Joy Wedding
Joy Baby New
Registry with Free Shipping
Registry with 20% Completion Discount
Registry with Zero-Fee Cash Funds
Registry with Easy Returns
Registry with Free Shipping
Find an Event
Inspiration » Wedding Planning » The Complete Destination Wedding Checklist

The Complete Destination Wedding Checklist

by Joy Editors
married couple walking down isle of their destination wedding ceremony

Planning a beautiful destination wedding, though joyous, can be equally overwhelming. The good news is that you can spread the to-dos over a multi-month period. Best of all, we’ve compiled a thorough destination wedding checklist to guide you every step of the way. 

Keep reading to learn which tasks to tackle each month and ensure everything runs smoothly for your fabulous destination wedding.

12+ Months Before

Preparing at least a year before your desired wedding date gives you and your guests enough time to get organized and budget for your special day. It also gives you more flexibility with choosing dates for your destination, as some resorts get booked fast. Kick off your planning by downloading our printable destination wedding checklist below!

Decide what style you want for your wedding 

Getting clear on the theme, style, or ambiance you’d like for your wedding. For example, you may want a tropical yet casual feel for a beach ceremony, or a formal style in an upscale city venue. This will make your other decisions easier since you’ll better understand what you’re trying to create. Consider making a vision board of wedding photos, flowers, colors, food, and destination ideas.

Determine your budget

Know that you can still create your dream wedding without stripping your financial reserves. Start by taking an honest look at your finances, considering any help you may be receiving from family members, settling on a realistic wedding budget, and committing to staying within that limit.

Research venues

Once you’ve settled on your wedding theme, start researching venues that match your vision. Mark your favorites and discuss them with your fiancé to narrow down options. When you have your top three, contact the venues and request all pertinent information, such as price and amenities.

Confirm the venue

Don’t get your heart set on a venue without first confirming it’s availability on your desired date. The perk of planning a year in advance is that you have more flexibility with venue availability.

Create your guest list

With that budget set in stone, you can now decide who will be on your guest list. Whether hotel room blocks or alternative accommodations, you’ll want to keep in mind how many guests will attend.

9-12 Months Before

You’ve booked your wedding venue, stayed within your budget, and reviewed that pesky guest list until it was perfect. You’ve got your momentum going and have tackled some of the biggest destination wedding question marks. It’s now time to narrow your focus to the finer details.

beachside venue as item on wedding destination checklist

Hire a wedding planner

Coordinating both a wedding and travel for a huge group of guests is no easy feat. Hiring a wedding planner is key to a stress-free destination wedding. You can ask for recommendations and schedule calls with local planners to vet your favorite. You can also check if your venue has assigned one to you to help with coordination. 

Create your wedding website and registry

Now that you have your wedding date and location, you can create your wedding website. Make sure your website includes specifics, such as the best ways to get to your wedding destination, travel requirements, accommodation arrangements, and any other essential information.

This is also a good time to create your wedding registry, which will also be essential information on the website. With Joy, you can tackle both of these tasks at once!

Your wedding registry, your way

From gifts, to cash funds, experiences or charitable causes, add any gift you want, from any online retailer, to your Joy registry.

Send your save-the-dates

To ensure as many of your guests can attend,you’ll want to let them know all of the details ASAP so they can get it on their calendar. Make sure the Save the Date includes your wedding website link so they’ll have easy access to all necessary information. Send the invitations digitally or print them out as decorative reminders for your guests.

Select your wedding party

Decide who you would like standing by your side on your wedding day. Also, decide with your fiancé if it’s important for you to have an even number on their side and yours.

Hire a photographer and videographer

If your wedding planner doesn’t provide a list of photographers and videographers, ask for recommendations and visit their websites to compare services. Once you’ve found the ideal wedding photographer within your budget, book them right away!

Research dresses/suits

Taking into consideration your style preferences, keeping in mind your budget and the wedding destination climate. These factors will help you choose the best attire for your special day. 

6-9 Months Before

You’re about halfway there! At this stage of the timeline, many of the to-do items include goodies like shopping and finalizing the ultimate vacay.

married couple posing for photos during their destination wedding ceremony

Research travel requirements 

There might be quite a few hoops to jump through before reaching your wedding destination, especially if your wedding will be in a different country. Research whether things like visas, marriage licenses, and certain vaccinations will need to be obtained before entering the country, and ensure your passport is up-to-date.

Reserve a hotel block or vacation home for guests

Now that you (hopefully!) know how many people will be attending your wedding, you can figure out where they’ll sleep. Confirm ahead of time the cost of accommodation, which can help make travel easier for your guests. Some hotels and venues offer discounts when booking hotel room blocks for weddings.

Book your airline tickets

On average, you can find the biggest variety and best deals on flights when you book about six months in advance. Research the various airports and transportation options available near your wedding venue and choose the option that best suits your needs. Then, take your research and share it with guests in the following to-do.

Share travel details for your confirmed guests

To ensure all your people turn up at the right place at the right time, make their travel planning simple by sending out a thorough and well-organized checklist, complete with a few options for each item. 

You’ll want to include information such as passport and visa requirements, airport options, transportation and accommodation options, as well as local weather and things to do.

Select an officiant

Ask your wedding venue for recommendations of wedding officiants of your denomination — if you’re not bringing your own. If you prefer no religious association, modern weddings give you more flexibility in your officiant selection. You can have a special friend or family member become ordained (such as online) to officiate the wedding.

Decide on wedding party attire 

Now is the time you’ll likely start receiving the “What do I need to wear?” question from your wedding party. Talk with your fiancé about the color palette, style, and materials you would like for the wedding party’s attire and share that information with them as soon as possible — if you can include sample photos and shopping links, even better.

Buy a dress/suit

You’ve been exploring elegant silks and sequins, narrowed it down to a few faves, and are ready to take the plunge. Exciting! But before you hand over that credit card, check in with yourself to ensure this dress is a yes for you in all ways.

Buy your rings

If you choose to wear wedding bands, have a conversation with your fiancé about options that suit your personal styles.

Plan your honeymoon

After a year of wedding planning, you deserve a fabulous honeymoon. Decide whether you want to have a weddingmoon — where your honeymoon is in the same location you marry (helpful way to save money) — or desire to jet off to a new location after your nuptials.

3-6 Months Before

Where has the time gone! As the wedding date approaches, these next few weeks are when you’ll solidify the ceremony stages, entertainment, and wedding reception details.

Schedule a call with your wedding planner

Talk with your planner about details for flowers and other decorations, food, drinks, seating plans, venues, entertainment, and more for every wedding event you will be having. Be prepared with a list of topics, questions, and requests.

Book a makeup artist and hair stylist

During your phone call with the wedding planner, ask for recommendations for local makeup and hair stylists.

Hire a DJ

Yet another question for your wedding planner: DJ recommendations. Whether you hire a DJ or create your own playlists, it’s important to think about the songs you want for the rehearsal dinner, processional, recessional, and reception. Give the DJ as much guidance as possible to ensure their surprise song selections don’t make you cringe.

Check in with unconfirmed guests 

Some guests may forget to confirm their attendance (and need extra nudging to RSVP). Pair your wedding website with Joy’s Smart RSVP to automate RSVP reminders as well as confirming accommodation needs.

Ensure the wedding party has their attire

Send all wedding party members a friendly reminder and request that they send you a picture when they purchase the needed ensemble.

Have a dress/suit fitting

Find a highly recommended tailor, and work with them to ensure the length and fit of your dress (or suit) is just right. Next, schedule an additional fitting for one month before your wedding departure so you can take care of last-minute adjustments.

Purchase your accessories

While your attire is surely exquisite enough to stand on its own, it’s always fun to find the perfect accessories like jewelry, shoes, hair pieces, and any other adornment you believe will enhance your special day.

1-3 Months Before

You’re getting closer to your wedding day! Mark the following tasks off your destination wedding checklist before traveling.

Hands of a married couple wearing wedding rings

Obtain a marriage license

Since your wedding will be out of the state or country, you’ll need to apply for your marriage license ahead of time, ideally a month or more in advance. This is because some states require a waiting period before you can pick up your wedding license, as well as an expiration date from the time you obtain your license to the wedding date. 

Write your vows 

Finding the right words to creatively express your love may take a bit of brainstorming (and a peek at a few wedding vow examples for inspiration). Start with a list of the qualities you love in your fiancé, unique aspects of your love story, and how you feel about the idea of spending the rest of your life with them. Then, let your vows organically evolve from this heart-centered list.

Buy the extras 

Mentally walk yourself through every step of your rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception, and figure out what extra items you envision being present. For example, what kind of guest book would you like? Are there special decorations (not offered by your venue) that you would like to feature? Make a list of any extras you would like and purchase them before packing for the trip.

2-4 Weeks Before

This is when many couples become overwhelmed with pre-wedding stress — but not you. You’ve strategically taken care of your to-dos over the past year and are good to go! There are only a few small tasks left to check off. 

Pick up your dress/suit 

Your tailor should be done with adjustments and ready to hand over the precious cargo. Extra tip: If you’re flying to your wedding destination, carry your dress on the plane, as most airlines will allow you to hang it in their coat closet.

Chat with your wedding planner

Have a call with your planner to iron out any last-minute details and decisions. For example, confirm the wet weather plan, go over the timeline for the wedding day, figure out when bouquets and boutonnières will be delivered, and determine who will be re-confirming with vendors.  

Confirm plans with your photographer and videographer

While your photographer and videographer will hopefully be seasoned professionals, you can ensure you get the exact footage you want from your nuptials by discussing shot lists and timing needs with them.

Meet with officiant

Be sure to schedule a talk with your officiant of choice before the big day to go over the schedule and script for the ceremony. 

Confirm flights and accommodations

The last thing you need is a hiccup with your flights or accommodations. Double-check that everything is confirmed for the correct dates and times.

Send detailed emails to guests 

Send your guests an email that includes the itinerary for wedding events and daily excursions so they can pack accordingly. This can also be a good time to broach the subject of speeches with parents and the wedding party.

Begin packing for the wedding and honeymoon 

Make sure you pack everything you need in advance. This gives you ample time to add or remove items and ensure you don’t forget essentials (not to mention an 80-pound bag).  

1 Week Before

The big day is around the corner! With only a few days left before saying “I do,” this is the perfect time to wrap up packing, finalizing plans once arrived at the destination, and scheduling much-needed pampering. Consider arriving a few days ahead of your guests if possible.

Check in with guest arrivals

People tend to arrive at least a day before the wedding to get settled into their stay. Have your wedding planner confirm with the hotel block and other accommodations that guests and members of the wedding party have safely arrived and checked into their rooms.

Coordinate with the venue and vendors

Have your wedding planner meet with the venue and vendor to ensure they have everything needed for the ceremony. This includes finalizing the reception catering, cake and decoration arrival time, and tipping process for vendors.  

Do walkthrough and rehearsal dinner

Rehearse the ceremony with your wedding party and officiant at least a day before the wedding. This gives you time to experience the venue space and note if anything needs to be changed beforehand, including unpredictable events in your destination location.

Finalize seating chart and transportation arrangements

If you’ll be having a formal seated dinner, complete the seating chart. You can also check in with your wedding planner for insight on spacing and seating arrangement best practices. This is also a good time to confirm transportation arrangements for guests, such as the number of guests using hired shuttle services. 

Prepare wedding rings and marriage license

Have your rings and marriage license packed a few days before the ceremony to ensure they’re with the designated holder come the wedding. You can also give your marriage license to the officiant in advance.

Book a spa day

After all this hard work of planning, you and your fiancé deserve some serious pampering before the big day! Use this week to schedule time for a facial, massage, and grooming. 

Get some rest

All of the pre-wedding preparation, not to mention traveling to a destination, can be pretty exhausting. Consider going to bed early to help adjust to the time zone and feel refreshed for the ceremony.

Day of the Wedding!

It’s here! You’ve made it. After moving through seemingly endless planning, you’ve finally landed on this magical day. Now is the time to put planning behind you and fully commit to enjoying yourself.

group wedding photo at beach destination

Savor some alone time

It’s all too easy to get whisked away in “what’s next” on your wedding day. Set a present, positive tone by waking up early to go on a solo walk, meditate, journal, or anything else that helps you step back and look at the big picture and deeper meaning of this sacred day.

Create time cushions

You’ll want to allow extra time for personal grooming and preparations. Start your hair and makeup prep about an hour before you think you need to, ensuring you have plenty of time for photos and anything else that comes up before the ceremony.

Sign the wedding certificate

One quick yet important step of the ceremony (after the kiss, of course) is to sign your wedding certificate. This document will be proof you’re legally married! Your officiant will most likely have you and your spouse sign it immediately after the ceremony.  

Have fun!

Don’t get bogged down in details! You have total permission to fully focus on your and your spouse’s happiness. Enjoy every moment of smiles, laughter, and kissing — lots of kissing.

Plan Your Wedding With Joy 

We hope your destination wedding was one to remember! There’s definitely a lot of planning and coordination involved for celebrations away from home. Thankfully, this destination wedding checklist can guide you every step of the way. From wedding registry creation to booking assistance, Joy can help.

More on Destination Weddings:

7 Reasons a Destination Wedding Might Be For You

You may also like