Expert Advice: Top Tips for Attending a Destination Wedding

With wedding season officially underway and about one-fifth of couples opting to tie the knot somewhere exotic, it’s likely you’ll soon be invited to a wedding abroad. We’ve interviewed some or our favorite, seasoned bloggers to get the best advice on attending a destination wedding.

We asked them:

  • What is your favorite destination wedding location, and why?
  • What is your top tip for attending a destination wedding?
  • What is the one thing you can’t forget to pack?

Their answers are equal parts helpful and inspiring – so read on to make sure you’re completely prepared. 

And when you’re looking for the perfect place to stay? Search on FlipKey for a vacation rental to suit your needs. Considering booking a rental for your big day? The options are endless for you, too.

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Photo credit: A Jubilee Event

A Jubilee Event

Favorite destination wedding location: We’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients all over the world, but we are partial to the Caribbean as a destination location — especially Barbados! The island of Barbados (see 2600+ Barbados rentals) is nestled in the lower Antilles of the Caribbean and boasts everything you’d want. It has a variety of accommodations from intimate B&B’s to luxury 5 diamond properties to start, which makes guest stays easy. Barbados also has many unique locations for your wedding; from historic rum factories to exquisite restaurants and villas — Barbados has something for everyone. Versatility in a wedding destination is important.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Be realistic with the couple on whether you can afford to attend. If you’re on a budget, seek out ways to creatively save on travel, accommodations and other items surrounding the wedding. If circumstances might change for you and you can’t go, be sure to tell the couple as soon as you’ve made your decision!

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: If you’re in the tropics — don’t forget sunscreen! Seriously, though, so often guests forget to pick this up and by the time they remember — it’s too late. The sun is much stronger the closer to you get to the equator and it only takes a few minutes of rays to leave a nasty sunburn. Also, we recommend wedding guests pack simply for the weekend; you might feel compelled to throw everything in the suitcase, but you’re better off outfit planning and reusing pieces. Pack light and come for the party!

Glamour and Grace

Favorite destination wedding location: I’ve recently fallen in love with Rhode Island (see 200+ Rhode Island rentals). There is so much history in both Newport and Providence, it is a dream destination for lovers of vintage glam right here in the US. The Newport Mansions will take your guests back in time to a place of elaborate elegance and beauty that cannot be matched anywhere else in the country!

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My tip for attending a destination wedding is to make the most of it! Be sure to get a thorough timeline of all the wedding-related activities and then use the rest of your time to explore the destination and really get the most out of the trip. Chances are there are other friends and family going, so team up on extra days at the vacation rental and fun excursions to extend celebrating a loved one’s big day with a trip of a lifetime.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Always pack a swimsuit. It doesn’t matter if you are going to the Arctic, you never know when a swimsuit will come in handy and you don’t want to be the only one left out of the hot tub!

Photo credit: @OfficialCocktailsDetails on Instagram

Cocktails & Details

Favorite destination wedding location: Favorite destination wedding location is Mexico (see 11,000+ rentals in Mexico), hands down. It’s really quick travel from anywhere in the States with few language or money barriers. Whether you choose to say “I do” at a private villa or at an all-inclusive resort, there are so many ways to personalize your event without making it cookie cutter as well as incorporating some of the local culture. We love Cancún, Playa Del Carmen, and Cabo.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Leave gifts and valuables at home. Not only are they a pain for you to travel with, but also for the couple getting married. Budget accordingly and follow instructions.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Pack extra space! Sounds weird, right? But definitely leave room for any gifts you may be given from the couple, the resort or souvenirs that you will want to bring home. This avoids shipping and heavy luggage fees (be sure to weigh your bag on a bathroom scale before you leave!) With the luggage rules wreaking havoc on everyone’s wardrobe, it’s best to pack smart— which also means packing a spare pair of clothes in your carry on. Purchase a portable charger or power bank to avoid having a dying phone throughout the day.

The Inspired Bride

Favorite destination wedding location:  Tagaytay Highlands, Philippines (see 80+ rentals in Tagaytay Highlands)! This place offers not only a beautiful place for a romantic wedding but also in an affordable price range that makes it more amazing! I have never been to Tagaytay but with all the things I have read about it and the reviews, the Highlands is surely on top of the places I consider as a destination wedding location.

For a more “Local Destination Wedding”, I would choose Palm Springs, California (see 1600+ rentals in Palm Springs). The beach, the city, and the gorgeous summer vibe just meet perfectly at this place.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Enjoy the adventure! Know everything you need to know about the destination and carry only the essentials. Every destination has its own culture and novelties so soak it all in. After the wedding, it’s going to be you, the destination and a wonderful memory.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: I wouldn’t go without an “emergency kit. The kit includes:

  • Comb – to make sure every strand is in place
  • Makeup – for touch ups
  • Blotting Paper – to reduce the shine
  • Earring Backs – just a few extras to make sure they stay on
  • Lip Balm – to make sure your lips are moist throughout the day
  • Dental Floss – to get the food stuck between your teeth
  • Nail File – to smooth out your nails
  • Lighter / Matches – a backup to light candles
  • Hand Sanitizer / Wipes – this is more convenient instead of going to the bathroom
  • Scissors – to cut that loose thread
  • Double-sided Tape – to hold up that dress
  • Read more here

New Creations Weddings

Favorite destination wedding location: My favorite destination wedding location has to be Hawaii (see 8000+ rentals in Hawaii). Not just due to the reason that I used to live there and love going back for weddings; but also because no passport is required, it is easy to get to, bugs are at a minimum, there is no language barrier, gorgeous venues and views, and the vendors there care and know how to do weddings well. All of those reasons wrapped into one is why Hawaii is my top pick for destination weddings. It just has so many positives and feels a world away with just a short, easy plane ride.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My top tip for attending a destination wedding is to plan early! Once you receive the invitation, get right on booking your [rental], flight and car if you need one. That way, you know you’re set, and the couple can have you counted in their head count.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: The one thing you can’t forget to pack is your patience. As some couples opt to have destination weddings outside the US, you may have to go through customs, or flights may be rerouted due to bad weather. Plan ahead, and be ready to encounter at least one thing that may not go right. Roll with the punches, don’t let the couple know, relax and enjoy the ride! You’re in a beautiful location ready to celebrate with the happy couple! Enjoy!

Photo credit: Inspired by This

Inspired by This

Favorite destination wedding location: Hawaii! If most of your guests are traveling from the U.S. odds are they would love an excuse to travel to Hawaii and it allows you a jump start on the honeymoon, especially if you’re continuing on to somewhere in Southeast Asia or even staying on the islands.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Make a vacation out of it. If you can, stay a few days. The couple is probably planning plenty of activities to keep guests entertained so you will have plenty to do. Plus, you will enjoy the entire experience more knowing you are able to enjoy your time at the destination once you have already committed to lengthy travel time.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: The gift. We recommend bringing a cash gift and card or mailing the gift to the newlyweds’ residence ahead of time. Also, ensure your outfit (and shoes!) are weather appropriate.

The Budget Savvy Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: I personally love Cabo! It has everything you’d want in a wedding destination from delicious food, wonderful weather, and fun expeditions and nightlife. Plus, you won’t have to fight humidity in the dry heat of the area, so it’s much more comfortable for you and your guests.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My best tips are all about saving money. If you’re looking to save money while attending a destination wedding, make sure to book your travel at the optimal time. 50-60 days before a trip is typically the best time to book your flights.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray. These items are typically way overpriced when sold at airports, so you’re better off bringing them in your bag if you can.

Wedding Chicks

Favorite destination wedding location: Italy (see 100,000+ rentals in Italy) is at the top of our list right now for destination weddings. The landscape, architecture, and food lend themselves to pure and absolute romance. We are lusting over Castello di Miramare as of late. If you want to stay domestic, we can’t get enough of Palm Springs. Palm Springs attracts the most stylish destination weddings from afar as well as right here in Southern California. This city is the epitome of cool and is always busy with pool parties and nightlife along with plenty of culinary delights.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: I highly encourage anyone attending a destination to add a few days on for their own post-wedding adventure. Destination weddings can be more intimate but are always still bustling with activities. It’s so amazing (and exhausting) to connect with the best of friends and family, so a few days to decompress is really valuable after the festivities.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget sunscreen! It’s so simple, but nothing ruins an occasion like a sunburn. I’d also like to plan my outfits so I’m only packing what I need and don’t have to lug around a bunch of things I’m not going to wear.

Photo credit: Belmond Caruso Amalfi Coast

A Practical Wedding

Favorite destination wedding location: Anywhere that’s already on my bucket list because let’s face it, vacation time (and money) does not grow on trees. Regardless of location, the best kind of destination weddings involve a location and activities that enable guests to
meet each other and hang out, as well as opportunities to break away from the group and do their own thing. You want all your favorite people in one place for a reason, and guests want to be there for that, not to take a vacation to a predetermined location that happens to have a wedding on one night. But to really answer the question: Tulum, Morocco, Cartagena, Colombia or the French/Italian/English countryside. The common denominators? Killer villas perfect for bigger groups and poolside hangs, amazing food, and fun stuff to check out during the day.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Do your research. In a perfect world you could just show up and read a welcome packet that’s filled with helpful details that are perfectly tailored to you, but alas, engaged couples are both very busy and human beings, so do your own search in advance for the closest place to get a late-night meal, or a nearby side trip related to your very specific set of interests.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: That elusive pair of shoes that can be worn to the wedding AND during the rest of the trip. And a card and/or gift. Or send it in advance. But don’t waste your precious vacation time trying to hunt down a wedding card.

Photo credit: @apracticalwedding on Instagram

Classic Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: I always adore featuring wedding weekends on Nantucket (see 1000+ Nantucket rentals) because the island epitomizes casual elegance. The perfect locale for a beautiful wedding and to kick back with your family and friends.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My top tip would be to embrace the opportunity and plan a fun vacation around the wedding events, even if it’s only for a weekend. The bride and groom will probably be happy to share their favorite locations, activities, and restaurants which will make planning a breeze on your end.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Dancing shoes and a pair of super comfortable walking shoes!

DIY Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: PUERTO RICO! (See 2000+ Puerto Rico rentals) I absolutely love this destination location because if you have family that can’t travel far or don’t have a passport this is an easy trip. Also, it’s an easy location to turn into an amazing vacation! I planned a 3-day wedding weekend full of activities and relaxation. The Bride, Groom, and guest were in love with the details around that wedding!

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My top tips for attending a destination wedding is pack light, convert your money and research the destination you are going to. You need to know what’s in the vicinity of where you are going and you don’t want to be broke or stuck with large bills…people may rip you off! 

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit (of course this was an easy one) and walking shoes! It’s always good to have an amazing pair of walking shoes if you love to learn and see about culture in different countries. Be a tourist! Take a tour!

Offbeat Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: Las Vegas (see 800+ Las Vegas rentals) is a very popular destination wedding location and for good reason. The photo opportunities are abundant at places like The Neon Museum, Red Rock Canyon, and anywhere on the strip. Plus, an Elvis impersonator officiant is always a hunk’a burning fun.

But one of our favorite trendy destination wedding spots has to be Iceland (see 800+ Iceland rentals) with its scenic views, caves, and waterfalls. We’ve heard amazing stories of picnics in the fjords and encountering Icelandic ponies on the journey.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Make sure to bone up on TSA rules to make your flight easier. Pro tip: TSA Pre-Check is super helpful. We’ve also heard some great rules for shipping your wedding dress including choosing to insure the package.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget to pack your emergency kit. This includes all of your emergency wedding weekend needs like bandages, stain remover, safety pins, and sunscreen.

Photo credit: Luna Moons (on Once Wed)

Once Wed

Favorite destination wedding location: There are so many wonderful locations to choose from for a destination wedding. From an editorial perspective, my favorite destinations are ones that have a sense of intimacy, old world charm, and stunning locations – Europe is just full of this type of location. Since a destination location usually means a smaller group of the people most important to you, a trip to Europe is one that will be enjoyed by all.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My top tip for attending a destination wedding is to pack lightly but thoughtfully. No matter the destination, essential pieces allow you to layer, feel beautiful, mix basic pieces with a couple of special ones, and assure your comfort.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Of course, the one thing you have to remember to pack is a great pair of walking shoes to explore!

Love & Lavender

Favorite destination wedding location: Since my husband and I moved to the Emerald Isle a couple years ago, we have to say that our favorite destination wedding spot is Ireland (see 5000+ Ireland rentals). Not only can you play out your dream fairy tale romance in a castle, but your wedding budget can stretch so much further here in Ireland.

For example, an 8-hour venue only rental in North America can easily reach $8,000 or more. For that price you and your guests can stay a couple of nights at a real castle, host your wedding ceremony, and still have money left over for a grand reception feast with entertainment. Another benefit to getting married in a stunning castle is that you don’t need much in the way of extra decor – the ornate beauty and rustic nature of a castle venue does all the talking.

The weather in Ireland is not always ideal, but what it lacks in hours of sunshine it makes up for in beautiful scenery, stunning vistas, lush green rolling hills, and exceedingly warm Irish hospitality!

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: As a guest attending a destination wedding, my advice is to also make a holiday out of the trip. One of my best girlfriends recently attended her sister’s wedding in India. After a long flight to a country my friend had never visited before, the entire 7-day trip was spent attending pre-scheduled wedding activity fun. Talk about a quick turnaround, with a vacation that probably felt like a chore half the time.

While it is nice to spend time with friends and family at a destination wedding, it is also your vacation time! Don’t be pressured into thinking the wedding is the only thing that matters, or that you aren’t allowed to do your own thing.

My suggestion is to arrive ahead of the wedding to do some traveling, then catch up with the wedding party a couple days before the festivities begin. Or else, tack on alone time a couple days after the wedding and go do what you want. If you know emotions may get in the way, best to keep your extended travel plans on a need-to-know basis.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: One thing you should not forget to pack when attending a destination wedding is the invitation you received. A destination wedding is usually packed with pre-planned activities that are printed on the wedding invitation. Keep in mind that some activities may be for select guests only, and may not be listed on the couples’ wedding website. Best to bring your invite (or take a photo of it on your smartphone) so as not to miss out on any wedding activities!

Photo credit: Persimmon Images

The Broke-Ass Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: I love love love Hawaii. It’s just such a gorgeous, relaxing destination that feels like it’s a million miles away — but you don’t even need a passport or a visa to get there. It’s nearly impossible to not feel chill when you’re on the islands, which really makes for an easy experience leading up to your nuptials. The Big Island is especially wonderful, as there are so many things to do — which is great for guests who don’t want to just lounge by the pool all day. And the coffee is just everything.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: If you can, maximize the experience by turning it into your vacation as well. Show up a day or two before the wedding so that you’re there for the festivities, but stay a few days after to do some sight-seeing on your own, relax and take some time to unplug. That way you don’t have to fret about throwing down some serious skrilla just for a one-day event.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: I always pack my makeup in a clutch or wristlet so I have a smaller, chic purse option for dressy events without having to take up extra space in my luggage. I just empty it out when I get to the rental, put my cards, room key, and other necessities in it and voila!

Intimate Weddings

Favorite destination wedding location: The Southern California desert. We love the fun, modern vibe of Palm Springs and the sublime desert scenery of nearby Joshua Tree National Park. There’s a variety of fantastic wedding venues in Palm Springs, as well as spectacular locations for photo shoots, including Salvation Mountain, Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum, and of course Joshua Tree National Park. Plan to have your wedding sometime in November – April to avoid the extreme desert heat.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Be open to new experiences. A destination wedding might just be the perfect opportunity to break outside of your comfort zone!

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: If you are going to the desert – or any sunny destination, bring sunscreen, lip balm- and a hat!

Photo credit: @abrideonabudget on Instagram

A Bride On A Budget

Favorite destination wedding location: The exact location of a destination wedding is less important than the venue itself. You can have a great or disastrous wedding on an international island or on a domestic beach. There’s no magical destination that will assure a perfect ceremony and reception. What will assure that, though, is the venue the couple chooses.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: My top tip for attending a destination wedding would be to be flexible. There are always potential delays with travel. Maybe it’s traffic on the road or a flight that’s canceled due to weather. You don’t want to miss the wedding because of travel delays, so make sure to plan accordingly. Add an extra day to the beginning of your travel plans, if possible.

Before you get there, be sure to check out the area online and find attractions or excursions that might interest you. The bridal party may be busy with the rehearsal and last minute wedding planning, so you can’t rely on them for entertainment or restaurant recommendations. If you can plan your own activities and turn they trip into a vacation for yourself (and your guest), you’ll have a better time.

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget to pack sunscreen. The wedding is probably somewhere outdoors with lots of sun. Plan for it. This goes for the bride and the attendees. The last thing you want is to have irritated skin. It won’t photograph well either. And the thing about wedding photos is that after the wedding, they’re pretty much all you have. Years later, you don’t have the food or the cake or the playlist. But you do have your wedding photos. You don’t want to be bright red in them because you forgot to throw a bottle of sunscreen in your luggage.

Elegance & Simplicity

Favorite destination wedding location: My favorite destination is the Dominican Republic – I know the language and I used to live there. I have family there and local ties to a florist to make it easier for events in this country.  Ceremonies at private homes and resorts work well as most resorts have fantastic locations for ceremonies on the beach.  You can go rock climbing in the afternoon, and be back in time for a rehearsal dinner with fresh seafood and local produce bursting with Dominican pride and flavors!  Don’t forget the ice cream!  Go for Helados Bon.  Best ice cream in the country and perfect for a late night snack for your guests. La Romana and Punta Cana are the most popular cities for destination weddings in the Dominican Republic.

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Try to go with the suggestions of the bride and groom for accommodations and activities – it is what they want to do and where they want you to be.  It will most likely be easier for them!  Try to pack as lightly as possible and have a backpack for last minute adventures.  Make the wedding like a vacation for yourself and invest in a few more days at the location either before or after – you won’t regret it. 

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: Don’t forget to pack a couple of outfits for each day for weather contingencies.  You will be upset if it’s raining and you don’t have the appropriate clothes!  Als, pack a portable cell phone battery so you don’t have to search for a place to plug in while you are out on your adventures!

The Wedding of Katrina Majkut of TheFeministBride.com at Willowdale Estate, Ipswich, MA. Photo: Randall Garnick Photography

The Feminist Bride

Favorite destination wedding location: I love traveling, so a new destination for me is always great whether it’s a vineyard, historic house, park or new state. For destination weddings, I’ve been marooned on top of a Michigan ski mountain, watched a Bermuda beach wedding get washed away, partied like The Great Gatsby in Newport, RI and tore upfem the shore on the Jersey Shore. Whatever the destination wedding, they’ve all been memorable and fun. 

Top tip for attending a destination wedding: Be self-sufficient. The soon-to-be newlyweds have a lot of their plate, if something is wrong with your stay, the travel or wedding logistics, don’t rely on them to fix the problem. Yes, you’ve probably spent a lot to get there, but as a second wedding present to them, manage it yourself so they can stay in their blissful bubble. The day is about them anyway. 

One thing you shouldn’t forget to pack: The most important items to bring to a destination wedding are a phone charger, comfy shoes, Excedrin and all the proper undergarments for your wedding attire. I had a destination wedding in Cape Cod and forgot 1/2 of my strapless, sticky bra; luckily, there was a Marshall’s across the street from the hotel and I managed to buy a second and affordable outfit 20 minutes before the ceremony started. And to boot, I got tons of compliments that night on my new dress!