride wants to make.

Pack necessary items such as medications well in advance. While many developed nations such as Mexico have doctors and pharmacies that can help those stranded without their meds, why risk it?

4. Facing Dressing Woes

Buying a separate plane ticket for your wedding dress may seem extravagant, but it’s far better than trying to find a suitable replacement as a stranger in a strange land. Anything so central to the ceremony should fly with you. Those not wanting to spend the extra cash can check with the airline ahead of time — many gowns and similar items won’t typically fit in carry-ons, but some airlines will make exceptions to prevent the possibility of you landing in Berlin while your dress touches down in Beijing.

5. Procrastinating

If you’re a procrastinator, hire a wedding planner to make the most important arrangements for you. Waiting too long to book the hotel, for example, may result in guests who’ve already traveled a long way to help you celebrate having to drive considerable distances to find alternate lodging. In the case that guests wait until the last minute to RSVP, have options ready to help them find a place to stay at the last minute.

6. Failing to Create Contingency Plans

Nobody wants to imagine an emergency ruining their ceremony, but things such as traffic crashes and illnesses do occur during travel. Were you to suffer an accident or get sick, do you know where you would go for care and how to pay for it? Do you know how to contact the American embassy in the country of your destination should you need medical or even legal aid?

7. Breaking the Bank

Yes, you want your wedding to be perfect, but you have a lifetime with your new spouse ahead of you. Why start your life as a Mrs. off in the poorhouse by exhausting your savings and maxing all your credit cards on bouquets and open bars?

Couples who overspend on their weddings run a higher risk of later splitting than those who stay within budget. If money is too tight to do your nuptials the way you want now, consider a simple courthouse ceremony, then host the actual event when it’s affordable.

8. Bilking Your Guests

If your bridesmaids all work retail and have more of a Budweiser budget than a champagne one, keep that in mind. Any vacation — which is how your guests will see your wedding — requires saving up dough and arranging for time off work. Be kind to your guests by planning your destination wedding well in advance and setting up a section of your nuptial website to highlight budget travel and accommodation options.

9. Omitting Legal Research

Different countries have their own laws surrounding marriage and failing to meet local requirements may mean enjoying a lovely trip — while remaining single. Find out well in advance what you’ll need in terms of marriage certificate and officiant requirements.

10. Creating a Mad Rush

Know how your heart races and your palms sweat when you’re running late for work? Multiply that feeling times 1,000, and you’ll understand the stress of rushing a destination wedding. Give yourself extra days off and use them to rest after the festivities if they’re not needed for travel.

With a bit of planning and avoiding common pitfalls, you, too, can plan a destination wedding suitable for a princess. Congratulations!

Photo by James x Schulze.