Destination weddings are often a life-long dream come true. But like any wedding, they take lots of careful planning in order to go off smoothly! If you are asking yourself, “How do I plan a destination wedding?” then today is your lucky day. We sat down with wedding planner extraordinaire Tamara Jones of Tamara J Events and picked her talented brain to bring you the best advice for realizing your own destination wedding dreams.

Ps. She’s helping us plan our very own destination wedding and her magic is what’s getting us through, because this is no easy feat!  Thank you, T!!!

Destination Wedding Planning Vendor List

CJP: So, how do I plan a destination wedding? What are the main differences when compared to regular wedding planning?

Tamara: When planning a destination wedding, several factors need to be considered. Beginning with accessibility. How will guests arrive to the destination? What season is best for the venue/location you’re considering?  Will the ceremony and reception be in the same location? Will you need additional transportation once your guests arrive?

CJP: Do you have any advice on choosing the size of your guest list for a destination wedding or who to invite?

Tamara: Destination weddings are usually more intimate in nature, but some guests will jump at the chance to attend especially if it’s some exotic locale. So the key is to be strategic in who you invite.  Travel plans need to be arranged with a longer lead time and you really should concentrate on guests that will surround you in love, support and friendship.  That second cousin you’ve not seen since third grade probably won’t make the list.

 Wine Country Wedding Reception at Garden Pavilion in Sonoma

CJP: How do you determine an appropriate budget for a destination wedding?

Tamara: Let’s face it, the budget is a big decision and best discussed prior to making any plans.  Having an idea of locations and pricing will help you determine your overall realistic budget and how many guests you can actually invite.  I recommend setting up a separate account or credit card for all wedding related expenses; it make it so much easier to track and manage your budget.

CJP: How much time does one need to plan a destination wedding and why?

Tamara: Planning a destination event can be very time consuming, mainly due to the time difference of your event. I definitely recommend hiring a planner who can help you navigate the wedding waters and help you find the best vendors for your budget. Here’s a printable with a good order to book your vendors in.


Destination Wedding Planning Vendor List

CJP: We’ve seen a lot of day-before events this season. How should you plan the day before the wedding? Sightseeing?

Tamara: A destination wedding is an opportunity to create an experience for you and your guests so whether you plan a group outing or make recommendations for activities that are available to them they will definitely be looking to you for guidance on where to go and what to do. Make sure to balance time with your guests and time for them to explore on their own. Thinking of a welcome event: keep it to low-key with cocktails and apps.

CJP: What about legal issues – passports, marriage license, etc.?

Tamara: Definitely research marriage requirements for your destination wedding.  Some countries have a residency requirement (meaning you need to live there for a certain period of time – Turks & Caicos is 24 hours, England is 7 days and France is 40 days). You may also need to get “legally married” in your home country, aka a civil service.

We put together some info on the marriage license details for marrying out of state or out of country here. If you’re looking to get have a civil service at San Francisco City Hall before or after your destination wedding, here’s all you need to know.

 Wine Country Wedding at Garden Pavilion in Sonoma

CJP: Now a bit about you. What makes your business and what you offer unique?

Tamara: I am fortunate enough to have a business that allows me to be creative and a part of one of the most special days in a couple’s lives.

CJP: What is your favorite thing about your business?

Tamara: I’m inspired by so many elements in the world and I love being able to bring a couple’s personality into their design. The biggest challenge is finding that key element that I can build on – sometimes it’s a custom designed print, or the transformation of space.

My favorite moment of what I do is when everything is done, candles lit, flowers in place and the couple ready to walk down the aisle… that’s when all of the design and planning becomes real and what’s been swirling around in my head comes to fruition… that’s when I can breathe.

CJP: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do for a client? A dream job?

Tamara: Truth be told, I would love to plan and design a wedding in Paris completely from the dress to every element of the ceremony and reception – but with a twist, smack dab in the middle of Fashion Week and the ceremony would take place on the runway.

CJP: When you aren’t working, what might you be found doing?

Tamara: When I’m not working, I love to travel and explore new places or even be a tourist in my own state. Also, I’m the queen of junkin’ (estate sales, thrift stores and garage sales).


Editor’s note: Images in this post are from weddings where Tamara + Chloe worked together – it’s a magical combination!