Planning a Destination Wedding Checklist

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming all by itself. Planning a destination wedding takes that to a whole new level. Make things easy for yourself by following this destination wedding checklist!

What makes planning a destination wedding different is that you really have to consider the guest experience. Because your friends and family will be traveling from all over, it is important to look at the trip as a whole and not just an event that lasts for a few hours.

What is considered a destination wedding?

A destination wedding is any venue or location that requires the majority of your guests to travel in order to attend. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean someplace tropical or exotic. A destination wedding can just be in a city different from where you live.

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Planning a Destination Wedding Checklist:

Set your budget

With planning any wedding, you should always start by setting a budget because costs can get out of hand pretty quickly. Destination weddings have other factors to consider though such as flights and accommodations.

wedding planner binder

Generally speaking, destination weddings tend to have fewer guests because of all the extra expenses. For example, certain flowers might be more expensive if they have to be shipped in from somewhere else.

Hot Tip: When planning a destination wedding, be sure to consider the exchange rate as things might be more or less expensive than you originally thought.

Choose a location

Once you have a budget, consider where you want to get married. I don’t mean jumping straight to picking venues, but instead pick what other city or country you want to get married in.

When we started to decide where we wanted to get married, my husband said he just wanted to get married on a cliff. For me that was extremely vague, but it made me start thinking about locations that might have incredible views that feel like you are on the top of a mountain.

Planning a Destination Wedding Checklist: Pick a location

We knew that traveling abroad meant that many important people in our family wouldn’t be able to afford to attend. This instead led us to look at the mountains in North Carolina, which still offered a stunning view, but they were close enough that people could drive there.

Hire a wedding planner

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to hire a wedding planner when planning a destination wedding. They are your boots on the ground to get things done when you cannot be there.

Wedding planners will also know local vendors and be able to answer any questions you might have. They are worth every penny when planning a destination wedding.

I was so thankful for my amazing planner that was extremely familiar with my venue and had worked with my other vendors. If there was a problem during my wedding, I never knew about it because she handled everything in order to keep my day stress-free.

Set guest count

Start by creating a general guest list to get a sense of how big you want your wedding to be. In reality, destination weddings tend to be smaller as not everyone is able to travel due to schedule or budget reasons.

Because of this, start with your A-list of guests, but expect a higher percentage of people not being able to attend. Then, have a B-list group to invite once you have a better sense of who might or might not be able to travel.

Pick a venue

Touring multiple venues is more difficult when you are planning a destination wedding. You have to rely heavily on pictures and reviews to get a better idea of what a potential venue looks like.

If you have hired a wedding planner, take advantage of their services and have them help you pick a venue. Ask your wedding planner to tour the venue and video call you so you can “see” it.

One of the remote venues we considered for our destination wedding.

When it comes to picking a destination wedding venue, look for venues that offer large all-inclusive packages. It will be much more hassle-free if you pick a venue that can handle all the big items versus needing to coordinate many different separate vendors.

Visit in advance

Depending on where you choose to get married and your budget, try to visit your venue in advance. It might not be possible, but it can help you plan ahead and map out everything you will need for your wedding day.

My husband and I made one trip out to our venue before our wedding where we met with our coordinator, walked through the layout, and she answered all of our questions. We made the most use of our time by also pairing our trip with a food tasting to decide our menu.

Plan your wedding rehearsal for a few days before your ceremony for a chance to see your venue space one last time before the big day.

Explore More: Check out my post on what to expect at your wedding rehearsal.


Accommodations are usually one of the last things to consider with a wedding. Most people will just book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel.

However, with a destination wedding, take the time to find accommodations that offer more than just a place to sleep.

When planning to travel to destination weddings, guests often make a mini vacation out of it. Consider accommodations with easy access to restaurants and things to do.

For our wedding, we got married at a lakeside resort that also offered home rentals with kitchens and living spaces. It offered lake activities, restaurants, miniature golf, golfing, and other amenities ideal for our guests.

Hot Tip: Travel can be fairly expensive. Be sure to find a number of options for accommodations at different price points to suit everyone’s different needs.

Pick a date

Normally, wedding planning starts with picking a date. However, when planning a destination wedding, pick your ideal location first and then figure out what date will work for you to travel.


Most importantly, consider the weather at your destination. Determine when there are hurricane or rainy seasons to avoid weather that might put a damper on your big day.

Send save the dates

When planning a destination wedding, send save the dates earlier than usual. You should mail destination wedding save the dates out 8-12 months in advance.

tropical save the date cards

This gives your guests enough time to schedule travel and plan to take off from work. You can then plan to send official invitations about four months in advance to help you confirm an exact guest count.

Hire local vendors

Save on costs by utilizing local vendors. A wedding coordinator can help you put together your team to make your special day perfect.

Use resources like local flowers that are in season. Embrace catering that highlights local cuisine. Destination weddings are the perfect way to create a unique experience you wouldn’t be able to get in your hometown.

Explore More: Don’t forget a thing! Here is a complete list of all the questions to ask your wedding vendors.

Travel Logistics

When you have to travel to your wedding, plan for things to go wrong. Flights might get delayed or luggage might not arrive on time. Prepare to be flexible if you are traveling abroad.

When booking flights, give yourself plenty of time on either side of your wedding. You might need a few days to adjust to any time changes. It also helps to build in an extra day or two in the event your flight gets delayed or cancelled.

Explore More: Headed out of the country? Check out my posts on how to prepare for international travel and how to survive a long flight.

Hot Tip: With large groups traveling, enlist the help of a travel agent (like me!) to make things easier for you. Use the button below to fill out my general travel inquiry for a FREE, no obligation quote.

Wedding ceremony

Pre-wedding events: With the majority of your guests traveling into town, consider having a welcome party to kick off the festivities. These are great because they allow guests to meet and mingle before the big day. It helps everyone then relax and have a good time on the day of your wedding.

Welcome bags: Traveling is expensive, so consider thanking your guests by creating a welcome bag filled with goodies. We customized beach totes for our guests and filled them with snacks, waters, and other small items like sunscreen and hand sanitizer.

welcome bags

Decorations: When traveling for a destination wedding, keep things simple to minimize what you need to bring with you. Ask your wedding coordinator about renting decor rather than needing to buy anything. Often the location will speak for itself and you don’t need to overdo the decorations.

Wedding attire: Knowing that luggage can easily get lost, make sure you carry your suit and wedding dress onto the plane. Don’t forget to pack any other necessities for your ceremony in your carry-on luggage.

Hot Tip: Consider setting up a Zoom link to livestream your wedding. This is ideal for wedding guests that couldn’t travel to your destination wedding.


This is probably the least exciting part of planning a destination wedding, but it is one of the most important parts to your planning a destination wedding checklist.

Passports: Don’t miss your wedding because you forgot to update your passport. Make sure your passport does not expire within six months of your travel date. If it is close to expiring, apply for a new passport as soon as possible as the processing times can take a while.

passport holder

Vaccinations: Some countries require specific vaccinations when visiting. Give yourself enough time to get the required vaccinations at your doctor’s office.

Wedding insurance: Weddings get planned months in advance, which leaves a lot of time for things to go wrong. Protect yourself by investing in wedding insurance.

This is beneficial to have in case of a natural disaster or a change in local COVID protocols that might affect your big event.

Local marriage requirements: Check the local requirements to guarantee that your marriage is legal and official.

Some countries have different age requirements or need to establish residency. Double check all your paperwork as well.

Complete Destination Wedding Checklist:

Planning a destination wedding can be a little more overwhelming than the average wedding. However, destination weddings can offer a much more unique and intimate affair that you and your guests will remember forever.

Download your destination wedding checklist by clicking on the button below.

Wedding Photos Credit: Asheville Wedding Photography

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