When it comes time to plan a destination wedding, questions are abound—and many of them center around one important thing: timing. Getting married in Tahiti, after all, puts you on an entirely different timeline than tying the knot in your backyard. From choosing your location and venue to sending off those all-important invitations, we’ve rounded up some major time-markers in destination wedding planning today. Read on for our top tips for staying on track and on time as you hammer out the details of your far-away affair.
When should I hire a wedding planner?
From logistics to language barriers to time differences, there’s really no way to get around hiring a professional planner for your destination wedding. A seasoned planner will help you navigate the ever-murky waters of getting married in a locale you’re not super familiar with, taking the stress and guesswork out of the planning process. Once you’ve got a ring on it, we recommend enjoying 1-2 weeks of simply being engaged. Once you embark on the planning process, there’s no going back—so, while you may be super excited to dive right into event design, try to resist the urge to spend your every waking hour Pinteresting and, instead, focus on the one thing you won’t ever get back once it’s gone: the fresh feeling of being newly engaged. Take some time to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate. Then, once you’ve allowed yourself to marinate in that pure awesomeness for a week or so, your very next step should be to hire a professional wedding planner to help you plan your destination wedding. You should have a professional planner hired at least 10-12 months prior to your destination wedding.
When should I choose a location?
You might know the country or the part of the state you want to get married in, but nailing down a specific location should be the first thing you do after hiring a wedding planner. Your planner will know which locales will (and won’t) work for your wedding-day dreams. Maybe you always envisioned getting married in that tiny town you love along the Italian countryside, but come to find out its noise restrictions won’t work with the late-night party you have planned, or maybe the two-hour bus-ride up into the secluded hillside is just too much for your guests to endure. Oftentimes, logistics will help determine the exact location of your wedding, so—even if you’re 1-2 years out from saying I do—choose your wedding location right away after hiring your planner.
When should I book my venue?
For destination weddings, we recommend booking your venue 12-16 months out. That being said, different venues will have different requirements. If it’s a super popular destination wedding spot, they may be booked out for 18 months in advance. This is where your planner will come in—she will know which venues require what amount of time in advance to book. Keep in mind some venues won’t take weddings that are too far out—2-3 years, for example—as it simply doesn’t make sense for them to have something on the books that far in advance knowing the number of things that can change in such a long amount of time.
When should I send Save the Dates?
Send out Save the Dates for your destination wedding 8-12 months in advance—any longer and guests will forget about your affair, any shorter and they may not have time to book travel and accomodations at a reasonable price. Whether you lean closer to 8 months or to 12 will depend on your wedding locale and its proximity to (or distance from) the area from which most of your guests will be traveling. A destination wedding in California with most of your family is coming from the East Coast may only require 8 months notice, whereas a destination wedding in Budapest with most of your guests traveling from the States will definitely require 12 months notice. When it doubt, put yourself in your guests’ shoes—even if money, childcare, or work schedules aren’t a concern for you personally, they likely will be for many of your guests. Ensure you’re giving them plenty of time to book plane tickets and hotel accommodations without getting hit with last-minute booking fees.
When should I mail out invitations?
You want to send invitations for destination weddings 2-3 months in advance. This will allow your guests plenty of time to request time off work, arrange for childcare if necessary, and book their travel. Be sure to include information about your wedding website on your invitations, as destination weddings typically require you communicate a ton of information about your event to your guests--and wedding websites are the best place to do so.
Photo courtesy San Diego wedding photographer Aubree Lynn