What to Consider When Planning a Destination Wedding

 An EKS Events-produced wedding at the Mill Reef Club in Antigua. Photography by Lauren & Abby.

For some couples, a fairytale wedding involves a faraway locale, and while the decision to have a destination wedding may be an easy one for the newly engaged, it can require some extra planning. Here, Elizabeth K. Slossberg of EKS Events, a premier Aspen-based wedding and event-planning firm that coordinates events all over the world, shares advice for couples considering tying the knot in a far-flung location. 

Embrace the perks. “A destination wedding is an excellent opportunity to bring people out of their comfort zone and show them something new, and to introduce your family and friends to a place that’s special to you,” Slossberg says. Another bonus: for couples who have a guest list that’s a mile long, a destination wedding can keep things a little more intimate. 

Hire an expert. In addition to having a pro help you through all the decision-making and execute your vision down to the last detail, having an expert on your team who can navigate the ins and outs of permits and who understands the local culture is invaluable. Add in the inevitable unknown variables, which Slossberg says are the most difficult aspects of planning a destination wedding (think: the boat hired to take guests to the island where the festivities are taking place can’t make it), and the benefits of a professional wedding planner are even greater.

Establish a timeline. Slossberg likes to have nine months to one year to plan a destination event. “That being said, we’ve done it in three months, and we’ve done it in two years,” she says. In addition to giving your planner enough time to pull off your dream wedding, you’ll want your guests to have ample time to make arrangements as well. While wedding etiquette dictates that a save-the-date should go out within the year and invitations should go out eight to 10 weeks prior to the occasion, for a destination wedding, Slossberg recommends sending invitations out 12 to 14 weeks before the event to give people plenty of time to book flights. Finally, the couple should plan to visit the destination at least once before the big day; Slossberg prefers two to three visits, but acknowledges that often only one can occur.

No location? No problem. More times than not, couples have an idea of where they want to tie the knot, but Slossberg has had clients come to her and say, “If you could pick any place in the world for 100 people, where would you go?” Some of Slossberg’s favorite locales include Aspen for its variety of activities in both winter and summer, culture, spas, hotels, and dining; Hawaii for its “Aloha spirit”; Greece and Italy for a truly over-the-top, next-level occasion; Napa for the food, wine, and ambiance; and Florida—anywhere from the Keys to Jacksonville—for its resort feel, weather, and accessibility (especially for those on the east coast). Still, Slossberg stresses that it doesn’t matter which her favorites are. “I always ask couples, ‘What means something to you? Or where can we start creating memories for you?’”

Focus on the experience. “I tell clients to just focus on their experience, and what they want the guests to experience. That’s my best advice,” Slossberg says. To ensure guests have a memorable and stress-free weekend, Slossberg encourages her clients to take a step back once the event has been planned and think, “If I were a guest at this wedding, how would that play out?” The goal, she says, is for people to walk away feeling well taken care of, and having enjoyed their surroundings to the fullest. That means providing plenty of information and recommendations for guests on everything from getting to the wedding to what to do and wear while there (Slossberg even developed an app with one of her clients for this very purpose). Another important factor is giving your guests enough free time throughout the weekend to explore, do activities, or just relax.

TSG Tip 198 from Elizabeth K. Slossberg of EKS Events in Aspen, Colorado. EKS Events is featured in The Scout Guide Aspen.