Bailey Gaddis, 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.
You’ve locked in your wedding venue of choice, committed to sticking to your budget (you can do it!), and hemmed and hawed over that tricky guest list until it was just right – congrats! You’ve got your momentum going and have tackled some of the biggest destination wedding question marks. Next up on your schedule . . . so much more. But, peeling back one layer of to-dos at a time, and not getting ahead of yourself, will ensure it all gets done in a calm and competent manner. And, if you’re a Type-A-er like me, you’ll be flooded with bliss every time you get to check a box – so, isn’t it great there are so many boxes?!
Let’s get started:
1. Make Your Online Registry.
You’re going to be doing a whole lot of organizing to make sure all your guests have an easy and enjoyable time while attending your destination wedding, so girl, you deserve gifts. And, it’s tradition – so yay!
While it’s tempting to register for shiny gifts you don’t really need (I’m looking at you jalapeño popper maker), it’s best to stick to items that will enhance and simplify your post-wedding life. Talk with your partner about the goods you think will most benefit your life and together make your registry, or registries.
Just about every major online or offline store you can think of will allow you to make an online registry, and don’t forget about the numerous sites that allow you to ask for cash in creative ways.
2. Create Your Wedding Website.
Now that you have your engagement story, cute couple photo, wedding date, location, and registry you can create your wedding website. Sites like Joy allow you to design a one-stop-shop for your guests to get in the mood for your wedding by reading your love story, discover the specifics on all the wedding events and FAQs, and access your registries.
Because destination weddings take a lot of planning on the part of – well, everyone – make sure your website includes specifics on best ways to get to your wedding destination, travel requirements, where you’ll be blocking out rooms or houses, ground transportation info, and any other essential information.
3. Send Your Save the Dates.
If you would like people at your wedding (totally optional!) you’ll want to let them know ASAP when and where you’ll be getting married so they can get it on their calendar. Make sure the Save the Date includes the destination wedding details, dates of the events (e.g., welcome dinner, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, and post-wedding brunch), and wedding website link so they can get a full picture of what will be required of them to get to your wedding.
If you’re willing, note on the Save the Date that you’d be happy to help guests organize their travel arrangements.
To prevent stress headaches, start a spreadsheet with the names and contact information of all the invited guests – as the “will attends” and regrets start coming in, mark them down on this sanity-saving doc.
4. Select Your Wedding Party.
Trust your gut as you decide who you would like standing by you as you leap out of singledom, and decide with your fiancé if it’s important for you to have an even number on their side and yours.
If your invite list is super short, and you feel you would have no one in the audience if you have a bridal party, skip it – it’s your wedding, you make the rules. But, if this tradition works for you, make a list of your top choices, narrow it down if needed, decide if you want a maid of honor, sit on it for a few days, then ask the lucky folks if they’ll accept. The Ask can be as fancy as a “will you be my bridesmaid?” written in fresh roses, or as simple as a phone call – bride’s choice.
5. Schedule a Call With the Event Planner.
Make a list of every question you can think of for the event planner that has likely been assigned to you by your venue, then a schedule a call with them. During this call keep asking questions until you feel you have a firm grasp on where the destination wedding events will take place, what your options will be for food, drink, décor, and entertainment, the attached costs, and anything else your busy brain can think of.
And, ask if they have recommendations for photographers, videographers, DJs, hair and makeup specialists, or any other special people you’ll need to book on your own. Be sure to take notes during the call and ask them to send you an email with next steps.
6. Hire a Photographer and Videographer.
Hopefully, your event planner gave you a stellar list of photographers and videographers, you’ve combed through their websites and found the ideal matches, and are ready to confirm. You can also book your other needed vendors at this time, but because the photo and video wizards tend to get booked up the quickest it’s best to hire them first.
7. Research Dresses.
Taking into consideration your style preferences (first and foremost), wedding destination terrain and climate, and budget, begin looking into dress options. Hop on the good ole Web and type in key words that match your style preferences, like “vintage wedding dresses” or “classic wedding dresses,” and save links to any that pique your interest. No need to purchase anything yet, this is just a time to get familiar with what’s out there, go to a few dress shops to try on your fave styles, and begin the process of narrowing it down to The One.
8. Avoid Overwhelming Yourself!
What’s that? You still have to live your life while planning this major event and are feeling slightly/incredibly overwhelmed? I hear ya sister. Once you open Pandora’s wedding box your mind might flood with all the details you’ll need to tackle, placing you in a wedding planning paralysis. But, calm that mental monster by reminding her that you’ve got time, and all you have to do is check off one thing at a time. One. Thing. At. A. Time.
Coming up next, your “6 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.