How to Plan the Best Destination Wedding: Tips from the Travel Experts

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The Modern Travel Agency

Fora

  • Destination Weddings

  • Honeymoons

  • Group Travel

a red Italian villa on a lush seaside hill

Image courtesy of Il Pellicano

Wedding season is upon us. May through September tends to be awash in nuptial celebrations around the world, and destination weddings are only becoming more popular. Jetting off to a new locale — Mexico, Jamaica, Paris, Costa Rica — can make your big day that much more special. But far-flung celebrations also require a greater amount of consideration. 

Below, several of our Fora Advisors, all of whom have extensive experience booking destination weddings for clients, share their advice on making the most of the entire experience — before, during and after your special day.

When you’re ready to start planning your dream destination wedding, connect with one of our featured advisors. They’ll ensure everything runs smoothly, so you can focus on relishing in your nuptial bliss. 

Pre-destination wedding checklist

a red Italian villa on a lush hill

Images courtesy of Hotel Il Pellicano

First things first, consider your guest list & choose a destination

When it comes to planning a destination wedding, you’ll likely want to start at least a year out. The first step is to finalize a guest list. The guests you invite are likely to impact the destination you choose because you’ll want to consider the people who are the most important to attend, and how far they’ll have to travel. 

Depending on whom you intend to invite, consider a destination that is relatively easy — or equally distant — for your guests to get to.  If both spouses’ families are based in the South, for instance, maybe the Dominican Republic or another Caribbean island would be ideal, if they’re looking for something tropical. If they live on the US’s East Coast, France or Italy might not be a bad option.

Fora Advisor Louisa Vann recently facilitated a buy-out of Hotel Il Pellicano, a dreamy hideaway on the Tuscan coast, for a wedding in October 2025. Negotiations started in January of 2024, and were largely informed by exploratory calls she had with the bride’s mother, the wedding planner and the spouses-to-be themselves. (In fact, she had previously planned a trip for the wedding planner, who recommended Louisa to the mother of the bride for organizing the logistics of an international wedding in an unfamiliar location.) Louisa asked them how many people they wanted, if the guests had kids, if there were any guests with mobility needs, what the guests’ ages were. All these details informed the destination and venue decision.

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Advisor - Louisa Vann
ADVISOR
Louisa Vann
expertise
  • US Boutique Luxury,
  • Caribbean,
  • Europe,
  • Africa

“I know the destination and have contacts for all things logistics of the actual traveling to the destination,” Louisa said. “I also have a relationship with the hotel that was bought out so I can get in touch and fine tune the itinerary.”

In addition to Il Pellicano, Louisa and her clients looked at Belmond’s Villa San Michele, in Florence; the brand’s Caruso, on the Amalfi Coast; and Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa, in Ischia. You can’t go wrong with any of these options. But Louisa said that Il Pellicano was especially well suited for her clients because the hotel is rather removed from other properties. Plus, with only 50 rooms, it’s the perfect amount of space for a moderately sized buy-out.

If you’re set on a more hard-to-get-to location, consider making transportation arrangements for your guests.

“It's always deeply appreciated by them when the stress is taken off their hands,” said Fora Advisor Chloe Kletsa, who has always been the go-to wedding researcher and planner for friends and family prior to professionally taking on the role as a travel advisor. Chloe’s background in art directing in film and television has also equipped her with the savviness necessary for coordinating large-scale, location-based projects — and all while staying within budget, or course.

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Advisor - Chloe Kletsa
ADVISOR
Chloe Kletsa
expertise
  • Greece,
  • Italy,
  • Portugal,
  • Off-the-Beaten Path
  • , +2 more

Chloe added that destinations with direct flights are ideal. Although a Greek island wedding is dreamy, for instance, wedding guests will have to spend much of their time off traveling: there’s the flight to Greece, plus several additional hours required for another flight or ferrying to the island. Plus, more isolated locations require a greater amount of logistics. You could be responsible for importing necessities like portable bathrooms and kitchens, or lighting and music equipment, onsite, which can quickly hike up costs. 

Although it’s best to keep your guests in mind when selecting a destination, this is still your wedding. Prioritize what makes sense for you and your partner. Fora Advisor Allison Davis has been planning destination weddings since 2017. Her previous career in the music industry made her an expert at staying organized and effective in a space “driven by good times,” much like the wedding industry. She recommends going off of how you want to feel, and then searching for the destinations that evoke those desired feelings.

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Advisor - Allison Davis
ADVISOR
Allison Davis
expertise
  • NYC,
  • Southeast US,
  • Group Travel,
  • Luxury Travel
  • , +1 more

“Do you want the energy and excitement of a big city? The instant relaxation brought on by sunshine and warm sand? The impact and significance of a historical site? Or, do you have a specific location in mind that holds meaning for you and your partner?” she said.

Fora Advisor Lindsay Vaughn worked as a wedding photographer before joining Fora, and is well acquainted with the intricacies destination weddings entail. She also recommended to go by feel, and then to incorporate limiting factors like budget and guest travel time into your decision.

“Pick your paradise,” she said. “Tropical, rustic, historic, etc….Some couples even visit their top contenders to get a feel for the vibe in person.”

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Advisor - Lindsay Vaughn
ADVISOR
Lindsay Vaughn
expertise
  • Aruba,
  • Europe,
  • Las Vegas,
  • Destination Weddings
  • , +4 more

Keep in mind the legal logistics 

If you’re choosing a foreign destination (Europe, the Bahamas), keep in mind that in some countries, your union may not be officially legal. Fora Advisor Amy Barraclough and Lindsay both said to research marriage requirements beforehand, as some locations also require specific documentation. Consider getting officially married at your local city hall a few weeks before the destination wedding. This also allows you to invite a few special guests and loved ones who may not be able to attend the far-flung ceremony.

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Advisor - Amy Barraclough
ADVISOR
Amy Barraclough
expertise
  • Couples getaways,
  • girls weekends,
  • big city sights with kids

“My last clients did this, and having the legal marriage done before the destination wedding made it possible for this couple to truly enjoy the celebration aspect and ‘be present’ with their guests at their destination,” Amy said.

Find where you and your guests will stay

Once your destination is set, the wedding venue should be nailed down as quickly as possible. Secure room blocks with a hotel or resort about eight to 10 months in advance. This is where it’s especially helpful to enlist a travel advisor. Some hotels have a limited number of weekends available for weddings. An advisor can help you navigate all of these logistics, so you can focus on fun details, like decor, food‌ and florals.

A travel advisor will matchmake you to the best hotel that fits your vibe and budget. They can also organize site inspection itineraries, schedule transfers between vendor appointments and serve as the liaison between the spouses and their guests.

“It takes a good bit of planning just to attend a destination wedding,” Louisa said.

For another option in Italy, Chloe recommends Tuscany’s Borgo Santo Pietro hotel. Hold the ceremony at the nearby ruins of the San Galgano church. The hotel itself has a village-like design, so it's especially conducive to groups and celebrations.

a luxe hotel room with a rustic rock wall and a stone fireplace

Image courtesy of Borgo Santo Pietro

For a Greek oceanfront moment, the new One&Only Aesthesis, on the Athenian Riviera, blends beach, luxury and easy access for guests, caterers and other event staff. The hotel has an authentic white Greek wedding chapel for the ceremony, and numerous beachfront restaurants and bars for the ensuing festivities.

Fora Advisor Amy Shamus loves California’s lush Santa Ynez Valley, and highly recommends Auberge’s Inn at Mattei's Tavern, where guests stay in country-chic rooms or charming cottages. Another favorite destination wedding location is the Thompson Zihuatanejo, perfect for a beach wedding. 

“With 56 guestrooms and being directly on the beach, your group will feel like you've taken over an entire area,” Amy said of the Thompson. 

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Advisor - Amy Shamus
ADVISOR
Amy Shamus
expertise
  • Mexico,
  • California,
  • Luxury Travel and Family Travel

Collaborate with both a travel advisor & wedding planner

Travel advisors often work closely with wedding planning teams to ensure all goes smoothly and that the process is as stress-free as possible. In general, your travel advisor is there to support you with choosing a destination and helping to arrange hotel accommodations, as well as itinerary planning if you want to incorporate immersive experiences. In tandem, the wedding planner handles the other logistics and the intricacies of the wedding ceremony itself. Most of our advisors recommended hiring a wedding planner early on — someone who could provide on-the-ground support when the special day arrives. 

“These planners can be a lifesaver, especially with navigating vendors and logistics in a new location,” Lindsay said.

Allison agreed: “A strong planner will support you in making sure you are checking all of the boxes and pulling together the best possible team for your needs.”

Fora Perks at Hotel Il Pellicano:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel:

  • $90 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenities, breakfast daily & an upgrade whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Caruso, A Belmond Hotel:

  • $90 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenities, breakfast daily & an upgrade whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Borgo Santo Pietro:

  • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at One&Only Aesthesis:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Thompson Zihuatanejo:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, a welcome amenity, breakfast daily, an upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

During the destination wedding

a luxe outdoor pool in a courtyard on a sunny day

Image courtesy of The Inn at Mattei's Tavern

Keep it simple (and avoid overscheduling) so you can be in-the-moment

In essence, a destination wedding is a vacation for both the spouses-to-be and their guests. Amy Shamus said to keep it simple: “Over-scheduling your guests can lead to more headaches.” 

It’s also important, however, to recognize that you can’t — and shouldn’t — please everyone all of the time. 

“Do what makes most sense for your union and marriage,” Amy stressed. “You are not going to make everyone happy, but you and your partner need to be.”

When it comes to destination-wedding planning, don’t try to over-schedule every part of the trip. There are the classics activities — rehearsal dinners et. al. — but don’t be afraid to color outside of the lines. Rules were made to be broken, after all.

Make sure that guests have plenty of time to rest and relax, as well as spend quality time with one another. Opting for a slower-paced itinerary will also allow you to be more in the moment because you’re not over-thinking all of the travel logistics. Enjoy yourself!

It’s easy to get in your head on your wedding day, but trust yourself, and trust your vision. Fora Advisor AnnaMarie Jones had clients who were doubting themselves, but she was there to talk them through it and also made sure nothing got out of hand. 

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Advisor - AnnaMarie Jones
ADVISOR
AnnaMarie Jones
expertise
  • Western US Ski Destinations,
  • Europe,
  • South America,
  • Family Trips
  • , +1 more

“They wanted simple and romantic,” she said. “And they were very pleased on their actual day! I cried happy tears with the news that their wedding was everything they dreamed it would be. That was a moment of pure travel advisor joy!”

After the destination wedding 

an infinity pool and a square hot tub on an elevated terrace in the jungle

Image courtesy of One&Only Mandarina

Go on a honeymoon (or wait) 

Most of our advisors recommend holding off on honeymooning immediately after they say “I do.” Instead, they said to either spend an extra few days in the destination itself, opt for a minimoon in a nearby destination or plan on honeymooning several months later. 

“Your guests have flown to this location to celebrate you and they want to stay after,” Amy Shamus said. 

Her clients typically stay two to three days after the wedding to relax in the destination before heading home. Two of AnnaMarie’s clients recently got married in Aruba and extended their time there by a week to celebrate with friends and family. (AnnaMarie loves the Caribbean’s Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort for the wedding itself.) 

If you still want to explore another location post-ceremony, opt for a minimoon nearby and save the big honeymoon trip for later. (All-inclusive resorts can work especially well here.) Taking some time off in between trips will pay off.

“That way you can be fully refreshed and present for your trip rather than running on two percent,” Allison said of honeymoons

Plus, setting the date for an upcoming trip “keeps the excitement alive” post-wedding, Lindsay said. And when it comes time to honeymoon, use a travel advisor. 

“Spare yourself the hours of research!” Allison stressed. “We have strong networks in many locations, hold sky-high standards for service and know where to find the fun.”

For a luxe jungle experience with the utmost privacy, Amy Shamus loves the One&Only Mandarina, a Mexican hideaway with sustainably minded architecture and local craftsmanship displayed throughout. For those who don’t like long plane rides but are after that “quiet luxury feel,” the cliffside Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California is a brilliant choice. (It also makes a fine stop on a California road trip.) On Lake Lucerne, Chloe especially loves the dreamy Bürgenstock Hotel.

Fora Advisor Tanima Mannan's top honeymoon hotel picks include Passalacqua, a dreamy Italian villa on Lake Como; Auberge’s Mauna Lani, on Hawaiʻi’s Kohala Coast; and the Royal Mansour Marrakech, a sprawling collection of luxe riads commissioned by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

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Advisor - Tanima Mannan
ADVISOR
Tanima Mannan
expertise
  • Europe,
  • New York,
  • Luxury Travel,
  • Food and Culture
  • , +1 more

At the end of the day, your travel advisor is your advocate — for your destination wedding as well as for your honeymoon (or minimoon). Helping to curate such special experiences is a privilege, something advisors do not take lightly. 

“I have grown to know and like my clients, building an emotional connection, and want for them to have the best experience possible. It’s these connections that make you want to go above and beyond,” Chloe said. “There’s a duty that comes with knowing this.”

Fora Perks at Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa & Casino:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, a welcome amenity, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at One&Only Mandarina:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Post Ranch Inn:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Passalacqua:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Mauna Lani:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fora Perks at Royal Mansour Marrakech:

  • $100 food / beverage credit, complimentary roundtrip private airport transfers, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Ready to travel? Connect with one of the featured advisors to plan and book your dream wedding getaway (plus minimoon and honeymoon).

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