5 November 2016

How to plan a Destination Wedding: My Experience

Choosing the destination

First things first! Choose the right destination! Do you have somewhere in mind you have always dreamed of getting married? If it is somewhere that you truly want- then make it happen!
Make sure you have heard the place is known for weddings and that it's a good fit for you.
Whether it's one or two years away or even a few months, it should be an affordable price you can manage.
Pick somewhere that gets you excited thinking about it, where you can imagine tying the knot and having the best day of your life.
Is it on a tropical island on a beach? Perhaps it's in an exciting city in a grand church, or on a vineyard in Tuscany.
Wherever the place, try to pick somewhere that's relatively easy to get to and keep in mind your guests that you wish to come too.

My destination:

For me, I'm not too fussed about the whole wedding thing- I wouldn't mind being married in Las Vegas! For my fiance- his dream destination is in Tuscany (and hey I agree that would have been amazing!).
But if we had of chosen Europe- my family and the majority of our friends would not have been able to make it. We would have been lucky to have more than four guests.
Because we did really want our family there as well as our closest friends- we compromised and chose Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
It's a country we haven't been to (exciting for me), it's on a stunning tropical island that apparently really does look exactly like the pictures, and it's an easy flight from New Zealand (about four hours) where all of our guests are coming from.

We did consider Fiji as well (also in the Pacific Ocean), but we found the prices of Rarotonga to be more comparable to New Zealand, whereas in Fiji prices of things were over-inflated and quite often double. Rarotonga was better value for ourselves and our guests too and it looks just as gorgeous- if not even more so!

We thought Rarotonga would be perfect for us because we aren't having a traditional wedding, rather we want it to be a very relaxed and fun affair for all of our guests and for us as well- we want to actually have an amazing and enjoyable day!
So many people we have heard from say that their wedding day was ghastly expensive, stressful and goes by in the blink of an eye.
That's why we thought going 'Island Styles' and having a casual ceremony on the beach, followed by a relaxed reception under a marquee in the sand with good music, food and drink would fit us perfectly.

Picking the wedding venue

Once you have chosen your destination it's time to get researching on the wedding venue options! It's a great idea to go with ones that already have great reviews and to choose one that comes with a package and a wedding planner.

What we did:

We booked our trip through Flight Centre and they gave us three good recommendations of resorts where you stay and host both the ceremony and reception.
We took those recommendations on board but the most important thing is to do your own research. We spent hours and hours on Trip Advisor going through every place that offered wedding resorts.
In the end it was a hard toss up between two and I honestly think both would have been perfect. The comments were all lovely and had glowing reviews as wedding venues.
We ended up choosing one over the other because of the stunning luxury beachfront suite we would be staying in for one, which looks like an absolute dream!

We chose The Pacific Resort and we are so incredibly happy that we did because organising our wedding with them has been such a breeze.
They have a fabulous weddings coordinator and she is so great at answering any of our questions, incorporating everything we want and she knows exactly how to make our day run smoothly and without a glitch. We've had numerous emails back and forth throughout the year as well as two skype calls and it really has been so simple and stress-free to work with her- she is very good at what she does!
I can't wait to write a review of the resort as a wedding destination as I'm very confident it will be everything we can possibly imagine!

Once the venue and dates have been chosen, book it along with your flights and travel insurance.

This will be the view from our room at The Pacific Resort! *love heart eyes emoji*


Choosing who you wish to come is the next step. Start with Save The Dates and send them out as early as you can. If you want as many guests to be able to make it then the earliest warning and most time to save is ideal (for both parties!).
For ours, I just created my own Save The Date image and sent it in an email to each person to save a bit of money.
We asked for an informal RSVP and a few months later once we knew who was interested in coming we mailed out the formal invitations.
For destination weddings it's always nice to keep it small and personal. For us the ideal amount was no more than 30 of our closest friends and family.
If you wish to invite only a select few, then you just have to be very hard on yourself when sending out the Save The Dates. You don't have to invite every distant relative or co-worker- it's your special day so only invite those who you truly want to be there.

Sort the details with the planner

Next it's time to get working with the wedding planner and sort out all of those details!
This will include:

  • Ceremony time and details
  • Celebrant
  • Marriage license
  • Reception details
  • Food and drink
  • Music and entertainment
  • Cake and flowers

Your wedding planner should be able to provide you with all of the information and choices for the above- all you have to do is choose what you would like!
In our packages with The Pacific Resort most things are included and you can opt into extra things if that tickles your fancy.
For example, we just took the basic ceremony package which includes the celebrant, marriage license and certificate, a perfectly groomed area on the beach with 8 decorated chairs and signing table, floral arrangements, sound system and of course the unlimited services of the professional wedding coordinator.
They have many wonderful extras you can include and a couple we have chosen is having a handmade floral archway to stand under and a string band to play for the ceremony and then into the reception for the first couple of hours.
For our reception package included is a beautifully decorated marquee with fairy lights, floral table decorations and candles, flaming tiki torches, linen and chair covers and a sound system.
With our food and beverage packages we have a personal bar with a bartender as well as all of the food organised and cooked fresh on site.
We don't have to worry about a thing on the day except to enjoy ourselves as it will all be taken care of and the wedding coordinator will be there the whole time as well to help with anything to make the day as perfect as possible.

Organise yourself:

Some things that you will have to organise yourself include:

  • Makeup and hair 
  • Photographer 

(For these two above planners should be able to give you good recommendations).

  • The obvious things like your wedding dress, suits etc.
  • Any extras you might like that gives it a personal touch.
    Maybe you'll want to organise some games, have sky lanterns, extra bride and groom table decorations, a lolly bar or ice cream truck etc.
  • Speeches and any readings
  • Seating plan arrangements and any gift bags
  • Hen and stag activities

Extras, gift bags and hen and stag activities are totally optional, but it's always a nice touch especially as your guests are travelling a long way to be with you for your day, and it's a great way to acknowledge that and thank them.
We wanted a day where we could all get together before the wedding, meet up and have some fun- so we organised a boys and girls activity day.
The boys are going out on a big game fishing trip and will be enjoying a BBQ lunch and a few beers on board. 
The girls are doing an afternoon to sunset cruise on a glass-bottomed boat with drinks and nibbles and some organised games on a sandy island. 
Afterwards, everyone is meeting up together at a chosen place for dinner and drinks and it's a fantastic chance for all the guests to meet prior to the wedding day and for us to all hang out.


I'm yet to test this point out- but not long to go for me now! We fly into Rarotonga on the 20th of November and I have no doubt that everything will be taken care of and we will feel instantly relaxed.
My destination wedding planning experience so far has been better than I imagined and I'm so grateful to The Pacific Resort for that.

Our first full day there is a Monday and we have a morning meeting with the lovely wedding coordinator, where she will show us through the resort and wedding locations and go through all of the fine details and any last minute decisions.
We will also meet with the celebrant during that time and go through how we want our vows to be done.
After that we have an afternoon meeting with our photographer and the rest of our time is free to relax and enjoy ourselves.
On Tuesday I have my hair and makeup consultation and then our organised Hen and Stag activities in the afternoon, and our meet up afterwards for dinner and a few drinks.
Wednesday is a free pamper day for me where I am planning on getting a nice massage and my nails done, and then Thursday the 24th is the big day!

It's less than two weeks until I fly out now so it's all getting very exciting.
I hope you found this post interesting and helpful in any way if you are planning a destination wedding of your own.
Stay tuned for a Rarotonga Travel Diary upon my return, and then a hotel and wedding destination review of The Pacific Resort.
If I have any more tips to add I may do a second more updated post on destination weddings.

Thanks so much for reading and I hope to catch you in my next post!

Pin it! :)
*This post contains images that are not my own.


  1. Wow what a great detailed post! I know a lot of people that have destination weddings (my husband is a wedding DJ/singer), so I'll have to bookmark this to show to them when they start planning. I love the idea of having a destination wedding, but it just wouldn't have worked out for us. But we had an amazing wedding and then we traveled a bunch later on! :) Also - less than two weeks?! It's so close! You sound like you're totally ready for it on the planning side. I hope your wedding and subsequent marriage is everything you want it to be and more!

  2. This is fantastic! I love attending destination weddings and mine was one as well. I think this post will help a lot of people and I love the invitation. So beautiful! I would love to get remarried to my hubby again in Fiji!

  3. Amazing, I am so excited for you. My boyfriend and I are from different countries and so we know our wedding will have to be a destination wedding to make it fair on everyone attending. I always worry that it will be stressful to organise but this has given me so much hope. How much roughly is the wedding costing, if you don't mind me asking? So looking forward to seeing pics and hearing all about it! x

  4. The flight time and price for guests is a huge consideration. Guests at a destination wedding usually turn your wedding into a (mini) vacation so that they can be with you on your special day.

  5. I loved the pictures of the beach. How I wish we could have been married in a place like this...but we are already married now:-).
    Your post has inspired me to renew out wedding vows when we complete 10 years...just the two of us..no guests...no stress...even more fun!

  6. Really good wedding planning tips here. The only things that bothers me about destination weddings is how much you need to plan for in advance, like visas and wedding licenses for your country. Is it a legal cermony and did you have to get a visa?

  7. Sounds exciting! Congratulations. I planned to have my wedding in Santorini to be attended only by first-degree family members. However The Greek Mister didn't approve of that, he said that since it's in Greece - all his family members would want to attend and friends too. Lol.

    This looks phenomenal, I'm sure you're gonna have a great wedding!

  8. Awesome tips! We were going to have a destination in Italy and then changed our minds later on. If this list was available when we were first looking, it would've been SOOO useful!! Great insight!

  9. This is an amazing guide - makes me excited. I generally love to go to places that are honeymoon/wedding material :) Would love to go to Fiji again - didn't like my first time too much!

  10. Omg! How awesome is this! I would love a destination wedding. Pinning this for later


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