When it comes to planning a destination wedding, one of the most crucial decisions every couple has to make is when to travel to their chosen locale. It may seem simple enough, but it can be tricky to time your arrival just right. While you might be inclined to stockpile vacation days for the honeymoon, it's absolutely essential that you give yourself flexibility up front to account for any potential travel delays, meetings with local vendors, to comply with any local government ordinances, and to sort out any last-minute details before guests arrive. The bottom line: When it comes to booking your airfare for your destination wedding, it's important to make sure that time is on your side. "Whether it's an exploding volcano in Iceland or an airline worker strike, traveling to your destination wedding location can sometimes throw you a curve ball," says Johanna Erin Jacobson, owner of Ambientimage Weddings and Events.
So when should you travel? That all depends on where you're going. For weddings in Europe and other far-flung locales, Jacobson recommends departing at least five to seven days before your wedding, which allows for extra time for any travel delays and for you to adjust to the time zone. "The more time you allow, the less stress you'll have," Jacobson notes.
If you've chosen a Caribbean destination, there are rules and regulations you'll need to look into, especially if your ceremony will be a legal one, not just symbolic. "In order for a marriage to be considered legal, oftentimes the couple needs to have been in the country for a set amount of days prior to the wedding," says Laura Sangster, founder of Caribbean Journey. She notes that the number of days, which is often between one and three, is set by the government and that there's no flexibility. For that reason, couples should plan to arrive four or five days in advance; family members, the bridal party, and any other wedding VIPs can usually arrive one to three days ahead of the wedding depending on how much assistance they'll be providing the couple.
As for wedding guests, there's a little more flexibility. "I always suggest that couples map out their schedule of events for the wedding weekend far in advance, usually around the same time they send save-the-dates. This allows for their guests to ensure they arrive at the destination with enough time to enjoy each event," says Sangster. That being said, "don't expect to fly in Thursday afternoon and make it to the cocktail party at 5 p.m."