Here at Leilani Weddings, we absolutely LOVE destination weddings. From Puerto Vallarta + Tulum in Mexico, to Costa Rica, New York, and even the Midwest, we have planned, designed, and executed several destination weddings in gorgeous locales for Leilani clients. We consider destination weddings to be one of our specialities, and love meeting adventurous couples who completely trust us to plan + design a wedding that’s beyond their wildest dreams. Give us a locale that we haven’t yet worked at, and well, that type of challenge is just the icing on the cake for us. 

Planning a destination wedding can be daunting. How much will it cost? How do you plan a wedding at a venue that’s thousands of miles away? How do you navigate language + workflow challenges? There are so many questions that come up when planning any type of wedding, but when planning a destination wedding, these somehow get even trickier at times.

Well, wanderlust brides out there, today we’re sharing our top 10 tips for planning a destination wedding, in hopes that they inspire you to plan your own epic wedding at an exotic locale, and celebrate the way your love should be celebrated.

Skip the flights + choose a venue right around the corner  

Whaaat? How does that work? For my beach babes out there, if you always imagined marrying your best friend with palm trees and waves crashing in the background, but you don’t want to fly anywhere, simply drive up to the coast! We live in the state of sunny skies + gorgeous beaches so explore some of the venues around you! I mean… have you seen Laguna Beach?!—practically Honolulu! There are plenty of venues that offer just what you are looking for in a destination wedding without the hustle and bustle of flying or booking resorts. Personally, we think you can have your tropical, beach vibes wedding just a few miles from your house. We have done countless weddings in places like Palm Springs, Malibu + Dana Point + each have created the picture-perfect-poolside-palm tree scene for our couples.  

Choose a meaningful location for YOU

This is YOUR wedding so the location is up to you. Pick one that has significance to you. If white sand beaches + local latino culture is important to you, pick a venue in Costa Rica. If you want all your family back home to attend, choose a simple venue in your hometown. If your fiance proposed in NYC, find a gorgeous spot in Brooklyn. If you simply want to have fun + go to the beach, choose a resort in Mexico! 

Making it meaningful for YOU is different for every couple. You can choose to go out of the country or stay within the states. Two years ago, we planned a charming wedding in Wisconsin for the sweetest couple. They wanted to share those magical moments with their family back home, so we made it happen. Last year, we styled a shoot at our New York location in a hole-in-the-wall Brooklyn Winery. Just this past weekend, we flew all the way to Costa Rica to execute a wedding that was in the works for months! No matter where you decide to have your wedding, make sure you + your partner actually want it to be there. 

Check the weather + time it right

If you are planning a wedding in Mexico, Costa Rica or Hawaii, check the weather before choosing a date. You want your guests to have a great time in the heat, but you also don’t want to break your bank or be overcrowded by tourists. Consider going on the off season—venues will be cheaper, there won’t be many tourists AND chances are, in Mexico or Hawaii, the weather will still be beautiful, maybe even less humid! Just make sure you look out for hurricane season in the Caribbean and the summer heat waves in Europe.  

If you decide to plan your wedding during peak season, give yourself A LOT of time to book that venue. There will be limited space in resorts + hotels, so reserve room blocks for your guests as soon as you can. 

Also, always always have a rain plan. Oftentimes places with tropical weather can have unpredictable weather, so you always want to plan in advance.

Give your guests a lot of time to RSVP

We want all your family to come + join the fun! But in order to do that, they have to know if they can afford the big trip out. A lot of couples + families plan their year so that they can afford a trip here and there. You want your wedding to be one of their mini-vacations so they can plan accordingly! On that note, don’t be upset if some of your closest friends + relatives can’t make it. Ultimately, it’s YOUR vacation, not theirs (although you’d like it to be theirs too).

Don’t forget to consider your bride tribe! When you ask them to be your bridesmaids, let them know it’s going to be a destination wedding so they can graciously decline if finances are tight—or they can jump right into the fun of planning a wedding in Hawaii + book a flight!  

Help your budget by incorporating local food + decor 

LOCAL, local, local. I cannot stress this enough—get to know the local culture!  Bringing in outside caterers or vendors can be crazy expensive so use local vendors. Whether you are planning a wedding in the Caribbean, South America or Europe, take the chance to soak up the local culture. Get to know the city you chose for your wedding. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s fun! You’re on vacation so try some lau lau + grab a Mai Tai cocktail! If you’re in the Caribbean, serve guests local food wrapped in Bamboo leaves. If you’re in Hawaii, serve drinks during cocktail hour in coconuts. 

Design your space accordingly. Tropical wedding? Hang some bamboo leaves + pink Hawaiian flowers. Think local + sustainable. Pack cloth guest bags with bamboo straws, hibiscus flavored lip balm and some chocolate native to the region. 

Visit the site in advance 

Take a mini vacation before you pack your bags for the big day! Visit your venue site, check out the weather, meet with vendors, get to know the locals before booking your wedding. This is a good way to make sure you absolutely love the destination you chose. Take the time to explore different venues, hotels for your guests, and spaces for your rehearsal dinner. If you want to do a day after brunch, look for cute spots on the beach or talk to resorts about inclusive meals. This is also a good time to meet with different caterers, photographers + florists. Schedule some tastings and set up hair + makeup appointments at the local salon. Begin planning activities for your guests. This is your time to sort out the details before diving into full-on planning mode. 

Stuff that suitcase

Shipping decor for your ceremony + reception to the site can be tricky. Things may get lost or destroyed in the mail, so stuff your check-in suitcases. For your peace of mind, try to carry as much as you can on the plane. This includes your wedding dress. We CANNOT stress this enough, ladies!! PLZ carry your dress on board with you as you make the trip out, even if you have to fold it. Just make sure there is someone on the other end who can steam your dress when you land! Getting a few wrinkles is sooo much better than being accidentally misplaced on the trip. 

Dress for the destination

Dress according to the location. If you are planning a wedding in the Caribbean or Hawaii, choose a dress that lets you breathe. We want you to enjoy swimming in the pool with your new spouse after the reception, not swimming in sweat during it. Consider the setting + vibe of your wedding. If your ceremony is more casual, consider wearing a flowy dress + flower crown. One of our brides even walked down the aisle in Honolulu barefoot! You don’t have to do that, but consider how fancy your affair is so you can dress the part. 

Research local marriage requirements

This is so SO important. Some locations you choose may have their own marriage requirements. For example, if you are planning a wedding in Jamaica, you have to fill out a Declaration form + Marriage license form before even arriving in the country. And then you have to get to the venue at least 24 hours before your wedding (which might be a good idea anyway!!). Contact a local Minister or Marriage Officer before setting everything in stone. Maybe even meet with a couple on your first planning trip. You don’t want to show up on the weekend of your wedding only to discover that you don’t meet some of the local marriage requirements. Plan accordingly!!

Hire a LW Planner  

While we are giving you tips on planning your own destination wedding, we also want you to hire a pro! At Leilani Weddings, we have planned many destination weddings across the states in California, Wisconsin, New York, Hawaii and out of the country in Mexico and Costa Rica! We know the ins + outs of destination wedding planning and we want to make your life easier by planning YOUR wedding. We want to get to know your visions + dreams for your perfect wedding + honeymoon package. Through several planning meetings, we want to bring your dream destination wedding alive. Most importantly, we want you to have FUN! Most likely, you’re a beach babe + you just want to have a good time at your ocean view wedding, so sit back, grab a margarita + let us take care of the stressful details!

Okay ladies – now you’re one step closer to your dream wedding that’s better than you could have ever envisioned. Before you know it, we’ll be on that plane to the beaches of Honolulu or the jungles of Costa Rica!