Destination Wedding Do’s and Don’ts

Tie the knot in paradise without getting tangled in nuptial red tape by following these six expert wedding planning tips.

Marrying away from home at a fabulous resort has many advantages. The weddings tend to be much more intimate. You won’t have to create a guest list that includes everyone from your don’t-want-to-but-feel-obligated boss to your great aunt Betty Sue whom you’ve never seen. And, if you have children, you won’t have to worry about their happiness—or unhappiness. What kid wouldn’t love to stay at a hotel with all the trimmings?

But, there are also challenges you’ll need to consider when planning a destination wedding, especially second marriages where kids are part of the equation. Here are six expert do’s and don’ts to follow when planning your wedding:

1.  Involve the children in the ceremony. “Show them that it’s a marriage of the families,” says Carley Roney, editor in chief of “Many couples with children will have some sort of ceremonial tribute to the children, and always have your children at the altar with you—in the midst of the action, not watching with the audience. Consider inviting guests with children, also; kids love the company of other kids, and you won’t feel the pressure to constantly entertain yours if they’re playing with their newfound friends.”

2.  A beach getaway or tropical vacation is usually a safe bet. It's the way to go if you want your kids to have a blast, says Roney. “What kid doesn’t love the beach?” agrees Pat Canole, editor in chief of For the Bride magazine, adding, “To keep everyone happy, be sure the resort or hotel has children's entertainment like swimming classes, nature walks and tours.”

3.  Make sure to factor in the travel time. “If you’re from the East Coast and marry in Hawaii, be aware that you’re subjecting the children to a significant flight, and you don’t want to start off on a whiny note,” says Roney.

4.  Check marriage requirements far in advance. “Many couples don’t realize there may be residency requirements and regulations regarding mandatory papers at many countries and islands,” Roney says. Keep in mind that if you will be marrying in the Caribbean—one of the most popular spots for destination weddings—most places require you to spend at least 24 hours on the island before you apply for a marriage license. Additionally, you often must remain on the island while the application is being processed. “The Caribbean is a best bet for destination weddings because most islands process the legal work in a few days,” says Canole.

Other regulations can include proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouses (if applicable); lengthy residency requirements; return airline tickets; health certificates; publishing banns in local papers; and notice of intended marriage filled out by officiants. Note: The U.S. Virgin Islands have the fewest restrictions and regulations for marrying; there is no residency requirement, and you don’t need a passport. Puerto Rico is equally convenient.

(Editor’s Note: To cut down on the stress, one good resource to learn about a particular destination’s marriage requirements and Caribbean wedding planning is The site also lists various Caribbean Tourist Boards, should you have further questions once you learn about what you need to make your marriage legal.) 

5.  The bride and groom are not expected to pick up expenses for invited guests. “Each guest is expected to pay their own air and hotel expenses,” says Roney. “You aren’t obligated to pay for anyone but yourselves, but you may want to chip in towards some of your guests’ expenses such as breakfast, lunch or one night’s accommodations.”

6.  Make sure to have a nice ‘welcome bag’ featuring items with local flavor. “Your guests have traveled a long time to share your day with you, and this is your way of thanking them right off the bat,” Roney suggests. “Also, make sure you’ve suggested ways and activities for your guests to make the most of their time and vacation. And, don’t add extra incurred costs, such as a mandatory snorkeling excursion, unless you plan on footing the bill.”

Canole adds, “It's a nice idea to provide welcome bags for each guest. You can include a map to the area, a guide to the resort, a specialized itiinerary for an afternoon of sightseeing, bottled water and sunscreen. A special touch is to include a bottle of wine, juices and fruit waiting in the room upon your guests’ arrival.”

Destinations: Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean

Themes: Family Travel

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