Now that I’m officially married and went through the entire process of planning and having a destination wedding, I’m excited to share a series of posts over the next few months dedicated to how we went about the planning process. If you or someone close to you is looking to have a destination wedding, hopefully these posts will be helpful!
Today I wanted to start with a general overview on how to plan a destination wedding. I wrote an entire post on how we decided on a location and a venue. You can check it out here. Today I’m diving deeper into the process of what goes down after you land on a destination and a venue. Let’s jump right in.
There are pros and cons that come along with having a destination wedding. Michael and I wanted an intimate wedding weekend surrounded by our closest family and friends. Choosing to do a destination wedding lent itself to having a smaller guest list.
Several friends of ours had destination weddings so we asked all of them for their input on the percentage of “yes” responses from their guest list. Generally, everyone said about 60% of the guest list ended up attending their wedding. So we based our guest list numbers on that response rate. After running the numbers post-wedding, we had between 55-60% attendance rate!
When deciding on your guest list numbers, it’s important to keep in mind the accommodation options at your destination, any limit on the number of people the venue can accommodate, and the number of events you’ll be having for guests .
You’ll want to make sure there are enough lodging options/room options to fit a wide-range of budgets for your guests. Some resorts and venues may only be able to accommodate a certain number of people – be sure to speak to venue contacts about numbers prior to committing to a specific venue.
You’ll want to keep in mind the number of events you’ll be having for guests. Paying for a 100 person wedding reception is different than paying for a 100 person welcome party, 100 person rehearsal dinner, and a 100 person wedding reception.
The guest list was by far the most stressful part of our planning process. While we wanted to have an intimate number of people at our wedding, it was hard to cut down the guest list. With that said, people understand that most destination weddings include a smaller guest list. Our friends understood, and I tried not to worry much once the final list was made. I reminded myself that it’s a special time that shouldn’t be overshadowed by added, unnecessary stress.
Venue Contact & Event Planner
Another perk about having a destination wedding is not having to deal with tons of vendors. Michael and I chose the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar for our venue. All of our events throughout the weekend were on-site at the Hyatt. When we booked the Hyatt and dove into the wedding planning process, we were assigned a wedding specialist who was our main contact throughout the planning process and during the actual wedding weekend.
Our wedding planning specialist recommended an event planner for us to use, Wildflowers. After previewing Wildflowers work via their website and on social media, we hired them to help coordinate the weekend. We had one contact at Wildflowers that my mom and I worked with throughout the wedding planning process.
The Hyatt handled all of the catering, including the cake as they have a pastry chef on staff, the bars (they provided bartenders too), the tables and chairs, and they even have an event technology service that they contract with that helped with setting up speakers, a screen for a slideshow, and all of the lighting.
Wildflowers handled all of the decor – flowers, arbor arch for the ceremony, linens, table settings, additional decorative lighting etc. They also handled booking the string quartet for the ceremony and the band for the reception.
Throughout the entire process, we had two main contacts, one at Hyatt and one at Wildflowers. If you can get away with having one or two main points of contact for your destination wedding, that’s the way to go! The folks on the ground know what they’re doing and plan weddings with couples from afar all the time. It was so nice having them essentially guide us in all of our decisions throughout the process.
One of the most important things to decide on upfront is what events you plan on having for your guests throughout the wedding weekend. Destination weddings are a bit different than traditional, hometown weddings in a sense that your guests are traveling (sometimes a long distance!) to celebrate your wedding day. So it’s likely that they’ll be at the destination for longer than just the wedding night.
One of the draws to Michael and I of having a destination wedding was that we would be able to spend more time with our family and friends as opposed to only seeing everyone the night of the reception. From my experience attending other destination weddings, I loved that everyone had the opportunity to hang out with one another over the course of a few days. I also loved the idea that all of our close friends from different parts of our lives and our families could get to know one another – that’s one of my favorite things about attending friends’ destination weddings – getting to know the couple’s friends from different parts of their lives!
Since we knew that most of our guests would at least be making a long weekend out of the trip, we planned three nights of events. We decided to have a welcome party on the Thursday night prior to the wedding. A casual, cocktail-style party with an open bar and passed hors d’oeuvres.
For Friday night, all of our guests were invited to the rehearsal dinner. We opted for a Bahamian BBQ that evening. It was outside, on a beautiful lawn.
On Saturday, our wedding day, everyone attended the sunset ceremony and joined us at the reception following. I’ll be sharing more details about each party and how we planned each one over the next couple of months, so stay tuned!
Having the number of events and type of events you’d like to have for your guests is important to have in mind from the beginning stages of planning.
That’s it for today. I wanted to give a little taste of how to plan a destination wedding in this post. I’ll have more wedding-planning related posts heading your way soon! And you can always click on the WEDDING tab at the top of the page to see all of my wedding-related posts! Have a specific question about how to plan a destination wedding? Comment below! Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Photos by Adam Mason