Destination weddings in the past may have seemed way too bougie out of reach for the ordinary couple - maybe something only celebrities would do. But I'm here to destroy that myth! Getting married in another place - city, state, or country - you can say "I do!" wherever you want!
In this blog, we'll dive more into what destination weddings are or can be, why you should consider having one, and how to plan the perfect small destination wedding!
What is a destination wedding?
So, what IS a "Destination wedding"?? The definition of a destination wedding can really be left up for interpretation. The destination may be 100 miles away or 10,000 miles across the ocean! It's up to you to decide what the location will be. According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, 19% of couples decided to go the route of a destination wedding and that number is growing!
Exploring new places is like no other feeling, especially doing it with your significant other. There is literally nothing else that matters - just the two of you and what's in front of you.
Not everyone is looking to have a traditional wedding. And if you are one of those people who is looking for an unforgettable experience for your day of committing to one another, then keep reading.
Why have a destination wedding?
So - why have a destination wedding? Well first off, they allow you to escape the traditional wedding setting and instead opt for a more personalized experience - totally unique to you. If you feel like weddings just look the same; the venue, the flowers, heck even the photos? It can be hard to plan a unique wedding when you're limited by the location and vendors in your local area.
Enter DESTINATION WEDDINGS.
What better reason do you need to plan an epic trip than to celebrate marrying your best friend!?
How to plan a destination wedding
Okay, so you know you don't want to get married locally. Now comes the overwhelming amount of options of where to get married. (PS: If you're looking for best places to elope in the US I can help with that too!). To start off your destination wedding planning lets dive more into your overall wedding or elopement vision.
Before choosing your location, set aside the time to dream out the perfect day for you and your partner. Brainstorm, write it out, and create a vision board (Pinterest is great for that!) Do you want an adventure elopement? A day full of activities outdoors? An all-inclusive wedding? A private or intimate ceremony with family? Establish first how you want your day to feel more broadly, and then narrow down into the specifics.
What does it look like?
Once you've gotten past some of the broader questions, it's time to narrow down to the specifics of where you want to elope.
What does the area look like? What kind of landscape do you love the most? Are you in love with the mountains or coastline? What type of weather and temperature are you hoping for? City or nature?
Having a general idea of what scenery you love can even spark inspiration in your photographer, and they might have a list of options for you to consider locally (or abroad!) Location scouting, on Google earth, or in my home state of New Hampshire is a favorite past time. I have a long list of elopement location options for my clients and am SO happy to help offer input when picking the spot!
Will there be guests?
Have you considered who will be attending? If your vision is an extended hike in the mountains, but you were planning on having your great-grandma at your wedding; you might need to reconsider. Is the destination you are considering too far for guests to travel/afford? Adding in family and friends to your elopement is a wonderful normality now, so you don't have to do it in private if that's what you want! But determining who will be at what portion of your wedding, and then considering the level of accessibility is a necessary step in the planning process. A really rad elopement option is to have small private ceremony and then a reception later on! That way you get the best of both worlds!
Choose a location and timeframe
What season you do two enjoy most - and what makes the most sense for your schedule? Getting married during the off-peak seasons in popular locations will give you more privacy, less tourists, and possibly cheaper prices on accommodations and flights! If you're set on a specific location, look into the weather averages for each month. Note things like rain and temperature highs/lows! As your destination wedding photographer I can also help you narrow down the best times to get married.
Hire your vendors
First, make a list of all the vendors that will be important for you to have at your elopement. Then label them from most to least important. I've said it once and I'll say it again, this can be exactly what YOU want, dont worry what other people have done. You can have all the vendors or none at all. With elopements, you want to find people who you can connect with and trust. Don't just make them a check on your checklist.
I'd recommend either hiring your wedding or elopement photographer (oh hey!), or a planner first and foremost. This is most likely your first time getting married. But both photographers and planners have helped and witnessed several weddings, so they can be a guide along your planning journey.
Book your travel
Now that you've solidified all the big details of who, what, when and where - lock down your travel itinerary! I love to use apps like Skyscanner to browse the best flight options/days! Be sure and leave enough wiggle room in your schedule and don't rush the experience!
Choose your activities
Now to fill in all the fun details for the destination wedding! Including memorable excursions or activities as a part of your wedding will make the experience soo incredible. I recommend choosing location-specific things that really capture the culture or destination itself! Whether that's wine tasting in Italy, or snorkeling in Australia - try and incorporate unique activities that the location offers!
Get all the details in order
Okay, you've got the big things all booked, and you're wondering what little things you're forgetting to do. Make a destination wedding checklist! It can be as easy as starting a Google Doc and marking down what needs to get done, what you need to buy, and don't leave that packing list til the last minute!! Believe me, you will save yourself a headache by doing all these things as far in advance as you possibly can!
Example destination wedding timelines
Destination wedding itinerary:
- Day 1: Arrival and Welcome Reception
- Welcome drinks and snacks
- Introductions and mingling
- Day 2: Explore the Destination
- Guided tour of local attractions
- Free time to explore on your own
- Group dinner at a local restaurant
- Day 3: Wedding Ceremony
- Morning preparations
- Wedding ceremony at a scenic location
- Cocktail hour and reception dinner
- Day 4: Relaxation and/or adventure
- Go for a hike or excursion with just you two
- Host an experience for guests
- Day 5: Farewell Brunch
- Casual brunch gathering
- Farewell speeches and goodbyes
Note: This is just an example itinerary and can be customized according to your preferences and the destination you choose.
More tips on How to Build Your Elopement Timeline here
How much is a destination wedding?
So, what is the destination wedding average cost you might ask. Well that all depends on your priorities and where you're going! Couples who choose to get married abroad typically are choosing to prioritize experience over tradition. This would mean allocating more of the budget towards things like accommodations, food, activities, vs flowers, venues, or typical vendors.
On average, destination weddings can range from $10,000 to $50,000 or more. Typically speaking, the more guests you invite and the longer your trip is the more it will cost! While you can opt for some budget destinations, and choose the have an elopement with just the two of you - it depends on what kind of experience you're looking for. And remember - eloping doesn't have to mean cheap or quick. If you have the time and the funds, you can turn your wedding celebration into a dream vacation lasting as long as you want it to!
Full list of Destination wedding ideas
Get married in the outdoors
My favorite option as an adventure elopement photographer and huge outdoor enthusiast! Getting married in the great outdoors is an incredible choice if you love nature. With lots of flexibility in choosing locations for your vows, and your photos - it's a surreal experience. My husband and I eloped in Alberta, Canada and took a helicopter into the mountains. Caroleanne and her husband eloped in Colorado and did a jeep tour through the Rockies.
The options are endless!
Rent a villa or short-term rental
Just hit up AIRBNB or VRBO and click the search everywhere option. You'll see so many incredible places to rent - with categories such as "Castles", "countryside", "beachfront", and my favorite category "OMG!". Seriously, go browse and start dreaming! And check out this romantic Sicily, Italy Destination Wedding I shot that included the most charming Italian Villa and sooo much good food!
Book a small wedding venue
Choosing a small wedding venue over a public location can add more cost, it can sometimes be well worth the money. It completely depends on the amount of guests you plan to have. I recommend asking your wedding planner or photographer for recommendations. Below are some of the benefits to choosing a small wedding venue over a public place.
- Logistics: If you have multiple locations, it can add stress to the timeline, and to you! A small wedding venue could help with that concern. Generally you can have your getting ready, ceremony and reception at one location, allowing the transitions of the day much more simple. If you're hoping for a stress-free, low-maintenance day, then have your intimate day at a small wedding venue is a great option.
- Privacy: Are you hoping for a more private ceremony? Having your wedding at a small venue can ensure that no strangers will be around to witness it. Check-in with the wedding venue before you book to make sure that it will be a private space.
- Be in a place that is special to you: Many couples choose to elope in the outdoors because they feel connected to it in some way. Whether that's the mountains, in the forest, or by the ocean. There are so many public locations that you can feel free to be where you are happy. However, there are also plenty of small wedding venues that can get you the same feel without the stress.
- You are catered to: Having a venue can allow for additional vendors to cater to you for a stress free day. These small venues are there to help make your day just as special as you are hoping it would be.
Hire an experienced destination wedding Photographer
Travel is honestly what fueled my love of photography in the first place. I've traveled to 38 countries across 5 continents, and 30+ states. It's my first love - sorry Tom! But seriously, being able to adventure with couples, explore this beautiful world we live in, and document your experience is what warms my soul.
I'm inspired by the world we live in. I love cultures, landscapes, and new experiences. So hiring me, you can pretty much guarantee a positive, upbeat, always excited travel buddy to add to your own experience.
So, if you're loooking for a photographer to come along side you and plan your dream wedding abroad - we've got you! Whether you're looking to get married near or far, we are a team of experienced adventure elopement photographers ready to be a part of your team. Check out our upcoming travel schedule and contact us to get more info for booking your destination wedding photographer!
You can find tons more epic destination wedding ideas over on Pinterest! Be sure and start a board for all your epic destination elopement inspo!
Share this story