It’s hard to describe the amount of detail that goes into a wedding. When you mix in the element of traveling to a foreign country, the degree of difficulty goes to a new whole new level. If you’ve ever planned a trip, you know how much arranging has to be done in advance. Even for the most spontaneous traveler, things like flights and accommodation can be stressful and expensive organize. Now add the madness of a wedding and you’ve got an idea into what having a destination wedding is like. As a destination wedding photographer, I’m privileged to have insight into both sides of the planning. I’ve helped brides with everything from deciding on a destination to choosing a venue to arranging the timeline for the day. Here’s some of the same advice I’ve shared with brides that will hopefully aid you in your destination wedding planning.
Selecting a Destination
My favorite aspect of a destination wedding is that the world becomes your oyster. Being able to roll a dream vacation and a wedding into one is a real privilege. As an advocate for travel, I couldn’t recommend a destination wedding more. The challenges of having a destination wedding are far outweighed by the amazing experience it can be. With so many options it’s hard to narrow down exactly where on earth you’d like to have written on your invitation. Here are a handful of suggestions to help give an idea of what you might be looking for.
Although I photograph weddings all over the world, I’m primarily a Mexico destination wedding photographer. Mexico may be growing in popularity but I’d still consider it very underrated for a destination wedding. One advantage of choosing Mexico is for the added level of convenience for your guests. From most cities, a flight into popular Mexican destinations is just as cheap as a cross country domestic flight. If you’re having a winter wedding, your guest list will be RSVPing ‘Yes’ to escape to any number of the gorgeous beach towns in Mexico. For example, Playa Del Carmen doesn’t get colder than 70 degrees even in the middle of winter. Beyond the beaches, Mexico has bustling global cities like Mexico City and vibrant towns like Guanajuato. If you’re considering a Mexico destination wedding, here’s a quick guide for where to get married in Mexico.
Notable locations: Cancun, Tulum, Guanajuato
There’s plenty of reasons why Greece is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world. Beyond being unbelievably beautiful, the culture of hospitality and friendliness makes a foreign country feel right at home. Filled with unique islands to choose from, Greece destination weddings are hard not to get featured in blogs because of how amazing they look. The famous eggshell white of buildings in Santorini perfectly complementing the blue of the Aegean is hard to replicate anywhere else. That Santorini wedding was one of the first times I was hired to be a destination wedding photographer. The bride and I are still friends to this day, and I can’t help but think some of it had to do with the magic of Greece. A Greece destination wedding is a good fit for you if you’d call yourself a romantic, like to explore towns by walking, and you love the sea.
Notable locations: Santorini, Mykonos, Milos
Even if you’re from the US, I wouldn’t cross off Los Angeles as a place to consider tying the knot. LA would be a good choice for Americans because it’s in the United States but still feels like a getaway. Even while living in San Francisco, I felt like I was “getting away” when I attended my friend’s Malibu destination wedding. LA’s got gorgeous beaches for the couples who want a Pacific sunset on their wedding day. It’s full of trendy lofts for the artistic hipster couples. And of course, LA has the poshest venues in the country from Malibu to Beverly Hills. Most couples I’ve shot for would’ve been just as happy if their destination wedding had been in Los Angeles. Check out my favorite locations for elopements in Los Angeles if you’re considering an alternative to a traditional wedding.
Notable Locations: Malibu, Downtown LA, Beverly Hills
How to Choose a Destination Wedding Photographer
Once you’ve selected where you want to have your destination wedding, you’ve got to decide at some point who you should hire to capture it best. There’s a number of factors that go into the final decision but in my time searching for a photographer in addition to what the brides who hired me have told me about why they hired me, I’ve been able to narrow down the primary elements to consider in your process of hiring a destination wedding photographer. For a more nuanced look into what to keep an eye out for, make sure to consider other important factors for what to look for in a destination wedding photographer.
Previous experience is the most important attribute to consider for your destination wedding photographer. A photographer who hasn’t got experience under their belt is almost never more competent than one who does. I can’t tell you how many friends have told me they regret hiring a family friend with minimal experience because they felt obligated, then weren’t happy with the photos. Make sure the person you hire also has recent experience. Wedding photography is like any other skill that atrophies with lack of use. If you have a friend who’s a great photographer but hasn’t shot weddings for years, they may not be the right option. My final note is that experienced photographers do often cost more but are certainly worth it. I’ll take the doctor with more experience every time, and the same goes for a destination wedding photographer!
Wedding photography experience is obviously important for any wedding. For destination weddings, the type of experience needed is twofold. The latter aspect refers to having experience in traveling, which can be just as important. Let’s say a wedding photographer from Utah is ill-prepared for LA traffic and shows up an hour late. They miss you getting ready, putting on your dress, and having a special moment with your mother. Making sure the photographer has shot destination weddings before ensures they’re well-traveled enough to take little things into consideration. The worst story I’ve heard was from a San Francisco bride who hired a photographer from Reno. Not acquainted with the city, he ended up in a dangerous part of town and woke up to his car windows smashed and his camera gear missing.
Friendly & Easygoing
I’ve always said that it’s crucial for there to be a good fit between the couple and the photographer. This is especially important for a destination wedding. For a typical wedding, a bride will spend between4-6 hours with the photographer. The only breaks in contact throughout the entire day are the ceremony, the meal, and a bit of dancing. It’s not going out on a limb to say it’s important to hire a wedding photographer who you’ll enjoy having around for hours on one of the most special days of your life. For destination weddings, I spend time with couples, and their families, before and after the wedding day. To have the feel of a typical distant vendor be awkward and uncomfortable. Do you have to be best friends with your destination wedding photographer? Not necessarily, but they should be friendly and easygoing enough to add positively to the experience.
What to Consider for Guests
The most uncomfortable part of wedding planning is usually centered around the guests. Who to invite, how many should attend, and what to expect from your guests are all just the tip of the iceberg. As a destination wedding photographer, I’ve been a part of many difficult conversations on how to approach this for a destination wedding. It’s not easy but it’s one of the most important parts of a wedding. Here are a handful of tips and considerations for you about your guests when it comes to destination wedding planning.
How Many Guests
The amount of guests you invite primarily centers around what your budget is for the wedding. For a tighter budget, you have to make hard choices about who not to invite. For my wedding, there were 3 rounds of hard cuts to make before we landed on the final guest list. If you’re second-guessing who to invite, a good rule of thumb is whether you’d attend their wedding. The upside is, people don’t expect as many guests for a destination wedding. They’re more intimate than traditional weddings so it’s easier to accept a lack of an invitation. It’s also harder to predict how many guests might attend because of the travel commitment so keep that in mind when creating your list.
Convenience of Location
With any wedding, there are going to be guests you invite who don’t live in the place you’re getting married. Having a percentage of guests that fly in from out of town is impossible to avoid. The nature of a destination wedding is that everybody is coming in from out of town. This is why you should consider keeping a convenient location on the list of options. Imposing a trip on guests isn’t the easiest to ask, especially when attending your wedding comes at a hefty cost. If most of your guests are in Northern California, a wedding in Hawaii isn’t too big of a challenge to get to. Alaska Airlines has reasonably priced tickets from Oakland and SF, so you can expect a higher rate of attendance. If the same couple got married in Thailand, the size of their wedding would be much smaller.
Expectations For Couples
As the couple, there are a few things you should be prepared for when having a destination wedding. Be ready for less generous wedding gifts, or even no gifts from certain guests because of travel. Based on economic status, level of busyness, or family situation, not every guest will be able to come. This applies for traditional weddings but there’s an elevated financial commitment with a destination wedding. As a result, the percentage of guests checking “yes” on their RSVPs is a bit lower. On the other hand, you’ll also have more quality time to spend with each guest! A traditional wedding is usually a whirlwind but a destination wedding allows for a slower pace and more enjoyment.
Destination Wedding Photographer – Final Thoughts
I only scratched the surface on everything that goes into a destination wedding. For example, I mentioned 3 destinations but there’s so many more gaining popularity in other countries you ought to consider. Both Asia and South America have incredibly sought-after places for a destination wedding like Bali and Cartagena. Every couple is different, and there’s no one blog that could cover every answer. Ultimately, the best way to get to know your situation is with a conversation. I love to answer questions and give tips to any brides out there in the wedding planning process. If you have questions about anything that wasn’t covered, make sure to reach out. Fill out a form submission or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll usually respond within 24 hours! Hope you found this information valuable and, more importantly, that you’re more prepared for your destination wedding.