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The Complete Destination Wedding Checklist

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

Discover everything you need to do to create your dream destination wedding with simplicity + joy.

The price you pay for a relaxing, gorgeous destination wedding (beyond the actual price) is a lot of work on the front end, beginning about a year before that special date. The good news is everything doesn’t have to be done at once, as long as you spread out the to-dos over a 12-month period. To that end, we’ve compiled a thorough destination wedding checklist to help everything go smoothly.

12 Months Before

To get you started, here’s a list of the top tasks to tackle one year prior to The Day.

Decide the Essence You Want Your Wedding to Exude

Getting clear on the vibe, theme, spirit, or whatever you want to call it, for your wedding will make all your other decisions easier because you’ll have a better sense of what you’re trying to create.

Research Venues

Now that you’ve settled on your wedding essence of choice, start researching venues that match these needs. Mark your favorites and discuss with your partner. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top three, contact the venues and request all pertinent information, and photos from their past weddings.

Confirm the Venue

Don’t get your heart set on a venue without first confirming it’s available on the date you’ve settled on, and you lock it in. A perk of planning a year in advance is that you have more flexibility with venue availability.

Determine Your Budget

While you want to invest in your dream wedding, know that you can create that dream without striping your financial reserves – and you do this by creating a budget. Start by taking an honest look at your finances, considering any help you may be receiving from family members, settling on a realistic budget, and committing to staying below that number.

Create Your Guest List

With that nifty budget in tow you can now decide how many names can grace your guest list. One of the biggest expenses of a wedding is food and drink, so each name on that list adds up.

Prepare To Defend Your Choices

When you dive into a life event that involves the participation of more than a few people, you’re going to get more than a few opinions. Steel yourself to deflect any unsolicited opinions by having a pow-wow with your fiancé where the two of you get firm on your reasons for having a destination wedding. Remind each other that ultimately the only people who need to be satisfied with the wedding are the two of you.

Make an Inspiration Board

Because there may be some tedious moments between now and the time you finally say “I do,” it can be nice to have a visual reminder of what you’re working towards. Clip images of weddings, flowers, colors, food, rings, dresses, your wedding destination, and more that make you feel excited about planning a wedding, and glue them to a piece of poster board.

8 Months Before

You’ve locked in your wedding venue of choice, committed to sticking to your budget (you can do it!), and hemmed and hawed over that tricky guest list until it was just right – congrats! You’ve got your momentum going and have tackled some of the biggest destination wedding question marks. It’s now time to narrow your focus a bit, and revel in tasks like finding your ideal dress.

Make Your Online Registry

While it’s tempting to register for shiny gifts you don’t really need (I’m looking at you jalapeño popper maker), it’s best to stick to items that will enhance and simplify your post-wedding life. Talk with your partner about the goods that will offer the most benefit, and together make your registry, or registries.

Create Your Wedding Website

Now that you have your engagement story, wedding date, location, and registry you can create your wedding website. Sites like Joy allow you to design a one-stop-shop for your guests to get in the mood for your wedding by reading your love story, discover the specifics on all the wedding events and FAQs, and access your registries.

Because destination weddings take a lot of planning on the part of – well, everyone – make sure your website includes specifics on best ways to get to your wedding destination, travel requirements, where you’ll be blocking out rooms or houses, ground transportation info, and any other essential information.

Send Your Save the Dates

If you would like people at your wedding (totally optional!) you’ll want to let them know ASAP when and where you’ll be getting married so they can get it on their calendar. Make sure the Save the Date includes your wedding website link so they can get a full picture of what will be required of them to get to your wedding.

Select Your Wedding Party

Trust your gut as you decide who you would like standing by you as you leap out of singledom, and decide with your fiancé if it’s important for you to have an even number on their side and yours.

Schedule a Call With the Event Planner

Make a list of every question you can think of for the event planner that has likely been assigned to you by your venue, then a schedule a call with them.

Hire a Photographer and Videographer

Hopefully, your event planner gave you a stellar list of photographers and videographers, you’ve combed through their websites and found the ideal matches, and are ready to confirm.

Research Dresses

Taking into consideration your style preferences (first and foremost), wedding destination terrain and climate, and budget, begin looking into dress options.


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