As a photographer, destination weddings have always been something that excites me! I love the idea of bringing all of your guests together to celebrate and experience a new location. Rather than your wedding being a one-day event and feeling like you didn’t have enough time to talk with each of your guests, you get to turn your wedding celebration into multiple days of quality time and new memories with your guests.
I’ve had the privilege of photographing weddings boat side in Hawaii in front of the Napali coast, inside of castles in Puerto Rico with scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean, on the dreamy beaches of the Dominican Republic and so many more. After shooting a variety of destination weddings, here are six of my best tips for couples that I’ve learned along the way!
1. Hire a wedding planner that’s experienced in destination weddings
I wanted to start off with one of the most important tips on this list because, after years of photographing weddings, I can’t say enough how important it is to hire a wedding planner! This is especially important when it comes to planning a destination wedding. Imagine having someone to not only plan your wedding day but your entire vacation! A great wedding planner will help organize you and your guests’ entire stay in your wedding destination. They will assist with booking tickets, arranging transportation and accommodations, and also give suggestions on the best places to eat, drink, and activities to do! Hiring a wedding planner lets you be present and fully enjoy your wedding experience. It ensures that you don’t have to worry about all of the little things involved in the process leading up to your wedding day and also takes the stress away knowing that everything is taken care of on the day of and throughout the trip.
In addition to that, hiring a wedding planner that specializes in destination weddings will help prevent complications that could occur along the way since they’ve already experienced them and know how to avoid them. It will also not only save you time but it will also save you money. Most destination wedding planners have great connections that can better ensure you get the best price and save you way more than what you could have achieved if you had talked to the various vendors on your own.
2. Host multiple events throughout your wedding trip
One of the biggest perks of having a destination wedding in my opinion is giving yourself more time to have experiences with your guests! The wedding day can go by pretty quickly and sometimes leave you feeling like you didn’t have enough time to spend with your guests. It’s so much fun to plan a few days filled with activities that are special to whatever part of the world you’re in. Whether that’s a group hike with the incredible local views, making a reservation to a restaurant for everyone to try famous dishes of that part of the world or even a cooking class to learn how to prepare those dishes, a sunset boat ride, or a morning after brunch. There are so many options but I definitely recommend planning at least 1-2 activities outside of the wedding day with your friends and family!
3. Hire a photographer you love and fly them out to your destination wedding
I’m obviously a bit biased here but having a photographer whose work you love and who you enjoy as a person is such a crucial part of your wedding day experience! After everything is over, all you have left is your photos and you want to make sure it’s captured by someone you have confidence in and who fully understands your vision.
Also, hiring someone who can do your engagement photos locally and is also open to flying to your wedding destination is a win in my opinion! It’s such a nice feeling to work with someone before the wedding who you can get to know and become friends with. This makes the entire photography experience on your wedding day so much more enjoyable and relaxing since you’re working with someone who you already trust, you have fun with, who makes you feel comfortable, and who you know delivers beautiful work! I always recommend telling your wedding planner to arrange for your photographer to arrive at least two days early so they have time to scout out the area, get familiar with the ceremony and reception spaces and look around to find the best photo locations with the best light!
4. Send your save-the-dates and invitations earlier than local weddings
For a local wedding, it’s generally recommended to send save-the-dates about 6-8 months before your big day but for destination weddings, it’s recommended to send them even earlier. 8 months-1 year is a good minimum for sending destination wedding save-the-dates. This gives your guests enough time to get passports if needed, make travel arrangements with your planner, book time off of work, etc.
For your wedding invitations, make sure to send them at least 4-6 months before the wedding. With this being said, another tip is to make sure you schedule your engagement photos early with your photographer!
5. Plan a mini session with your photographer
This is your time to celebrate your love! You’ve finally made it to your wedding destination and you’re so excited! Find a time with your photographer, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes to do a little mini session the day before the wedding. In the morning or before your welcome dinner can be a great time to do this! The excitement you feel the day before the wedding is indescribable and being able to capture those moments is such a fun memory to have!
6. Budget enough for a few extras
After flying everyone out to your destination, you want to go that extra mile to make your event exciting! A variety of add-ons are usually available at most destination locations and are way less expensive than in the United States. This means that you can get a lot more for your money when it comes to add-ons! Some of my favorite ideas are cold sparks or continuous confetti canons during your first dance, dancers or some type of performance during your reception, fireworks show at the end of the night, etc. These make for incredible photos as well!
These are a few things that I’ve commonly noticed to be well worth doing! It takes a team to make your wedding vision come to life but if you have the right team, your wedding will be everything you’ve ever dreamed of!