Destination Weddings: Pulling it Off in 6 Months

I pulled off my destination wedding in Boracay, Philippines a mere half a year ago. But it’s taken that amount of time for me to really recoup from that monumental effort. Destination wedding planning is a gauntlet that requires constant work and patience. There are a lot of dead leads, miscommunications, and major hiccups. But these tips will help you streamline the process.

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Our guest list of 50 people was comprised of family already in the Philippines, close family friends, and our nuclear family from the US.

  • Guest List

You might think it strange to  start with the guest list instead of, you know, budget or location. But the Guest List will dictate almost all major facets of your wedding.

First, you have to decide who are the people you have to have there? Most of your friends and family won’t be able to make it if you have a destination wedding. Those closest to you (nuclear family) will probably manage to come if you have it in Asia. Your good friends will probably make it if it’s in Europe. And if it’s in South America or Hawaii you’ll probably have a good mix of friends, relatives, and those closest to you.

But even then, it’s a big maybe. The amount of planning and money international travel takes is something a lot of people just can’t spare. If you don’t mind then, you’ve cleared your first hurdle and can move on to budget.

  • Budget

There’s a perception that destination weddings are prohibitively expensive. I found this to just not be the case.

Many countries and resorts offer all inclusive wedding packages that will cover your stay, the catering, the officiant, music, and decoration. This ended up being much cheaper for us than if we had hosted an equivalent celebration back at home! Though, word to the wise: if you opt into one of these packages, make sure you read the fine print to see if there’s a required number of guests first!

The things I took into consideration when pinning down my budget was:

Cost of the resort itself. The price of nearby accommodations (to recommend to friends and family). Any in-country traveling costs. The costs of photographers, florists, and caterers.

  • Location

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I eventually opted for the Shangri-la at Boracay. Here is our reception setup. Despite the very thorough and decadent package, it was very affordable.

Ironically, the best budget resorts seem to be in Asia (particularly Thailand and the Philippines), where the cost of flights is most expensive. But there are also some truly amazing resorts in South and Central America that are nothing to scoff at.

But if you’re working on a very tight budget and a package just isn’t in the cards, consider contacting a mid-range beach resort and asking for a no-frills package quote. This will usually only include the ceremony itself (it’s the reception, after all, that tends to cost the most). After wards, you can toss the bouquet and head out to a restaurant or just enjoy yourself by the pool. No need to rent out the whole beach!

  • E-mail everyone

I am not exaggerating when I say you should e-mail every resort that you have an interest in, every wedding coordinator, every florist, and caterer.

Not only because it’s important to shop around (as many vendors don’t post prices on their website) and see if you get along, but because someone will bail. You never know who it’ll be. Maybe your cake maker. Maybe there’s an issue with your resort. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to have a back up for everything. I had to find a new resort one month from the wedding date at one point, which I’m convinced is the source of my first grey hair. But things were fine because I had contacted every half-way decent resort in the Philippines by that point.

  • Be as clear and concise as possible

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A few of our wedding details. It took weeks to hammer home what I wanted, even though plenty of pictures and pinterest links were were exchanged.

If you’re planning a destination wedding, chances are that there’s some sort of language barrier and, inevitably, there will be a miscommunication.

For that reason you should also be as clear and concise as you can be in your e-mails. Clarify whenever possible. Try to be as comprehensive as possible. Because you won’t have the chance to walk through the venue, or see what it is your florist or caterer is offering until mere days before the wedding it’s important that you discuss every detail that you think is important. If you leave that detail out, you’ll leave it up to them and there won’t be time to change it when you arrive.

And it’s so helpful to have pictures! Pinterest boards are mega-popular with people planning their wedding for a reason: it allows you to immediately convey what you want and provides something that’s easy to refer back to.

  • Make a website

This is imperative if you’re having a destination wedding. Chances are even your most travel savvy guests are going to have a hell of a time making it if you don’t have a very detailed website with step by step directions on what to expect and how to get there.

But, honestly, I think you should take it a step farther. I think the kindest thing to do is arrange for transportation to pick your guests up at the airport and take them straight to their hotel… And then request that the reception at their hotel arrange for transportation to the welcome dinner at the proper time.

  • Let what happens, happen.

Ultimately, with a destination wedding, you have to accept things for what they wind up being. It will not go perfectly to plan. It will not look precisely what you hoped for. But it will be a memorable time, little funny mishaps and all, that I’m certain you wouldn’t trade for the world.

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