Updated: Jul 25, 2020
As promised, here are my destination wedding how-tos to close out my mini-series on destination weddings. Since our wedding in June I have gotten many questions about how to plan a destination wedding. Friends saw and shared our story and have had questions about how we got it all together.
Lucky for all you fiancées in planning mode— I took great notes! I truly feel like we got the most out of our destination wedding as well as our vacation to Playa Del Carmen, México. I loved every moment. So here are my blueprints! Included throughout this post are photos from our trip.
Lindley and Rasmus
Wedding Date: June 1st, 2019
Location: Mahekal Beach Resort,
Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, México
When it comes to a destination wedding, this is where you should spend most of your time and mental energy. Selecting the right country and venue is everything. Take your time considering the cost of flights, climate and culture. You might also look into exchange rates and access to airports. For us, Mexico was a good spot, for most of our guests. Most of our people live in the Southwest and Mexico is a quick flight. I also love Mexico and speaking Spanish and have been myself 10+ times.
I spent a few months collecting quotes on wedding packages in and around the Cancun area. I talked with brides and read lots of blogs. I actually chose my resort, Mahekal Beach Resort, on the recommendation of a good friend, Allyson Coraggio, who had gotten married there a few years prior.
Many people say that destination weddings are cheaper than local ones. And after having mine, I will say the wedding day may have been cheaper, but then factor in travel and vacation and all the extra piña coladas, and I would say it was a wash. We definitely spent more money than I had originally anticipated. We also had a large party, 70 guests is pretty big for destination wedding.
These venues typically charge by head, and for us it was roughly $100 a person. I had always wanted a destination wedding for the experience, so for us it was totally worth it! My wedding was almost $17,000. But my friend Christy had her wedding in Mexico for around $5,000, and she had 25 guests. So consider the number of people in planning.
Who Pays for What?
Traditionally, your guests will be responsible for their hotel rooms, transportation to and from the destination and any activities and meals outside of wedding events. The bride’s family covers the cost of the reception and ceremony while the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal.
We negotiated a special hotel room rate through our resort for our guests, which you can probably expect your resort to do. Obviously, in a modern time, many couples pay for their own weddings, but that is the traditional etiquette if you are curious.
Imagine Your Day
We held our ceremony on the beach and chose “beach formal” attire. Our ceremony was officiated by our friend Mark, and my sister Rachel read scripture before we said our vows. We were all barefoot, and we chose every song throughout. I loved planning out the small details with our wedding coordinator; there was a ton of room to be creative.
Pick a Destination, Package and Planner
Our resort offered many different wedding packages, all varying in price. We chose a middle tier package that included: open bar, the beach chairs and canopy and mic system, flowers and petals, center pieces, food and cake. You can see our cost excel below. It was awesome, all we had to do was choose the menu and say yes or no to a myriad of things.
I was given a local wedding coordinator through Mahekal, Karen, that was on site and with me every step of the way. She was super nice and professional. She ironed out every wrinkle and planned weddings day in and day out so she was on it! I would highly recommend a local wedding planner. You can see that our event with food was close to $10,000 but after photography/video, DJ and flowers it jumped to over $16,000.
Another important question to ask is if there are other events going on at your venue the day-of or weekend-of that you should be aware of. Ask all the questions!
Select a Date
We chose June for a few reasons. Most being that our friends, many still in college, would be off. And also Rasmus’ basketball season would be over. In hindsight, June is a super hot month to be in México! So be sure to check the weather and climate and consider the elements. If you’ve got an outdoor venue be sure to have a backup in the case of rain.
Research Local Marriage Requirements
Sometimes it can be hard to get married legally in other countries. So be sure to do your research. Rasmus and I got married in a Colorado courthouse before we left for México, and the ceremony on the beach was considered symbolic. A good friend of ours, Mark Mastalski, was our officiant and we said our owns vows. I would not have had it any other way.
Send Out Invitations Early
Give your guests enough time to plan and save. A trip outside the country is no easy three-day weekend for most. They will need to get time off, get passports in order and save money. We gave our guests informal notices at about a year. And sent save the dates around nine months out.
Visit the Location and/or Connect with Vendors:
Rasmus and I went into our venue completely blind, and we loved it! We showed up in México and hoped for the best. I planned our whole wedding from my laptop in Colorado/Denmark. However, many people recommend touring the site beforehand. We had a friend get married at the resort before, so we were pretty trusting.
We were offered many different local vendors through our resort, and we connected with them all via phone, Skype or Whatsapp. We secured vendors for extra flowers, hair and makeup, the DJ, and video/photography. Be aware of “island time” many times these vendors can be hard to track down!
Consider Pros and Cons
Pros — imagine a weeklong tropical vacation with your closest friends and family! We got to select our guests and really shape our week. We shared meals everyday with friends and family that we rarely get to see. We got to soak up the sun while drinking margaritas and playing beach ball. I loved getting quality time with our guests, and watching my different worlds collide.
In traditional weddings, many brides complain that they didn’t get to see their guests enough. I feel like Rasmus and I got tons of one-on-one with all of our guests. Meals were provided in our room rates, so we used that time to connect with each of our guests. We had savory pancakes, fresh fruit and juice, fish, as well as traditional Mexican food like chilaquiles, tamales, tostadas, al pastor tacos etc. We arrived five days early, and I would recommend doing the same.
Cons — many of our friends and family could not afford to come. If your friends are young, a lot will not be able to afford it. For destination weddings, only about 50% of people invited end up coming, and if your friends are younger it will likely be less than 50.
Plan Events for a Whole Week
Seriously, we had so much fun. We spent time on the beach and in the infinity pools. We jet skied, fished, toured underwater caves and went snorkeling. We went partying in the bars and found amazing fruit markets. This is part of the fun in destination weddings, make the most of it!
A couple of afterthoughts
We set up a wedding website through The Knot, which is a great way to do RSVPs and keep your guests updated. You can see our website for the next year at lindleyandrasmus.com
After our wedding we spent a week with our immediate family in Mexico, which was an awesome way to close out our travels. We are headed on our honeymoon this summer! If you still have questions feel free to comment below or inbox me.