I’m asked about this pretty frequently so I wanted to share my best wedding planning advice. Below are my top tips for planning a destination wedding! By destination wedding, I mean one that is in neither the bride or groom’s hometown. It’s in a location that almost all of your guests have to travel to. Many of these tips can apply to planning a wedding in general. Although, it adds a new level of complexity when you are planning from afar. I shared all about scouting our venue, The Magnolia in Pigeon Forge, TN, & why we chose it in this post.
- DO YOUR RESEARCH
- It is so important to research the location, venue, & other wedding vendors in the area before committing. Since our venue was relatively new, there wasn’t a lot of information available. I looked at the few reviews they had, checked out photos on Instagram, & asked A LOT of questions during our initial tour. Going into that meeting, I had a list of questions. I also did research on local caterers, florists, wedding planners, DJs & musicians, bakeries, & more. I was pleased to find a great selection for the main ones (caterer, florist, rental company, bakery). For the others, we were okay with paying extra to have them travel.
- SEND OUT ‘SAVE THE DATES’ ASAP
- Your guests will need as much notice as possible to plan their trip. Our wedding was during the fall, aka peak season for travel to the Great Smoky Mountains. Therefore, we sent our Save The Dates out 9 months ahead of time. That enabled our guests to start planning their flights, hotels, & time off from work, if needed.
- SCHEDULE AS MANY MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE DURING YOUR VISIT(S)
- We only visited the venue & area twice prior to our wedding, first for our initial tour of the venue, & the second time to meet with the caterer, bakery, & florist. I communicated frequently with all of our vendors over the phone & via email in order to plan as many details as possible that way. We were able to schedule all of the meetings in one weekend, 3 months before the big day. We did food tastings with the caterer, a cake tasting at the bakery, a final meeting with the florist, & a final walk-through of the venue with our wedding planner. After that weekend, I felt like everything was done for the most part & I could start to relax & get excited.
- BUDGET EXTRA FOR VENDORS
- The hope is that you can find the perfect vendors local to your destination venue but that doesn’t always happen. We left room in our budget to account for travel expenses if we needed to have any vendors come from out of town. We ended up hiring a wedding planner, ceremony musicians, DJ, hairstylist, & videographer all from out of town.
- SHARE AS MUCH INFO AS POSSIBLE ON YOUR WEDDING WEBSITE
- Our wedding website was super helpful for sharing the most important information & details of the weekend. You can only include so much on the invitations, so we put everything else on the website. We had a page for travel, including the closest airports & hotels, including the ones where we had blocked off rooms. We had a page detailing the transportation situation because guests couldn’t drive to our venue. The road leading up the mountain was one-way, very steep, not paved, & there was very little parking at the top. Because of this, our venue provided a shuttle service. We had two pick-up locations for the shuttle & it ran back & forth until all of our guests were at the venue. We provided the pick-up addresses & times on our website.
- PLAN EVENTS FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND
- Our entire wedding weekend was full of events. It started with our rehearsal dinner on Thursday night, then a welcome party (cocktails & desserts) on Friday night. Of course the wedding was on Saturday and then a farewell brunch on Sunday. A welcome party before the wedding makes it possible for guests to get to know each other beforehand. We also planned a hike, lunch, shopping, & moonshine tasting during the day on Friday. Those activities gave us plenty of time to spend with out of town guests & allowing our guests to enjoy the area!
- HAND OUT WELCOME BAGS
- One of my favorite things that we did for our wedding was put together welcome bags for our guests. The canvas bags with a personalized logo were super cute. You could use baskets, boxes, plastic or paper bags, or another alternative to fit your budget. We filled them with water bottles, a hangover kit, popcorn, beef jerky, apple butter, moonshine, Pigeon Forge welcome guide, & a weekend itinerary. The hangover kit contained Advil, bandaids, mouthwash, essential oils sniff stick, & Emergen-C. Our guests absolutely loved them & since most of them were staying in cabins or airbnbs, the snacks & drinks came in handy!
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