Planning a Destination Wedding - Where to Begin

Happy 2019!! My New Years Resolution is to blog more this year and Im going to start by sharing my destination wedding experience in a blog series. It is no secret that I love to travel, but I also want to travel more to photograph weddings. It has become increasingly more popular for couples to plan a less than traditional wedding, and destination is a great option. Hopefully I can shed some light on the good and the bad of doing a destination wedding. 

Background story

I started dating my husband in 2012 in February. That August, a friend of his was getting married in Cozumel, Mexico and he asked me to be his date (how could I say no to that?!). I had never been to a destination wedding, let alone many weddings at all at this point. Let me just say, everything about this trip was amazing. As we continued dating, we had talked about what we wanted one day. Without much hesitation, we both easily said we wanted a destination wedding. 

Where to start

Fast forward to 2017 when we got engaged. As soon as he popped the question, the first thing that came to mind was WHERE are we going to get married. There are so many beautiful places but there were a few other things to consider. 

  1. Location

  2. Site Visit

  3. Cost

  4. Transportation

  5. Date

  6. Guest List

  7. Save the Dates


I am a spread sheet kind of girl. So my first instinct was the create a list of locations so I began by googling locations that I wanted to visit. Locations I looked into Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cabo San Lucas, and Cancun. Since we went to the wedding in Cozumel, I didn’t want to do the same thing as the other couple. I also wanted to go somewhere most people have never been before. I did not really want to get married in Cancun, since I feel like it is the most common place to host a destination wedding but I also knew it would be the cheapest and easiest place for most people to travel to. I really loved the idea of Cabo but knew it was the most expensive destination to get to (since most of my guest list was coming from the east coast and mid west). But after thinking about it long and hard, I decided this was my wedding and Im going to have it in the place I want. 


Once I knew where I wanted the wedding to be, I began looking into resorts on the coast of Cabo. I knew I wanted an all inclusive resort to make things easier for all of my guests. I began making a list of all the resorts in and listing their daily rate. I made notes to say whether or not they were all inclusive, adults only, which beach they were on, etc. I narrowed it down to 3-4 resorts and began the process of getting their details for hosting a wedding at their resort. These are the 3 resorts I was considering during my search.

Villa Del Arco

Pueblo Bonito Rose

Grand Fiesta Americana

Site Visit

I highly recommend going to the location and schedule resort tours along with meeting the wedding specialists at the resort. Websites are created the look amazing online but don’t always look the same in person. It could be the beach is small or dirty, limited ceremony or reception areas, the guest rooms are not updated, food isn’t good, etc. I was scheduled to do a walk throughs with 3 resorts on our first trip to Cabo. One place canceled as she did not see it as a good fit with the price point I wanted for our guests. So we went to 2 resorts and the one I was super excited about (from the online presentation), was not the one I fell in love with. After we got all the information about the wedding packages, I came home and created another spread sheet to compare both resorts. It ended up that the one I fell in love with while visiting, was the one with the cheapest wedding package and a reasonable nightly room cost. 


Another thing I wanted to look into for my guests was transportation. I began creating my guest list and figured out which airport they would likely be flying out of and what the average cost would be for them to get to Cabo. This would be a huge factor in if people could afford to come to our wedding or not. 


Picking a date was a huge factor as well. Our schedules are a little lighter in the summer
(July-September) and figured that would work best for us. I decided on Labor Day weekend to hopefully allow some guests to come with maybe only taking 1-2 days since it was a holiday weekend. We also decided to have the wedding on a Sunday to give the guests flexibility to come arrive on Saturday and leave Monday without taking any time off work if they really wanted to make it work. 

Guest List

One of the main reasons we were so excited about a destination wedding was that we live in Virginia, and most of our friends and family live around the country. So no matter what, most people would be traveling for the wedding anyways. Planning a destination wedding takes a toll on your guest list. Since it involves travel and expense, we knew it would be a small wedding. Based on my guest list, we were hoping for 30 people to show up. In the end, we ended up with 40 guests traveling to Cabo to watch us get married in paradise. 

Save the Dates

Send them out as soon as you have all this information. Even if you plan your wedding a year in advance, give your guests as much notice as possible to be begin saving their pennies to come. I sent my save the dates out 11 months before the wedding just so people could have as much time to prepare as possible. Plus you can get some really cute save the dates that are travel related. (boarding pass, luggage tag, passport, etc.)

I got mine from Etsy and I love them. There are so many options out there but I really like supporting small businesses like those who sell on Etsy. I found a shop ( I Do With You) that I liked and used her products for save the dates and invitations so they all matched.

Obviously each of these steps took longer than just one day. It is important to be patient and think and talk about all your options. We got engaged in March and I sent the Save the Dates out in October. 

Next topic will be the Planning Process and Budget