Destination Wedding Checklist

Melanie Nashan Photography

Find out what to do when, so you can relax and enjoy. (Melanie Nashan Photography)

There may be a heap of logistical details to wrangle, but this calendar should keep you on track and in control.

Unless you’re marrying in a location you know very well, or where you have built-in help (like a parent), hiring a local wedding coordinator will probably be the smartest money you can spend. And finding a reliable travel agent who will organize air and ground travel for everyone, as well as hotel bookings, will save you untold headaches.

18 to 12 Months Before

  • Decide on a wedding date and destination
  • Alert your VIP guests—immediate family and close friends—of your plans
  • Work out a basic wedding budget
  • Determine number of guests
  • Hire a local wedding coordinator
  • Find a travel agent who will help book all air and ground travel, and make hotel suggestions
  • If you’ll be traveling to a foreign destination, apply for passports or make sure yours are up to date
  • Arrange a preliminary trip to scout venues and vendors

11 Months Before

  • Visit your destination and meet with your coordinator
  • Scout hotels and resorts for the wedding
  • Scout hotel options for guests on different budgets
  • Unless everything will be organized by your hotel, meet with the caterers and florists who will work on the ceremony and reception
  • Meet with local musicians, photographers, and hair/makeup stylists

10 months before

  • Finalize wedding hotel and book a block of room
  • Book a block of rooms in an alternative, lower cost hotel
  • Decide who will be in the bridal party and invite them to participate
  • Send out save-the-dates
  • Put together a wedding website with wedding specifics, travel agent information, and links to accommodations
  • Get quotes from outside vendors and make selections

9 months before

  • If you will be having a legal ceremony, research local marriage requirements
  • Shop for and order your wedding dress
  • Talk to the groom about what he wants to wear

7 months before

  • Choose locations for all pre- and post-wedding events, including excursions, rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch
  • Organize ground transportation between events
  • Decide what the bridal party will wear; if the women are wearing bridesmaids dresses, take them shopping

6 months before

  • If possible, take a follow-up trip to your destination to finalize all plans with hotel and vendors
  • Book all travel arrangements for you and your fiance; check to see if VIP guests have made their arrangements
  • Order the wedding invitations. Include RSVP cards for each event guests are invited to
  • Order other stationery, including wedding signage, table numbers, and place cards
  • Choose an officiant to marry you
  • Order your wedding rings
  • If you’re registering for presents, choose one or two stores

5 months before

  • Proof invitations and other stationery
  • Hire a calligrapher or start addressing invitations yourselves
  • Shop for your accessories, including shapewear, shoes, and jewelry
  • Go for a dress fitting
  • Check in with fiance and bridal party about their wedding clothes

4 months before

  • Write or choose your wedding vows
  • If you’re preparing welcome bags, start putting together the components (anything heavy or bulky should be shipped in advance or purchased at your destination)
  • Start shopping for your wedding weekend wardrobe

3 months before

  • Take one complete wedding invitation and weigh it to figure how much postage you’ll need
  • Mail invitations
  • Have final dress fitting; find out how it will be packed for travel

2 months before

  • Book spa treatments for you and the wedding party
  • Purchase gifts for wedding-party members

6 weeks before

  • Put together your playlist and send to musicians/DJ
  • Write newspaper announcement; have engagement photo taken
  • Call anyone who hasn’t RSVPed and get a final guest count

1 month before

  • Confirm all details with coordinator–itinerary, times, personnel
  • Confirm all details with travel agent–air transportation, ground travel, hotel bookings
  • If making arrangements on your own, confirm details with airlines, ground transportation, hotel,  and all vendors (caterer, florist, musicians, photographer, etc)
  • Send a copy of your vows to the officiant and go over details of the ceremony
  • Prepare readings for anyone who’ll be doing them
  • Write a reception seating chart
  • Pick up your wedding dress

1 week before

  • Pack
  • Make necessary arrangements for pets, home, and mail while you’re away
  • Gather all travel documents
  • Arrange for your transportation to the airport
  • Get any pre-travel beauty and grooming treatments (waxing, facial, hair color, etc) out of the way

4 days before

  • Arrive at your destination at least a couple of days before your guests, to acclimate and relax
  • Meet with coordinator and/or vendors to go over last-minute details
  • Meet with officiant to go over ceremony
  • Have a practice hair and makeups session with stylists
  • Arrange for your dress to be steamed, if necessary. At the very least, hang it on a high door jam or window frame to unwrinkle.

1 to 2 days before

  • Get a manicure, pedicure, or massage
  • Hold the rehearsal
  • Host a welcome reception

Day of the wedding

  • Sleep late
  • Have a blast