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by jenna lee


5 Expert Tips for Planning the Perfect Destination Wedding

Ahhh, Destination Weddings! What an incredible way to celebrate one of the biggest journeys of your life! Saying "I do" to your best friend in a totally incredible place that's near and dear to your hearts, YES, I'm totally here for it!! As someone who has not only just had the absolute honor of capturing Destination Weddings all of the world, but lives in one of the "Destination Wedding Capitals of the World" - aka Hawai'i, I have a unique bit of expertise in this area and I'm here today to share my wisdom on the subject.

While the idea of exchanging vows in a far-off location may sound dreamy, and can be a totally amazing way to experience your big day, just know planning a destination wedding comes with its own set of challenges. From choosing the perfect location to coordinating travel arrangements, there are many factors to consider to ensure that your special day goes off without a hitch. So without further, ado here are five expert tips to help you plan the perfect destination wedding:


Start Planning Early and Research, Research, Research

Planning a destination wedding requires careful consideration and coordination, so it's essential to start early. Begin by researching potential locations and venues well in advance to secure your ideal date and ensure availability with your favorite wedding vendors in the area.

Important Things to Consider

As you are researching, I HIGHLY suggest you consider these little nuggets of wisdom.

Some folks get totally stoked by finding insane travel deals in the off-season of their specific destination. While YES, this is totally a thing and a way to find special deals, often times (depending on your location) the off-season may coincide with a period of inclement weather for that region. "Rainy Season" "Hurricane Season" "termite season"these are all real things, make sure you are researching what the different seasons are for your particular area and what considerations you might need to take when booking! If you don't mind a little bit of weather, or the idea of dancing in the rain sounds awesome, the off-season may prove to be the right choice.. Heck, fewer people, cheaper travel fees.... SCORE! I definitely suggest hiring a photo/video team who's not afraid of a little rain. (A creative like myself, LOVES added elements and sees them as a gift and an opportunity to get even more creative!)


Hire a Local Wedding Planner

Enlisting the help of a local wedding planner is absolutely invaluable when planning a destination wedding. A local wedding planner will have insider knowledge of the area, as well as established relationships with vendors and suppliers, helping to streamline the planning process and alleviate stress. They'll be able to give you guidance on all sorts of topics you probably hadn't even considered from transportation, to pros and cons of having your event certain time of year, to availability of decorative linens on an island. Do you need to special order and ship everything in? Your planner will help make this easy as they have experience in the "how-tos" of the entire process for that specific area. They'll work your timeline out and coordinate with all of your vendors and so long as you've hired the right one, they'll make sure your idea is beautiful and stress-free.



Location is a huge consideration when determining the ultimate wedding spot. I could write a stand alone blog post on this. I'd suggest taking a moment to visualize how you see your perfect day going down. Some select an all-inclusive resort which can handle absolutely everything (there's often times a lot of fine print here and this option can prove to be far more limiting than one might think, more on that in a minute.) Others, will select a meaningful spot or venue (which your next consideration should be guest accommodations and transportation.) I've also had couples who chose an adorable church on the coast which had a beautiful hotel nearby for their guests. Transportation to and from should definitely be a consideration- not only for you but your guests as well. Can you charter a coach? How far will the drive be for you on wedding day? Is there a bridal suite or accommodation?

For many, the "all-inclusive" resort, then looks like an appealing option. Most of these places have very strict policies in place, requiring their guests use only their vendors.

TRUE STORY-- We did a destination wedding in Turks and Caicos a few years back, and the very lux all-inclusive resort which had fees which ran over $1,000/per person /per night had very strict rules on vendors where they required that ONLY VENDORS from their list be used. Anyone NOT on their list, must stay a minimum of 3 nights at their resort, OR must pay a fee of $,1500. This was worked out with the resort, so that we were able to photograph the event. However, the DJ who was HIRED OFF THEIR LIST, ended up being a NIGHTMARE. This poor couple who paid a boatload to have an incredible event with around 100 guests, at one of the nicest all-inclusives in T&C had terrible feedback (screeching) throughout the entirety of their event. The DJ's tried to cover it up by BLASTING music so loud that folks couldn't even talk during dinner. I spoke with the DJ's on behalf of the couple and asked them to lower the music, when they did the audible whining became so loud it hurt the ears. They had to deal with this the entire night. The DJ also played versions of songs that had pornographic descriptions of sexual events (AT THEIR WEDDING), played a version of a song for the mother daughter dance that sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks were singing... and to make matters worse, the Groom's father who is an accomplished musician said all they would have needed was a $6 part to fix the feedback. BUT, they were a "cousin" of someone at the Resort and were therefore added to the Resort List of "trusted vendors"

This situation is not unique, and just goes to say, DO YOUR RESEARCH and don't just blindly trust a list. This is a downside of having a wedding at certain resorts, who nitpick to make a greater profit under the guise of "helping couples" via their "trusted lists."

So what seems like the easiest situation isn't always the best option, do your research and if you have a killer team of vendors, they should also be able to help with local guidance and recommendations. When I have client calls for weddings, I spend a lot of time answering any and all questions and giving lots of guidance and recommendation.


guest considerations + communication

One of the things I hear ALL the time is, "We decided to do a destination wedding, because we thought not as many people would come... but we were so wrong!" I've shot destination weddings in Hawaii with 250+ people in attendance, so I hate to burst any bubbles out there, but people are just looking for a good reason to travel! So if you're hoping for this yourself, my advice is to not send out all the invitations, because you think a lot of people will decline based on the fact that you're wedding isn't the easiest to get to. Rather, start out realistically with your count and who you'd like to attend, because often times more people than you think will RSVP "Yes" (at least is usually the case for a Hawaii wedding!)

Also, if you do want to keep your wedding intimate, that's totally fine and you really don't need to apologize for that either. Some couples chose to have a more intimate wedding ceremony and then do a party later on when they've returned home.

Now IMO one of the best parts of doing a destination wedding is the fact that you can spend a couples day or a week quality time with all of your favorite people!! When again will you ever have all of these same people, YOUR favorite people + Your FAV PERSON's fav people all together in one place, CELEBRATING THE TWO OF YOU!? Soooo cool! Won't ever happen again, at least not like this. So take advantage of that!! Create an itinerary of fun things you can all do together, Beach days, hikes, excursions, campfire cookouts, luaus, wine tasting, sight-seeing, game night - whatever that looks like for you! & Do it without the advice of everyone else, who might just complicate it. Set it up the way the TWO OF YOU want it, and people can come or not. & Once you have this figured out COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Clear communication is key when planning a destination wedding. Provide your guests with detailed information about travel arrangements, accommodation options, and any pre-wedding events or activities. Consider creating a wedding website or sending out regular updates to keep everyone informed. This will help you all have an incredible time.



Incorporating elements of the local culture into your wedding can add a unique and memorable touch to your special day. Whether it's traditional cuisine, music, or customs, embracing the local culture can create a truly authentic experience for you and your guests. Additionally, you can further support the locals, by perhaps including local handmade items as guest gifts and/or table decor. What is the region known for? Local Honey? Embroidery? Drink or Food Delicacies? Pottery or metal work? How many beautiful ways can you support the local economy and also, make your big day unique and extra special? This is where you can chat with your planner for ideas, or fly in before and do your own research and see what speaks to you!

That's all for now folks! Lord knows I could write all day on this topic, but I must run and just wanted to get you out some helpful info on this fine Monday afternoon!!

Have any helpful tips? Would love to hear them!! Feel free to share your expertise with the group!!

Until next time!

Love, Light and Aloha

Jenna Lee


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