You have the engagement ring, so what’s next?  With the average cost of a wedding in Canada being $26,000, more and more couples are deciding to get married abroad.  Destination weddings are growing at a fast rate and it is expected that in the coming years, 25% off all couples will get married outside of Canada.  With many Canadians only taking one trip a year, what better way to spend their holiday than visiting a family member or friends wedding on their vacation.  If a destination wedding is in your future, here are some tips that will get you started in the right direction.

1. How Do I Choose a Destination?

First step, find a travel agent.  Yes, I am a little biased being a travel counsellor, however, there are travel agents who specialize in destination weddings and are experts at it.  Your travel agent will meet with you to help you narrow down the endless list of possibilities to get married abroad.  You travel agent will also know which resorts/cruise lines/hotels can accommodate small or large weddings, low or high end budgets, and which wedding package can accommodate your price point.  With the Caribbean being the most popular destination of choice for brides and grooms, it’s not your only choice.  There are so many options available now, that many people are deciding to get married in exotic locations (Australia, Europe, Africa, South America) and combining their wedding with a honeymoon of a lifetime. 

2. How Do I Budget?

The average cost of a destination wedding is $6000.  The reason it’s so inexpensive is that the guests generally pay their own way and there are lots of options for those travelling on a low budget.  Some couples save so much money by getting married abroad that sometimes they end up paying for a portion of their guests expenses.  Your travel agent will help you budget for the right destination that fits your price point.  If you are travelling with a group, there are many group discounts available offered by tour operators and suppliers.

3. How Do I Book the Trip?

Earlier is better.  With destination weddings becoming more and more popular, you need to make sure that the resort/cruise/ or hotel you want is available for the date you are planning to get married.  Once you’ve selected a destination, you need to select a date and then all you need to do is provide your guests with the name of your travel agent and he/she can take care of the rest (flights, accommodations, car rentals, excursions and any pertinent information like travel documents and visas). 

4. Types of Wedding Packages

Depending on where you are staying, some wedding packages are free.  Resorts, cruise lines, and hotels will offer packages depending on the size of your budget.  With your budget in mind, packages will generally include the cost of a wedding coordinator, cake, justice of the peace, champagne, photographer, flowers, transportation, etc.   With destination weddings becoming more and more popular, it’s basically one-stop shopping.  You choose the package, pay for it, and the wedding coordinator/consultants take care of the rest.  It’s stress free planning for a low price.

5. What do I do with My Wedding Dress When Flying?

This is a question that came up when I was planning my own destination wedding.  The airline I was flying with told me to ship my dress ahead of time to my destination via courier or put it in my checked baggage.  Needless to say, I had a good laugh at this response.  DO NOT COURIER YOUR DRESS OR PUT IT IN YOUR CHECKED BAGGAGE!  Most airlines will have a compartment on board where you can hang your dress up (go early and check with the crew to make sure they can accommodate your request—most times they will) or you can lay it flat in the over head compartment in which my case, I did this.  I did not have a destination wedding dress but a custom gown so I had the store where I bought my dress to pack it accordingly and most resorts will have a place to steam your dress once you arrive.

6. Wedding Coordinators – Day of Wedding

Most packages will include a wedding coordinator/s which can be available for you from either the time you arrive at your destination or on the day of your wedding.  Their job is to ensure that everything is in place for you including the arrival of the guests, the food, the beverages, the music, cake, photographer, and any other details that you require.