You’re recently engaged and it’s the day you’ve always dreamed of. You want a destination wedding filled with romance and adventure. Surrounded by family and friends to celebrate this special day with you. You have already picked out your perfect dress for that beach wedding (maybe not toes in the sand!) and you are all a buzz about your engagement and how your partner proposed, choosing your bridal party and can visualize your table setting glowing with candles and tropical flowers and the bistro lights draped across the dance floor. But wait…before you get lost in this dream, there’s a very important question that needs to be answered. “How far in advance should I start planning my destination wedding?” As a destination wedding expert, I am here to give you some sound advice on the subject!
If you are dreaming of saying “I Do” in a stunning destination wedding location in Mexico or the Caribbean, you have come to the right place. We plan several weddings each year and the resounding advice I always give to my couples is to allow a minimum of 12 months, ideally 14-18 months, to start planning your destination wedding. Why? Well, if you would like your guest RSVP’s to be in the 60%+ range of your invite list, you should give them at least one (1) year advance notice of your wedding so they can plan accordingly. They may have work commitments they need to take into consideration, childcare, budget etc. I also offer a payment plan and when booking out 1 year in advance, it gives your guests optimum time to pay for their stay. So, if you want to learn all about the planning process “early” then roll up your sleeves with me and let’s dive into this planning journey together!
Keep in mind that when you start the process 16-18 months in advance, you may not get to the point of confirming your wedding location and room block until the 12-14 month period. For some couples, it can be decided rather quickly. For others, it takes some time. It is not unusual to look at a first round of venues and then another, only to go back to the original 3 or 4. The vision does not always leap out at you on the initial review. It is a good idea to make the effort to visit the potential wedding venue in advance, something I always recommend to my couples, to make sure they are happy with their choice and there are no regrets. There is nothing worse than arriving at your chosen destination only to be vastly disappointed with the venue. With enough time on your side, you can find another venue that will fulfill your vision should you be disappointed by the initial preview. But the popular venues that offer what brides want such as sky decks, large gazebos, lots of privacy (the top picks) usually book up more than a year in advance.
Step 1 – Secure the wedding date and time (12-18 months in advance)
Marking the calendar 📆 for your destination wedding isn’t simply about choosing a date. This crucial step sets the stage for the entire affair, and it’s certainly not as straightforward as scheduling a familiar local wedding venue. There’s a world of destination wedding venues out there, each offering a unique mix of sights, sounds, and experiences. That’s exactly where diving into the depths with a destination wedding expert like myself, will make the experience both stress-free and enjoyable. I’ll be your guide, in choosing that idyllic spot that resonates with your vision and aligns with your budget, cutting through the clutter of endless, exhausting online searches. Remember, hesitation in securing your date means the possibility of disappointment. It’s a common pitfall I see among couples venturing into destination wedding planning. Together, we’ll sidestep those errors and ensure your special day is reserved, confirmed, and the dream wedding is signed, sealed and delivered 💌
Step 2 – Get a group contract set up (ss soon as the venue is selected)
Once you’ve nailed down your wedding date and time and the contract is signed and deposit paid, it’s time to secure a group contract. This contract ensures that all your guests have a room at the same rate, making everyone’s stay seamless and enjoyable. As a destination wedding specialist, I personally work with a travel supplier or the resort direct, depending on what is the best scenario for my couple, to set up the group contract, as it simplifies the process and ensures you get the best deals. It also guarantees your guests 1) availability and 2) everyone books at the same rate. It also ensures you receive the best amenities and comps available. A group contract will require a deposit, which the couple puts down to secure the space. This deposit is used as a placeholder for the group and gets applied to your room. The guests will each pay a deposit amount to secure their own reservation. Once your group block contract has been confirmed, it’s time for the fun stuff!
Step 3 – Send out Save the Date invites (Give guests as much time as possible, at least 12 months in advance)
With the wedding date and group block secured, it’s time to spread the excitement by sending out Save the Date invitations. Make sure your invites include all the essential details. When working with Talavera Travel, we set up a wedding website filled with all the wedding information, where your guests can easily reserve their rooms and RSVP. Plus, when your guest’s book with the group we make sure you earn some fantastic perks like free rooms and upgrades. We can create a QR code for your wedding website to include with your paper save the dates. Or, if sending electronic Save the Dates, those are included at no additional cost as part of your Wedding Website. Some couples even forego the Save the Date and send out their formal invitations instead, thus guaranteeing an RSVP early on so they can plan their budget.
Step 4 – Pre-wedding planning (9-12 months before the wedding)
Now comes the in-between phase, where you’ve got some time before the big day. Here are some tips to make the most of it:
– Consider a pre-wedding planning trip to your chosen destination, taking advantage of any discounted rates. I cannot recommend this more! Make sure (even before you sign the contract) that your chosen venue is the one you want!
– Research fun group activities like a catamaran cruise to keep your guests entertained.
– Remind your guests to RSVP by reserving their rooms with a low deposit. Create a Facebook group and invite everyone on the guest list to keep them informed of all things Wedding! We even love to hop on, and post fun facts and helpful information related to the destination and resort.
– If you’re hiring a photographer/videographer not on the resort’s preferred list, plan for the outside vendor fee, or consider having someone from the U.S. attend as a guest to avoid it. Some resorts will waive the fee if they stay on property for a minimum of 3 nights. *This is one of the most important expenses of your wedding. Choose wisely!
Step 5 – Start planning the wedding (Between 6-9 months from the wedding)
Even if your resort isn’t ready to dive into the nitty-gritty details just yet, start planning with your Destination Wedding Planner by creating a Pinterest board with your wedding inspirations for decor, colors, and flowers. When the time comes, you’ll be crystal clear about your preferences. Other planning decisions include menu selections, photography packages, and music for the ceremony and reception. We are full-service wedding planners that offer all of these options and a full concierge travel experience for you and your guests. It is truly the best of both worlds.
Step 6 – Final Payments and Transfers (60 – 75 days before travel)
Approximately two months before the big day, it’s time to make final payments for room reservations. Don’t forget to gather your guests’ flight details, so transportation can be coordinated smoothly. Double-check those itineraries to ensure they match their room dates, as discrepancies can arise if you wait until the last minute. If you work with a destination wedding specialist like me, these tasks will all be handled seamlessly for you and your guests.
Step 7 – Tips, reminders, and travel documents, oh my! (2 weeks before travel)
As the wedding day draws near, send out travel documents via email about two weeks before the trip. Ask your guests to review them thoroughly and notify you of any questions or discrepancies. Provide them with tips and reminders for a stress-free trip, including details on online check-in, shuttle services, gratuities, emergency contacts, and entry requirements for the country (i.e. immigration forms if needed). Again, this is something I can easily take off your plate and just one more reason to hire a destination wedding specialist. We handle all your guests’ final travel documents, including their transportation from/to the airport, wedding festivities, and any room requests.
Phew, we’ve covered it all! Planning a destination wedding may seem daunting, but with this timeline and the guidance of a destination wedding specialist, you’ll be well-prepared to create the wedding of your dreams and say “I Do” in paradise.
Planning a destination wedding is an adventure in itself, and we hope our guide has been a helpful compass on your path. At least you now have a better grasp of the optimum timeline involved in planning your destination “Romantic I Do” in paradise.
Now, it’s time to take the next step. If you’re ready to turn those dreams into plans, and you want a little help with putting your destination wedding together, then schedule a complimentary consultation with me today. I have a few openings left this month! I can’t wait to be a part of your journey to “happily ever after”! Just use this link to schedule now and we will craft the wedding of your dreams together. Congratulations on your engagement and welcome to the wedding planning journey!