Destination Wedding Planning Checklist & Timeline

6 December, 2013


* Make a list of potential wedding destinations.

* Research legal requirements for marriage in each location.

* Discuss potential wedding dates and decide on an ideal date or time of year.  Consider the weather, holidays, festivals or peak seasons at each destination when making your decision.

* Set a budget – this will influence your choice of destination and venue, as well as the size of your guest list.

* Draw up a preliminary guest list – as the size of your group will influence your choice of venue.  Also consider discussing your plans with close family and friends to determine how many are likely to attend, and how far most are comfortable to travel.

* Make a short list of potential wedding venues at each destination, and request wedding brochures and quotes from each.



* Confirm your venue – both for your ceremony & reception.

* Confirm your accommodation and reserve accommodation for guests, if possible.  If you plan to spend the night before the wedding apart, don’t forget to reserve an extra room.

* Decide if you will use a wedding coordinator – either the planner attached to your venue or an independent operator – if independent, research the options at your chosen destination and confirm your coordinator as early as possible.

* Chose your attendants and invite them to be in your wedding party.

* Research photographers – both local and destination – and confirm your photographer as early as possible.  Many book up a year in advance, sometimes further.

* Research local wedding vendors – ask your wedding coordinator for their recommendations and look online for reviews.

* Collect postal addresses for your guests and Send Out ‘Save the Date’ cards.  Allow your guests as much time as possible to decide if they will attend, plan their annual leave, research and book travel, and budget for the trip.  Make sure that you include accommodation details or options, so that guests can book as early as possible

* If you are inviting guests with children, investigate childcare options at your venue and communicate this to guests.

* Consider creating a wedding website to keep your guests informed.

* Start thinking about the style of wedding dress you will wear and begin trying on gowns – make sure you factor in any climate considerations!

* Start researching flights and other travel options.

* Start thinking about potential dates and venues for your at home reception, if you plan to have one, and make some appointments to view local venues.



* Start booking travel and accommodation, paying particular attention to any flights or accommodation with limited availability.  Some regional flights will only operate once per day, or only on certain days of the week.  Often the seats will become more expensive closer to the date of travel, or worse, they will book out.

* Arrange travel insurance.

* Confirm your local vendors – caterer, DJ, entertainment, florist, videographer if required, event styling & design if separate to your wedding coordinator, wedding cake and local wedding day transport if required.  If these have been booked via your wedding coordinator, ask for each vendors contact details so that you can communicate your requirements with them directly.

* Confirm your Officiant/Priest/Celebrant, and check if you will need to meet with them prior to your ceremony.  If you would like to write your own vows, discuss this now with your Officiant, and check if you will require a translator for the ceremony.

* Continue to try on wedding gowns and start to narrow your selection to the most flattering styles, silhouettes, fabrics etc.  If possible, start to make a short list of potential gowns.

* Start the process of shopping for bridesmaid gowns.  Coordinate a few dates to meet with your ‘maids to try on gowns and come up with a short list of styles and colours that work for everyone.

* Start to think about a wedding theme or colour scheme for your event.  Get advice from your wedding coordinator and your vendors regarding local customs and traditions, florals in season, local cuisine etc.

* Confirm the venue for your at home reception, and if possible, ask the venue’s wedding or function coordinator to put together a list of recommended vendors and source quotes for each.



* Confirm the style of your wedding gown and order.  If you are having your gown made, most dressmakers will require a minimum of six months to create your gown.  If you are buying off the rack, aim to make a decision around three months prior.  This allows time to choose shoes and accessories, as well as having any alterations completed.

* Confirm the style of bridesmaid gowns and order.

* Start shopping for grooms and groomsmen outfits – again, consider the destination and climate when choosing!

* Start shopping for wedding rings.

* Check with your wedding coordinator or contact your consulate to ensure that you have a full list of requirements to obtain a legal marriage certificate at your chosen destination.  Start the process of obtaining any documentation now, to allow plenty of time for translations or sourcing alternate documents if required.

* Check if any visas or immunisations are required for travel to your destination, and book any appointments or lodge any applications well in advance of your travel dates.

* Research options and styles for your wedding stationery – invitations, program of events, RSVP cards etc.

* If your wedding is taking place in the opposite hemisphere, now is the time to shop for your honeymoon wardrobe.  Your summer will be their winter, and vice versa, so you’ll find the best range of seasonal clothes in your local stores around six months prior.

* Discuss wedding hairstyles with your regular hairdresser – this allows plenty of time to grow your hair or change your colour if you choose to.  Ask their advice on a style that you can do yourself, in the event that you need to.  It always pays to have a backup plan!

* Confirm the local vendors for your at home reception.



* Confirm the design of your wedding stationery and order.  Order 20% additional invitations, place cards etc. to allow for errors and last minute additions.  Also consider ordering your thank you cards now, along with your at home reception invitations, if you are having these printed.

* Research options for items to include in your welcome bags, if you plan to have them.

* Research options for wedding favours, decorations or photo props, if you plan to have them.

* Research options for your gift registry, if you plan to have one.  Note that not all guests will plan to give a tangible gift, feeling that their time and the expense of attending is sufficient.



* Mail Wedding Invitations.  An RSVP date of approximately 4 weeks prior to the wedding day is ideal.

* Check that your Passports are up to date.

* Confirm the style of your wedding rings and order.

* Check your travel arrangements and book any outstanding travel.

* Confirm style of grooms and groomsmen outfits and order.

* Choose shoes, jewellery and hair accessories for your wedding outfit.  Consider a jacket or cape, along with rain or snow boots for a winter wedding.

* Ask your dressmaker for advice on the best method of transporting your gown.

* If you plan to do your own makeup, make an appointment with a cosmetics counter or makeup artist for a makeup trial.  Take a note of any products used and how/where they were applied.  Consider doing this even if you are having your makeup professionally applied at your destination.  Again, it always pays to have a backup plan!

* Research options for local tours or activities at your destination and start to put together a program of events for your guests – remember, don’t over schedule!  A mix of optional organised activities and free time is best.

* Speak to your wedding coordinator or your venue about options for a welcome function for your guests.

* Confirm final selections with any local vendors where required – florals, decor, wedding cake, menu etc.

* Order any items for your welcome bags and check if it is possible to have any items delivered directly to your venue to avoid the need for transportation.

* Order wedding favours, decorations or photo props.  Again, check the possibility of having them delivered directly to your venue.

* Confirm your gift registry, if you plan to have one.  This information can be communicated to guests either via your wedding website, or provided on request.

* Start putting together a play list for your DJ, along with a ‘Do Not Play’ list if you want to.  Consider emailing your guests or adding a page to your wedding website and ask guests to name a song or songs that always gets them on the dance floor.  Add these to your play list.



* Confirm your program of events and communicate this to guests, either via your wedding website, via email or as an insert to go into their welcome bag.

* If your at home reception is soon after you return from your wedding & honeymoon, now is a good time to send your invitations.  Allow approximately 6 weeks to RSVP, as this gives you a few weeks to chase up any outstanding responses before you depart.

* Book any final hair or beautician appointments.



* Check for any outstanding RSVP’s and follow up.

* Make a list of everything that you need to pack.

* Check with family and friends to see if they are able to transport any items for you, such as welcome bags, favours or decorations.  Beware of overloading them however!

* Put together welcome bags and pack them ready for transportation.

* Shop for any last minute items and look to online stores for any clothing or accessories for opposite climates.

* Pre-purchase additional baggage from your airline if required – this is typically much cheaper than paying excess baggage fees at the airport.

* Try on your dress and arrange for any final alterations, if required.

* If you are using a destination photographer (i.e. they are not local, and have travelled to the destination to document your wedding exclusively), provide them with a full program of events and arrange a meeting point at the destination.

* Investigate options for local transfers between the airport and your accommodation and communicate this to guests via your website or email.  Useful information includes which is the fastest, safest, cheapest option and the cost of each.  Arranging transfers for your guests is a nice touch, if your budget allows.



* Confirm final numbers with your wedding venue.

* Put together your seating chart.

* Have your engagement ring cleaned.



* Attend final appointments for hair, facials, waxing, manicure, pedicure etc. early in the week.

* Depending upon the date of your at home reception, confirm final numbers with your venue.

* Print out a full itinerary listing all of your travel arrangements, along with copies of any confirmation emails for flights, accommodation or tours.

* Print out a full listing of all vendors, along with contact details and notes of any balances due to be paid.  Print copies of any contracts.

* Double check that you have originals and copies of ALL required legal documentation.

* Contact your cell phone carrier to discuss disabling data on your smart phone – this can potentially add up to thousands of dollars without you realising it.  If you do require data, pre-purchasing an international data plan is usually a fraction of the cost.  Also, check that you have global roaming activated – this will allow you to send and receive text messages and phone calls while abroad.

* Check the electricity voltage at your destination and ensure that you have the correct adaptor plugs.

* Start packing!



* Unpack your gown and hang it up.  Arrange to have it pressed or steamed if possible.

* Meet with your wedding coordinator to confirm any last minute details, hand over any decorations or favours, view your ceremony and reception venues, and run through your wedding day timetable.

* Confirm any appointments with local officials or consulates to obtain your marriage license, and book transport if required.

* Meet with your Officiant if required.

* Provide welcome bags to your hotel or wedding coordinator, and arrange for them to be left in guests rooms.

* Meet with your hairstylist and makeup artist for a trial with each.

* Meet with your photographer to discuss potential locations, timings and discuss any particular photos you would like to have taken.

* Find your fiancée, sit down, order some cocktails and take a good look around at where you are.  Now relax.  The only thing you have left to do is get married!!


Destination Wedding Welcome Cruise in Santorini by Photographer Michael Renga

Photography by Michael Renga.

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