The Complete Guide to Hiring a Destination Wedding Planner

It may come as no surprise that destination weddings require more coordination than local weddings. Not only are you planning an event from afar, but you are also likely to be hosting multiple events over the course of the wedding weekend outside of the ceremony and reception. Lucky for you, there are plenty of incredible destination wedding planners who can help you design the celebration of your dreams.

Hiring a professional will help support you and your partner in your wedding journey and make executing your vision far less stressful. Read ahead to get expert advice to hire the perfect destination wedding planner for your wedding weekend.

Meet the Expert

  • Nicole-Natassha Goulding is a luxury wedding coordinator and stylist based in Toronto, Canada. She is the founder and lead creative of Chic by Nicole.
  • Kimiko Hosaki, founder and creative director of Elements by K.H & co. specializes in destination weddings around the world.

Reasons to Hire a Destination Wedding Planner

Planners are often the most important professional on your wedding team. They connect and communicate with other vendors, design your spaces, and orchestrate all the events. When you host a wedding abroad, they are tasked with even more responsibilities and challenges. “Destination wedding planners normally are familiar with the customs, language, and the peculiarities of the countries and regions they serve and are skilled at dealing with cultural differences when planning,” shares Nicole-Natassha Goulding of Chic by Nicole“For example, European countries may have a much slower pace and longer turn around times for responses from vendors, and certain regions don’t have access to the same floral and rental options as North America. We’re experts on working in multiple time zones simultaneously as well.”

Planners are also helpful with executing tasks you might easily overlook. “I am obsessed with details—logistical details, styling details, the smallest details down to the placement of a fork,” says premier destination wedding planner Kimiko Hosaki. “Timelines and seating plans are strategic puzzles to me that I love obsessing over for hours until they’re just perfect, ensuring the most enjoyable experience for everyone.” 

Cost of a Destination Wedding Planner

The cost of a destination wedding planner will vary based on the planning services provided, the wedding location, and the number of guests. A premium wedding planner who provides event design as part of their services often charges a minimum of 20 percent of your wedding budget. This does not include the amount of additional labor or travel expenses that may be required to execute the wedding day or your other pre-wedding activities. “Most destination planners require their travel and accommodations covered for site visits, as well as the wedding weekend,” says Goulding. “Other common fees may include a daily per diem while traveling, depending on the team.”

What Does a Destination Wedding Planner Do?

In addition to traditional wedding planning duties, here is a list of common tasks they are responsible for:

  • Provide guidance based on their knowledge and local research on laws, permits needed, and marriage license requirements.
  • Offer you select vendors and a venue best suited to your guest count, budget, and vision. 
  • Help you produce a realistic budget based on your needs and desires. They can offer suggestions on where you could cut back and what’s worth the splurge.  
  • Offer travel guidance and advice to help you and your guests plan the trip with confidence.
  • Create contingency plans for rain and other unforeseen road bumps.
  • Coordinate with vendors and the venue, timeline management, and family management.
  • Manages RSVPs and guest lists.
  • Make recommendations for a florist, audio and lighting equipment rentals, and hair and makeup.
  • Negotiate, communicate, and manage the catering team.

Does a Destination Wedding Planner Need to Be Based in the Wedding Location?

While you can hire a wedding planner that lives and primarily works in a destination location, there are plenty of incredible professionals who are based remotely. Deciding which one to hire is a personal decision of the couple, shares Goulding. “Destination planners normally specialize in planning weddings outside of regions where their teams may be physically based. Due to our expertise, network, and connections, the planning process and service should be identical to planning with someone based in the local regions,” she says. “Our team has freelancers and planning partners located in areas where we offer wedding planning services— there are always ‘boots on the ground’ while planning.”

Goulding says its fine to hire a destination wedding planner who has never worked with a particular venue before, but she advises to work with a professional who at least has experience in the region. “A venue is generally a venue and a skilled planner can navigate planning by having detailed site visits at the establishment,” she explains. “Locations I think are a bit trickier. Having been to a country definitely gives a planning team a leg up when planning.”

Kimiko advises that couples should have their destination wedding planners visit the region ahead of the celebration. “When planning at a venue I have not been to before, I prefer to personally inspect the venue or send one of my trusted team members that have worked with me for years and know what I look for,” she shares. “I have learned over the years that a successful wedding requires being able to understand your venue, its challenges, and how it will function on the day of the wedding.”

How to Find a Destination Wedding Planner

Not sure where to begin your search to hire a destination wedding planner? Here are some simple, helpful tips to find your perfect planning partner.

Ask the Venue

If you have your eye on a specific venue, ask them who their favorite planners are to work with based on their customer service, vendor management, organization, and professionalism. Those relationships can help strengthen the level of communication around planning.

Look at Instagram

Find some of your favorite wedding images on Instagram and look to see who designed and coordinated them. It’s also good to look up wedding photographers that work in your destination because their pictures will show the planner’s style.

Look for Testimonials

Read what couples have said about their planners. You’ll want to feel confident that you can connect with your planner and trust them. You should also reach out to your network and see if anyone you know has personally worked with an amazing destination wedding planner.

Have a Call

Have an open conversation with the planner about what the vision is for your wedding. Many can put together a nice-looking wedding, but you also want a planning team that can mediate and solve problems on the spot. Ask how many weddings they have produced and to tell you a story about when things went wrong at a wedding they planned. Goulding adds, “Couples should generally ask how comfortable the team is with the location they may be interested in. Additionally, inquiring about assistance with travel arrangements, and average budget required for certain locations and countries may help them in their decision on where to tie the knot.”


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