So you've decided that a destination wedding is right for you, and you're ready to move forward with plans.
But the biggest question is looming in your mind: how are you supposed to pick a location?
The world's a big place, and there are numerous locations that you could pick for your wedding. So many, in fact, that you're not even sure where to start.
Don't worry -- we've got you covered.
Use this list of questions to start narrowing down your options for where you're going to tie the knot. Most of these questions are equally weighted in terms of importance for couples, so it's important you ask yourselves all of them. Overlooking any could result in last-minute hassles you'd rather avoid.
To figure out your destination wedding location, ask yourself these questions...
1. What type of setting have you always dreamed of getting married in?
Let's face it: most brides have dreamed of their ideal wedding well before they were even dating.
For some, this wedding is going to be full of pine trees and snow, and for others it's going to be on that breezy, sea salt-scented beach. Still other brides crave getting married at some of the most popular destination wedding locations.
Make a list of everything you were hoping to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell at your wedding and eliminate all parts of the world that won't be able to provide this for you.
2. What kind of weather/time of year are you hoping for?
Overlooking this question could be... well, pretty horrible.
You may like the idea of having your destination wedding location in South Africa during the fall, but did you know that the weather at that time can actually be hotter than the summer months? (No joke -- it's all because of how far it is from the equator and all that tilt-of-the-Earth science stuff.)
Figure out what your ideal temperatures and time of year are going to be, and narrow your wedding location results to parts of the world that meet your preferences. Also consider how long you want to be engaged -- you may need to shorten or extend this time period to get your perfect destination wedding.
3. What's your budget?
This is pretty darn important to figure out. The cost of destination weddings varies according to location, and can help you eliminate locations that are out of the question.
If you simply can't afford to have a wedding in Ireland, for example, you shouldn't try to push your financial limits to make it happen. After all, the world's a big place and there are plenty of other options available to you.
Decide what you're willing to spend on your destination wedding and pick locations accordingly. Consider locations you absolutely adore and could make work, but don't fool yourself into including destinations out of your price range (you'll only regret the stress it brings).
4. Can you legally get married there?
Some locations are going to require specific documents and proof that you can get married, or will want you to have lived in that area for a while. Do you have the time and means to submit that paperwork or follow the requirements?
A U.S.-based couple, for example, won't have to worry about picking a United States location because it won't necessitate lots of paperwork. But if they're considering getting married in French Polynesia, that country could ask them for legal documents months in advance.
Read up on the requirements of getting married abroad in various countries you've chosen, and make sure you can meet these well in advance of your wedding date.
5. How many people do you want to attend, and how likely are they to come?
It'll be harder for the couple who wants a large celebration to have a destination wedding. It's not impossible, but you might need to choose a location that's more accessible for your guests, like a local U.S.-based destination wedding. This will keep your costs down, too.
If you're hoping for a smaller, more intimate wedding, a destination wedding far away might be just the right choice for you. The longer the trip for most of your guests, the less likely they'll be to show up unless they're dedicated to watching both of you exchange your vows.
But this also means you're going to have to accept the fact that some guests simply won't be able to make it. Relatives with children or who are older, for example, are going to have a harder time finding a way to get to your wedding that's easy and affordable for them.
6. How much work are you willing to put into your location?
Not all destinations have the same luxuries as others, which means you're going to have to decide how much work you want to do.
Look into local event venues and resorts for your current list of narrowed-down location options. How thorough are their all-inclusive packages? Is there anything left out that you're going to have to do yourself?
This "work" also includes the language. If you don't know the native language, are you willing to learn it? Or do you have a way to communicate with locals and vendors who may be included in the wedding planning process ? (This is why a local destination wedding planner can be handy.)
You can always recruit friends and family to help you out, but make sure that's something you're comfortable doing and that you won't end up with more stress because of it.
7. What activities do you want available?
Hoping to hit a few snowy slopes before you say "I do?" That definitely won't be happening in Costa Rica.
Sometimes couples have specific ideas for events and activities they'd like available to themselves and their guests. For example, if you want to throw a pre-wedding barbecue right on the ocean, you'll need to look for locations that are close to beaches and have favorable weather.
If these kinds of gatherings are important to you, make sure you figure out which destinations have those options available to you. Eliminate any that aren't up to snuff.
8. Do you want the honeymoon and wedding to be in the same place?
A lot of couples will choose a destination wedding venue and location based on whether or not they want to honeymoon there afterwards.
Taking this route will help you cut down on expenses, as you're likely to receive a better deal on your all-inclusive package with your chosen event or resort. You'll avoid more plane ticket costs, too.
So besides just asking yourself where you'd always hoped you'd get married, ask yourself where you'd hoped you'd honeymoon!
These questions should get you well on your way to finding a destination wedding location that's perfectly suited for your big day.
Once you've narrowed down your choices to 2-4 favorites, check with the U.S. Department of Travel to make sure those areas aren't dangerous places to visit. Then you can make a final choice and start planning the destination wedding of your dreams.
Where in the world are you hoping to get married in? Did any of these questions help you make that decision?