Wedding planning far from home comes with its own challenges. Once you've picked a locale and time frame, start tackling your priority to-dos. And what are those priorities, you ask? To help you ease into the process of organizing a destination wedding, we tapped two industry pros to help us create an easy-to-follow list. Cross these items off one at a time, and you'll be that much closer to being ready for your faraway big day.
Nail down the venue.
It's important to see your top contenders in person, so you'll need to make at least one scouting trip, says planner Laurie Arons of Laurie Arons Special Events, in San Francisco. "When there, ask a venue representative for local vendor recommendations, and meet with some of them in person to get a sense of their fitness for your wedding," she says.
Get the word out.
If major travel is involved, send save-the-dates earlier than usual—ideally nine months to a year in advance. This allows guests ample time to book flights, designate vacation days, and obtain passports.
Secure a planner.
If you can swing it, hire local production help, too. Your planner can assist in fleshing out your vision, and the additional assistance at the destination can handle more minute logistics and sourcing. Only have the budget for one person? Select a venue with an on-site coordinator who's plugged in to the local wedding scene, says Arons.
Do your homework to find other vendors.
To find other big-day vendors beyond those your venue recommends, start by researching other local weddings. "Look at the ones those couples used, and try to tap the same resources," Arons says. You can also through pros' social media accounts to get a feeling for their work.
Go local whenever possible.
You chose your destination for a reason; why not celebrate it with vendors who know the area best? "Incorporating native cuisine throughout the weekend, adding elements of area décor, and having local musicians play traditional music are all nice touches," says planner Jeannette Tavares of Evoke, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Get it in writing.
"Vendors overseas do not rely as heavily on contracts as those in the U.S.," Tavares says. Even so, she suggests getting one signed if you can. The written agreement should spell out all key financial details, such as spending minimums.
Start getting your paperwork together.
This means checking that your passports are up to date and gathering any necessary documents, like birth certificates and, if either or both of you were married previously, divorce or death certificates. It's important to note that marital laws vary by country, so you'll want to read up on any legal steps you need to take ahead of the big day. Some countries have rigorous processes that you're beholden to, even though you're not a citizen. Not sure about your destination's marital code of conduct? Your best bet is to check in with your location's tourism office to make sure you aren't missing any important steps or recent changes in the laws.