Though wedding planning is often full of joy, couples in the thick of the process know they need to make dozens of decisions before the big celebration — one of them being whether they’ll get married in their home state or elsewhere.
If you’re planning an out-of-state wedding, you might feel overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list. Not only do you need to worry about typical wedding details, such as flowers, food, and entertainment, but also how to coordinate such a special day when you’re not living around the corner from your venue.
Fortunately, we sat down with a handful of industry pros to gather their best advice for those planning a wedding out-of-state. Here’s what they had to say.
Schedule an in-person visit
If your venue is hundreds (or thousands!) of miles away, you might not be able to stop by as often as you’d like. However, if possible, try to pencil in at least one visit before you say “I do.”
“I’ve had some couples make multiple trips back and forth to see the details for themselves (venues, location, decor) before their big day,” notes Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “If you and your family (or chosen wedding party) can make the travel happen out of state, you can plan a few things more easily on-site and in person.”
Visiting your venue in person will give you peace of mind as you know what to expect on your wedding day. As a result, you’ll minimize surprises and go into your celebration with a clear vision!
Hire a professional
Before you make any big moves, consider hiring a wedding planner to help you coordinate your big day. They can take care of things in the area while you’re out of town, so you can rest easy knowing they’re handling everything.
Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss shares, “My top tip for couples planning an out-of-state wedding is to hire a planner! Of course, that planner would be located where your wedding is taking place in a perfect world, but it is still super beneficial to hire a local planner who would travel on-site. Planners have massive networks in and out of state and will handle all the research and logistics for you!”
Hiring a planner will take a massive weight off your shoulders, so you can spend this time having fun instead of wanting to pull your hair out. Should your budget allow, start looking for someone to help!
Let people know as soon as you can
Chances are that your loved ones will be traveling far and wide to watch you tie the knot. And if planes, trains, and automobiles will be involved, it’s best to let your family and friends know with plenty of time for them to make arrangements.
“Create your wedding website and send your save-the-dates and invitations as early as possible,” recommends Katie Mast of Rock Paper Coin. “Guests will need time to make travel arrangements early and save for a trip, so be sure to send everything as soon as you have the date set. Having an up-to-date wedding website available for guests is a great way to keep everyone informed about your plans and provide them with all the information they need in one place.”
Being proactive in your reminders and regularly updating your wedding website will ensure your guests know what to expect and how they can be present for your celebration.
Be careful what you DIY
If you’re looking to save money, DIYing certain aspects of your wedding can be a great way to stick to your budget. However, if traveling out of state, DIYing every part of your to-do list can set you up for unnecessary challenges.
Amanda Mejias of Flora Bloom Photography advises, “Don’t take on too much DIY. If you’re traveling to another city for your wedding, you don’t want to have to worry about bringing too many things with you. The last thing you want is your guest book or table numbers to get lost in transit.”
Talk to your venue about what they can provide and what you should bring yourself. This will help you get clear on where you can save!
Look for all-inclusive venues
These days, there are plenty of wedding venues that offer all-inclusive packages. From the decor to the music to the drinks, if you’re planning an out-of-state celebration, find a venue that makes it easy for you and your partner.
“To minimize stress, couples planning an out-of-state wedding may also want to consider upgrading to a more inclusive wedding planning package,” affirms Marissa MacLeod of The Treasury on the Plaza.
The less you have to worry about providing on your big day, the better. So chat with your list of venues and see which one will simplify the planning process.
Sit down with your partner first
Though it’s fun to start making decisions, sit down with your partner to discuss your vision before you sign on any dotted lines. You’ll want to make sure you both get what you want, so you can plan a day that brings your unique goals to life!
Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group suggests, “Be on the same page with priorities – when planning a destination wedding, it’s vital for you and your fiance(e) to get on the same page when it comes to items that are most important to you both. As one of your first tasks, you should make a list of priorities and ensure you agree on what you’re willing to cut back on.”
A quick planning session before deciding on your date and location will help set the tone for a collaborative wedding planning process. Plus, you and your partner will rest easy knowing you understand what the other wants!
Check out the rules of your state
Event regulations are different depending on each state, so you must read the fine print and get familiar with what’s normal and what won’t be allowed on your wedding day.
“The wedding industry in every state (and even areas within a state) operates differently, as do the rules,” reminds Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “Given what you know about weddings in your state, you cannot assume you know how it will work. So, don’t make any assumptions. Instead, ask lots of questions, read your contracts thoroughly and ensure you understand what’s allowed and isn’t.”
Careful planning means going over things in detail — even if it takes additional time and effort. Take it slow and understand the rules before moving forward with a location or vendor.
Take budgeting seriously
Many couples find it easy to set a budget for their wedding, only to break it down the line when something unexpected happens. When planning an out-of-state celebration, having a solid budget is key to saving money and staying organized.
Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Event Design and Planning says, “Count the cost. Make sure you budget for all potential expenses, including travel, accommodations, and decor. It’s essential to get a realistic estimate of what your wedding will cost so you can make informed decisions about allocating your resources.”
Sit down and map out the expenses you’ll incur before, during, and after your big day. This way, you’ll avoid surprises requiring more money out of your pocket!
Cater your details to your location
A wedding in Northern Michigan will have a vastly different feel than a wedding in the heart of Florida. So, to make things easier, plan your decor, florals, and any natural elements to fit the out-of-state location you choose.
“Select wedding flowers based on the location of your wedding,” recommends Joan Wyndrum O’Hear of Blooms By The Box. “If your wedding is in a hot, humid tropical location, you’ll want to pick flowers that can take the heat. If you’re hosting a beach wedding, consider orchids, pin cushions, peonies, or roses.”
Small details like these will bring your day together in a cohesive way and require less work on your end.
Find local vendors
In some areas, most vendors will have experience working with popular venues and understand how a wedding day is supposed to flow. When you can’t be boots on the ground, having local vendors in your corner will make all the difference.
Edna Dratch-Parker of Real Deal Wedding Insiders shares, “It helps to work with vendors local to the area of the venue. Some vendors are ok to bring from your home base, but there are a lot of nuances to working with vendors who know your venue well. For example, if you bring your florist from your hometown (because you just love them) to a property they have never worked, they may not understand the load-in and load-out of this venue. Problems can occur, and this could run into scheduling issues for the setup and the start of the reception.”
Do some research and talk to your venue about local vendors they know and trust.
Make a weekend of it
If your loved ones are traveling out of state to celebrate you and your partner, think about hosting an event or two outside of the wedding. This way, you can spend more time with them and help everyone make the most of their trip.
“Plan additional events beyond the wedding day,” suggests Ashley Thompson of Ashley Creative Events. “A welcome party is a popular idea to greet everyone and thank them for traveling in for your big day. This also gives you another opportunity to visit with your guests before the wedding day itself, saving you from spending the majority of your wedding evening saying hi to your guests so you can enjoy that time dancing!”
Rest assured that nobody will complain about having more time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family!
With dedicated planning and a little extra attention to detail, you’re sure to have an out-of-state wedding for the books. So take your time, work with professionals, and know that no matter what you decide, your guests will all be thrilled to celebrate with you!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.