Planning Your Dream Destination Wedding

by : Ann Knapp

You've dreamed of your special wedding day. But what may make it special for you is getting married in a small adobe church in Arizona, or on a balmy beach in the Caribbean. Making your fantasy destination wedding a reality isn't as difficult -- or as expensive -- as you might think. If you're eloping to your fantasy destination, it can be as easy as taking a limo or luxury sedan to the airport.

More and more couples are heading to exotic locales to say, "I do." What's the attraction? Well, here's the 4-1-1 on why couples famous, infamous and non-famous do destination weddings, and what to need to know when planning your own.

For the Intimacy. Today's couples are mobile. And they're likely to have friends and family scattered across the country. But with the average wedding lasting only four hours, how can a bride and groom spend time with everyone? Having a destination wedding is like a mini-vacation with your closest family and friends. Instead of one night, you have several relaxed days to enjoy the company of your closest family and friends.

For the Convenience. Is the thought of spending the day before the wedding relaxing on the beach instead of running hundreds of errands give you a reason for wanting to choose a destination wedding? Brides and grooms perseverate about the hardships of planning a wedding from thousands of miles away, but destination weddings are often far less work than traditional weddings. Most hotels and resorts offer wedding-planning packages and services, so the details get taken care of for you. You will have to price tickets and rooms for your guests and book a luxury sedan or two for the ride to the airport and back, but you might miss out on the frenzy of last-minute preparations.

For the Value

When you add up the travel, the dress, the reception bill, and you may be surprised to find out that destination weddings are often less expensive than traditional weddings. This is because they may involve many fewer guests, and resorts and hotels offer all-inclusive deals. For couples looking to create a really memorable occasion without breaking the bank, destination weddings may be the perfect way to go.

Don't Forget the Budget

When you're watching your dollars, you can opt for less expensive destinations or destinations that offer a wide range of dining and lodging options. For example, if you wed in at a top travel spot, you might want to consider choosing an off-season date, and explore local neighborhoods with less touristy price tags for other aspects of your event, like your rehearsal dinner. Don't forget to reserve your luxury sedan for the ride to and from your hometown airport.

The Guest List

So at every wedding, there's usually someone who has traveled some distance to be a part of the festivities. At a destination wedding, nearly everyone travels, including the bride and groom. If that's the case, you need to accept the fact that your wedding may not be large. Not everyone can afford hotel and airfare. But that doesn't mean you should count on guests declining your invitation. Some wedding destinations can be too tempting to resist -- even if they are expensive.

Alert Your Guests Ahead of Time

Give your guests as much advance notice about your wedding as possible. So send out save-the-date cards a minimum of five months in advance so your guests can make the necessary travel and vacation arrangements. Reserve a block of rooms at two hotels in different price ranges. Or set up a wedding web site where you can post all your wedding details and out-of-town guest Information. If your wedding is in another country, reserve a block of seats with an airline. Many carriers offer discounts to passengers with groups over ten.

On Location

For convenience, you should have someone physically at your wedding location to help you plan, scout for vendors, and handle meetings and details. This person can be a professional wedding planner, a friend or family member who lives nearby, or most likely a resort or hotel wedding coordinator. Whomever you choose, your contact must be reliable, familiar with your wedding style, and aware of your wedding budget.

Details, Details

If you are getting married in another state or country, you will need a local marriage license, and possibly a passport. The passport is simple; just be sure to apply well in advance of your wedding date. When getting the marriage license, especially in a foreign country, contact the local city hall (if you don't speak their language, get an interpreter!) and get permission to be married in the location. Some places require blood tests, immunization certificates, or doctor's certificates in order for you to legally marry. For more information about the specifics of getting married in different countries, visit the U.S. State Department web site.