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5 Tips For Planning A Destination Wedding

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A destination wedding can be one of the most romantic ways to help celebrate a happy couple's new life together. But planning for this very special moment will likely require valuable advice from an expert wedding planner like Sandy Malone. The owner of Sandy Malone Weddings and Events, Sandy is also the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island.".

Sandy Malone (photo courtesy of Sandy Malone)
Sandy Malone (photo courtesy of Sandy Malone)

About Sandy Malone

Sandy Malone is the multi-talented owner of Sandy Malone Weddings and Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, D.C. area. Sandy is also the star of TLC's reality TV show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online now for pre-orders.

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Confirm Your Reservations

"Don't tell anybody outside your immediate family and wedding party about your destination wedding plans until they are certain, and you've signed a contract for a venue. Sometimes, during the research process, you find out that a destination wedding won't work for you for some reason — maybe a VIP guest whose health won't permit them to travel, for example. If you tell people your proposed plans before they become actual, you may run into disappointment if you change plans later. It's not that everybody won't also love your winter wedding in Montana, but it's a bit of a letdown if you've teased them with tropical beaches."

Related: California's Best Luxury Resorts

Geneva, Switzerland (credit: Randy Yagi)
Geneva, Switzerland (credit: Randy Yagi)

Are Passports Required?

"Do all of your guests have passports? If not, you'd better focus your destination selection on something stateside in Puerto Rico or in the US Virgin Islands. Also, be sure to check state department travel advisories for any place you're considering. Not every destination with beautiful beaches and views is safe for tourists. Also, does your destination accommodate any special needs guests you've invited? Can your specific venue accommodate any of your guests with disabilities? Laws are not the same everywhere and you need to ask about your venue's facilities if you require handicapped accessibility. Don't assume anything."

Wedding Reception (credit: Randy Yagi)
Wedding Reception (credit: Randy Yagi)

When To Mail Invitations

"Destination wedding invitations may be mailed out as early as one year prior to the wedding date, and they still only give the invitee six to eight weeks to RSVP. Prior to mailing the invitation, send out a thorough travel information packet with detailed information on the best ways to get to your destination, where to stay when they arrive and a tentative itinerary of activities so that your guests know when they should arrive at your wedding and when they can leave. Lots of guests will turn your wedding weekend into their own vacation on one end or the other. Providing that information helps your guests determine if they can afford to accept your invitation. It will also save you time if you ask them where they're staying, and when they're arriving, on the RSVP cards, at the same time sending the message that accepting the invitation means they're definitely coming."

Cannes, France (credit: Randy Yagi)
Cannes, France (credit: Randy Yagi)

Allow Free Time For Guests

"While you should provide a fun weekend of activities for your guests who have traveled so far to celebrate your big day with you, try not to over-schedule everybody. Your guests will want to explore your destination, too, if you've chosen someplace beautiful and interesting. They may want to arrange their own excursions in their down time, which means they actually need to have some real break time. I over-planned my own wedding 12 years ago, and I made this mistake. While everybody had a blast the day before my wedding with cocktails at a morning wedding rehearsal, sangria at a pig roast beach party, a private tour of a famous bioluminescent bay, and a fun, seated rehearsal dinner that ran 'til very late, my wedding party was hungover and hurting on my wedding day."

Wedding Reception (credit: Randy Yagi)
Wedding Reception (credit: Randy Yagi)

Stay Within Your Budget

"Don't kid yourself about the size of your guest list. Yes, you know your guests best, but if you invite 200 people to the wedding and guess on a budget for 100 guests, you're likely going to find yourself in a budget mess when you run final numbers. In my experience, there's approximately a 20-30 percent decline rate on destination wedding invitations. Unless you know for a fact that you've invited a lot of elderly family who will not travel, or that most of your guests cannot afford the trip, you need to plan on being able to afford to pay for 75 percent of the guests who you invite to attend all of your wedding activities. Because everyone is from out-of-town at a destination wedding, all of your guests are invited to all of the activities. So you must include them in the headcount for your welcome party, rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception, and a farewell brunch, if you choose to host one."

Related: Best Honeymoon Destinations On The East Coast

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on
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