Here's how to make your destination wedding a winner for you and your loved ones:
1. Give plenty of notice.
As soon as you choose a location and date, set up your website and send out save-the-dates. There's really no such as thing as being too early on this, as guests need to plan vacation time, line up housesitters or child care, and start budgeting for the trip. It's especially important to give people a lot of lead time (up to a year in advance) if you're celebrating at a very expensive or far-flung location that requires a big outlay of time or money; if your event involves a holiday weekend when people might have long-standing plans; or if your wedding will occur during the destination's peak season when it might be harder to book transportation and accommodations.
2. Know your audience.
When choosing a location and hotel, think about the people you're inviting and whether they'll enjoy your chosen destination as much as you do. Family members who have barely ventured out of their hometown may not be comfortable in a place where no one speaks English, and a low-maintenance crowd may resent doling out big bucks for a stuffy five-star hotel.
3.Consider guests' finances.
Right now, the dollar is weak compared to many currencies, and soaring gas prices have made flying pricier than it was even six months ago. Consider whether your must-have guests have enough disposable income to manage the cost of the flights, hotel and entertainment. Instead of asking everyone to fly to an exotic locale, you may be able to compromise by choosing a fabulous spot closer to home or putting aside some money from your budget to help a cash-strapped pal.
4. Lock in discounts.
You should be able to secure group rates at your chosen hotel and may even be able to arrange for bargains on airfares if a sizeable group of guests is coming from one destination. Most major airlines, including Continental, American and United, offer airfare discounts for parties of 10 or more. Some regional airlines -- including Air Jamaica and Hawaiian Airlines -- also offer special incentives for booking under one group account and, in some cases, free first-class upgrades for you and your groom. And almost every hotel will discount rates for a multiple-room booking -- contact the hotel's group sales coordinator to work out a deal. When you've set up the discounts, put the details on your save-the-dates or wedding website.
5. Give guests the lay of the land.
When a trip centers on a wedding, guests tend to do less research than they would when planning a vacation on their own. Help them out by creating a booklet-style save-the-date with extra details on the destination, or include your URL and put the info on your website. Good info to include: websites and contact details for the tourism board, relevant airlines and host hotels; a list of recommended activities and restaurants; the wedding itinerary; event specifics and pricing on activities you aren't hosting; details on how to get around; a driving map and/or airport-transfer suggestions; a packing list; and expected weather conditions for that time of year.