Destination Wedding Planning Checklist and Countdown

Planning a destination wedding? Here’s where to start.
destination wedding calendar plan
Our handy checklist breaks down the steps to planning a destination wedding. Shutterstock

So you’ve decided to have a destination wedding. Get excited: gathering with your family and friends in a gorgeous locale is going to be an amazing experience. But, where do you start? We’ve broken down the steps to planning a stress-free destination wedding in our checklist below. Don’t worry — you’ve got this, and the result is going to be worth the effort. Here’s what you need to know to pull off a stellar faraway fete.

Ten Months to a Year Out:

  • Determine your budget. Remember to factor in travel expenses, such as airfare and visa fees.
  • Narrow down a wedding location and a season.
  • Choose a wedding planner.
  • If possible, schedule a scouting trip.
  • Create the guest list.
  • Choose the wedding party.

Eight to Ten Months Out:

  • Select vendors for flowers, photography, transportation, cake and entertainment.
  • Choose an officiant.
  • Buy a gown.
  • Send save-the-dates.
  • Investigate any ethnic customs or cultural traditions you might want to incorporate into your event.
  • Register for gifts or create a honeymoon registry.

Six to Eight Months Out:

  • Research group excursions; plan one per day.
  • Research accommodations for guests and reserve a block of rooms.
  • Select attendant attire.
  • Launch your wedding website.

Four to Six Months Out:

  • Order invitations.
  • Finalize florals, décor, rentals and cake.
  • Launch your wedding website.
  • Renew your passports, apply for visas, and look into destination-specific marriage laws and other entry requirements, like vaccinations.

Two to Four Months Out:

  • Send invitations and a schedule of group events.
  • Plan the welcome party and rehearsal dinner.
  • Finalize menus.
  • Confirm the hair-and-makeup trial and day-of-appointments.
  • Schedule dress fittings.

One Month Out:

  • Write vows.
  • Choose welcome-bag goodies, guest favors and gifts for the wedding party.
  • Create a timeline with your planner.
  • Finalize ceremony programs and other stationery and signs.
  • Nail down the playlist with the DJ.
  • Confirm honeymoon plans and travel itineraries.
  • Ship items in advance to avoid holdups at customs.

On Arrival:

  • Meet with your planner and officiant to review the timeline, event spaces and ceremony.
  • Apply for the marriage license.
  • Arrange for your gown to be steamed.
  • Distribute welcome bags to your guests’ rooms.

The Wedding Day:

  • All done — start your happily ever after in paradise!

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