Ultimate Destination Wedding Guide

Destination Wedding

Dreaming of making your wedding vows on a tropical island? Saying I DO on a sunkissed beach with all your family and friends.

A destination wedding is a wedding held away from your hometown but there is more to it than that and we will dive into it more below! And guess what, it doesn’t have to be in a foreign country or even on a beach. Millennials are changing the game when it comes to wedding trends and what they want for their #BestDayEver. More and more couples are choosing locations that are special to them.

Times have changed and even though most brides can’t seem to buck tradition, destination weddings are the new trend. Many people think destination weddings are only in warm and tropical luxurious locations but that is just one of the many different destination weddings you can have.

Why Destination Wedding

Having an infinite list of choices to choose from is one of the beauties of planning your wedding. And while many couples opt to plan their wedding in their hometown or the city they reside in, some look to far-off destinations. So, even if what you want is a picture-worthy location filled with beautiful greens, sunset by the beach aisle, an incredible mountain view, historical architecture or you simply want to enjoy the thrill of adventure and travel, a destination wedding might be just for you.

Top Locations for Destination Weddings

According to recent research, about 21% of weddings today are held at least 200 miles away from home. Many of these are celebrated internationally, in picturesque destinations outside of their country. Though, having a destination wedding doesn’t always have to mean hours of travel time. From stateside gems spanning from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest to trans-Atlantic dream spots, we’ve put together the ultimate list

The top 5 most popular marriage destinations abroad include:

  1. Barbados
  2. Mexico
  3. The Dominican Republic
  4. Jamaica
  5. Costa Rica

1. Barbados

Getting married in Barbados ticks all the boxes for a picture-perfect destination wedding, with exquisite sandy beaches, wonderful lush vegetation, tropical gardens, and a climate where the barometer stays in the late 20s/30s all year. Beach weddings in Barbados are both beautiful and easy to arrange, as they are surrounded by long stretches of sand and the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean. PLUS you will be able to spend your honeymoon on one of the most romantic islands in the world.

2. Mexico

Mexico consistently reigns among the most popular wedding destinations in the world, with a vibrant culture, warm climate, and infamous beaches at its heart. Soon-to-be newlyweds have many options when it comes to getting married in Mexico. Couples can exchange vows on the white-sand beaches of Cancun, beside the colourful reefs of Riviera Maya, or in the romantic, historic city of Puerto Vallarta. Whether you wish to explore the ancient Mayan ruins or dance from sunset to dawn, Mexico has something for everyone.

3. The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is known for its natural wonders, from clear ocean waters to subaquatic caves, coconut palm trees to towering rainforest canopies. It is a breezy jungle island with both remote and lively settings to celebrate your special day. For the most intimate wedding, you may choose to say “I do” on the untouched beaches of Samana. Or, if you are looking for sunny, outdoor activities and amenities for all ages, you may consider getting married in the flourishing region of Punta Cana. With all-inclusive and luxury resort options, the Dominican Republic is a popular choice for couples tying the knot.

4. Jamaica

Nestled into the beautiful Caribbean, Jamaica is home to 700-miles of white and gold-sand coastlines, a breathtaking mountain range, and some of the most delicious coffee and rum in the world. While the island is largely known for its sunny beaches, Jamaica offers its visitors so much more. After all, Jamaica’s original name was Xaymaca, meaning “land of wood and water.” Couples getting married in Jamaica can enjoy celebrations on the white-sand beaches of Montego Bay, in the secluded coves of Treasure Beach, or the rocky gorges of Ocho Rios. For the most romantic retreat, both Negril and Runaway Bay offer “off the beaten path” excursions for couples looking to getaway.

5. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is recognized around the world for its rich ecosystem, breathtaking volcanos, and endless black- and white-sand beaches. It is a small country – taking only three hours to drive coast to coast – that also packs a lot of punch. The culture is colourful and robust, with vibrant art and welcoming villages at each stretch. The country also offers a range of adventures for couples and their guests, including zip-lining over treetops, horseback riding along the beach, and even surfing the world’s longest left-hand surf break. Many couples choose a Costa Rica wedding for the incredibly unique excursions it offers.

Destination Wedding Tips

We’re not quite done yet! When it comes to destination weddings, there are a few ways you can avoid mishaps and be extra prepared. While you should allow some room for imperfection, follow these tips to ensure that your destination wedding planning goes as smoothly as possible:

  1. Visit the destination beforehand. Whether you’re booking a local wedding planner or going with a package, you should always do your best to visit your prospective wedding destination before fully committing. It’s a good idea to explore specific areas and peruse the location so you can form your own opinions on the destination.
  2. Consider the weather. The most popular destinations often have the most unpredictable weather. Do your research on the season surrounding your prospective location, especially if you’re headed to a tropical destination. You can then offer guests recommendations on what to wear.
  3. Consider the season. Whether or not your destination wedding falls on a tourist season can be a huge factor in your wedding’s success. It’ll be harder to find vendors in off-seasons. On the other hand, you’ll also want to make sure your wedding is peaceful without interruptions due to a convention or major festival.
  4. Do your vendor research. When it comes to vendors, you won’t be able to interact with them directly regularly, so you’ll want to screen them and check their work out. Read reviews, ask for references to other work, do a video interview, and ask the hotel you’re staying at about potential vendors. If you’re able to visit the destination beforehand, meet with any potential vendors during your preliminary trip in person.
  5. Let the bridesmaids and groomsmen know you’re planning a destination wedding before they commit. This way, they can make a genuine decision on if they have the budget or time to be at your wedding.
  6. Welcome guests with gift bags. Once your guests arrive, do not forget to gift them with bags full of useful items! These gift bags can include sunscreen, slippers, sunglasses, mini-fans, and anything else that might make their trip comfortable and adds some spice to your wedding.

Packing for your Destination wedding

Destination wedding preparation can be a very daunting task at times. When you are planning for your destination wedding, it is always ideal to have a checklist of all the important things you’re going to need so your wedding plans go without a hitch. Not sure what you need, I’ve prepared a simple checklist of most things you might need.

Wedding Rings

Most important Items

  • Passports
  • Wedding Rings
  • Wedding Dress/Gown and Veil
  • Wedding tux/suit
  • Wedding Day Shoes
  • Visas (where necessary)
  • Copies of your birth certificates
  • Plane tickets/itinerary/boarding passes
  • Credit card/traveler’s checks/cash

Important Tip: Make sure that you pack all of the above in your carry-on luggage.

Wedding Cake

Wedding Day Essentials

  • Wedding night lingerie/undergarments
  • Guest Favors
  • Wedding day jewellery (earrings, bracelet, necklace)
  • Your Vows
  • Change of shoes/slippers for dancing at the reception
  • Garter
  • Tiara or hair clip
  • Cake topper
  • Programs
  • Menu
  • Guestbook
  • Traditional Ceremony celebration items (i.e. Unity candle or sand ceremony supplies)
  • Ring bearer accessories (i.e. Pillow)
  • Decorations
  • If you’re bringing your own silk/Real Touch bouquet, don’t forget to pack it.
  • place cards/Table Numbers (if you’re bringing your own)
  • Aisle runner

Toiletries/Personal Items

  • Extra Contact lenses
  • Reading glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunblock
  • Aloe vera
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Comb/brush
  • Shaving cream
  • Razors
  • Nail clippers, tweezers, and nail filer/Emory board
  • Nail polish and remover

Hair/Makeup List

  • Makeup (blush, mascara, foundation, eyeliner, lipstick/gloss, eyeshadow, etc.)
  • Makeup brushes
  • Moisturizer, eye cream, etc.
  • Remover
  • Facial cleanser
  • Hair gel
  • Hairspray
  • Flatiron and/or curling iron

Electronics List

  • Cell Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Camera and memory card
  • Camera charger

Destination Wedding Packing List for Important Paperwork

  • Copies of all vendor/Resort/Venue contracts
  • List of all vendor contact info
  • Proof of down payments you’ve made to vendors
  • Receipts for favours/welcome bags (to show when crossing Borders & Customs)
  • Photocopies of any vaccination document/prescriptions/health insurance cards
  • Trip insurance
  • Your wedding planning binder with all the details you’ve already arranged, printouts of all email communications with vendors, contracts, etc
  • Phone number of the closest US embassy
  • Marriage certificate if you had your legal ceremony at home and will be having a religious ceremony abroad (they will sometimes require proof that you are legally married)

Miscellaneous Checklist

  1. Leave a copy of your passport at home with someone who’s not traveling to your destination wedding.
  2. Call your cell phone provider and inquire about adding an international package to your plan for the week or two you will be abroad. Depending on your phone carrier you might be able to get this for free if traveling to Mexico or for a small prorated fee if traveling to the Caribbean. An international plan on your phone will allow you to communicate with family/friends or vendors without incurring enormous roaming fees. You can also communicate with friends/family using the WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger apps.
  3. If you don’t have an international data plan, make sure you turn off your data while you’re abroad or you could incur outrageous fees when your phone automatically updates email/text messages EVEN if you’re not using your phone. Call your phone company for details.
  • Groom’s Gift
  • Bridesmaid’s gifts
  • Parent’s gifts
  • TSA Approved Luggage Locks
  • Luggage tags
  • Scissors, ribbon, and tape for any last-minute DIY wedding projects
  • Safety pins and travel sewing kit

Other important tips to note before you leave:

While destination weddings may seem complicated, many of them can cost the same as tying the knot in a big city, if not a little less. Be sure to ask a friend or two to help you with plans and research. Feeling overwhelmed may be natural, but with the help of your loved ones, your destination wedding will be one of the best experiences of your life. Now that you are well-versed in planning a destination wedding event, do not hesitate to make this idea a reality and turn your big day into the wedding of your dreams.

Destination Guide

Send Bags Ahead