12 Destination Wedding Tips
Having a destination wedding is never easy… especially since it is two of us! Great… I got that joke out the way. Ricky and I got married in Los Cabos, Mexico on November 22, 2016. One of the biggest challenges was trying to plan our destination wedding from Atlanta. It took a lot of work and patience… especially from me. Even with all the stress and few bumps along the way, we were able to plan the wedding of my dreams! Below we've put together some tips we picked up along the way as well as some lessons learned from our experience.
Visit the destination in advance.
We traveled to Cabos a little over 12 months before the wedding. If you can and it’s within your budget, we highly recommend doing this. Not only will you be able to feel/see what the weather will be like during this time (remember: the bride will be in a wedding dress!), but it is also a perfect time to scope out wedding venues and meet with desired vendors. This also helps with creating a stronger relationship with the wedding coordinators at the venue you end up selecting.
Be as prepared as possible when visiting the destination in advance. For example, we did our research and narrowed down the venues we were interested in. We developed a list of 8-10 venues we wanted to visit. We called/emailed ahead of time to schedule face to face meetings with the wedding coordinators at each location. This helped make the most out of our time out there.
The selection of the venue is one of the most important things for a wedding. This will be the place your family and friends will be spending most of their time. We highly recommend considering your guests when selecting a venue. If you are requiring for guests to stay at the same location the wedding will be held at, keep in mind their budgets. If not, give them options of other locations nearby. A great example was when we fell in love with a resort. The price for the total wedding was right within our budget. The problem was that the guests had to book directly with the resort and the prices were outrageous. What we loved about Barcelo Gran Faro Los Cabos was the flexibility they gave our guests to book their own rooms, giving them freedom to look for the best price!
Research wedding requirements.
Since we wanted a traditional Catholic wedding, Ricky and I decided to marry through the Catholic Church in Los Cabos. We married legally in Chicago about a month before flying out to Cabos, but this was NOT part of what was required from the Catholic Church in Cabos. The only requirement they had was to fax over the baptismal and confirmation certificates for both of us. We would not recommend getting ‘legally’ married in Mexico since this does require a lot more time, paperwork, and blood work. In Mexico, it is recommended you start the paperwork at least 6 months in advance. Talk to the church you have selected to ensure they don't have any additional or specific requirements.
Communication with your partner is key.
It's important to communicate upfront what is important to you and your partner and what you are willing to give up. Think about the overall wedding. For example, I cared more about the wedding theme, flowers, decorations, you know…all those things we as girls get excited about. Ricky on the other hand was worried about the type of drinks they were going to be serving at the wedding, the music and the price tag of items. Communication is crucial so you both understand what is important to each other. We made a list of the "typical things" required for the wedding, looked at the list and prioritized by must have's at the top and the things we could live without at the bottom. This really helped with maintaining our budget, but still taking care of what was important to each of us.
Communication is crucial when discussing budgets. Budget will become a big topic of conversation and you will be better off discussing this upfront to avoid any conflicts later on in the planning process. This might sound funny, but Ricky and I had 2 budgets. One was our ideal budget and the other was a real budget. The ideal budget was the one that we would love to stay under and the real budget was one we would not cross the line on, no matter what!
Visualize the wedding theme and incorporate the location to save money.
The biggest positive of having a destination wedding is that the beautiful scenery will already come included in the price tag! Take advantage of the natural elements like the palm trees, sand, the ocean and let them work for you. When we were visiting venues, we knew exactly what we wanted. I worked with Joel Torres from Cabos Flowers and Cakes who helped me pull off the theme I was looking for. We saved money by going with flowers that were in season. I was very clear with Joel on what I envisioned for my wedding and he was great. Communication with my vendors was fairly easy since I went the extra step and created a PowerPoint slide with my vision of the wedding. I might have been a tad bit obsessive with the PowerPoint since I included the bridesmaid dresses, colors of the groomsmen and ideas for what I envisioned, but it really helped my vendors and wedding coordinator visualize my dream wedding. Don't forget to ask your venue about any additional things that might be included with your total package. This might include table linens, decorations, even flowers! This could save you a lot of money.
Be prepared for some vendors to be on island time. We warn you, they will most likely not get back to you in a timely manner. You have to be patient and trust the process. If this makes you nervous, be proactive! I was always setting up calls with the vendors in advance. I was always ready with my questions and knew exactly what I needed from them before the call ended. I also wrote down notes on what we discussed or agreed on so neither of us would forget. This was extremely helpful! I also realized contacting the vendors via WhatsApp was a lot quicker than email or phone call. If you do get people that just plain suck at communication, don't do business with them regardless of how bad you want their service or product. If they are unprofessional upfront, don't take chances on the day of your wedding.
Take care of guests and keep them informed.
One of our main goals was to make it seamless for our guests not only in logistics, but keeping them informed on other things as well. We created a website were we kept all the information regarding the wedding. This link was attached to the Save The Dates and the invitations. I also found it easier to create welcome bags with information regarding the week activities and the wedding day information. This included transportation, fees if any to attend events, location of events or meeting point and how to reach us in case of questions. This helped keep all the guest informed.
I worked on some “DIY” items for our wedding. Not only did this save us money, but it’s always fun to work on these things for your wedding. Pinterest was my best friend for an entire year! Also, a lot of the things I wanted for the wedding were either too expensive to purchase online or not available easily at a store. The following were some examples of my DIY items.
Seating Arrangement & The Guest Book
Full Disclosure: I did not make this one, but I had a very talented friend that hand made this specially for us. Not only did the guests start warming up with the tequila, but they also got to take a fun mini polaroid picture of themselves taking their shot, signed the guestbook and then found their seat.
Guestbook, pens, and double sided tape purchased from Michael’s Craftstore (Don't forget to look for those Michael's coupons online or via their app. You are always sure to find some).
Camera and Polaroids purchased from Amazon.
Save the Dates
My dearest cousin helped me get these shipped directly from El Mercado de Valparaiso, Zacatecas.
I created the Wedding Program and got them printed at our local OfficeMax.
The program was given out before the church along with bubbles and wooden fans for the ladies (bubbles bought from Michael's and fans brought from a trip to Zacatecas).
Invitations where made online. Since we where in Atlanta, it was very hard to see a lot of friends and family. I made a wedding website that had all the information on wedding details for guests and essentially used that as an invitation as well.
Maracas for dinner table, wedding crew shot glasses and guests jarritos for the toast
Stocked up on maracas and the wedding crew shot glasses when we went to Playa Del Carmen (Maracas were only $1 each vs Etsy who was selling them for $3!)
Arras and Lazo
Bought on a trip to Zacatecas
Welcome Bags (mini Mexican mandado bags brought from el Mercado de Jerez, Zacatecas.)
These included all the details for the Wedding Festivities happening that week as well as Mexican candy.
We gave these bags to the reception area and as soon as people checked in, they were instructed to give them a Welcome Bag.
Decide if you really need a wedding planner.
This is a sore topic for me. Initially I was very concerned with not being on site and felt strongly about hiring a wedding planner. I looked around and hired one I felt comfortable with. A month or so into hiring her, we realized we really didn't need her. Aside from her charging an exuberant amount of money that could have easily gone towards something else, we realized she was there for moral support. We knew exactly what we wanted and just needed to spend some additional time looking for the right vendors at the right price. She had a cancellation policy and we cancelled before she charged us the full amount. Instead, I realized the wedding coordinator at our selected venue would help just as much as the wedding planner would. Now, if you don't speak the local language a wedding planner might be a huge asset.
Check your airline on wedding gown guidelines.
You'll be surprised to know some airlines are not as accommodating as others with wedding gowns. The last thing you want is to be forced to check-in that beautiful expensive wedding dress. Stay informed and read the guidelines before you book your ticket!
Give guests plenty of notice of your wedding date.
This will only help your guests plan ahead if they are planning on attending your wedding. No one knows your guests and family better than you, so give them notice when you feel the time is right. In our case, we wanted our family and friends to be able to plan in advance so we gave them an informal year notice that we were having a destination wedding. We started giving out the Save the Dates about 9-10 months before the wedding. The invitation shortly followed.
Enjoy your wedding.
A few weeks before the wedding, Ricky and I made a promise to each other: “Regardless of what happens, we will enjoy the day we worked so hard to create.” We agreed that at that point there is nothing you can do if something does go wrong, so there is no need to get upset or frustrated over something you won't be able to control. You have loved ones that flew in and made many sacrifices to be there with you so the last thing you want is to be upset. Every time we looked at each other, it was a reminder to enjoy the day that felt so surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so present in life like I was that day. We were able step back, get some alone time and see the wedding and everyone having fun from a distance. Something we highly recommend.
PIN ME FOR LATER!