Preparing for a Destination Wedding - Do's + Don'ts


So YOU’RE ENGAGED! What a fantastic feeling isn’t it? Everyone calling, texting, messaging. All of the “CONGRATULATIONS” + “When’s the big day?”. All those feelings and emotions just pouring out at an overwhelming huge rate and although you are excited + stoked + everything in between, you are forced to make decisions and make those decisions, FAST.

When Zach + I got engaged, we were out of state. We were alone (well with a photographer who has now become one of our good friends!) we did not have family with us + we were phone calls from everyone. It was the first day of a 7 day vacation and we knew that we wanted to share the news immediately! After all of the phone calls and texts and photos sent, I couldn’t handle how excited I was to get started with planning! We went to the nearest bar + grill to watch the super bowl in Denver, Colorado and talk WEDDING! I was throwing ideas out to him about what I wanted and what I had always dreamt of and I think he was taken off guard to hear that I wanted NOTHING TO DO WITH A TRADITIONAL WEDDING!

I am a wedding photographer and ever since I started my business I would attend 30 + weddings a year with people in love and I adore my job! I knew from the very moment that I had my largest wedding jobs one year that the last thing I wanted to do was spend my day doing what I work almost every weekend from early May through early November! I didn’t want to lose my love for my job so I threw out there that I wanted to maybe do an elopement. We both loved that idea. Kind of just sneaking away with our little girl + getting married in front of a photographer and justice of the peace in a gorgeous mountain setting. Nobody else. HA I was wrong. We both come from very traditional families and although everyone just wants us to be happy, they also want to share in our love and witness us say our vows which I completely agree with. So needless to say I fell off the “elopement cloud nine” real quick! We started talking about maybe doing a destination wedding somewhere where they had all inclusive options and we could just go and hang out with our family and friends when it dawned on me. I wanted to literally get married, in the middle of mountains.

Our trip was so phenomenal. It was by far the best trip I have ever been on in my adult life and Colorado stole my heart. It is the one place I would move to in a heartbeat and never look back. Our who vacation was centered around traveling and sight seeing. Going into natural hot springs and climbing up some mountains and hiking. Along with the phenomenal food and drinks and quality time with Zach, I quickly realized that I wanted my family to see how amazing Colorado is! So FAM DESTINATION ELOPEMENT is what I call it. Don’t correct me, I know it isn’t right but I rolled everything into one and now we are doing a destination elopement with our families and I AM SO EXCITED!

I am a big procrastinator and our wedding is less than 3 months away, SO I put together a little list of DO’s + Don’ts if you are planning a destination wedding or planning it all on your own without help from anyone else that is in the state you are getting married in!

Do’s+Don’ts of Planning a destination wedding!


    One thing I have learned from this entire process is finding a spot that you both love but also accommodates all of your family members is HARD. You want to have a good spot where everyone can find it easily, maybe a Hall or Central place that has lodging attached or they offer packages where they kind of “do everything for you?!” If that makes sense. Looking back now, yeah. I’d definitely do that. We decided on Idaho springs and we are VERY MINIMAL. I did not want to have to plan flowers, a reception or little details. We literally want to get married in a park in Colorado + go get pizza and have really cool video and photos with everyone. THATS IT. Pick your spot FIRST. Then everything else can kind of evolve from there.


    We decided that we were going to stay via and find a really aesthetically beautiful place in the mountains, secluded so that we could have that space prior to the wedding just for us 3. Haha I have looked through HUNDREDS of airbnb and my biggest issue, I LOVE THEM ALL. If I were you, I’d choose right away and decide on a place and put your deposit down so you get the address + you can move forward. Hotels are nice because they accommodate large groups of people. We have 40 + people coming along and over half are staying at the hotel, while the others are making a vacation out of it for them as well and choosing to stay wherever their hearts desire which is exactly what I wanted! At least some people in our group can make decisions! (laughing at myself because I am utterly terrible at this planning “my day” thing.)


Some of you will have this already planned in the midst of everything because you are just dead set on a place or you have a hotel that will accommodate all of your guests, or a lodge that will have package deals and literally take care of everything for you, GO YOU!!!! I did not. My entire being was dead set on doing it myself because I don’t want to “HAVE” to do certain things if I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to have flowers and decorations and a DJ and all of that stuff. I want to enjoy my time just hanging out with everyone after a day in the mountains and eat really good pizza. Once we found the location of our spot we decided that we wanted to go to a bar + restaurant that will give us drinks and food all night and be close to where we are getting married! We found a really cool and aesthetically appealing spot all thanks to a connection with our photographer and places she has been and people she knew! We took her word for it and decided to go ahead and book that! SO excited for pizza, I can’t even tell you.


    The natural hot springs was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip and because I am a photographer I want to go back and get some fun (maybe a little steamy) photos with my new hubby! + show our family and friends how amazing it is! I adore having the opportunity to get anyone out of their comfort zone and have people spend quality time together so we are doing this the morning after the wedding with everyone before everyone kind of parts ways! It is a untraditional take on “opening the gifts!” is what I like to call it! We also had a cool idea of going to a donut shop in Denver and spending the morning there but not sure that would accommodate us all! Leave the invitation open and get your itinerary all set for everyone so that you can keep everyone together if they all want to partake! Then they know where to go, where you’ll be considering you two are the VIP’s of the trip! Anything that you can do with everyone is always a plus + to be able to extend that invite to all of the guests is even better! If you are staying at a lodge or hotel perhaps you can offer a morning hike with everyone or a little sight seeing! You can never beat the views of Estes Park!!


    I knew what I wanted from Day 1, and through some needs from family members I still feel like I am following exactly what I have envisioned for the wedding day! Zach is that man that knows what he wants, but really just wants me to be happy so in terms of planning this thing, its been all me. Which I am completely okay with! He helped me choose the AirBnB and we got those little details together but the real bonding is finding a suit + getting road trip details planned so far! Don’t short yourself and go cheap for your wedding. DO exactly what you want! Everything always works out and it is hard work but it is so worth it when you walk down that aisle or in my case, walk up a mountain (haha) to the love of your life!!


    Haha I can’t even give a lot of advice in this department because procrastinate is literally my middle name and I am horrible at it! Don’t wait to find someone to marry the two of you….Please spare yourself that headache! A lot of people do not realize but there is still paperwork to be done for a destination wedding and you have to apply in that state for a marriage license! If you do that within 3 months, you should be good! I just got the paperwork for the marriage license but one of our family members is actually marrying us so that’s a plus! If you a procrastinator like me, it is best to spend your time wedding planning with someone who is not! That is literally the best advice I can give you! If you really struggle, reach out to me please because I will help as much as I can. We procrastinators need to stick together. For real.


    I like to try to make it seem like I am really good at planning things and making sure we spend our time to the fullest and fill every hour with something fun. Truth is, I am a “i like to live my life on a whim” kind of girl and chances are I plan literally as we are driving in the car on the way to the next thing, that I don’t even know yet. The way I see it, if you plan #allthethings, it can add on stress to be at a certain place at a certain time and that can get overwhelming. Plan a couple different things that you REALLY want to do. Things that you have always wanted to experience or places you’ve wanted to see forever. This is your wedding but don’t overwhelm yourself with planning things to the hour so that you can’t even enjoy some of the time. Unless you are like never wanting to sleep and traveling the state kind of couple! Then go for it!


    Plan accordingly with how many guests will be attending and don’t forget about them! They are your supporters. The people that mean the most in your relationship and your life! Little goodie bags to give them when you see them as they arrive or a couple of your favorite things are just a nice gesture. Especially because they are spending money to witness your marriage! Show them you care! People are literally willing to travel wherever for the people they love! Like ANYWHERE. If you are getting married in the states, you could spend a little more per family or couple that are attending by giving a gift card to your fav coffee shop or a tiny gift bag of things for the day! Show them you care! Try not to forget they are there!!


    Hey, the weather has a mind of its own. Things you cannot control, do not get discouraged by. You are having a destination wedding + you want to make it the absolute best! Time has changed things and people are choosing the less traditional route and spending their wedding with their closest people nowadays. And majority of these weddings are taking place outside! Be flexible to improvise if things don’t quite go as planned + keep your spirits high because at the end of the day, you will be married and thats really all that matters! We chose Colorado, 9,000 feet in the air in early April and I am planning for snow. Actually hoping we have a nice snowfall for video + photo purposes but I am staying in contact with each guest to help them plan what they will wear and I am putting that work in to be sure everyone feels prepared for the “just in cases”.

Ladies and Gents, so much goes into planning weddings. Whether you are the traditional bride that wants the large veil and church and 300 + guests all the way to the small, intimate wedding that just wants to hang with your buddies or girls and closest people. Everyone has their own vision for their wedding day. The biggest thing is to DO WHAT YOU WANT. Stay true to what you want and who you are. As a couple and individually. Talk about your options and get excited to spend the first day of the rest of your life with your love, exactly how you have always imagined!

If you are totally dead set on a destination wedding, I hope this helps you a little with all of the tiny aspects that we sometimes do not think about or even realize!

Happy Wedding Planning!! xo.