destination wedding photographer

What to Know Before Choosing a Wedding Destination

Destination weddings are the perfect way to have an unforgettable unique wedding day in a memorable setting. I always talk about the wedding destination as the setting for the love story so it’s not surprising that couples seek gorgeous backdrops. Maybe your dream destination wedding is exploring historic landmarks, a National Park, or endless views of the Caribbean coastline.

Before you go searching for the perfect destination wedding venue, it helps to do some general research on destination weddings as well as detailed research around your chosen destination. This article will walk through what you need to know when planning a destination wedding as well as how to choose that perfect venue.

A destination wedding is a ceremony away from the couple’s hometown and requires their guests to travel. Couples can have many different reasons to plan a destination wedding from showcasing their love of travel to simplifying the guest list. This article will explore destination weddings, including mountain, beach, and adventure destinations. 

Planning a Destination Wedding

Destination weddings provide an escape from the busy lives of a couple. It is an opportunity to start their married lives in a gorgeous destination spot. Your friends and family can have an amazing trip too!

Planning a destination wedding has several essentials such as setting a budget, planning the guest list, evaluating the destination, timing, and travel or wedding insurance. If you’re planning a destination wedding, you’re going to want to be very organized or enlist the help of a wedding planner. Whether your vision is one of those all-inclusive resorts or something off the grid on a far-flung remote island, you’ll want to make sure the wedding planning goes smoothly.

Let’s walk through some steps for planning and selecting destination wedding locations. The goal is to think of everything you need ahead of time so that you don’t end up lost in a destination without the tools to enjoy it. Let’s start how I always start my wedding planning advice, by looking at the goals and priorities of the bride and groom.

Evaluate your reasons and priorities

Whenever I’m talking to someone about wedding planning, I remind them to keep a strong focus on their priorities. It’s important to make sure that at the end of the day, you get married. That’s what the wedding is actually about.

When you remind yourself of the reason you’re throwing a wedding, your reasons for every other decision become much more clear. Take your decision to have a destination wedding. What if I ask you why you want to have a destination wedding?

There isn’t a wrong answer, to make a wedding truly unique the only requirement is that your answer is truly unique. If your dream is a Caribbean destination wedding because you love sea turtles and white sand or if your dream wedding is an entire wedding weekend in Las Vegas, the only thing that matters is that you know why. Once you know your why, it will help you make the rest of the decisions going forward.

Set a budget

But before we can go forward or go to any destination, we need to set a budget. A wedding budget is crucial for any wedding. However, it is especially essential for a destination wedding.

Consider your limit and what you can afford to spend. Also, consider specific costs that might not be included in a local wedding. You might think that a destination wedding will be less expensive because it will result in a smaller guest count but are you factoring in your travel costs and needing to plan everything remotely?

When setting a budget evaluate what you can afford based on who is contributing. It’s time to have those hard conversations about money otherwise your dream destination wedding will turn into a nightmare. Return to your priorities whenever you get tempted to let the budget spiral out of control.

Plan the guest list 

Once you have the budget, you will need to have an idea of the guest list. It is important to be fairly certain of how many people will attend the wedding. You must have in mind the people who you want to attend as well as who will be able to.

Inviting people closest to you is important. If you plan to get married halfway around the world, your guests will need to take more time off of work and spend more money to attend. As you start building your guest list, it will impact further decisions.

For example, many destination wedding venues have guest count limits based on how much space they have for various events such as the wedding ceremony. Knowing the guest list will immediately help you narrow down the final locations. You might also choose destinations based on where the majority of your guests can get a direct flight.

Evaluate the destination 

You may already know the place you have always dreamed about getting married. Before jumping on a plane, stop and consider whether or not it is the right choice. Examples include the weather, travel restrictions, how easy it will be for your guests to get to the destination, and the ages of your guests. 

When searching for the best location for a destination wedding location you’ll want to look at the time of year as well. For example, you probably want to avoid a tropical destination during hurricane season even if the prices look better for the budget. Ask local vendors what the best time of year is in the locations that you are interested in.

If you’ve gotten this far, then hopefully your short list of destinations is within budget and the right choice for your guest list. If your family and friends love adventure then maybe it’s okay for them to take a plane, bus, boat ride, and short hike to make it to your rehearsal dinner. If they can plan a few extra days to enjoy the incredible scenery or nightlife of your chosen destination, then it sounds like a good fit.

The timing 

As I’ve alluded to, the timing is also essential. Travel during the off-season when you can as long as the weather isn’t unrealistic. Off-season will be less expensive than traveling during the peak season but it also might be inconvenient for your guests. You can avoid larger tourist crowds especially if your wedding destination is in a popular spot, but again, be sure to avoid hurricane season in search of white sand beaches.

In Colorado, people think that March might be perfect for a Spring wedding when in fact Spring happens closer to the summer months. In contrast, you can always get married year-round in a place like Southern California. If your goal is a foreign country you’ll want to know what season it is there as well as where your guests are coming from when you set your wedding date.

Depending on your flexibility, you could also consider a weekday wedding when popular places are less crowded, no one says the wedding weekend has to take place on an actual weekend. Of course, you’ll want to go back to your guest list and consider what will work and keep your guests excited about celebrating your love.

Consider travel or wedding insurance 

Are you worried about losing money? There are so many things that can happen outside our control. Buying travel or wedding insurance can give you some peace of mind.

Make sure you read the contracts of every vendor you sign so that you know the costs associated with having to cancel or reschedule your wedding. Some vendors will be flexible with rescheduling your wedding packages especially if you have a valid reason. Other vendors will charge you an additional rescheduling fee.

Destination Wedding Locations

Now that we’ve talked through planning a destination wedding, let’s dive into the best destination weddings and wedding locations. While researching wedding venues is part of your long wedding planning checklist, it can be one of the fun parts. Now is the time to dream.

Picture your Caribbean destination wedding and the white sand beaches and palm trees. Or imagine a Bride and Groom in New York, Paris, San Francisco, or some other romantic city. Where do you picture the setting of your love story?

You can search top destination wedding locations for both biased and unbiased reviews. You’ll want to learn things like how expensive different locations are. Your money might go further in one location than another.

You might find that some of the most popular wedding destinations aren’t as unique and original as you would like them to be. And the top destination wedding venues might have different reasons for being appealing. Do you want a venue that’s known for being efficient and effective at planning weddings, because they’ve done so many or are you looking for a destination wedding location that few people have attempted?

Beach Wedding Destinations

When I think of a beach wedding, I think of a laid-back day with perfect weather and incredible scenery. You can still have an eloquent, formal wedding with tuxedos and a long white dress. A beach wedding might be different on the West Coast than it is in Florida, do you want the natural beauty or exciting night lift?

There’s just something about escaping to a beach that makes people feel relaxed and at peace. If that’s how you want people to feel at your wedding, you might consider a beach wedding. The best location for destination wedding photography is a location that will be meaningful to the bride and groom.

The beach offers many benefits that couples may not have considered. Having a beach wedding can save you money on decor costs, you can have a larger guest list, it is a vacation for your guests, is comfortable, and a beautiful setting.

Save money on decor

Have the wedding of your dreams and save money at the same time! The natural beauty of the beach and ocean will be your decorations. You may want to add a few more touches to make it perfect. You could embellish your wedding ceremony with colorful flowers or a seashell centerpiece. 

Larger guest list 

A large outdoor space can allow for many guests if you are not confined to an indoor ballroom or another indoor space. To have a covered space you could add tents for the reception but you might not need to if the weather is reliable. A private beach wedding venue can provide beautiful locations with little traffic and onlookers. 

Vacation for your guests

A beach wedding is not only a time for you to escape the responsibilities of life, it is also a great opportunity for your guests. It gives them a chance to explore a new place and an excuse to take some time off work. Several guests will take advantage of the location and explore a gorgeous paradise before and after your wedding.

Mountain Wedding Destinations

For some people, a mountain wedding destination is a perfect place to tie the knot. If you’re considering mountain wedding destinations there are many advantages. These include a weekend getaway, unique photo opportunities, a smaller guest list, cost-effectiveness, and supporting local businesses. 

When I think of a mountain wedding I think of that epic look and feel of being surrounded by iconic landscapes. If you want your guests to feel awe on your wedding day, you might consider a mountain wedding.

Weekend getaway

Choosing to have a mountain wedding also gives you a chance to make a small vacation out of it as well. For example, you could rent a property on a river for easy fishing access if that is something you enjoy. You could also rent a place with a hot tub to rest and relax before the big day.

You can even plan to have your honeymoon in the mountains. A lot of mountain wedding venues are situated in cute mountain towns that have a ton to offer out-of-town guests.

Unique photo opportunities 

You can capture amazing mountain photos on your wedding day. No matter where you go, there is a beautiful mountain backdrop. If you are lucky, you may even capture some of the mountain wildlife in your photos.

A mountain wedding will be unforgettable and your photos will be evidence of that. Make sure you take time to soak in the sunrise and sunset. Your photographer or wedding planner can help you plan the perfect wedding itinerary to take advantage of the epic mountains around you.

Smaller guest list

Unlike a beach wedding, a mountain destination might be for a smaller, more intimate guest list. While many mountain wedding venues can accommodate large crowds, some of them have a guest limit because you will likely have to plan for some events taking place indoors. Because weather can be unreliable and temperatures can drop after the sun goes down, most mountain venues have indoor locations.


A mountain destination wedding can be cost-effective if you choose the right venue. Set up a budget within your price range. Depending on what is decided for food, property accommodations, and venue selection, you can still save money.

Because mountain weddings are popular in places like Colorado, you will come across beautiful venues there that are expensive. However, you can also get a big bag for your buck.

Supporting local businesses

Another perk about having a mountain destination wedding is being able to support local businesses in a small town. For example, hire a local wedding coordinator, florist, catering, and accommodations and you’re supporting the local economy. 

Pros and Cons to a Destination Wedding

I’m going to walk through some pros and cons of a destination wedding. You’ll see that each of these topics will depend on the specific bride and groom. What kind of bride and groom are you?

Will you enjoy the relief, adventure, and excitement of a destination wedding? Or will the lack of control stress you out? Will it result in you spending more or less money? Evaluate your response to the questions below to see how it sounds to you.


Destination weddings can either be more or less expensive depending on your location selection. It is generally more expensive for your guests which can limit your guest list. Again that may be a pro or con depending on your stance.

Planning From a Distance

If you plan a destination wedding you will have to rely on local vendors to help with your planning. Often people try to DIY things like decorations and then forget that they have to find a way to get their items to the destination.

Making it Memorable

For many couples, the reason to have a destination wedding is to make it more memorable. Picking an exotic location is bound to be hard to forget. It can also force you and your guests to turn the wedding into a full weekend event making it even more grand


A destination wedding might be more stressful since you are not on sight to deal with the inner workings of the plan. There might be more to coordinate and stress about. At the same time, if you plan a simple destination wedding and rely on local vendors to plan things for you, if might be less stressful than otherwise.

Summary: Destination Weddings

Finally, whether you are eloping or planning the perfect guest list, destination weddings can be an interesting, unique way to tie the knot. Before hopping on a plane, do your research. There are a lot of logistics and things to consider.

If in the end, you decide to make the jump and plan a destination wedding, enjoy your big day for all it is worth! Choosing the right destination wedding location comes down to remembering your why, picturing your dream, and then making decisions to help you put it all together.

As a wedding photographer, you can imagine that I am especially attached to shooting weddings in beautiful destinations. Throughout a decade-plus of photographing weddings, I’ve shot in every location you can imagine from epic to quaint to cheap to rustic. My job is to make memories look beautiful but if I’m being honest, location plays a big part in that!

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Thanks for stopping by the blog for some tips on choosing that destination wedding location. Don’t hesitate to ask us for advice, we often act as tour guides for our couples. Need more planning advice?

free comprehensive e-guide: Prioritize your planning so your wedding is a memorable adventure.

We are Marc and Brenda Bergreen, a husband and wife photography team specializing in mountain wedding photography and other adventures. Capturing people in nature and the mountain lifestyle is a passion that became a dream that became a life. Thanks for stopping by our blog, we’re here to help and we love talking about love.

We offer tips for brides and tips for wedding photographers.

Based in Evergreen, CO we travel throughout the state as Colorado adventure wedding photographers. We also frequently travel to California and other wedding destinations to document love and adventure in a variety of memorable settings. Don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help! Be sure to follow us (weddings instagram & adventures instagram) and/or like us (facebook) to stay tuned.

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