5 Challenges of Planning a Destination Wedding from a Real Destination Bride

challenges of planning a destination wedding

Elizabeth Messina

This is a guest post by our friend Jen of Pearls & Lace.

Hi! I’m Jen and I write the fashion and lifestyle blog Pearls & Lace. I’m thrilled to be guest posting on Wedding Party about my experience planning a destination wedding! My husband and I knew from the moment we started planning that we wanted a destination wedding; we were engaged on the beach in Mexico and love the sun and the sand, so Hawaii was a natural choice for us. It was a destination that we’d always dreamt of visiting and it fit perfectly into our vision for the wedding. There was only one problem: we’d never set foot on any of the Hawaiian Islands! And so began the challenge of planning our wedding 2700 miles away.


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Millie Holloman

1. Never seeing the venue in person

For my husband and I (and anyone who’s sticking to a budget), it was tough not being able to visit the ceremony or reception venues. Many wedding planners will suggest something called a scouting trip, where you specifically plan a trip to check out venues; that wasn’t an option for us since we had just completed our university degrees and didn’t have the additional money to spend on a separate trip. If you find yourself in the same situation as us, I suggest asking the venue for up to date photos as well as dimensions (of the room and tables) so you have an accurate idea of the space you have to work with.

2. Not having access to all the resources you might be accustomed to back home

Although Maui is not sparsely populated by any means, it still didn’t have all the same wedding resources we were accustomed to at home in Vancouver. Depending on your destination, be prepared for items such as specific flowers or decorations to be difficult to track down. Peonies are my favorite flowers and were a necessity in my bouquet as well as in the centerpieces. Although peonies were in season during our wedding and easily found at home, they had to be flown in from Alaska for our wedding. Be conscious when selecting specific details and know which ones you’d be ok letting go, if they can’t be found or are beyond the budget.

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Kate Harrison

3. Delayed communication

Depending on the specific destination, factors such as the time change, language barriers or laid back lifestyle can all play a role in slower responses from vendors. The most common form of communication with vendors will most likely be via email, which may be slower and more tedious than meeting with someone face to face. It’s important to remain patient and if you’re concerned your emails might not be taken to heart, than organize a conference call or time to Skype so you get the chance to speak face to face. Thankfully the time change for us was only three hours so we were able to talk on the phone with our coordinator on a regular basis and stay up to date with all the plans.

4. Bringing items from home

If you’re already aware that certain items won’t be available at the destination or they’ll be very costly to locate, you can always bring them from home. I was set on having our cake displayed on a vintage pink milk glass cake stand (something that was impossible to locate in the Hawaiian Islands) so I bought one and had it shipped from California to our cake designer’s house in Maui. If you’re a very detail oriented person like me, I recommend assembling items at home and packing them with you; if you find you’re running out of luggage space, family members are always happy to donate some space for such a good cause. Personalized gift bags, custom menus and calligraphy signs we’re just a few of the items we brought from home. Oh and don’t forget, you’ll have to carry a wedding dress and suit on the plane!

5. Fluctuations in number of guests

Getting an accurate gage of the number of guests was one of the most difficult aspects of planning a destination wedding. Although this is a common challenge with typical weddings, guest numbers can vary greatly for destination weddings due to challenges such as vacation time and cost of travel. It’s not uncommon for guests to provide verbal RSVPs they will be attending only to change their decision as the final RSVP date arrives, which is often only a few months before the wedding. It’s safe to assume that up to thirty percent of guests, who provide a verbal RSVP they will be attending, will not end up booking travel. Another important factor to be conscious of when planning a destination wedding is that some friends and family may not be able to attend, regardless of how much notice you provide them; travel for aging grandparents is often too much of a burden, so you must be prepared to face the fact that certain beloved family members might not be able to witness your special day.

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Gideon Photography

Here are a few tips that I found extremely helpful when planning our destination wedding in Maui:

1. Hire a Coordinator experienced in planning weddings at your destination

I cannot stress how vital it is to have a wedding coordinator. Ours was located in Maui and had been planning weddings on the island for many years. She was so knowledgeable with regards to vendors (her recommendations for a caterer and cake designer was especially important seeing as we couldn’t taste test either) and was able to inform us of things that we would have otherwise never discovered if we’d tried planning on our own. Having a coordinator is definitely an added expense but the expertise and peace of mind are worth their weight in gold! I guarantee you won’t regret hiring a coordinator!

2. A picture is worth a thousand words

When contacting vendors, find photos (via Pinterest or other wedding websites) that are as close to your desired look as possible. It’s easy for your worded description to be misconstrued by someone else so to avoid confusion, send photos accompanied by a description of your desired look. It’s difficult to mess up a photo!

3. Roll with the punches

As with any wedding, regardless of the planning, unexpected issues can arise. Hopefully with the help of a coordinator these will be kept to a minimum and if they do happen to occur, they will be small details that only you will notice. Don’t let minor details define your day, remember you only get married once so enjoy the moment because it passes far too quickly!

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Jen on her wedding day!

Although it seems like there are endless challenges to planning a destination wedding, I urge you not to be discouraged if you have your heart set on a special destination. It’s true, destination weddings are a lot of work, but so are regular weddings. I would get married in Maui a hundred times over because it was truly a unique and amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything!