A Complete Checklist for Planning a Destination Wedding
If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’re recently engaged. So, congratulations! This is an exciting time. Not only do you get to celebrate the fact that you’ve found someone to spend your life with, but you also get to start imagining how, when, and (most importantly, in our biased opinion) where you’d like to say “I do.”
While some people assume that destination weddings are stressful to plan, that’s really not the case. After all, a destination wedding requires the same things as a wedding you would have at home: a beautiful venue, delicious food and drinks, and great music. Yes, you’ll also need to make travel arrangements—but you don’t have to do it alone.
Couples that choose to have a destination wedding usually always end up working closely with a travel agency to help secure flights and hotel rooms. However, that’s not all travel consultants can help with. When you plan a destination wedding with Liberty Travel, for instance, you’ll get advice on resorts and all-inclusive packages, local attractions, and travel requirements. Plus, personalized service so you can focus on what matters most: pledging your love and commitment to your partner.
Ready to start planning? We’ve created a destination wedding checklist to help you make it down the aisle.
16–18 Months Before
❏ Choose a Destination
This is arguably the most exciting step in planning a destination wedding. It’s also one of the most difficult. The location you choose will set the tone for your entire event, and there’s a lot you need to consider before settling on a country or region.
Have you always dreamed of a beach wedding, or would you prefer to say “I do” in an urban setting? Do you want to get married in a church or at a less traditional venue? Is your heart set on a rustic, nautical, bohemian, or modern theme? Once you’ve determined your wedding style, you can be much more intentional in selecting a destination. From Mexico and the Caribbean to Europe, the US, and Canada, there are plenty of international and domestic locations to choose from—and Liberty Travel’s expert consultants can help you find one that best suits your overall wedding vision.
At this stage, it’s also important for you to research marriage requirements. If you feel okay about sealing the deal with a symbolic ceremony, this isn’t a concern. But if you’d like a legal ceremony (one that’s performed by a judge or commissioner and includes the signing of a marriage license), you may be required to provide personal information, travel documents, and other official paperwork.
In addition, keep travel risks and warnings, weather patterns, and cultures in mind so that you and your guests can feel safe and comfortable in the destination of your choosing.
❏ Make a Budget
Setting a budget is a crucial step regardless of where you decide to tie the knot. You and your partner need to discuss (and agree on!) how much to spend on a venue, invitations, flowers and décor, food and drinks, attire, and countless other things.
These conversations are slightly more complicated when you’re planning a destination wedding. For one, there are added costs, including airfare and accommodations. You also need to keep your guests’ budgets in mind. Consider how much money you’re comfortable asking them to spend, how long you expect them to stay at your chosen resort, and whether you’re willing to cover some of their travel expenses.
In the US, couples spent an average of $34,000 on their nuptials in 2021.* While it’s possible for destination weddings to equal or surpass that amount, they usually cost a little less. That’s because many hotels and resorts—particularly those in Mexico and the Caribbean—offer special wedding deals and packages. Depending on where you book, you could end up saving on room rates, flowers, cake, and more.
❏ Select a Wedding Date
Some couples put a lot of thought into this. Perhaps they want to commemorate their first date, or maybe they want to avoid having the same anniversary as their parents.
We understand this reasoning, but encourage you to be flexible when planning a destination wedding, as hotels can’t guarantee your first choice. Note that Fridays and Saturdays are among the most popular days (and therefore get booked up quickly)—and some resorts will charge additional fees for Sunday time slots.
12–15 Months Before
❏ Pick a Resort and Wedding Package
Speaking of resorts…you need to decide which hotel will set the scene for your special day.
This is where your Liberty Travel consultant will be the most helpful. In addition to their extensive knowledge of the world’s top wedding destinations, they know how to book the best hotels and resorts, local excursions and experiences, group travel rates, and extra amenities—and are excited to offer guidance to you every step of the way.**
No two wedding packages are the same, so make sure you understand what’s included and what’s not. You should also research how much creative freedom you’ll be granted. Some hotels will let you hire your favorite vendors, but others will ask that you work with their preferred wedding planners, florists, and photographers. Likewise, some resorts will let you choose where to get married on the property, and others will assign an area based on availability.
If you have any questions about a wedding package, don’t hesitate to ask your travel consultant. They can also provide information about a resort’s accessibility and minimum age requirements, and can even help arrange a site visit so you can see the property before confirming your reservation.
❏ Create a Wedding Website
Back in the day, couples only needed to share a few details with guests: the date and time, the venue and address, and a quick-and-convenient way to RSVP. Today, friends and family expect to receive a lot more information than that—especially if you’re asking them to attend a destination wedding. Hence why wedding websites have become so popular. These platforms are used to distribute everything from dress codes and gift registries to safety protocols and directions.
When you book a destination wedding with Liberty Travel, you’ll get a free wedding website that you can use to share itineraries, communicate with your consultant about travel arrangements, and manage RSVPs.
❏ Invite Guests
This step needs to be completed six to eight months earlier than it would for a local wedding, as you’ll want to ensure people have enough time to book days off work, arrange accommodations for their children and pets, and get their travel documents in order (more on this below). Initial deposits are also often due within 30–90 days of a room block being secured, so it’s important that you ask guests to RSVP as early as possible.
Whether you decide to send paper or digital invitations is entirely up to you. Just remember to include a link to your wedding website, letting guests know it’s where they can learn about the destination, and make travel arrangements and payments.
9–11 Months Before
❏ Plan Other Events and Activities
Destination weddings are a great excuse to go on vacation, so it’s likely you and your guests will arrive at the resort a few days before the ceremony and stay for up to five days after. While people will appreciate having some time to themselves, you can also use this as an opportunity to schedule other group events and gatherings.
All-inclusive resorts, where food and drinks, daily activities, and nightly entertainment are abundant, are perfect for bachelor or bachelorette parties. You can spend the morning at the beach or pool, enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the spa or on a catamaran, and then take in a show—all without having to leave your hotel.
You can also arrange welcome brunches and rehearsal dinners, as well as local sight-seeing activities and excursions, so that your guests can get to know each other before the wedding. Nothing will bring people together more than a zipline adventure, cenote tour, or tequila tasting.
❏ Renew Your Passport and Other Travel Docs (If Necessary)
When was the last time you opened your passport? If you don’t travel often, it’s easy to forget when your IDs and travel documents expire, so be sure to check them as soon as your trip has been confirmed.
Since some countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of your trip, leave yourself plenty of time to research the rules and get things renewed—and encourage your guests to do the same.
6–8 Months Before
❏ Book Flights and Transportation
This task may be on your wedding to-do list, but it’s technically someone else’s job. One of the biggest benefits of planning a destination wedding with Liberty Travel is getting access to a group travel expert that takes care of the bookings for you.
In addition to arranging a room block for the resort, they’ll ensure you and your guests have everything you need for a smooth trip—plus they’ll be available to answer any questions your great grandma or second cousin might have about flights and transfers, health and travel regulations, and other special requests.
We suggest trying to have all travel arrangements finalized by the six-month mark at the latest—but the sooner you and your guests can complete this step, the better.
0–5 Months Before
❏ Finalize Wedding-Day Details
You may spend an entire year scrolling Pinterest for wedding inspiration, but you likely won’t need to make any hard decisions about flowers, décor, or food until you’re three months out.
The final details, however, will likely be confirmed in the five days leading up to your wedding. As previously mentioned, most hotels will have a wedding planner for you to coordinate with. Reach out to them as soon as you arrive to schedule a walk-through of your ceremony and reception locations, menu tastings, hair and makeup trials, and any necessary meetings with your other vendors.
Now’s also the time for you to finalize any special arrangements you’ve made for your guests. Many couples, for example, will put a gift basket in each person’s room to welcome them—think sunglasses, local snacks and drinks, and other small items for them to use throughout their stay.
The Wedding Day
❏ Say “I Do”
After months of planning, it’s time to exchange vows in front of your family and friends. Unless you have a fear of public speaking, the hard part is truly over—so relax and enjoy every moment.
It may sound complicated to host a destination wedding, but it doesn’t have to be. A consultant from Liberty Travel will take the stress out of the planning process, handle all your guests’ travel needs and payments, create a free wedding website for you to update, and get you great deals (think free rooms and upgrades, cocktail parties, and other fun extras).**
Best of all, it’s free. Couples pay wedding planners thousands of dollars, but with Liberty Travel, you get a dedicated travel consultant who can also help with some of your wedding needs and requests—or at least put you in touch with a resort’s event coordinator at no extra cost.**
Please note: Travel requirements and health standards are continually changing. Visit our Traveler Resources Hub for important updates and to learn more about the entry rules of your specific destination.
*Kim Forrest, ‘This Was the Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021,’ The Knot, 2022.
**Conditions apply. Group rates and offers vary based on participating partners and minimum guests/passengers.