How to Plan a Small Destination Wedding

Who doesn’t dream of having a destination wedding?! Having a destination wedding can double as your dream vacation or dream honeymoon, but thinking about all the logistics that have to go into planning a destination wedding can be totally stressful! Attempting to plan a wedding across the world or even just a few states away can prove to be a lot of work, but there are plenty of things to do to ease the stress and make your planning process as simple as possible! So, here are my tips on How to Plan a Small Destination Wedding!

how to plan a destination wedding

How to Plan a Small Destination Wedding

1. Pick Your Dream Wedding Location

While there are a few things you should factor into your picking your wedding location–be sure to pick a location that you love as a couple whether it be a location you’ve dreamed of visiting or a place that is meaningful to you. After all, this is your day and it’s about the two of you as a couple!

You should also consider how much you want to spend! If you are on a tighter budget, be sure to pick a location that is more affordable–so don’t have an international destination wedding as flights will cost more and that is easily something to nix from the budget and spend elsewhere!

You should also pick a location that is easily accessible and desirable for your guests! If you don’t want to consider this then I think a destination elopement will best for the two of you! Side note–elopements are just as special if not more special than having an intimate wedding! It all just depends on the two of you as a couple and how you envision your day! Ok, back to the topic–picking a location that makes it as easy as possible for your guests to get to will heighten the chances of your guests accepting your invite to your wedding. Ultimately, this is about the two of you as a couple, but when it comes to planning a destination wedding you must consider your guests.

This is also a great time to think about how much your guests would want to spend. How many of the people you truly want to be there can afford the flights to your destination wedding and costs of staying at a hotel or AirBnb? This why I suggest to keep your destination wedding as intimate as possible! Choose to invite the people that mean the most to you as a couple and the smaller your list the more options of destination you’ll likely be able to choose from!

2. Hire a Wedding Planner

It is a very smart thing to hire a wedding planner if you’re having your destination wedding in another country! It’s also not a bad idea if you’re choosing a location that you’ve never been to before. If you’re getting married in a location where they speak a different language than you know they’ll be able to bridge the language barrier for you which will be extremely helpful in so many cases!

They will also have contacts such a local florist, officiants, venues, caterers, photographer’s (or just choose me!), make up artists, etc. They will be able to help with the contracts, send emails to your vendors, and all communications. They will know the local marriage laws and help with all the necessary paperwork. They can block off hotel rooms for you and your guests if necessary and provide some important travel tips and recommendations for the local area.

This is a major step you can take to relieve a lot of stress! Having someone on foot in your destination wedding location will help you out tremendously and speed up the process.

3. Book Your Photographer

Booking your photographer can help you out in so many ways! I know I personally put a lot of work into helping my couples out in any way I can. If a couple hires me before they even have a specific location I will location scout for them to help them choose the perfect destination wedding location for them which is so fun for me!

As a destination wedding and elopement photographer I have captured weddings and elopements all over and have created some amazing connections in all parts of the world and have plenty of vendor recommendations as well! I help to create the perfect timeline for their dream wedding day and aim to create the best possible experience for them on their destination wedding day. You can contact me >HERE< to chat and inquire about your dream destination wedding or elopement!

planning a destination wedding

4. Help Your Guests Out

One of the easiest ways to relay information to your guests is by having a destination wedding website. You can do it through websites like TheKnot, WeddingWire, Zola, etc. Having a website will help your guests to not ask you a million questions! You should include information like logistics for flights, travel information, local restaurants, salons, etc. This will help your guests to feel more comfortable about the location and even excite them!

You should also consider blocking hotel rooms which will give your guests a discounted rate for their stay. Most hotels will expect you to block off at least 10 rooms to receive a discount. Be sure to check or have your planner check the types of blocks that the hotel offers as there are different types. Some will require a deposit, some won’t. Some won’t charge you if they all don’t get booked, some will. It just depends, but having this information and relaying to your guests so you can know how many rooms to block will help you and them out!

5. Pack All the Important Things

Packing for your destination wedding can be a bit stressful since there can be so many things to remember. There are things that you do not want to forget and things that you don’t want lost or broken. It is super important to pack any valuables in your carry-on. These things tend to include your wedding dress, suit, rings, and legal paperwork.

Packing your dress and suit in a garment bag is of course the most ideal if possible. If you can do this when you board the plane ask a flight attendant if it’s possible to hang it up in otherwise you can try to lay it across luggage in the overhead bins. If you’re dress is just has too many layers you can try to vacuum pack it, put it in your carry-on and get it steamed when you arrive at your location. Check with your planner if you have one for local recommendations!

You should also get insurance on your wedding rings so that if it gets lost or stolen you will have options. Before you head off to your destination wedding make sure your rings are safely stored in a bag and/or protective box. Depending on where your destination is you may have to declare your jewelry where you land so be sure to check that out as well!

6. Pinterest is Your Best Friend!

You most likely won’t be able to meet face-to-face with all your vendors so having a Pinterest board dedicated to all the aspects of your wedding will tremendously help you and your vendors out. You should have a board for your florals, your cake/dessert bar, etc. By sharing your boards with your vendors they’ll be able to see your vision and more accurately be able to give you what you want on your wedding day! Since communicating by email isn’t the easiest to portray your vision, using visuals to communicate will be the easiest for both parties.

Phew–that was a lot of information! I hope this helps you to start planning your dream destination wedding. If you’re on the search for a photographer for your destination wedding I would absolutely love to be a part of your incredible day! You can contact me HERE and I can’t wait to chat with you!

Check out these related blog posts!

What is an Elopement?

5 Tips for Announcing Your Elopement 

Best Places to Elope in Oregon

5 Tips to Start Wedding Planning

how to plan a destination wedding

comments +
  1. Olivia says:

    Honestly, i wouldn’t know the first place to start with planning an adventure wedding, so this is incredibly helpful. Great tips and awesome images. I am obsessed with the image of the bride standing in the doorway with the ivy all around!! SO stunning

  2. Skyler Rivera says:

    Suchhhh a helpful blog post!!! And gorgeous images!

  3. Mollie Adams says:

    This is SO helpful for clients to have this as a resource! I love how you broke it down to be so simple and realistic!

  4. These are such helpful tips when trying to plan an elopement! It can seem so simple and so complicated at the same time, and this breaks it down so nicely!

  5. These are great tips for people eloping and great photos to go along with it.

  6. Jenn says:

    This is such a helpful resource!

  7. There is literally SO MUCH that goes into planning a regular wedding, and adding a destination into the mix takes even more planning. These are some great tips for planning a destination wedding!

  8. […] « How to Plan a Destination Wedding | Destination Wedding Photographer […]

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Courtney made the process SO easy! She does more than just photograph your day. She cares about you having the BEST elopement experience possible! I'll never be able to thank Courtney enough for making our dream day happen!

Contact me about your Elopement!

You probably have a million thoughts running through your head making you a bit overwhelmed.

How does this work? What can I do during my elopement? How do I choose my location? Is the ceremony legal? Can I elope with family?

One of the reasons you're probably eloping is because you want to have a stress-free day, but with so much uncertainty on how to plan an elopement how is it even possible?!

No need to stress, you're in the right place! This is where I come in and do the heavy lifting for you.

I'm Courtney, and I specialize in documenting adventurous elopements for couples who love the outdoors, but role is so much more than just an elopement photographer.

I'm here to guide you through every single step of planning your elopement and to give you a clear path tossing that stress out the window!

So, if you're ready to have a unique elopement experience that's actually focused on you, then let's friggin' do this!!

You know you want to elope,

and you know you want it to be meaningful and adventurous, but where do you start?!

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Courtney has a very warm and bubbly personality that shows through her work! She made my husband and I feel SO comfortable throughout the whole day.

We were very confused on how to start planning our adventure and she was there to answer a lot of our questions in the beginning and honestly with a very short time frame! We planned and got married in 6 weeks, because we knew we really wanted her there for our day and that is what she had available! It was a challenge well accepted for all three of us.

Our day was perfect. She captured our true essence of love and laughter and each photo shows it. There weren't very many set up photos unless we asked for them. She just gets you in the moment!

You can absolutely tell that Courtney loves what she does and wants your day to be perfect. She listens to you and really tries to understand you as a couple first and then uses that within her photography skills.

If you are looking for an adventure/elopement photographer I would highly suggest Courtney Lynn. We will be looking at and reliving our elopement forever thanks to her amazing photos. You won't be disappointed!

Amber & Ryan

Courtney was so helpful during the whole process! She helped put together a wonderful day!  She really wanted to make sure our wedding was just right for us. She made our elopement perfectly formulated for us, and I can't think of a more beautiful day!

One of our concerns going into an elopement was wanting to have pictures that let us remember the entire day. Courtney was there from start to finish and captured the whole day! Because of her outstanding work, we can share it with our loved ones, and they can experience the event almost as if they were there. We also really appreciated that she captured genuine moments between us instead of making it a photoshoot.

It felt like we were hanging out with a friend, and we think that helped us enjoy our day to the fullest.
If your dream wedding is an adventurous elopement day, I couldn't recommend Courtney more. She went above and beyond and was such a joy to work with throughout this whole experience.

She made us feel at ease and relaxed. Some wedding photographers are all about capturing posed moments that can be really awkward; that's NOT Courtney's style at all. Not only was she down to do whatever we wanted and go on little side adventures, but she made us feel comfortable.

She captured our true personalities and who we are as a couple! When looking at our gallery, our love for each other and our personalities can be seen in each image! She is extremely talented and did a phenomenal job of capturing the beauty of our wedding location. If you hire her, you will not regret it!

Sadye & Matthew

We are SO happy we decided to go with Courtney for our wedding photos! Originally we were supposed to elope in Italy, and she helped a TON with planning things like travel and what our day was going to look like.

Then the pandemic hit and we realized we probably weren't going to be able to go to Italy. So, we decided to change locations to Glacier!

She made it super easy and stress free, and helped plan what our new day in Glacier was going to look like!

Courtney was super easy to spend the entire day with, very friendly and fun to talk to! Even though our day didn't go exactly how we planned due to the weather, we all just went with the flow of it and it still turned out to be an amazing day!

If you're in doubt, just hire her!! You won't regret it one bit and you will get so many incredible photos to look back on your day!!

robbie & Aryton

When my now husband and I started planning our elopement, we were confused to the max. We didn’t know where to start or how to go about planning anything. We knew we wanted to get married in Ireland, but had too many options on exactly where. After doing some research of elopements, I was scrolling on Pinterest and came across some BEAUTIFUL photos taken by Courtney!

Courtney  made the process so easy! She is organized, professional, sweet, and so so funny!! Courtney does more than just photograph your day, she cares about you having the BEST day! She helped us plan EVERYTHING! Even down to the little details, like what type of shoes to wear! She helped us narrow down where, giving us her informative opinions on each of our options! She gave us cool ideas that we could incorporate into our special day. No idea was too big! When the day came, we had the absolute best time exploring and getting married! After we exchanged our vows, we went to celebrate at a local pub (Courtney’s idea ;) ). It was a blast!!

Our elopement was an absolute DREAM COME TRUE! I will never be able to thank Courtney enough for making it happen. So for anyone on the fence, swaying back and forth about whether or not work with Courtney on your big day, SWAY NO MORE! You’ve found your person!! My day couldn’t have been any better and my pictures are beautiful and capture the fun we had!!! I can’t wait to work with her again!

Taylor & andrew

"Planning for our day and the day itself would have been completely different without Courtney. We only knew that we wanted to share our vows in the Tuscan countryside and have beautiful photos, and Courtney planned the perfect agenda for that to happen.

She coordinated our timing around sunset, and not only were the photos breathtaking, but the actual evening was too. I remember looking out over the vineyards as the sun set, the view becoming more and more stunning by the minute. There were no moments that felt forced or posed, every shot was comfortable and fun and full of love.

Courtney is such a sweet, kind, fun person and we truly enjoyed spending the day with her. Courtney helped us to turn our dreams into reality, and we hardly had to do a thing. She allowed us to be in control of our day but gently took all of our wants and needs into consideration while making everything happen. Lastly, our pictures are just magical. Courtney is an incredibly talented photographer, and I feel so lucky that we were able to work with her. I would recommend her over and over again to anyone eloping."

Ellie & Zac

"Let. Me. Tell. You. It's not the technical aspects of photography that are the most difficult. It's the human aspect. Remembering that as a Photographer, you may be behind the lens but you are still a human, in front of other humans, in some of the most raw and intimate of moments.

Courtney balances both of these necessities (but rarities) with poise, great direction, and an overall kind calmness that just makes you breathe a sigh of relief. If you've come across Courtney's page and see what you like already, BOOK HER NOW. Don't spend another second looking for another Photographer that doesn't bring anywhere near the amazing light and spirit that this girl brings right here. Thank you again Courtney for allowing my husband and I to marry each other all over again! The images are stunning and I can't wait to blow them up and hang them in our home."

Shannon & Brandon

"Working with Courtney was an extremely easy experience, seamless, positive and obviously fun. My wife and I went on our honeymoon and wanted to surprise her with a surprise honeymoon adventure session.

Courtney worked with me to make that dream gift for my wife a reality. Meeting and posing for a photographer for the first time can be intimidating, but with Courtney it was anything but that.

Courtney is extremely positive and helpful and made us feel very comfortable in front of the camera. She played some of our favorite songs and before we knew we were just having fun and she was catching them every second. Perhaps the best part of our session was that Courtney knew all the characteristic and peaceful places of where we were, which made our photos even more extraordinary.

She kept the focus on my wife and me. When we shared our images with friends and relatives, everyone complimented on Courtney's aesthetics and the emotion she was able to capture. I can't thank Courtney enough for exceeding all our expectations with this photo shoot!!"


"Pick her -- she's the best! Courtney is amazing! Seriously! If you're thinking about eloping you should snatch her up to capture your day. She makes the entire experience fun and relaxed plus the pictures just blew us away. I will never forget our magical time in Venice and I'm obsessed with the gorgeous photos Courtney took of us. She's so so good!"

Jami & Tim

Courtney is not only a talented photographer, but she makes you feel so comfortable even though being in front of the camera can be nerve-wracking! She did such an amazing job with our day and if I had to pick my favorite photo it would take FOREVER, because I love so many! Definitely consider her if you want adventurous and beautiful photos coupled with an amazing experience!

walker & mac

Don't take it from me,
Take it from my past couples!

You’re in the right place!

I’m here to guide you through EVERY. SINGLE. STEP.

Let’s toss that’s confusion out the window and focus on how you want to get married!

Let me relieve those feelings of being lost, save you time, tell the story of your day and let’s get started creating a day that you’ll never forget!

So, if you know you want to elope,
but feel unsure on where to start, 

contact me & let's get starting creating your dream elopement!

...and you want an amazing storyteller to document your day


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date & location*

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Let's freaking do this!!