So, it has finally happened. You have met the right person and you think you are ready—no, you know you are ready to share your life with your soulmate. There’s only one last thing standing in your way, and that is the millions of details and finer points that go into getting married.

Perhaps you met your partner while traveling abroad and you want to go back there to say your vows. Maybe your family has a cabin in the woods that has always been a special part of your life and you want to share this with your spouse-to-be. These types of scenarios make a lot more sense than simply choosing Hawaii or some faraway land without previous knowledge. Whatever the reason for choosing a destination wedding, the biggest thing to consider is reality versus expectations.

Before You Consider a Destination Wedding

If you have a destination set in mind and you have never been there before, the best advice to consider is what the location is really like. For this reason, it is strongly suggested to arrange a quick trip to your location while you are doing wedding research. This will not only help to ensure the location is everything you want it to be, but it will also give you the chance to make arrangements for having your wedding there.

Anticipation for a Destination

Getting married is an exciting time, but there is so much that goes into it. If you are thinking about choosing a destination wedding, there are special considerations to make.

Before you set the destination, make sure you go through the following checklist to have all your bases covered.

Making It Meaningful

Choosing a location for your wedding is important, but it makes sense to justify the location you choose. The place you choose is more than just where you get married. Every year you will celebrate and reflect on that special day, and the focus should be on the marriage itself—the union between two souls and the love they share. Many couples who have selected destination weddings have said it was more trouble than it was worth because they didn’t put effort into the meaning.

Availability Check

Once you decide where you want your wedding to be, you have to remember that the location may have limited availability. Don’t spend time and effort on planning a glamorous wedding, only to be let down by this simple detail. Call ahead and find out which spots are available at your destination and try to decide upon three potential dates for your wedding as you get the other details in line.

Making Arrangements

Destination weddings can be tricky. Whether you get married overseas or in a relatively nearby family cabin, the logistics can be especially tricky to navigate. You will need to make arrangements well in advance for many locations. Additionally, you will want to make sure your guests understand if there is any cost or expectations on their part since the wedding will not be local.

Costs Are Covered

A few of the details that need added attention when considering a destination wedding are your guests’ needs. Typically, guests just need to be informed of whether or not there will be an open bar and what kind of food will be served. But with a destination wedding, there are travel considerations and more. It is helpful to make a checklist and discuss the costs that may accrue for those guests who are closest to the wedding party.

If you are selecting friends and family to stand up with you at your wedding, you will likely need to consider what each individual can afford. If you truly desire to have specific individuals at your wedding, then you will want to discuss with them cost details and see if they can attend. You may need to consider putting part of their cost into your wedding budget.

Lodging Details

Not all destination weddings require lodging, but most do. This is where additional consideration is needed for more than the wedding party alone. Before sending out invitations, you will need to have accommodations in place or let your guests know that they need to figure it out on their own. However, this is usually the responsibility of the bride and groom because they are asking people to be a part of their special day.

Standard etiquette dictates that you should research how much accommodations will cost and what lodging is available. Call local hotels around your destination and make sure that they are available for your wedding date, and make sure to include instructions for your guests on how to arrange lodging for their stay.

Travel Plans

Much like lodging details, travel plans for both the wedding party and guests need to be addressed before deciding on a destination wedding. Once the decision is made, you can ensure that the people you want at your wedding can make it. Consider costs and discuss rideshare or carpool options among your guests. If you genuinely want them at your wedding, it is your responsibility to at least make it easy for them to get there.

Appropriate Time for Planning

Depending on the destination of your wedding, you may need to provide additional notice and time for planning. Often this detail is overlooked because the traditional engagement period seems long enough. Consider that a standard engagement is approximately a year and it generally requires this length of time to prepare a traditional wedding. When travel, lodging, and time considerations are placed upon a destination wedding, often it is not something that guests can attend in one day.

Allowing a few additional months to get your planning in order can mean the difference between having the people you want there or not. Additionally, because of the planning that goes into a destination wedding, it can take more than the standard time to get things prepared for the big day.

Officiation Availability

Does your destination offer officiation or do you have to find your own? This is the first question. Then the next question is whether or not officiation is available for the date you want. Much like scheduling the location itself, you will need advance time for a destination wedding to find the right person to officiate and to make sure they can be there.

Certification Requirements

If your destination is in the same state that you plan to reside in, then certification is likely the same as it would be for a local, traditional wedding. Complications arise when people choose to get married in another state or another country.

Be sure to have ample time to research marriage licensing requirements in these situations. Often there is a required wait time or paperwork that is needed, and you will want to have that squared away well before your wedding date.

Clothing Considerations

Depending on where you are getting married, you will want to dress accordingly. Before you check the weather, consider checking the almanac, as this will not only show you anticipated weather but yearly patterns. This will allow you to make a more solid choice for your wedding clothes and in packing for the trip as well!

Vendor Budgets and Payment

Destination weddings have similar vendor costs, but you won’t be able to check in with vendors at a destination like you would if you chose a local wedding. If your destination is only a couple hours away, you may be able to still use local vendors, but they will tack on an added delivery fee. However, often you will need to coordinate with vendors closer to your destination. While technology has made this easier than in the days when payments could only be sent by mail, there are still time constrictions to consider.

Additionally, for flowers, cakes, etc., you will not be able to sample. Unless you visit your location before the big day, make sure to rely on sites like Yelp to see reviews. You may also want to try and see what the locals have to say.

Overseas Requirements

Most countries will allow you to get married there, but standard U.S. requirements do not always dictate overseas weddings. Be sure to have your birth certificate to prove legal consent and don’t be shocked if they ask for a blood test. Additionally, some countries require that you be a legal resident of their country to wed there. The loophole is generally to find an officiator who is licensed to marry in the U.S. They can then perform the ceremony. Some countries may require you to be married at the embassy. Call and get local requirements well before announcing the wedding to see if the location that you have in mind is a viable option.

Last-Minute Needs

Think about the whole wedding trip and consider any possible restrictions before any serious planning starts. Plane travel may be restricted if a woman is pregnant or has certain health conditions. Lacking a passport may put a damper on things if you plan too late, as it can take over a year sometimes to get that entirely in line. Create a checklist of all the needs for your wedding and make sure to take it all into account before going forth with plans!

Planning Is Key

Getting married at a destination can be meaningful and romantic, but it can also be a horrible disaster. While this is true for traditional weddings as well, and planning is the key to pulling it all off, destination choices can play a huge role in how the big day finally plays out. Make sure to ask for help and get to researching before you get excited about a specific place to be married.