Four tips for planning a destination wedding

Wedding archway, chairs and flowers are arranged on the sand in preparation for a beach wedding ceremony.

Wedding archway, chairs and flowers are arranged on the sand in preparation for a beach wedding ceremony.  (iStock)

Destination weddings aren't just for second marriages, celebrities and eloping. Many couples are opting for intimate nuptials in exotic, tropical or romantic locations all over the world instead of the traditional hometown ceremony. Once all of the work is done, destination weddings can be less stressful for the bride and groom. Hotels and resorts often offer wedding packages and services, meaning they take care of everything so you can relax and enjoy your mini-getaway with your guests. Many, but not all, couples transition to your honeymoon without leaving the resort. And, with some careful budgeting, it might turn out to be the cheaper option than having a huge wedding at home. Here are four tips for planning the perfect destination wedding:

Think ahead
Give yourself plenty of time. You may not be able to swing your dream wedding in the Caribbean if you only give yourself two months to plan. Popular places book fast, and you don't want to make compromises from the beginning because you were crunched for time. Create your budget and examine your options. Keep in mind that your guest list will probably have to be small. Commit to working hard and being organized. Remember that it is your wedding, so it should end up the way you want it to.

Consult with your bridal party way ahead of time
Once you know how big of a wedding bash you will be throwing, explain your plans and the subsequent costs to those closest to you. If you decide to have a bridal party, keep in mind that not everyone can afford to take off from work and fly to Greece for a few days. Keep everyone in the loop, even if you have yet to decide on or finalize the details. Make sure you lay everything out so there are no relationship-breaking misunderstandings or surprises. Send out your save-the-date cards at least five months in advance to give your guests enough time to make their travel arrangements. Look into group deals for hotel rooms and airline tickets.

Get your paperwork in order

Paris may be the city of love, but complex paperwork and residency requirements, along with the fact that religious ceremonies are not considered valid on their own, mean that France isn't the easiest place to get married. If you get married in another state or country, you will need a local marriage license and may need to enlist the help of an interpreter to contact the local city call for permission. Make sure you have a valid passport and any other necessary certificates. Research the requirements well ahead of time so you can ensure that you are ready to legally exchange vows when the time comes.

Bring or recreate your team

Work with an on-site coordinator, and consider hiring a professional planner. You may not be able to afford to fly out to your location a few months before the wedding to taste the food and see the place, so make your requests as specific as possible. Do make sure you visit the location before you walk down the aisle, even if it is only the day before.

It would be ideal to bring your hairstylist and wedding photographer from back home to your destination wedding. If this is not an option, review the photographer's portfolio before you hire him or her and find someone whose work lines up with your vision. If you are worried about hair and makeup disasters because of a language barrier or cultural differences, bring pictures of the look you want so the stylist can copy it. This may mean getting your hair and makeup done at home and taking those pictures with you, or showing the stylist magazine cutouts for the up-do you want.