One of biggest problems we see is the amount of conflicting advice when planning a destination wedding. If you Google a term like “Destination wedding checklist”, most will recommend that you start planning by setting a budget or a date. Some will even tell you to select a photographer first because they are in such huge demand (they are not).
While you can certainly start anywhere you want, there is one thing that determines just about everything else in the initial stages of destination wedding planning. It affects your wedding date, your location, the resort you select and a multitude of other factors.
And deciding on this first will make it easier to plan everything else. It will prevent you from having to backtrack on certain decisions by taking the right steps initially.
What is this factor?
Your Guest list
The guest list plays a key role in most of your initial decisions and yet it is, in many cases, decided upon much later. Most couples are told to set the date and location, and then decide on who to invite.
This is, however, not the right order in which to plan a destination wedding. If you want the attendance to be high, you’re going to want to take into account who is invited right at the beginning.
For example, if your guest list is mostly couples, then your decisions of where to get married will be very different than if you’re inviting mostly families. In the former, you would find yourself at an adults only resort on an island somewhere in the pacific. For the latter, a wedding at Disney would make for a great destination.
And that’s not all that the guest list will help you with.
Here are four things that you can decide very quickly once you have a guest list
Taking into account who is on your guest list will help you select the perfect date to be wed, the ideal location and the best resort. Not only will it clear up a lot of confusion that comes in the initial stages, it will give you the direction you need to make the decisions quickly.
If you have a lot of family and friends, you’re going to want to select a location that is easy to get to. So if your ideal destination is somewhere in the Caribbean, then book one of the larger islands (Bahamas, USVI, Puerto Rico) that has a lot of direct flights from many destinations in the US. Selecting a smaller, more secluded island would be less than ideal as it would be difficult to get to for families with kids and many seniors. Read “Factors To Help You Decide On A Location For A Destination Wedding”.
Resort and activities
The mix of your guest list will determine the kind of resort that should be selected (adults only vs. family friendly). It will also determine the kinds of group activities you will plan. Wedding guests that have lots of kids will have to be planned differently (clown party) vs. couples (shows or bungee jumping), or seniors (Dinner and dancing).
You may have to plan all three types depending on your guest list, and knowing that ahead of time will give you a head start there as well. Read “How To Select a Hotel or Resort For a Destination Wedding”.
Setting the date
Instead of spending hours online looking at the best times to get married at various locations, start by looking at who is coming. Are they mostly family? Or are they mostly single friends and couples?
If your guest list is primarily family members, then you should select a date that is during the summer vacation or anytime that school is not in session. If, however, you are inviting a lot of singles and couples, then a long weekend (Memorial Day, Labor day etc.) would be much more suitable to their travel schedules. Read “Set A Date For Your Destination Wedding: Things To Consider”.
Your guest list, believe it or not, affects how you allocate your budget. If you have a large budget with a small guest list, you will spend your money differently. You may book a more intimate and expensive resort in that case. Without knowing how many are coming, how will you determine anything of the items on the budget? For more information, read our series of articles on creating a destination wedding budget.
Knowing that you have to set up a guest list is one thing. But what if you haven’t decided on who you’re inviting?
You don’t need to know who you are going to invite to start setting up a guest list. Just get a general idea of how many people are going to be invited (an actual number) and then determine the mix of people who will be attending.
There are only three types, families, couples (and single friends), and seniors that you have to plan for. Once you can determine the mix of people that are attending, you’re decision making process will speed up considerably.
As you can see, the right way to start planning a destination wedding is to figure out who you want to attend first. Then figure out everything else. Because if you do it the other way, you are bound to make a ton of mistakes that will have you creating more frustration for yourself. Needless frustration, that is.