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Planning a Picture Perfect Destination Wedding

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Must Know Tips for Your Gulf Coast Destination Wedding

Are sunsets, crystal clear waters and beach breezes in your wedding dreams? No need to hop on a plane to some faraway land, the Gulf Coast has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches with fabulous venues to accommodate any style from lavish and luxurious to rural and rustic or eco-fabulous. You have options in Panama City Beach, Florida; South Walton and the Beach Communities of 30A; to Destin and Pensacola Beach; down the line to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular. With some careful planning, they may actually be more cost effective and intimate than a ceremony in your home town – check out these 7 tips for a Destination Wedding from Smart Money. Another bonus, you can avoid some of the hustle and bustle stress since you won’t have to travel to start your honeymoon.

The key to a successful destination wedding is planning. Here are some tips to help bring your dream to reality.

1. Get a head start and pick the perfect spot: Decide on your venue at least 6-9 months in advance, although you may need longer if you are planning your special day during the busy season.  Your venue helps determine the mood so think about whether you are looking for rustic, beachy or sophisticated. Settle on the basics such as budget and wedding party size, then give your guests plenty of notice since they will need to make travel arrangements.

2. Time it right: Did we mention the busy season? April to October is prime beach time so if your heart’s desire is a coastal June wedding, no problem – you may just need to start planning sooner. However, many destinations are just as beautiful (if not more so) in the off season of November to March. The weather is perfect for outdoor festivities, the beaches are quieter and the hotels less crowded.

3. Research requirements: Once your location and date are set, you will need to google marriage and potential permit requirements as they will vary by state and county. Some beach wedding and receptions require such things as a detailed list of all equipment you will be using. Check out these ceremony suggestions and reception basics for thoughtful tips.

4. Love the locals: Work with a bridal consultant, wedding planner or venue liaison in the area, you’ll be glad you did! They will help simplify your process by guiding you through the maze of potential pitfalls, connecting you with area vendors and serving as your expert for all things in the community.

5. Shop for specials: The simple fact is, a destination wedding is the best way to avoid inviting hundreds of people you barely know to share in your big day which can save you big dollars. Hotels often offer group discount rates, venues may have special pricing in the off season and you should always google for sweet package deals.

6. Schedule a visit: The good news is distance can make you decisive. You will want to meet with your planner, enjoy a site visit and tour the hotel in advance of your wedding. This will help to minimize last minute surprises. This visit is the perfect opportunity to schedule a hair and make-up trial run, have a spa day with your love or loved ones or maybe indulge in some you-time.

7. Guide your guests: Be mindful that those attending will be paying for their travel, meals and accommodations. Try to make it easy, fun and affordable for them by negotiating group rates for hotel and travel options. List information for driving directions getting to and front the nearest airport as well as your wedding venue. Have a welcome bag full of essentials in their room and a list of entertaining things to do.

8. Relax and enjoy: The very best reason for having a destination wedding and local planner is to minimize your stress so let your planner work out those last minute details. Arrive early if time and finances allow. Get your to-do’s done so you can take advantage of the local scenery and be calm, cool and collected once your family and friends begin to arrive.