Whether you’re a Louisianan hoping to jet-set off to someplace exotic, or you want to come down to New Orleans for your big day, there’s a lot to consider when planning a destination wedding. Find out some of the common hurdles you may face, and the best ways to overcome them.

By Sarah Spencer

Choosing a destination wedding may be just the right option for you for many reasons. Perhaps you or your fiancé(e) have special ties to a location in another state or another country. Maybe there’s a particular place that you both dearly love, and it just feels befitting to get married there (as is often the case with New Orleans destination weddings). It may be the perfect option for adventurous spirits, or those with a lifelong dream to travel, or those with a desire to get away and simplify. Your wedding might also be a “destination wedding” for your guests if you have already relocated to your destination – which is also frequently the case for weddings in New Orleans.

Choosing the Destination

Couple in Front of Eiffel TowerIf the location is not already more or less predetermined due to some of the factors mentioned above, you might be free to consider the endless possibilities.  Will your destination be near or far?  Will you travel to your guests, or will they travel to you? Or, in the truest sense, will you all be traveling together?

The top three wedding destinations vary depending on who you ask.  Of course, in New Orleans, we consider ourselves at the top of the list! Other popular destinations include Mexico, Bahamas, Hawaii, Jamaica, and Italy.  Clearly, there are endless fantastic places, and certainly one of them is right here. So do a little research and make a choice that is just right for you.

Setting the Date

Once you’ve determined your destination, setting the date can prove more difficult. Wherever you plan to go, be certain to consider the local climate and festivities.  Research what the weather is typically like around your tentative wedding date. If your destination is New Orleans, be sure to check the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau schedule of conventions and festivals first before setting a date.  You might not think this will affect your wedding, but if you need to get around town, book vendors or reserve hotel rooms for your guests, these events can have more of an impact on your wedding than you might think. Decide ahead of time if you’d rather avoid the event or tie it in to your wedding weekend.

Crowds at French Quarter Fest in New Orleans

Crowds at French Quarter Fest in New Orleans. Photo by Vincent & Bella Productions. Some Rights Reserved.

This holds true for distant destination weddings as well. Perhaps traveling during special holidays in your destination country would offer added benefits. Alternatively, if you’d rather have your wedding be the main focus, you may want to plan around holidays, festivals and other special events.  Be sure to research your decision carefully because the same challenges will likely arise with reservations and increased prices.

Planning the Logistics

US Passport next to European Currency

“Passport to Adventure” by Mike; via flickr.com CC 2.0

Getting all your guests to your destination can be the most challenging aspect of planning a destination wedding.  Friends and family may have many reasons why their attendance cannot be guaranteed.  The cost of their travel plans is likely one of their main considerations, much as they want to be there for your big day.  One way to assist your guests is to secure group rates for airline tickets for your guests.  The process varies by airline, so you should research which airlines connect your hometown and destination location.  Some airlines might offer a small discount for a group rate, but sometimes it will only secure a seat for your guests.  Whether you choose to use a group flight will depend largely whether you plan for all your guests to travel jointly to your destination, or whether they are coming from many different points of origin.  This is a good time to call a professional travel agent!  A travel agency, such as local agencies Lagniappe Travel or Harmony Adventures, which can assist all your guests with travel plans, even if they are coming from different locations.

Selecting A Reception Venue

French Tabletop Decor

Tabletop decor at Christina and Julien’s wedding at Bastide Saint Mathieu in the South of France. Photo by Catherine O’Hara.

The most pressing difficulty in planning a destination wedding is that you may have few chances, if any, to scope out potential venues and vendors with your own eyes. Try to plan a scouting trip to line things up well in advance or at least survey a numbers of possibilities.  If that’s not possible, you may have to rely largely on photos and reviews.  These days you can find out most of what you need to know on a vendor’s website. You can also ask potential venues if they offer video tours, or if they can provide a video call so you could see the venue in 3D.

Another factor in selecting your reception venue is its proximity to the ceremony location and guest accommodations.  Finding a hotel reception venue that can also accommodate your guests can make things easy on everyone.  Alternatively, perhaps a reception venue that is within walking distance of your guests’ hotel could create one less burden.  Consider whether you will need group transportation from your guests’ hotel to your wedding venue and reception. If so, look for a local transportation company to rent a mini-bus or other vehicle.  In New Orleans, companies such as Alert Transportation can provide private group transportation on your wedding day to make everything go smoothly and stay on schedule.

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