Destination Wedding Checklist & Planning Guide
Your guide to planning the perfect destination wedding.
Congratulations! There are few events in life that can compare with the excitement and joy that comes from getting engaged and few tasks more rewarding than planning your wedding, especially when you’ve decided to make it a destination wedding. And by now you’ve also discovered that it can also be a lot of work, especially if you don’t know where to start.
Because the Outer Banks is known as a premier location for destination weddings we’ve heard all the questions and watched how the most successful are organized. It all begins with a checklist to help ensure you take care of everything you need to. Below you’ll find a checklist of the entire process. We’ve also created smaller printable destination wedding checklists for your convenience. The graphic below is clickable and will take you to a larger copy of the image for saving.
Or Download Or Print Our Destination Wedding Checklist
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Copy & Pasteable Destination Wedding Checklist
12 to 18 months
- Determine your budget
- Decide on a location
- Choose a theme and colors for your wedding
- Choose your wedding party
- Estimate the size of your wedding and begin on your guest list, including addresses
- If possible, take an engagement trip to view possible venues in person, ideally at the same time of year you are planning to get married
- Reserve your venue
- Book your officiant
- Speak with locals and your venue host about vendors they would recommend and schedule appointments to choose wedding planner, florist, caterer, DJ or band, photographer, and videographer
- Set up appointments for wedding dress fittings
- Send save-the-dates. This is critical if guests are traveling to your wedding, giving them ample time to secure tickets and accommodations at lower rates.
9 to 12 months
- Select what the bridal party will be wearing
- Reserve your photographer (and videographer if you choose), florist, caterer, DJ/band, and hair and makeup stylists
- Choose accommodations – research vacation homes or hotel room block options for your guests and wedding party. Booking larger vacation rentals for family and friends to share generally provides great value and experience.
- Create your gift registry, making sure to include items across an array of budgets.
- Select a location and determine a budget for your honeymoon
- Build a wedding website with all the key information
- Shop for rings
6 to 12 months
- Get bridesmaids dresses sized and ordered. Order groomsmen attire.
- Book your honeymoon.
- Meet with the officiant, discussing details about the ceremony order.
- Arrange day-of transportation if necessary
- Start putting together a day-of timeline
- Choose cake style and schedule tastings.
- Reserve chairs, linens, tables, lighting, dance floor, etc. that you may need.
- Obtain any permits determined by local ordinances (ie temporary liquor license)
- Order invitations – ask guests to RSVP a minimum of one month prior to wedding day
3 to 6 months
- Book secondary locations. If you’re planning any group dinners or activities outside of the wedding day, reserve those venues.
- Finalize guest list
- Choose your music, including first dances and “must play” and “do not play” lists
- Select and order cake
- Finalize and order flower arrangements and decor
- If desired, you may want to assemble welcome baskets for out-of-town guests filled with items to help them fully enjoy your chosen destination.
2 to 3 months
- Finalize menu and bar selections with caterer
- Mail invitations (minimum 3 months before your wedding day)
- Order wedding favors
- Choose who will be making toasts
- Schedule your dress fittings
- Confirm all reservations and payments to vendors
- Choose seating arrangement
- Work on vows and ceremony order: readings, programs, music, etc
1 to 2 months
- Communicate with photographer to discuss “must have” shots and locations
- Check all RSVPs and contact those you are unsure of
- Review details with officiant
- Apply for marriage license (up to 60 days prior to wedding day)
- Schedule final fittings for wedding party
- Send wedding day timeline to vendors and confirm times and locations
- Decide on your something old, new, borrowed and blue
- Finalize printed material including menu cards, programs, signage, etc
1 to 4 weeks
- Finalize seating arrangement
- Pick up marriage license
- Confirm honeymoon reservations
- Purchase bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts
- If you have new shoes, break them in before the big day
- Assemble welcome baskets if applicable
- Pick up your dress
- Final confirmation of timeline with vendors
- Choose who will be doing the small tasks on the wedding day and delegate
- Get checks written for vendors (and have tips ready)
- Send final guest list to the caterer
- Pack for your honeymoon
- Prepare an emergency kit with items you may need in a pinch. Hair product, a needle and thread matching the dress and tuxedos, Tylenol, Tide 2 Go, etc.
- Deliver welcome baskets as guest arrive at the destination or have them waiting for them.
- Travel to your destination and get settled in, preferably at least a few days before your wedding to tackle any last-minute issues.
The Day Before
- Attend the rehearsal
- Get a good night’s sleep before the big day
The Big Day
- Try to get up early enough for a relaxed breakfast
- Get wedding rings to the the ring bearer
- The groom should have the officiant fee (what’s this one?)
- Try not to end up on you YouTube fainting compilation.
(this would not be in the graphic – just adding for fun here but we will end it with some nice “have fun” but I can’t think of the words right now)
- Ensure tuxes and all rentals are returned
- Get wedding dress to the cleaners and packaged for proper storage
- Send out thank you cards
- Update your website for the final time with a big thank you and some photos of the day.
- Enjoy your honeymoon!