It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been helping couples plan their dream weddings in paradise for over 13 years! Wow! 😲
I’ve experienced a lot of situations over the years, and I trust that the tips I’m sharing today will be a great resource so you can plan and organize a destination wedding like a pro.
If you’ve landed on this post and you’re a wedding couple – congratulations!
7 Steps to Organize a Destination Wedding Without Losing Your Mind
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started, shall we?
Step 1: Secure the Wedding Date and Time
If you’re stuck on part 1, you’re not alone. Most of the couples who come to me get stuck here because it is challenging to decide on a location for your destination wedding when you can’t pop in for a visit on a Saturday afternoon. Am I right?
This is why working with a destination wedding specialist is like having a weight lifted off your shoulders, so you aren’t wasting time researching endless options to find the wedding venue that is going to be the best fit for you.
Step 2: Get a Group Contract Set-Up
Once you have your wedding date and time secured, then you can proceed to request a group contract.
A contract will hold a certain number of rooms to ensure the guests all have a room and they are all at the same rate.
If you are a travel planner, I recommend working with a travel supplier rather than working directly with the resort. This is for two reasons:
- Some travel suppliers offer their own incentives and perks to the couple on top of what the resort offers, making your services more valuable.
- A travel supplier will have customer service available to the wedding guests in case of an emergency that occurs at 4 am.
Step 3: Send Out Save the Date Invites
Once the wedding date and time are confirmed and the group block is confirmed, it’s time to send out save the date invites.
On the invitation, you will want to notate how the guests can get more information and to RSVP.
If you are a travel planner, your services should include a wedding website where the guests can go and reserve their room. This makes it easier for everyone.
As a reminder, for the couple to earn amenities and perks like free rooms, free upgrades, cocktail receptions, credit toward airfare, etc. all the guests need to reserve through the group.
To aid in this, having a Save the Date card that sends guests directly to a web page where they can reserve their room with a low deposit, is crucial to the couple earning the amenities and making it easier to have an accurate headcount of who is attending the wedding.
Step 4: Pre-Wedding Planning
Welcome to the in-between. Hosting a destination wedding requires planning in advance so that the guests have enough time to prepare financially as well as for time off work.
As a result, there can be a bit of downtime in which a couple may feel like they should be doing something, but what?
A few tips:
- I recommend a pre-wedding planning trip. Many resorts offer discounted rates for wedding couples, and it is a great way to see the venues in person, meet the onsite team, and make some wedding decisions in a matter of a couple of days.
- Research group activities like a catamaran cruise.
- Remind guests to RSVP to the wedding by reserving their room with a low deposit.
- Decide on a photographer/videographer (especially if working with one who is not a preferred vendor)
As a side note, when working with a vendor who is not part of a resort’s preferred list, there is an outside vendor fee. This can often be $1,000. In the case of a photographer, I generally recommend couples hire someone from the U.S. to come and be a guest at their wedding to avoid this fee. One of the free rooms earned is often used for this.
Step 5: Start Planning the Wedding
Even if the wedding team at the resort venue may not be ready to start the planning, it is best to request a list of things needed to be proactive.
I advise my couples to create a Pinterest board with inspirations of what they are looking for regarding their décor, colors, and flowers so that when it’s time to make selections they are clear on what they want. (There are great wedding packages that include the design and décor, but many places offer fully customized looks!)
Other decisions during planning will include:
- Menu selections
- Photography packages
- Music to be played at the reception
- Soloists or cocktail reception music
Step 6: Final Payments and Transfers
About 60 days prior to travel the final payment for the room reservations is due.
This is also the time to gather flight details so that the guest’s transportation (shuttle service between the resort/airport) can be coordinated.
It is advised to get copies of the exact itinerary as I see many guests reserve flights for dates that don’t match their room dates.
As travel professionals, it is our job to rectify any discrepancies as soon as possible, so that is why you don’t want to wait until a week before travel to finally gather the flight itineraries.
Step 7: Tips, Reminders, and Travel Documents
Oh my! I’ve just scratched the surface on all the details that occur during the planning of a destination wedding, but one thing I know for certain – you cannot over-communicate with the wedding guests!
As it gets close to travel, send out tips and reminders to the guests to make the trip stress free and to make sure they are prepared.
I generally send out travel documents via email about two weeks prior to the trip and request them to look them over thoroughly and notify me of any discrepancies or questions.
Phew! We did it! 😅
I hope this was worth the read and helps you stay organized in planning a destination wedding to a resort in the Caribbean or Mexico.
If you are a wedding couple and would like to work with a travel professional for your destination wedding, feel free to reach out to me at Paradise Getaways to see if we are a good fit to work together.