Expert Advice for Planning a Destination Wedding

Martha Stewart Weddings, Special Issue 2011

Smart strategies, travel tactics, and venue suggestions from a planning guru.

David Beahm
Event Planner

Known for
Creating beautiful, personalized ceremonies and receptions around the world

Where to Find Him
David Beahm Destinations;

Is it important for couples to visit their location before the big day?
If you've been before, it's not necessary -- especially if you have a planner. Otherwise, you should go at least once. You need to see and taste everything and get a feel for the customer service. A website won't provide that.

What should couples look for in a planner for an event that requires travel?
Beyond impeccable taste, he or she should know the idiosyncrasies of different countries; each has its own laws. For instance, in most of the United Kingdom, you can't have a wedding outdoors. In Morocco, foreigners can really only have a symbolic -- not legal -- ceremony due to tough requirements.

When should they first meet their planner?
Ideally, a year before your wedding -- prior to having a place in mind, so you can weigh the pros and cons together and answer questions that determine location. How much will relatives want to rough it? Are there many elderly guests? How far are they willing to travel?

Any advice for destination brides who won't be working with a pro?
Cut down your guest list, simplify the details, and try to remain as flexible as possible. When you make decisions from afar, you only have so much control. Also be aware that on the day of the wedding, you're going to be troubleshooting in addition to getting ready. So delegate as much as you can.

Do weddings cost more away from home?
Not necessarily, because they tend to be smaller. It's still important to make a budget and stick to it, though, because airfare and lodging can add up quickly.

What are some common design challenges that you run into?
I am a huge fan of professional lighting, which can really make an event look magical. But it's hard to find it in certain places. And basic decor can pose a problem, too. Many venues have only square tablecloths, which don't go all the way to the floor. I almost always end up taking many items with me.

Isn't it hard to get through customs?
It can be, since everything going in and out, even linens and vases, must be declared. Each country has its own rules -- bringing flowers into Mexico is nearly impossible, for example -- and a good planner will be familiar with them. Never, ever try to sneak anything through. I can't stress that enough. Luggage is regularly searched these days, and it's just not worth the risk. If something important gets confiscated, you'll be out of luck.

New Hot Spot Close to Home

"The West is starting to get really popular," says Beahm. "Couples want to get back to their American roots, and a ranch wedding is a unique way to do that."

To see more of Beahm's venue picks, go to and enter password "Martha."

Beahm's Favorite Places

Consider making it official at one of these dreamy locales.

Peter Island Resort, British Virgin Islands

"What's better than welcoming guests to your own private island in the Caribbean?"


Coworth Park, England

"Though it's just minutes from London, this hotel feels like it's in the middle of the countryside. It's a very posh, royal setting."

Ulusaba, Aouth Africa

"This resort is in the middle of a 160,000- acre game reserve. It's just spectacular."


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