Stress-Free Destination Wedding

Minimize the planning and focus on the fun as you gear up for your destination wedding!

by Amy Postma

photo by Amy Postma, Cuba, 2005.

My fiancé and I always knew we wanted to do a destination wedding, long before he proposed this winter. The first time we had ever gone away anywhere together was to my brother’s wedding in Cuba, and a holiday to the Mayan Riviera last winter made it clear: we were beach wedding people.

Now the planning has begun, and it is pretty much finished. We are now just waiting for our guests to book and only have to think about what we are going to wear and pack. From my experience, I offer the potential bride and groom these tips:

Do your research:

Compile a list of destinations and resorts that appeal to you. Use tour operators’ books to get an overview of resorts’ size, restaurants, and room options and activities offered. These will also tell you if the resort offers weddings. You can find these books at travel agencies or CAA for free. After you have a few ideas, use websites like and for more ideas and reviews of the resorts. Read reviews with a grain of salt however, taking into account your personality and what you want out of the trip. Narrow down your list to a manageable amount of resorts, anywhere from three to ten. Throw out any maybes.

photo by Amy Postma, Cuba, 2005

Meet with a travel agent:

A travel agent is an invaluable tool as you go through the booking process. My fiancé and I ended up bringing our top 5 resort picks to two agents from different agencies. Each of them obtained our quotes based on group rates and early booking bonuses. While we absolutely loved our first travel agent, who gave us great advice and was personable yet honest as well as throughout, we were quite glad we ended up going with the second agent, because our quotes were significantly lower from the second agency. She then provided us with the information needed to book, which we passed along to our guests via email, including location, date, amount, deposit amounts, relevant due dates, and the travel agent’s contact information.

Contact your resort directly:

It is important to make sure you can reserve a ceremony time before you start booking the trip. Email the resort to get in touch with their wedding coordinator, who will be able to schedule your ceremony time and answer questions you may have. In general, most of the decisions are finalized once you are at the resort in a brief meeting with the coordinator soon after you arrive, making planning as simple as possible. Also make sure to ask about what important documents you need to bring with you or send ahead of your arrival, as well as, what the minimum requirements are for being in the country before the ceremony. Likely you will need to forward them information on your full names, citizenship, date of birth, and passport information, as well as, a guest list.

Think about your guests:

Send your guests a “save-the-date” as soon as you have figured out a plausible date. This gives your guests more lead-time to carefully consider if this type of trip and expense will work for them. Then, when they are faced with booking information and deadlines, they are more prepared. In addition, consider preparing a welcome bag for each room. This can be given right after arrival as guests are settling into their rooms, or at an event before the trip, such as a casual meet and greet for guests that may not know each other. This could include items like flip-flops, sunscreen, lip balm, and comfort candy. Also make sure to include a program for the day of the wedding, including location and pertinent times. It may help acclimatize your guests to have a map of the resort and surrounding points of interest.

Some General Tips:

  • A destination wedding is great for a laid-back couple, but may not be right for someone who wants an over-the-top ceremony with a hand in all the details.
  • While planning for the ceremony itself should be smooth and simple, make sure to look into all the requirements for documentation abroad and registering the marriage once you are back in Canada.
  • Make yourself available to your potential guests: this may be a big decision for them and they may have concerns they are timid to bring up.
  • Recognize that this is a different sort of circumstance and not necessarily all of the most important people in your life will be able to make it.
  • Don’t dwell negatively about leaving people off of your invite list. People understand that a destination wedding is generally a much more intimate affair. If you are planning on having any sort of reception or open house when you return, this is a great way to include everyone.
  • Use email to communicate with guests, as traditional invitations do not allow you to get pertinent information out to guests soon enough, especially considering booking deadlines. Get in touch with those that may not use email by phone or in person if possible.
  • Be excited! This will be an unforgettable way to start your life together!

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