Do or don't? Know what you're getting into with a destination wedding

Destination weddings can be fairytales come to life. The trick is in the planning.

What are your thoughts on destination weddings? Personally, I think they’re quite nice, so long as the bride and groom don’t pull any guilt trips on their friends and family to attend. It’s a lot more of a commitment than picking up a Williams Sonoma gift card, after all.

One thing I’ve realized from travelling to different wedding hot spots is how on the ball you’ve got to be when booking a wedding far away from home. Here’s a look at what you need to know before deciding whether or not a destination wedding is for you.

What you need to know about destination weddings

Destination weddings aren’t always on the beach.
This one was at Sunshine Village in Banff National Park (Photo credit: JM Studios)

Are destination weddings legal?

Get this, a lot of resorts in sun destinations don’t do the extra leg work (unless you pay extra) to ensure your wedding is legal. Some of the officiants aren’t even government certified.

If you want to register your marriage back in Canada (and you do!) you need to have the proper paperwork from the country in which you were married. Check with your resort on this before you commit. Some countries, like Jamaica, make it easy because it’s a government requirement for the resort to do all that legwork for you.

The other legalities to consider are your guests. Do you have folks attending who have a DUI or some other criminal offence? If so, they may not be allowed in the US. Direct flights to other countries can work,  just be aware there’s still a risk factor if your plane gets diverted (due weather or mechanical issues) and is forced to land in the States.

I recently chatted with two international wedding planners who both had tales of this happening. Some guests were detained and didn’t make it to the wedding. 

jewel grande jamaica

This marvellous sweep of sand is at Jewel Grande, a new resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica (Photo credit: Jewel Grande)

Is the location accessible?

I don’t just mean direct flights, though that is awfully nice. How does your destination treat LGBTQ guests? Then you’ve got to consider the health of your guests attending. Will Grandpa be able to walk from his room to your ceremony location?

Beaches are notoriously hard to push wheelchairs on (read: next to impossible), so consider whether your oceanfront ceremony is feasible for all your guests. See that gazebo in the photo of Jewel Grande above? That’s the kind of thing you want, where you can roll a wheelchair right out to it along paved walkways. 

Now let’s talk money. Is your destination affordable to everyone? I think this is people’s biggest beef with destination weddings – having to shell out so much to attend.

The bridge and groom do get a pretty sweet deal, especially if they choose a resort that offers free weddings with a minimum stay as Sandals Resorts does. The trick is making sure the destination is accessible to all guests so they won’t grumble about attending. 

And if you’re looking to wed in secret, you’ll want to check out these top elopement destinations from around the world.

Can you party all night long?

To me this is the biggest deal breaker for destination weddings. What time does the resort shut down your music? According to the wedding planners I recently met, it doesn’t matter how old a bride is. In her head, she’s still in her 20s and she wants everyone to party until the wee hours.

Trouble is, many resorts cut off the DJ at 10 pm. On the flip side, when you get married at home, some couples still bail relatively early to relieve the babysitter. Maybe there’s no winning that one. 

caribbean wedding gazebo

At Jewel Grande, you can roll wheelchairs out to the gazebo (Photo credit: Jewel Grande)

Health concerns for destination weddings

Zika may not be in the news much, but the threat is still there. If the bride or any of her guests are planning on getting pregnant or are pregnant, you’re going to have to bring out the bug spray to prevent getting bitten by mosquitos. And it’s not just the ladies. Children’s brains are developing too

You also have to ensure your vaccinations are topped up. For sun destinations you’ll probably need all your Hepatitis shots, Tetanus and possibly Typhoid.

You need to get on your vaccinations ASAP because some are out of stock. Currently, it’s hard to get the Yellow Fever and Rabies vaccines. Check out my post on how soon you need to start planning.

A fun option for a destination wedding near Calgary

You can likely imagine skiing or hiking at Sunshine Village, but what about getting married there? It’s a pretty sweet choice for Calgarians, as it’s just far enough away from the city to make it a destination, but you don’t incur all those annoying travel hassles.

wedding couple on chair lift

Can a marriage between a snowboarder and skier work out? Only time will tell! (Photo credit: JM Studios)

Unlike most reception sites, there’s not set package at Sunshine Village. No humming and hawing between choosing beef or a rubber chicken dinner. They’ve done everything from schnitzel to tapas. Unlike many venues, you can bring in your own cake and not get charged that plate/slicing fee.

Weekend weddings often kick off with s’mores and hot chocolate around the outdoor fire pit the night before the ceremony. You’ve got the entire mountain to yourself, and this intimacy feels not dissimilar to a house party.

This mountain location is ideal for guests who can ski, hot tub, snowshoe, toboggan or hit the spa. In summer they can hike around Sunshine Meadows or simply ride the chairlift for the views.

But the biggest bonus of having a wedding at Sunshine is that their wedding co-ordinator (who planned it all with you), stays by your side the entire time. What else could a bridezilla ask for?

wedding in the snow

Who says you can’t go strapless in winter? Loving how cozy Sunshine Village looks in this shot (Photo credit: JM Studios)

Even if you don’t do a destination wedding, you can still have a travel themed wedding based on a trip you recently took – or hope to take. 

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destination wedding

What do you think of destination weddings? Do or don’t?