Choosing a Destination
Fly direct. "Pick a place that's one flight away for most of your guests," says Claudia Hanlin, founder of the Wedding Library in New York City. Not only will flights usually be cheaper, but when travel time is shorter, there's less potential of lost luggage or other travel snags.
Stay stateside. Consider domestic locations to avoid currency hassles, high exchange rates and foreign fees. The U.S. is chock-full of pretty spots to tie the knot, such as California's wine country, the Rocky Mountains, the Florida Keys — even Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Investigate resources. Select a destination that has ample local resources (florists, beauty salons) so you can cut down on your entourage. If you make a scouting trip to your location, pay a visit to each of these potential vendors.
Shop local. "If you're getting married outside the States, select a country that has a lot of Americanized goods and services," advises Hanlin. For example, Mexico has discount stores like Costco and Wal-Mart; hit them up on location for any items you want to buy in bulk, like flip-flops or votive candles, to save on shipping.
Selecting Your Venue
Size up the view. "The view will speak volumes," says Sasha Souza, a California-based celebrity-wedding designer. "If you pick a spot with a stunning backdrop, you won't need to add a lot of flowers or decor to it." Consider a seaside setting, a beautiful vineyard or any space that has a westward-facing window or terrace, to up your chances of a sunset vista.
Go public. "Consider a public place for your venue," suggests Kate Bentley, CEO of Happily Ever After Weddings, based in Key West, Florida. A local beach or a beautifully landscaped park can give you the backdrop you want, without the hefty rental price.
Double up. Book a private home for your wedding weekend. "If you stage your ceremony and reception there, then your accommodations expense doubles as your venue fee," says Bentley.
Picking a Planner
Opt for a package. Ask if your venue comes with an onsite planner. If so, her services are probably included in your package, or can be for a small additional cost. "You'll know she's good at her job if she answers your calls immediately, makes helpful suggestions and sends
images that consistently match your
vision," says Hanlin.
Don't limit yourselves. Even if your resort offers free wedding-planning services, if you're envisioning a more complicated wedding, consider hiring an independent planner to work with the resort coordinator. Yes, there's a cost attached, but specialized planners work for you, not the venue, and can often score good deals with outside vendors. Another bonus: peace of mind, as the planner handles all the smaller details that would otherwise fall to you.
Ask about experience. Find a planner who has worked your venue before; someone who knows the ins and outs can end up saving you time and money, advises Bentley. At the very least, "find a planner who has worked in the region and has a Rolodex of local resources," adds Hanlin.