Tis the season for holiday engagements! Just a few short years ago, I was newly engaged days before Christmas. One of the questions I am asked most frequently is how we went about planning our beach destination wedding. Our ceremony was on July 3, 2014 at Hacienda Encantada in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, just the two of us. We stayed at their sister resort, Marina Fiesta. Cabo was our very first vacation together and the perfect location to say “I do.” It holds a special sentiment, but was also exactly what we were looking for.
At first, I was nervous to plan a wedding in another country, but the planning process was incredibly pain free. I have shared my tips and tricks for planning an easy, breezy beach destination wedding.
Location, Location, Location
Stick with a location you know and trust. You don’t want to put all your dreams into a location you have never been to. Do yourself a favor and make sure your wedding destination is not a college spring break go-to for the dates you selected. Also, check to make sure your resort will be construction-free during your stay.
If you truly have your heart set on a new locale, do your research and make every effort to take a trip before your wedding. If funds allow, treat yourself to an engagement-moon! If you are chosing a new location, check out ratings on Trip Advisor to see what others have to say. Any resort can make their space look fabulous on their own website.
Oh the Weather Outside…
It can be frightful or delightful! Research the weather for your location. Buyer beware when it comes to Groupon or Living Social deals since many places post sales during their rainy seasons. For example, Costa Rica has a monsoon season and many tropical locations experience hurricane season in the less expensive summer months. Make sure the different attractions you were hoping to cross of your bucket list are open and available during your stay.
Is This Legal?
Research all the laws for getting married in the country you decided on. Some things to consider:
- Is the wedding legally recognized in the United States?
- Is a blood test required? (And do you really want to get one in another country where you do not speak the language?)
- Is there a residency requirement prior to saying I do? Many countries require the couple to stay 3-5 business days prior to the wedding. If you can only get a certain amount of time off from work, plan accordingly.
Your Vows & Ceremony
Will your vows be in English or the native language of the country you are marrying in? If you want to write your own vows, understand that some legally binding ceremonies are pre-determined by the country you are marrying in and variations will be a no-go.
Will you chose a symbolic ceremony or a legally binding wedding? Take into account how easy it will or won’t be to get a copy of your marriage license for DMV or other name changing documentation if you choose to marry elsewhere.
Do you need witnesses? If you are dreaming of a romantic one-on-one with your fiance with no guests, you may need to reconsider if you chose a legally binding ceremony. Many countries require 2 witnesses. A symbolic ceremony does not require witnesses as you will be legally married ahead of time.
For these reasons many couples choose to have a legally binding marriage at town hall prior to traveling to help avoid these sticky situations. If you choose to do this, you can include loved ones or just the two of you.
A destination wedding can be a great way to make your wedding an extra special experience while saving tons. Flowers are always fresh and in season. Depending on your location, seafood dinners were just caught and freshly prepared. With all inclusive food and drink packages, you can enjoy a delcious post-wedding filet mignon and champagne without spending any extra. The scenery is naturally gorgeous and doesn’t require a ton of decor.
Negotiating Fees & Services
Believe it or not, many of the fees you are originaly quoted are totally negotiable! Our fabulous wedding planner at Hacienda Encantada was willing to customize our wedding to every little detail we desired. See what room upgrades and add-ons may be available. For example, my mom custom-made my bouquet so I did not need flowers there. We traded the cost of the flowers for a white linen huppa that looked gorgeous in photos. Think about what aspects of packages you need and what wiggle room you have.
Can I Have a Bridal Shower?
Wedding etiquette is ever-changing and it is hard to keep up. This is a touchy subject, so here are some things to consider:
Do you WANT a shower? Many couples chose to live together prior to getting engaged and married. You may not need anything and therefore do not want a shower because you have been building your home for some time already.
Do you need anything? Perhaps you and your fiance just bought your first house, condo, or apartment. You could chose to throw a housewarming party in lieu of a shower (as we did).
This is a very personal preference. Some people are uncomfortable with inviting guests to a shower that are being “left out” of the big day. Feel out your friends and family. If they offer, or ask if it is something you are interested in, be honest. Close friends and family will most likely get you a gift regardless. I definitely suggest creating a registry, mostly to enjoy the benefits of completion discounts and coupons, but also to help guide gifts for those who want to spoil you.
Who to Invite
Deciding who to invite can be a challenge, especially if you are close with your families but are trying to keep it intimate or keep costs down. Many people chose to have a destination wedding to avoid the traditions and costs of a large wedding.
Others do it for intimacy and want the celebration to be just about them and their love for one another. Others just have that jet set mentality and want their wedding to be an experience with loved ones (or alone) in an exciting location. You have to hold true to your vision. This can be difficult when opinions of friends and family come into play. In the end, your loved ones are going to be over the moon happy for you whether they were in attendance or not.
All the Little Details
Decide on your dress, keeping your location in mind. I’ve seen many destination brides open their search to non-bridal gowns too. La Femme, Jovani, and Sherri Hill have gorgeous flowy white gowns for under $500. A long sheer veil blowing in the beach breeze can make for stunning photos, as can a simple orchid placed behind your ear. Imagine long loose waves or a messy braid to go with the laid back feel of the location. You may opt for fresh flowers or you may chose to bring a beach-inspired DIY shell & brooch bouquet. Think about your guy too, and what special little details you can include for him. A starfish boutinierre or customized cufflinks with the map of your wedding location from etsy are inexpensive ways to include him on the fun too.
The Party After the Party
Will you have an after party when you get home? You could go with a formal wedding venue or a backyard bash. Just make sure it is truly what you envision and how you want to celebrate with your new spouse. Take all things into consideration including rentals and catering. These can blow a budget pretty quickly. I personally love theme parties. If you get married in Mexico, a Mexican themed backyard bash complete with mini tacos, guacamole, and ceviche might be the way to go. If you had a beach wedding but always dreamed of a Gatsby-inspired party (but it was too expensive to host a Gatsby wedding), invite guests to come in costume and serve champange with apps.
Lastly, I get asked very frequently if I ever regret not having the big formal Italian wedding with tons of guests. Nope! Not one bit! Our families mean the world to us but we truly enjoyed having this experience to ourselves. We have gorgeous photos and priceless memories just the same.
Did you have a destination wedding? What advice would you give to couples planning abroad?