How to pull off the out-of-town wedding of your dreams!

Darby and Jack Winne share a newlywed kiss outside of Christ Church Frederica in St. Simons. Katie York Photography
Darby and Jack Winne share a newlywed kiss outside of Christ Church Frederica in St. Simons. Katie York Photography

There’s something romantic about hosting a destination wedding. Perhaps it’s the intrigue of experiencing something new with your future partner, the thought of vacationing with friends and loved ones, or the appeal of picturesque photos. Regardless of the reason, destination weddings are rising in popularity. A 2023 survey by The Knot revealed that 18% of couples hosted a destination wedding in the prior year.

Nobu Hotel Marrakesh hosts elegant destination weddings. Photo: Camilla Akerberg Photography
Nobu Hotel Marrakesh hosts elegant destination weddings. Photo: Camilla Akerberg Photography

What is a destination wedding?

Brookhaven resident and event planner Becca Brooks of Becca Brooks Events and Design defines a destination wedding as “a wedding in any location where the bride and groom aren’t living or where the majority of their friends and family aren’t necessarily living.” That could be anywhere from exotic overseas locations to drivable small-town nuptials. Regardless of distance, if you or your guests are traveling to the host location, you are planning a destination wedding.

What is it like to plan a destination wedding?

According to Brooks, planning a destination wedding is similar to planning a hometown one. The initial steps such as choosing a date and a location are on par with what local brides and grooms might be organizing. This is especially true if your event falls under the “micro wedding” category—a wedding with fewer than 20 guests. However, if you’re planning a larger, more lavish affair, destination weddings can be logistically complex. “Oftentimes, you’re planning a wedding weekend [or week]. Most of my clients typically want to make an extended several days out of it,” says Brooks. The result can involve many moving parts.

What are the first steps?

Above all, the most important step to take is selecting a location. Brooks recommends reflecting on your relationship and history when making that decision. “Think about what places are important to you or maybe a vacation you have taken,” she says.

Next, consider the number of unique spaces a location can provide. “I love working destination weddings with venues that have everything within an arm’s reach. You want a place that is easy for everyone and keeps them in the same place,” says Brooks.

If it’s in the budget, consider hiring a wedding planner. An expert can help take care of every detail and execute the more abstract logistics, especially since you might not be familiar with the ins and outs of hosting an event away from home. Allow this to be their expertise, so you can enjoy the engagement season.

Finally, a big part of any wedding, but especially a destination wedding, is budgeting appropriately. The venue for destination weddings is such a large component of the budget that you want to make sure it will encompass all of the other details that are important to you. “With a planner, we can figure out what we’re going to cut back on so you can have all the elements that you really want,” Brooks says.

How far in advance should you communicate your wedding plans with guests?

According to etiquette guru Emily Post, the sweet spot for mailing invitations is six to eight weeks before the wedding date. For a destination wedding, however, you will want to give guests even more time to plan. Brooks recommends that guests receive at least nine months’ notice. Belinda Crews, co-founder of Elevations Travel agency in Sandy Springs, advocates for an even larger window. “A year or even two is ideal,” she says. With domestic and international travel picking up speed in a post-global pandemic world, flights and hotels book even further in advance than before. “Planning in advance is our number one piece of advice,” says Crews. Not only will the married coupleto- be have more options for event venues, but their guests will have more options for room types and travel days to popular destinations such as the Caribbean and Europe.

How do you set expectations with guests?

Communication is key. Brooks recommends having a wedding website where guests can find answers to their questions. Include things such as extra events or activities upon arrival, attire recommendations and ceremony and reception details. To avoid uncomfortable conversations about who is or isn’t invited, Brooks says to rely on your invitations to do the talking. “Like Emily Post, I recommend addressing the invitation to the guests who are invited. So for example, if I’m not inviting children, their children’s names will not be on the invitation,” she says. When in doubt, add those additional, more specific details to your wedding website.

How can you ease travel concerns and logistics?

In addition to giving guests plenty of notice about your destination nuptials, consider putting them in touch with a reputable travel agent. “We can arrange flights, rooms, transfers and even pre- or post-wedding trips,” says Crews. Since a travel agent has relationships with resorts and destinations worldwide, they are able to serve as your go-to expert. For couples in the thick of planning, a travel agent can work with the wedding coordinator and the resort to make sure everything is low stress. “One of the best parts [about having an agent] is if you do run into a problem, you have somebody to go to bat for you,” says Crews. “We handle all the potential nightmares.”



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