You've chosen the location—now it's time to work on your human resources. Namely, gathering your guests, selecting your vendors, and rallying the troops.
Give Them a Heads-Up
Spread your good news as soon as possible. Ideally, send save-the-dates nine months to a year in advance for a destination affair, especially if guests need to obtain passports or visas. Mail invites a full eight weeks ahead.
That stands for Respond Early, S'Il Vous Plait. To get an idea of the size of your event, request that info on the save-the-dates. "Asking invitees for a 'yes,' 'no,' or even a solid 'maybe' helps tremendously at this stage," says Sasha Souza. If you're having a celebration away and another later once home, let guests know about both, preferably with your save-the-dates, says Light. "That way, they won't feel obligated to come if the journey is too difficult for them."
Build a Wedding Website
Enlist a service such as weddingjojo.com to help guests make travel plans. Some sites even link to Orbitz and GoogleMaps to facilitate this.
Scout It Out
To select your venues and vendors (and enjoy food and cake tastings!), make at least one prewedding trip to your locale. "If you're having a religious ceremony, go to a service. See the officiant in action and make sure her style fits what you want," says Lucy Swift Weber, of Lucy Swift Events in New York City.
Have a (Wo)man on the Ground
When you're getting married in the old country, you may be able to lean on a trusted cousin to handle details that require face-to-face contact. Otherwise, tap a pro to serve as your proxy. Many resorts have on-site weddings planners. Just be sure yours specializes in destination affairs, is fluent in the language, knows the area, and has experience working with nearby vendors.
Go Local When Possible
In some countries, like the Bahamas, you need a permit to commission a foreign vendor if a native can provide the same service. Souza warns, "your hometown photographer could end up in hot water for taking pics without one." Beyond legal issues, locals have open lines for procuring items like food and flowers. If you can easily hire your own people, though, and have specific talent in mind, it may be worth it to fly them in. Just note, many pros don't include their per diem in their quote, so be sure to ask for their day rate and travel requirements.
Visit Vendors Virtually
Step beyond the basic Google search to find experts in the area. "Typing in 'google.co.uk,' for example, will yield geographically specific results," Weber says. Then, look at vendor websites and request references from brides they've worked with. Interview potential candidates via Skype or FaceTime.
Use Visual Aids
Keep your vendors on the same page by creating and sharing an inspiration board of your vision on Pinterest. Next, mail important specifics that shouldn't be left to interpretation. Instead of stating that your color scheme is blue and green, for instance, send Pantone chips or fabric swatches (tip: to come up with a palette, use hues that complement—or exist at—your venue). Schedule group conference calls on Google+ with all vendors to get them collaborating and coordinated. And give your photographer pics of family members so they know whom to capture.
Get It in Writing
Assembled your team? Now have each vendor supply a contract. Pay deposits by card (credit, not debit!) so you can dispute the charges if something goes awry. Also, only hand over the balance once the vendor arrives.