The Ultimate Destination Wedding Planning Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide

April 10, 2023
April 10, 2023 admin

Hold on tight, because organizing a destination wedding requires a lot of extra effort. From scouting enchanting locations to finding the perfect vendors, there’s a lot to stress you out! (You obviously need your maintain your wedding glow, duh!) Fret not, because our checklist will be your secret recipe for a truly extraordinary celebration.

12-10 Months

Decide your Wedding Budget.

Start by chalking out a wedding budget as it will guide each of your next decisions. Take a moment to decide the amount you can realistically afford and are comfortable spending on your destination wedding.

Choose the Perfect Destination.

Shortlist destinations that offer several venue options suited to your wedding style (ex, beachfront resort, historic castle, picturesque garden, etc). Also, consider the weather patterns and climate of the destination during your preferred wedding month to avoid unfavorable conditions or extreme temperatures. Finalize the destination based on accessibility for you and your guests, with convenient flight connections or transportation options.

Map out a rough guest list.

Communicate with your partner and jointly create a guest list by identifying the people who are most important to you and your partner. While you don’t need to finalize the exact attendees just now, consider your budget and venue capacity while ensuring a good balance between family, friends, and other loved ones.

Decide a rough wedding date.

Select a wedding date, taking into account the weather conditions at your chosen destination, and check availability with your VIP guest(s) without whom you cannot imagine celebrating.

Check legal requirements/passports/visas.

Research the legal requirements, including passports and visas, for getting married in your destination country. Make sure to check that your passport is not expired before the wedding – the last thing you want to worry about!

Remember, different countries have their own laws for official wedding ceremonies, and some might even require blood tests. Confirm these legalities well in advance. Don’t forget, if it’s more convenient, you can get married legally in your hometown before or after your trip and have a non-legal ceremony at your destination wedding.

Choose & book a Wedding Planner.

Consider hiring a wedding planner to assist with the intricate details of your big day. Research and select a planner who aligns with your vision and budget. Once you’ve made your decision, book their services promptly to secure their availability for your wedding date.

Research & Shortlist Possible Venues

Begin researching potential venues that suit your wedding budget & vision. Take into account factors like capacity, location, amenities, and any additional services offered by the venues or accommodations.

If your schedule and budget allow, think about planning a trip to your chosen wedding destination. While it’s not mandatory, a pre-wedding visit can be a fantastic opportunity to explore venues, meet with suppliers, and make important decisions.

Research & Shortlist Accommodation Options.

Start researching & shortlist accommodation options based on the proximity to your venue and the availability of rooms for your desired dates. Check online reviews and reach out to the accommodations for any additional information before finalizing online payment. Negotiating hotel blocks or group discounts. Work with an experienced destination wedding planner who can negotiate more effectively taking the burden off of you.

Start vendor sourcing process.

Start scouring wedding vendors for your special day. Research and reach out to potential vendors who align with your style, preferences, and budget. Request quotes, review portfolios, and schedule consultations to make informed decisions and secure the services of the best vendors for your wedding.

You can bring your own photographer and celebrant from your hometown (but extra travel expenses will be involved). However, in the case of wedding planners, florists, etc., it’s wise to choose a trusted local professional who is familiar with your chosen destination. Their expertise and local knowledge will prove invaluable in planning your dream wedding.

9-6 Months

Finalise wedding venue.

Secure your desired wedding venue by submitting a deposit to confirm the reservation.

Book photographer/videographer.

Research local photographers/videographers (or better seek help from your wedding planner), review their portfolios, and read client reviews to make an informed decision. Reach out to your chosen photographer/videographer, discuss your requirements, and secure their services by signing a contract and paying a deposit.

Research & select a caterer.

Based on your budget & the cuisine you want, start researching caterers. Review their menus, read client reviews, and request quotes to compare options. Finally, narrow down your choices & schedule tastings before making a final decision and booking their services.

Research & select florist + themes.

When selecting a florist, actively explore floral themes such as romantic, rustic, or tropical to create your desired ambiance. Discuss with your florist the availability of any seasonal flowers you might want and weigh against your budget to finalize the package.

Design & send Save-The-Dates.

It might seem a bit too early but create & send your Save-The-Dates to announce your wedding date to your guests so they can make the necessary arrangements. It’s better to send digital ones at this stage as later you can send the formal invitations through traditional mail to your final guest list.

Finalize couple & guest flights.

Set up a flight alert for your destination to stay updated on deals. In 15 days – 1 month, finalize all flight bookings (& other necessary travel arrangements). Your guest should get a copy of their tickets and travel itineraries well in time to arrange for work leaves, passports/visas, etc.

When you book an all-inclusive wedding planner like The Wedding Saga, they take care of all things related to travel, coordination with guests, vendor negotiations, venue selection, & all others.

Finalize pre & post-wedding events.

This is the time to plan all your pre-wedding shoots, beauty regimens, dress sourcing, & post-wedding activities like a honeymoon or sightseeing/adventure packages for your guests at the destination.

Reserve your wedding accommodations.

If you are getting married in the peak wedding season, rooms get booked out in a jiffy – Better to be sure than sorry! From the shortlisted accommodations, finalize one and reserve the rooms for your guests at this time.

Purchase your wedding rings.

If you already have your dream design finalized, you can go ring shopping with your partner! While this might seem a little early, ring shopping does take time. You might feel like altering the sizes later, or there might be delays from the jeweler’s side!

Choose your wedding party members

It’s time to decide on your bridesmaids’ team! Have an upfront conversation about their role in your special day and get started with their preparations – dress sourcing, special notes, & kits.

Also, now is the time to begin your pre-wedding skincare, beauty, and wellness routine in preparation for your shoot.

5-3 Months

By the 5-3 month mark, you would have gotten an idea of the final guest list – you will get the information on who would be able to attend your wedding after sending the Save-The-Dates.

Finalize guest list.

List down all the ‘Yes’ and finalize your guest list.

Send formal wedding invitations with the date, time, venue, (& any other important information) and keep your guests in the loop.

Finalize couple & guest transport.

3 months before the big day, all your guest transport arrangements should be ready. All logistical aspects, including pickup and drop-off points and timing, are supposed to be finalized.

Finalize Hair and Makeup Artists.

Research and schedule consultations with potential artists, discussing your desired looks and budget. Make your final decision considering their portfolio, and packages, & secure your preferred artist for the D-day with a deposit.

Create Wedding Day event flow.

For this, you can take help from your wedding planner (if you have hired one) or do it yourself by reading our Guide for Creating The Perfect Wedding Day Event Flow.

Start hunting for your dream dress.

Schedule appointments at bridal boutiques or trunk show to try on different options and explore what makes you feel confident and beautiful. Or if you have a specific designer in mind, double-check their lead times to ensure you have ample time for ordering and alterations.

Double-check all legal submissions/approvals.

Verify all required documents like marriage license applications or permits, passports/visa applications are completed accurately and submitted within the designated timelines. Consult with relevant authorities or legal professionals to ensure compliance with local regulations and ensure a smooth and legally recognized wedding ceremony.

2 Months

Start tracking RSVPs.

Use a reliable system, such as a spreadsheet or online tool, to keep track of guest responses, follow up with guests who haven’t responded, dietary preferences, and any other relevant details. This data will all go into deciding the seating arrangements, catering numbers, and transport arrangements.

Confirm ceremony proceedings with the celebrant.
Schedule a meeting or call with the celebrant to discuss the order of events, personalized vows, readings, or any cultural or religious customs you wish to incorporate.

Finalize seating plan.

Consider guest relationships when seating them, prioritizing familiarity and compatibility. Be mindful of potential conflicts or sensitivities. Accommodate the needs of elderly or disabled guests with comfortable and accessible seating. Clearly label tables and seats to aid guests in finding their designated spots, utilizing place cards or a seating chart.

Finalize playlist with DJ.

Share your specific song or genre requests including any must-play or do-not-play requests. Discuss the flow of the music throughout the event, (like the first dance, and cake cutting). The DJ would usually ask for your list of favorite songs or artists as a starting point for them to easily create the entire event’s playlist.

Organize welcome bags.

Depending on the location, you can include a local sightseeing itinerary, map of the area, restaurant guide, bottled water, local snacks, personalized notes; holiday essentials like mints, sunscreen, or lip balm; candies for the kids.

Finalize wedding menu with the caterer.

Discuss your desired cuisine, dietary restrictions (vegan, vegetarian, intolerance, allergy, etc), and any specific preferences you have. A great tip would be to always try and incorporate some local cuisines/flavors into your menu and only an expert caterer can pull that off flawlessly.

Get necessary vaccines (if needed)

Ensure compliance with specific vaccination requirements for entry in certain countries. Plan and schedule vaccinations well in advance for you and your guests, considering potential multiple doses and effectiveness delays. Remember to carry vaccination records and necessary documentation during travel.

1 Month

Confirm RSVPs.

Follow up with all the pending guest responses. This is the time to lock in your guest list!

Final dress fitting & pick up.

Schedule your final dress fitting & coordinate with the designer for dress pick-up. Prepare necessary accessories and undergarments for checking the final look one last time. Store & transport the dress safely to avoid damage.

Organize all travel documents.

Gather and organize all travel documents, including passports, visas, and identification cards. Check expiration dates and make copies for backup. Ensure you meet any additional requirements for your destination. Send out reminders to all your guests for the same.

Start wedding rehearsals (along with all your dance partners, singers, and celebrant.)

Final vendor check-ins + final invoices

Reach out to each vendor to review the agreed-upon services, timelines, and resolve any last-minute concerns. It’s also a good time to discuss final invoices and ensure that all payments are scheduled or completed.

1-2 Weeks

Double-check all Travel Arrangements & Accommodations.

Confirm flight details, hotel reservations, transportation services, and other bookings you’ve made. Keep copies of confirmation numbers and important contact information handy.

Final vendor check-ins + seating arrangement & event flow review.

Coordinate with your event planner to ensure everything is in place – from the vendor timelines to event flow. Take this opportunity to discuss any specific preferences or changes you may have and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Pack everything & start your journey.

Double-check your packing list to ensure you have everything you need, including your wedding attire, accessories, important documents, and any necessary medications.

Also time for the last beauty touchups!