Destination Wedding To-Do List (12 Months Before)

    Bailey Gaddis just celebrated her beachside nuptials in Nicaragua—that's her in all these photos (courtesy of Natalie Quinn)! Bailey, author of the book ​Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Harmony Amidst the Chaos for Blissful Pregnancy and contributing writer for Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal and more, shares tips on how to plan your destination wedding starting in 12 months.

    The price you pay for a gorgeous destination wedding (beyond the actual price) is a lot of work on the front end, beginning about a year before your wedding date. The good news is everything doesn’t have to be done at once, as long as you spread out the to-dos over a 12-month period. To get you started, here’s a list of the top tasks to tackle one year prior to The Day.

    1. Decide the Essence You Want Your Wedding to Exude.

    Getting clear on the vibe, theme, spirit, or whatever you want to call it, for your wedding will make all your other decisions easier because you’ll have a better sense of what you’re trying to create. For example, my fiancé and I wanted the essence of our wedding to be classic, nature inspired, and surf centered. We ended up getting married on the beach in Nicaragua with a driftwood and local flower backdrop while surfers rode an epic set of waves behind us. I chose a classic lace dress and had white roses in my hair. Deciding on our “essence” before planning made it easier to craft our dream wedding.

    2. Research Venues.

    Now that you’ve settled on your wedding essence of choice, start researching venues that match these needs. You can even do an online search for your desire, for example, “rock ‘n’ roll inspired destination wedding venues” or “winter wonderland destination wedding venues.” Whatever floats your wedding boat.
    Mark down your favorite venues and discuss with your partner. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top three, contact the venues and request all pertinent information and photos from past weddings that were held there. If you have the time and money you can even plan mini-vacations to your top picks (but it’s not essential).

    Photo: Natalie Quinn

    3. Confirm The Venue.

    Don’t get your heart set on a venue without first confirming it’s available on the date you’ve settled on, and you lock it in. A perk of planning a year in advance is that you have more flexibility with venue availability. The early bird gets her ideal venue and date.

    4. Determine Your Budget.

    It’s nice to start the post-wedding chapter of your life with dough in the bank. While you want to invest in your dream wedding, know that you can create that dream without striping your financial reserves – and you do this by creating a budget.
    Take an honest look at your finances, considering any help you may be receiving from family members, settle on a realistic budget, and commit to staying below that number. Beyond being kind to your future financial security, sticking to your budget takes pressure off your wedding to be “perfect.” If you’re spending your life savings on one day you’ll be easily upset if the wedding isn’t exactly what you expected. Honor the Budget Gods.

    5. Make Your Guest List.

    With that nifty budget in tow you can now decide how many names can grace your guest list. One of the biggest expenses of a wedding is food and drink, so each name on that list adds up. As you’re making the list consider who will be willing to travel to your destination. If you’re worried certain people will be upset about not being invited, see if there’s room in your budget to host a simple and local party for those folks before or after your wedding.

    Photo: Natalie Quinn

    6. Prepare To Defend Your Choices.

    When you dive into a life event that involves the participation of more than a few people, you’re going to get more than a few opinions. Steel yourself to deflect these unsolicited opinions by having a pow-wow with your fiancé where the two of you get firm on your reasons for having a destination wedding. Remind each other that ultimately the only people who need to be satisfied with the wedding are the two of you. As unpleasant as it might be for the two of you to have to defend your choices, it can be a strong bonding experience and prepare you for all the future moments when you’ll have to back each other up.

    7. Make an Inspiration Board.

    Because there may be some tedious moments between now and the time you finally say “I do” (or “I will?” Is that the new thing?) it can be nice to have a visual reminder of what you’re working towards. Clip images of weddings, flowers, colors, food, rings, dresses, your wedding destination, and more that make you feel excited about planning a wedding and glue them to a piece of posterboard, paper, or a cardboard shoe box. Any time you question your resolve to move through all the motions that get you to a destination wedding, or need help making a wedding-related decision, take a look at those images.

    Photo: Natalie Quinn

    Coming up next from Bailey… your “8 Months Before” to-do list.

    Bailey Gaddis is the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood, a childbirth preparation educator, birth doula, and hypnotherapist who works with mothers-to-be, new mothers, and their support teams. She is also a regular contributor to media outlets including Disney’s Babble, Working Mother, Pregnancy & Newborn, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Woman’s Day. In addition to her childbirth-prep work, she volunteers for families in need of postpartum support. She lives in Ojai, California.

    You can find Bailey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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    Cali Pitchel

    Cali Pitchel is Joy’s Director of Marketing. She lives in San Francisco with her soon-to-be-husband and three houseplants. She was born in Boston, raised in Arizona, is a voracious reader, a lover of the great outdoors, and a photography junkie.

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