Destination weddings are on the rise, with couples not only making up for pandemic-stolen time, but also welcoming the opportunity to curate memorable travel experiences for their guests to celebrate their love. With the current summer travel season being met with issues ranging from canceled flights and lost baggage to inflation costs and the never-ending Covid spikes, it might seem harder than ever to plan a destination wedding with so much uncertainty and instability. 

To simplify the process, EBONY spoke with esteemed wedding planner Fallon Carter, founder and creative director of Fallon Carter Events, to get her insider tips on planning a destination wedding that feels special and authentic, while navigating today's challenges.

Make a detailed budget and highlight hidden costs

Wedding Planner Fallon Carter. Image: Instagram/@falloncarterevents

Budgeting for a destination wedding can be anxiety inducing, but the more you consider all the possible costs early on, the less pricey surprises you’ll have to endure in the future. “If you have guests that you really want to be there but know they may not be able to afford it, add a line item to your budget early on in the planning to offset the costs,” says Fallon. She also recommends that couples plan to cover at least one meal, other than the reception, as well as transportation to and from each event during the wedding weekend. One important factor couples often leave out of their initial budget are site visits, and she strongly advises never to book a venue sight unseen. “Add the cost of all pre-travel and site visits into your initial budget. You'll also have to cover the cost of your planner and their team, so build that in.” Google Flights now offers a new, free flight tracker tool that can alert you when fares dip lower than what’s typical between two cities on certain dates, which can definitely come in handy while keeping site visit budgets under control. 

Before selecting a destination, consider your guest list

The first three things couples should think about when deciding on a destination, according to Carter, are the guests’ demographic, the desired climate and experience, and what locations are meaningful in the relationship. “You basically want to think holistically about the people who are coming,” says Carter. “Ask yourself, where are they coming from, age range, and their economics. Be selective with the guest list and pick a place that won't hurt your guests’ pockets.” She also encourages couples to think about the experience that most of their guests would want to have, whether that’s beach, city, or somewhere more secluded, then decide on the climate that makes the most sense for their vision. As a bonus, she advises couples to consider which locations hold special meaning to them. “It helps you tell your love story together and makes the planning easier.” 

Work with local vendors as much as possible

Supporting the local economy of your destination is a crucial element of the planning process, according to Carter. “The dollars you spend at the hotel are usually never seen by the people who live in the destination, so it's important to support as many local vendors as possible.” She notes that the only vendors that she typically brings from outside the destination are the photographer and DJ (though be sure to check which work permits are necessary for performers if your destination is international). Everything else including lighting, florals, food, and beverage, she always tries to source locally. While on your site visit, working with your hotel to determine the top local vendors is a good place to start. Instagram is also a good resource that Carter mentions. “Look at other luxury wedding planners’ handles and click their tags and geotags to see who they’re using to bring their visions to life.”

Immerse guests in the local culture and customs

Elevating your guests’ experience should always be top of mind in the planning process and incorporating elements of the destination’s culture is a great way to add moments of surprise and delight. “Show them the best of the destination in a way that they were not planning to,” says Fallon. “Find out the history of the venue and the destination to create curated experiences.” This can be both in the form of welcome gifts with an item included that’s signature to the destination or a special activity. “I just did a wedding in Mallorca and the couple took care of the cost of an olive tour,’ she says. “We organized a bus to pick everyone up, had a picnic outside in the olive groves and learned how to make olive oil. It's those types of things that bring the culture of a destination to the guests.”

Take precautions and have a contingency plan

Image: courtesy of Fallon Carter of Fallon Carter Events.

The reality is things are bound to go wrong along the way, so it’s best to be prepared to pivot and have a backup plan that you’ll be happy with. “I recommend couples work with a travel agent because they’re able to move faster and have better resources when things go wrong.” She also suggests using a good travel credit card for all of the travel bookings, arriving at the destination at least five days ahead of the big day and shipping everything you need, outside of your personal items, at least one week in advance. Most of all: spring for insurance. “Yes, to wedding insurance,” says Fallon. “100%. Full stop. Don’t forget about it, ever.”