They reason that they can research everything online and get the same results.
And they may be right if they are having a small destination wedding. However, if the wedding is anything larger than 30 people (The average destination wedding has 60 guests), then an advance trip will serve you well for several reasons.
Every wedding location will look spectacular online. Photos can be manipulated to make a place look great even if the actual location is not quite so. Physically seeing several potential wedding locations will let you decide which one is right for you.
In addition to finalizing the wedding location, you should also visit the hotel or resort to finalize the block of rooms for guests. Take a quick look at the rooms, the lobby, and the hallways to ensure that the hotel is of the quality that you wanted for your wedding guests. Going to the hotel will also give you a great idea of how far it is from the wedding location. Here is a great hotel inspection checklist for weddings.
You can also visit and finalize other vendors. Florist, photographers, bakers, and officiants can be finalized as well. If any of these vendors are working a wedding, then you can also check out their work live.
Finally, you can visit several caterers and sample their food personally instead of relying on word of month. Having tried the food, you will rest a lot easier knowing that your guests will not be disappointed with the quality.
Here is a list of vendors to visit when planning a destination wedding.
Experience the travel first hand
Going to the site ahead of time will give you a firsthand account of how difficult or easy the travel is. After all, you want to be able to tell guests that you have done the traveling and that it is not as difficult as it may seem. Things you should be looking into are:
- How many connections did you have to make?
- How long were the flights?
- Were there any direct flights that can be taken?
- How long did it take to get through customs?
- How long does it take to go from the airport to the hotel?
- Are cabs readily available? Do the cab drivers speak English?
- How easy is it to rent a car?
- Does the hotel have an airport shuttle? Cost?
- Is there a ferry involved? (There are islands in the Caribbean that require one)
Explore the area
Want guests to have a good time at your destination wedding? Then explore the area ahead of time so you can give everyone a list of things that they can do. Look into cultural things (Museums, Art galleries, Artisan stores), activities (Bungee jumping, Zip cord lining, River rafting), Nightlife (Bars, restaurants, clubs).
Make a list of the most popular things to do, how much they cost, and how far they are from the hotel. Hand this list to every guest when they arrive or email it to them ahead of the destination wedding. Providing this list will go a long to helping guests figure out what they can do during downtime.
Capture the intangibles
While the internet is great for certain things like research, it can’t capture the intangibles of planning a destination wedding. Being at the location will help you determine how friendly the hotel staff really is, how good the cake tastes, how nice the flowers are and how beautiful the sunset is from your bridal suite.
Plus, seeing the destination itself will assure you that it lives up to your expectations. Nothing is worse than envisioning a destination wedding location only to find out on the day of that it is not as beautiful as you imagined.
Now you that you are (hopefully) convinced of the merits of visiting the location ahead of time, let’s talk about the details of when to go.
How far ahead should you go?
We would recommend going to the destination wedding location 6-8 months ahead of the wedding. By that time, you will have done all your research into the vendors, ceremony and reception locations, and hotels. If you don’t have that much time, then go as soon as you are able to set the appointments with vendors.
And how long should you go for?
The length of the trip really depends on what you have to accomplish. If all you have to do is visit an all inclusive resort, then a weekend will do just fine.
If you have to visit vendors, finalize contracts, and research the area, then three to four days would be more appropriate. Remember not to rush. You are there to plan your wedding so savor the moments.
Having planned several destination weddings, we can say with certainty that an advance trip to the wedding location will result in a more organized wedding and happier guests. Not only will the wedding run smoothly, you will also experience fewer (negative) surprises.