Destination weddings are a hot trend. In fact, according to Group Travel, they account for 25 percent of all weddings.
Destination weddings appeal to couples for many reasons. Not only can you essentially combine your wedding and honeymoon into one event, depending on whether you bring friends and family along (and how many) you can usually enjoy a more intimate ceremony. That’s not even considering the notion that a destination wedding allows you to tie the knot in a stunning — or unusual — location. A Niagara Falls wedding, for example, has the advantage of a built-in backdrop that’s sure to make for incredible photographs and a memorable ceremony.
In many ways, planning a destination wedding is easier than a traditional ceremony. Many resorts, especially those outside of the U.S., offer full-service wedding packages that cover all the details, meaning that all you need to worry about is showing up. However, even when you have the services of a wedding planner in your destination, you probably want to have at least some control over your nuptials. Not to mention, if you’ve never visited the location before, you could be in for some unexpected and even unpleasant surprises.
That’s why it’s so important to visit your destination wedding location in advance. It may not always be feasible —getting to a far-flung location might prove cost or time prohibitive — but if your desired wedding location is accessible, you should budget in a visit before your wedding date for a few important reasons.
1. You Get to See the Site in Person
If you were getting married locally, you probably wouldn’t book a ceremony or reception site without actually seeing it. So why do the same with a destination? Photos and descriptions on websites don’t always capture everything about the site, and you could be in for a shock when you arrive. One bride, for example, planned a destination wedding in the Caribbean based on the descriptions on a resort website — only to arrive and find that the “private” wedding gazebo was located steps away from the busy pool area. It wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned.
By visiting in advance, you can see exactly what the wedding venue looks like, explore all the alternatives, and get a better idea of what your ceremony might look like. You’ll get peace of mind that your wedding will meet your expectations.
2. You Can Build Relationships
Most couples planning a destination wedding work with a wedding coordinator, either someone affiliated with the specific resort or venue or a local professional. While you can accomplish a lot via phone calls and email, it’s always better to meet someone in person and get to know each other. By meeting in person, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions that you might otherwise forget or not know to ask. In many cases, getting to know the planner well in advance of the wedding also improves the service you’ll receive. Many planners work with dozens of couples at once, but when yours has met you and your more than just a name on a reservation, he or she tends to be more invested and will go the extra mile for you.
3. You Can Scope Out Vendors
If you choose to get married at a resort and opt for an all-inclusive wedding package, you may be limited in terms of your selections for flowers, cake, photography, etc. However, not all resorts have such restrictions, and if you want to choose everything for yourself, visiting the locale in advance allows you to meet with different vendors and make the exact selections you want.
4. Planning for Guests
If you are inviting friends and family to join you at your wedding, an advance visit is a good way to check out hotels, restaurants, and activities so you can plan a perfect trip for them as well. Most of your guests will spend at least three days in town for your wedding, so providing them with information about things to do and see or places to eat — and even planning a few group events — will make the experience enjoyable for everyone. By visiting in advance, you can be confident in your recommendations.
If you can’t make a trip to your wedding location ahead of time, doing your research by talking with other brides who’ve been married there, reading reviews, and staying in close contact with your planner can help ensure a smooth event. However, if you can carve out a bit of your budget for a couple of days for planning, you’re more likely to have the wedding of your dreams.