Do's and Don'ts
DO try to earmark part of your budget for a wedding planner or travel agent specializing in destination weddings (if you've signed up for a wedding package, the services of a planner are probably included). Why? Two reasons. First, he or she can shoulder the burden of researching, auditioning, and securing vendors, especially valuable if said vendor speaks English only as a second language.
Second, they've been there, done that. Will the bus driver do a dry run of the route so they don't get lost between the ceremony and reception? Behind-the-scene do you want gift bags for guests? A greeter for everyone at the airport? Any special requests IE(babysitters, dry cleaners, etc.), and getting everyone where they need to be on time. (Remember, unlike a wedding in your hometown, guests are dependent on you once they reach the destination. Simple issues such as transportation become all-important and time-consuming affairs.)
DO try to visit the destination before the wedding. Most of the time this is not possible so make sure you use a professional! One is provided as part of most wedding packages, but ask. You may need to scout and secure your key venues -- church, reception, hotels for guests, rehearsal dinner venue -- and local suppliers such as caterers, florists, photographers, etc. (Note: Go only after you've finalized your guest count.)
DO ask for a portfolio (pictures) and at least three references if you can't afford the above options and are hiring vendors sight unseen. Ask Your Travel Agent uses only vendors known to be of excellent quality. Be sure the references are people for whom the vendor did an event similar to yours. For example, a recommendation from a couple who had 10 guests doesn't help if you're inviting 100. Also ask for the names of other vendors who worked those events to check as further references regarding the company in question.
DO strongly consider incorporating local entertainment, indigenous flowers, and local cuisine into your celebration to truly capture a sense of place and to save money. A good way to make nice with the local vendors is to send hand-written thank-you notes and even little gifts when you book their services. (Remember that they can literally make or break your wedding, and a little goes a long way toward getting them on your side.) During the event itself, it's wise to have plenty of small bills on hand for palm greasing, especially in foreign countries and resorts.
DON'T hesitate to fly in talent you trust from home for critical aspects such as photography, hair/makeup, and decor design (lighting, flowers, tent design). They usually work with local vendors in a supervisory capacity and the locals often benefit because they learn tricks from the city-slicker pros.
DO tell your bridal party about the destination before you ask them to stand by your side so that they can gracefully decline if finances are tight.
DON'T be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives don't attend. While you are, in a sense, footing some of the food bills, fees for travel, hotel, and car rental can really add up, especially for a family. And while your wedding is, in a sense, a mini-vacation for you, it may not be the one they want to take!
DO consider the climate when choosing your dress. You'll be swimming in sweat if you pair your fairytale organza orgy with tropical humidity. Whether your dream location is specifically a beach or simply outdoors, dress for no stress.
DON'T expect everything you planned to actually happen. While this is true for all weddings, it is doubly so in vacation areas. Remember that many tropical islands run on "island time" -- things happen when they happen -- and keep an open mind. Minor mishaps can sometimes make for the best memories.