10 Things to Know Before You Plan a Destination Wedding

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My husband and I got married in 2001 in St. Pete Beach, Florida. We were young. It was sunset. On a white sand beach. It was the dreamiest. The photos are amazing. My friends who went still talk about the tiki bar after parties. But, my friends, it was a wedding, and things invariably go whack-funky at weddings. Here's what you need to know before you plan a destination wedding.

Attendance Is Inversely Related to Distance

empty airport

Credit Image: jronaldlee on Flickr

And I'm talking about where YOU live, not where your guests live. For some reason, people who would not think twice about shelling out for a plane ticket and hotel to see you get married in your hometown where they don't live may not come because you're getting married somewhere no one you know lives. It's like the principle of the thing -- if you're traveling, too, then it's more of a choice for them. No, I don't know why. But listen -- you have to be able to say, AND MEAN IT, with love: "I know it's not a traditional location. I will not be upset if you can't make it, but I wanted you to know you were invited. Which is a nice way of saying, "If you're going to bitch, don't come."


It Will Be Too Hot or Too Cold for Your Cousin

girl fanning herself

Credit Image: AnnieAnniePancake on Flickr

And you'll take it personally, because you chose this destination rather than dealing with the sun or the rain or the wind or the snow that you grew up with. Weather in your hometown? God's fault. Weather at your destination location? Your fault.


Your Unmarried Friends Will Freak Out More About Their Dates

beach chairs

Credit Image: stacibeck on Flickr

They're traveling to a romantic paradise. It's not as easy to just bring a co-worker, you know?


Everyone Will Freak Out About What They're Wearing

nice shoes

Credit Image: Kris Krug on Flickr

The photos are going to be amazing. There will be beach sunsets or snowy mountains or the White Cliffs of Dover. Your friends want to look as amazing as you do. Don't take it personally if they want to talk about their outfit for your wedding as much as you want to talk about your dress.


It's Easier to Cut the Attendants Out

many attendants

Credit Image: Shardayyy on Flickr

Nobody wants to pay for travel to a destination wedding and a bridesmaid dress. Plus, if you pick a bridesmaid dress for your friends, they won't get to plan their own amazing outfit for months in advance. If you've been secretly worried about hurting someone's feelings by not picking her as a bridesmaid, a destination wedding is a great excuse to cut out attendants altogether or just limit them to siblings.


People Who Don't Come May Not Send Gifts

new grill

Credit Image: mettamatt on Flickr

Of course, the wedding is not all about the gifts (cough). And of course, the guests are not "paying" for their food at the reception with their gifts. But. If you have a destination wedding, fewer people will come than if you have a "normal" wedding. And if fewer people come, there will be fewer gifts. Be down with that from the get-go.


You Can Get Away with Less ... of Pretty Much Everything

silver sandals

Credit Image: kevans0614 on Flickr

Getting married outside? The service can be very short. Singing is much harder to hear outside, and unless you've got a ton of chairs, people are standing and shifting and not in the mood to listen to your college roommate sing the ten-minute version of Ave Maria. Getting married at sunset in the summertime? Your reception could be three hours, not six, which means less food and alcohol. And who needs a ton of decorations when you're in paradise?


There's Nowhere to Put the Leftovers

wedding bouquets

Credit Image: Katsunojiri on Flickr

Leftover flowers, leftover food, leftover decorations, leftover bubble trinkets with Him + Her = 4EVAH. Everyone's traveling and everyone has to deal with baggage fees, so don't assume you'll be able to get anyone to take anything home unless you've arranged it in advance. (Bless my mother to this day for hauling home my wedding dress.)


You'll Need to Make Scouting Trips

wedding cake samples

Credit Image: Tracy Hunter on Flickr

Even with a fully scheduled, packed-to-the-gills two-day scouting trip during which we chose and booked the officiant, the flowers (we rented silk flowers instead of dealing with live ones that would die in someone's hotel room) and the location, we still ended up ordering our wedding cake sight unseen (and untasted) because we ran out of time and couldn't afford to go back again before the wedding.


Make Sure You'll Be There Early Enough to Get Your Marriage License

Monroe County courthouse

Credit Image: Florida Keys courthouse on Flickr

Government offices aren't open on the weekends, and you'll need to get your license before you get legally married. There might be a really long line. Don't try to squeeze it in on the day of your wedding.

Did I miss anything?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.


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