How do I plan a destination wedding?

How do I plan a destination wedding?

So, you want to get married on the beach. Step number one is to decide where to have your destination wedding. Of course, I would recommend our beach here on Florida’s Emerald Coast; anywhere between Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach is great for a beach wedding. However, you may want to go to Hawaii or Jamaica. Their beaches are almost as pretty as ours. Ok, you’ve decided on a general location; now you need to get specific and choose an actual locale, such as Destin, Rosemary Beach, or Navarre Beach. If you have never been to the area where you plan to hold the wedding, then you need to do some homework. Ask friends if they’ve been there and if they have recommendations. Go online and look at websites for various locations.

Wedding officiant Cindy Warriner
Wedding at Four Points Sheraton

Now, do you want to stay in a hotel, a condo, or a beach house? That decision may depend on how many people you think will attend your wedding.

A hotel might be good if you expect a lot of people to come, because you can ask for a block of rooms. Also many hotels have onsite wedding assistants, who will help you plan your beach wedding, it will have to be held on the beach behind the hotel. That may be OK, depending on the time of year, but during tourist season, their beach will be very crowded. You can have your reception at the hotel or some other location. If you use a banquet room, most hotels require that you purchase all or most of the food from them. Be sure to ask.

Condos are nice because you’ll have more room, and several people can stay in one condo. Some condo complexes also have a staff person who can help with the wedding, especially in resorts like Sandestin. Some condo complexes have a party room that can be used for the reception. Most resorts like Sandestin, Watercolor, and Tops’l, have nice rooms and outdoor areas that can be used for receptions. Charges for those spaces vary. Again, ask about the costs of reception spaces and food purchase requirements.

For complete freedom of choice and more privacy, rent a beach house. This is often the most economical, too. Many beach houses will sleep 15-20 people, so several families can go in together on the cost. You can either cook your own food for the reception or hire a caterer. You’ll have your own beach space, but since the actual shoreline is considered public, there may still be a few people walking by, but not as many as at a hotel or resort.

Now, that you have decided where to stay. Find out how far in advance you need to make your reservations. If you’re planning a summer or spring break wedding, you need to book your accommodations at least 6 months to a year in advance, depending on how popular your chosen destination is and how many rooms, condos, or beach houses you need to rent and how long you need to rent them.

Bride and groom on destin beach

What’s next? Wedding vendors. The hotel’s or resort’s concierge or wedding assistant can help you with this. In lieu of that, you can hire a wedding planner or wedding service to take care of everything. With a wedding service, you may be limited in your choices. They will provide the flowers, the photographer, the officiant, etc, based on what package you purchase. If you choose to hire your own vendors, you’ll have more freedom of selection, but you’ll need to do a little more leg work. A good method of finding vendors is to use sites like “The Knot” or “Wedding Wire.” Those sites have lists of approved vendors in your selected location. Another way is to choose one vendor (photographer, officiant, florist, DJ, etc), then get vendor recommendations from that person. An experienced vendor will know the other experienced vendors. When you get a list of names, go to their websites and Facebook pages to see examples of their work. Look for their ratings. What have other couples said about them?

Hire your vendors as soon as you know when and where you’re getting married. Keep a list of all your vendors and include phone numbers, email addresses, contact names, and web site addresses. Be sure they have your contact information, too. If you make any changes, such as the date, time, or location, give that information to all your vendors as soon as possible. A couple of weeks before the wedding, be sure to touch base with all of them.

Now, you have a place to stay and have hired all your vendors. What’s next? You need a marriage license. In Florida, you will need to contact the Clerk of Court in the county where you plan to marry. It doesn’t have to be in the same county, but it’s much more convenient. You can apply online a week or two before the wedding, then pick up the license when you arrive in town. Read the requirements on the Clerk of Courts’ site now, though, so you don’t miss some requirement or deadline. Remember that the courthouse is only open on weekdays. Don’t wait until Saturday to pick up the license.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Now you can invite your guests and give them the information about where to stay and directions to the wedding and reception sites. You can even add information about interesting things to do while they’re in town for the wedding – museums, beaches, shopping, restaurants, etc. This is information you have already learned while doing your wedding planning. You can now relax and enjoy your wedding showers.

On your wedding day, you’ll know that everything is in order. All you have to worry about is getting dressed, unless you forgot to pack the wedding gown or tuxedo. You may want to have someone remind you about that before you leave home.

destination wedding in Florida Panhandle

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