How to Hire a Destination Wedding Planner

Planning a destination wedding? A local expert can help. In this article, we’ll help you find out how to hire a destination wedding planner!

By Jennifer Prince

How to Hire a Destination Wedding Planner
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

For some, the thought of a destination wedding conjures Mamma Mia lyrics and views of the Greek seaside to mind. For others, their big day looks like an Italian garden party on the Amalfi Coast.

In any case, having a point person in your location is essential. Choosing a local planner will help you in ways you may not have even considered. Here’s how to hire a destination wedding planner to set your faraway big day up for success.

Why Should I Hire a Destination Wedding Planner?

A destination planner is already in your wedding location.

Emails, websites, and Trello scheduling are all helpful; however, having a point of contact at your location is a huge perk. A local wedding planner knows his or her area well, and he or she can field questions and avert problems without skipping a beat. Hiring a professional planner in your destination is critical, especially if you can’t do a site visit beforehand.

They’ve got a vendor for that.

Experienced planners should have a curated vendor list. Not only are the pros in his or her little black book vetted, but chances are that they all work well together, too. Your destination wedding planner can recommend wedding venues, florists, and offbeat local vendors—such as a flamethrower or live artist.

You can’t put a price on peace of mind.

Trying to secure wedding vendors and tour venues over the web or Zoom—aren’t we all burnt out on that yet?—can prove daunting. Also, what will your backup plan be if a colossal snowstorm or hurricane is headed towards the area on your big day? Communicating with your planner throughout the planning process and having him or her take care of the schedule, implementation, and last-minute changes significantly alleviates stress.

They can help eliminate faux pas.

As an area expert, a vetted wedding coordinator will be able to brief you on any unique laws or protocols. In some countries, churches and venues have strict dress codes, such as requiring a head covering for females.

They will also be able to help secure an appropriate officiant—religious or not—for your ceremony. Destination wedding planners also know where, how, and when to secure a marriage license for a couple. After all, being legally wed is an important detail that you don’t want to forget.

Have someone else keep tabs on your destination wedding budget.

If you go a la carte with your wedding vendors and serve as your own planner, you may not know what costs to expect. A photographer who charges $5,000 may be a steal in some locations and on the high end in others.

Qualified planners will know what is reasonable and help you stick within your budget. They can also help you prioritize what vendors are important to you and your partner, such as a high-end florist. That way, you can save in some areas and splurge in others, while not going overboard.

A planner can orchestrate the schedule beyond the big day.

Quite often, a destination wedding is a lot more than just a wedding ceremony and reception. Many couples treat their guests to a weekend full of fun, from welcome bags to a farewell brunch. Time together may also include excursions, a rehearsal dinner, and an event with your wedding party. Utilize your planner to help implement all of the other big ideas surrounding your wedding day.

Costs to Consider for a Destination Wedding Planner

Something always worth heavily considering is a vendor’s cost—and how it factors into your wedding budget. Planning services are a wonderful way to keep wedding planning organized and on track each step of the way, but at what cost?

The cost of a wedding planner, let alone a destination wedding planner, depends on multiple variables. This typically includes the package or services requested (full-service wedding planning vs day- or month-of), the size of your guest list, the length of your event (wedding day vs wedding weekend), and your wedding‘s location. That said, you can browse prices and book wedding planners of all types on Zola's vendor platform today.

Extra Fees to Keep in Mind

Pulling off your dream destination wedding, destination planner and all, will incur a few additional expenses, adding to your bottom line. Primarily, your planner‘s travel, lodging, and oftentimes per diem expenses. If you’re planning on booking a destination wedding planner, anticipate covering these costs. For a break down, see below:

  • Travel: This will cover gas expenses (if your planner is within driving distance), rental car fees, plane fare, and/or similar travel fees. If your planner isn’t local to your destination, anticipate paying more for their travel. They may charge per mile or

  • Lodging: This will cover your planner’s hotel stay, AirBnB booking, or similar accommodations. If traveling in, it’s likely that your planner will need to arrive a few days before your wedding to meet and coordinate with your vendors. Anticipate this, plus the duration of your entire wedding celebration (be it a day, weekend, or week).

  • Per Diem: This means “by the day” and refers to a fixed daily “allowance” paid towards your destination planner for the duration of their stay working your wedding. This most often goes towards their food.

Steps to Hiring a Destination Wedding Planner

1. Do your research

We live in the Internet age, which provides a wealth of knowledge. Do a Google search of destination wedding planners in your location, and make a punch list of ones you think will make the cut. Quite often, a planner’s website and social media pages—Facebook and Instagram, specifically—will give you an idea of his or her style. Read testimonials and reviews to see what others have to say, too.

2. See if your venue provides a dedicated wedding planner

Suppose you have your heart set on a specific wedding venue in your perfect destination. In that case, you may be partway to having a fabulous planner. Check with your venue to see if you have dedicated event planning—be it one single point person for your special day or a rotating team of people.

Also, see what services are provided, as many times a site planner only works with venue-specific things. Often, he or she will coordinate locations, lighting, and sound, but you may have to find your own florist, musicians, and photographer. If that’s the case, doubling up by having a planner not associated with the venue can help immensely.

3. All I gotta do is a Zoom, Zoom, Zoom…

Yes, we realize that some of you may not have been around in 1992 to get the Rump Shaker reference. And yes, we did say that we are all tired of online conferencing, but it’s a must in this case. Video meetings are a fabulous way to interview destination wedding planners once you cull down your list. Compatible personalities and positive interactions will go a long way as you work closely together on planning the perfect big day from afar.

4. Lay it all on the table

Be honest with your destination wedding planner about your wedding details. What is your budget? What is your wedding planning timeline? Tell him or her your favorite flowers, must-have music, and what the day of your dreams entails. Let him or her catch the vision to be fully invested and understand what you and your partner envision. The more he or she knows, the better that he or she can help you have a stress-free day.

5. After you hire them, give them your trust

Trust is probably one of the most crucial factors. You’ve done your homework, vetted your planner, and finally signed a contract. He or she will reach out to you with questions, but of course, email him or her if you forgot to include a few details. However, it’s essential to give him or her the freedom to plan, so let him or her know that he or she has your complete confidence.

You and your SO are set on a destination wedding location, but what’s next? Hiring a qualified planner can set you up for success. Having an advocate to help plan the best wedding for you will let you concentrate on other things. That way, you can feel like a guest—and as free as a Dancing Queen—at your fabulous destination wedding.

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