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Destination Wedding Planning Tips

Planning your wedding abroad? Stress no more!

Planning on leaving the village church in your rear-view mirror and taking your celebration to warmer climes? From guaranteed sunshine and sentimental value to a two-for-one wedding and honeymoon, there are lots of reasons why couples choose to wed abroad, but planning it is no easy feat. We sat down with luxury destination wedding planner, Hayleigh Goodman-Smith of ivorygoat, to get her advice on making the most of the big occasion.



1. Hire a pro

Finding suppliers that you trust implicitly is key for any couple, and forging a strong working relationship with them is nothing short of essential when you’re tying the knot, hundreds and thousands of miles away from home. Find a planner who specialises in weddings abroad and who truly knows the region. Try to meet them in person, at least once if you can – but if not, be sure to talk through your ideas on Zoom before moving on to email.


2. Invest in wedding insurance

Securing your wedding insurance will not only protect you financially and emotionally, but some venues abroad even require it. Ensure you’re clear on the policy and exactly what it includes. Don’t leave it until the last minute – shop around if you can.   


3. Welcome guests in style

Since getting to your wedding takes more commitment than a last-minute dash down the motorway, forgetful guests will be thankful when they arrive at their hotel room to a thoughtful welcome bag of easy-to-forget essentials. Flip-flops, sun cream, freshen-up kits including face wipes and mini atomisers, paracetamol, hand-held fans and a guide to the local area are nice touches.


4. Embrace your destination

Because what’s the point of going abroad if you’re just going to recreate a typically English wedding, right? You picked your location for a reason, so soak up the culture, dine on the fabulous food, incorporate the local customs… Weddings (and their timings) tend to be a lot more relaxed in other countries, so if you’re usually one for military precision, be prepared to throw out the rulebook and try to embrace a more relaxed affair.


5. Book a massage… or three!

The best way to ensure that you’re totally relaxed in time for the big day is to break up your schedule with at least two days of downtime before your guests arrive. So, book those massages, relax by the pool, chill in the spa… you’ll have beaten any potential jetlag before you know it.


6. Stick to hand luggage

Arriving at your destination only to realise that your wedding dress is still sitting on the runway at Heathrow must be every bride’s worst nightmare – which is why carrying all your valuables, including your bridal attire and legal documents, with you is the best option. Some boutiques even provide carriage boxes designed to fit the dimensions of most airlines requirements.


7. Host a pre-wedding party

Dinner and drinks the night before the big day is a great way to introduce your guests to one another. Keeping it relaxed with a barbecue or buffet, serving up regional delicacies and local cocktails will get your guests in the holiday spirit.


8. Extend the fun

If you have time to spare, why not plan a fun bonding session with a local tour, boat ride, flower workshop or wine-tasting? Guests will appreciate a few extra activities on the itinerary but remember to allow plenty of downtime for all of you to enjoy, too.


9. Keep things cool

As the hours on either side of midday are peak sunburn windows, why not consider making the most of a long, lazy morning and having a late afternoon ceremony, or tying the knot underneath a marquee? If an open-air, toes-in-the-sand celebration is what you’ve always dreamed of, just make sure your guests have parasols on hand.


10. Stay local, save big

Sticking with local flowers and local produce for your wedding breakfast will not only help keep your budget down but add authenticity to your day, too. Consider tasty tapas in Spain (pre-ceremony Sangria, anyone?), beautiful bottles of local olive oil as favours in Tuscany or exotic blooms in the tropics.


11. Be a bold bride

Thought beach weddings were just about boho dresses and simple slips? If you want a princess dress, girl, you can wear a princess dress. There is room on the shore for ballgowns and beading. Just ask your boutique to provide a hoop to keep it away from your legs and keep you cool in the process. There’s no reason why a beach ensemble can’t break the rules…


12. Try some high-tech touches

Just as it has across all elements of the pandemic, technology will play a role in destination weddings, in a bid to include friends and family members who haven’t been able to make it. From up-to-the-minute photo uploads to live streaming of the vows, first dance and speeches, consider including a social media element into your day – it’s also a perfect way to keep all your memories in one place.


13. Pick handy favours

For a useful and authentic favour idea, dish out beautiful fans in your colour scheme. Personalise them with your guests’ names or print the order of service on them and place one on each seat at the ceremony. We’ve found that as well as keeping everyone cool, they look super pretty in photos.


14. Write off the morning after…

Your guests will most definitely appreciate a lie-in. Take the opportunity to enjoy breakfast à deux (ideally in bed!) and arrange a big brunch get-together in the afternoon instead.


15. Go with the flow

Most importantly, you must enjoy it. When you plan a destination wedding, you do almost have to accept that something could go not quite according to plan – but leave your inner control freak at home if you can and be prepared to let the small stuff go. And when you’ve found the right planner, you'll know your day is safe in their hands. You’re there to celebrate and have fun, and that’s the most important thing!


Words by Anthony Baines


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