What to Pack for Your Destination Wedding
Professional wedding planners share their tips.
You have a million things to remember for your destination wedding. Forgetting an outfit for the rehearsal dinner is bad—but details can derail you, too. We asked a few wedding planner pros to share their packing lists, so your day isn't just special; it's practically perfect.
Of all the items you’ll need for your destination wedding, paperwork tops the list. Your passport is vital, says Nahid Farhoud, owner of Nahid’s Global Events, and it should be valid for at least six months beyond your return date. Other documents you'll need to get married abroad: “Copies of birth certificates, a marriage license and a divorce certificate, if applicable.” Check with a wedding planner or local authorities about anything else you may need, such as a visa. Farhoud recommends keeping your originals in your carry-on or purse, and stowing copies in your checked bag. "Digital copies are useful as well."
Also carry a credit card, some cash and travelers’ checks. “Before leaving," Farhoud adds, "let your credit card company know where you’re headed so your card doesn’t get blocked and leave you stranded. If you have trip insurance, carry your policy number with you somewhere safe.”
There’s more. Take copies of your vendor contracts, in case questions arise about deposits and balances due, and “receipts of gifts if you have to bring them through customs. Don’t forget any wedding day stationery or your personalized wedding vows either.”
Passport to Joy’s wedding guru and professional planner Jamie Chang says couples should bring a checkbook and envelopes. “A checkbook can get you out of some sticky situations and envelopes can come in handy for leaving tips and other miscellaneous things.”
Some restaurants have dress codes, says Megan Velez, VP of Product at Destination Weddings Travel Group, so “you may need to pack long slacks and closed-toe shoes even if you plan on staying onsite for your trip.”
"Bring a spare dress, even if you have an outfit selected for each event while away,” says Fabrice Orlando, Cocoon Events Management Group founder. "You never know how comfortable one will be after an all-day celebration,” and it will come in handy if there's a spill or splash.
Also focus on the essentials, says Farhoud. “Your rings are a must, as is all wedding apparel – the wedding dress, tuxedo, shoes, accessories and undergarments. Make sure to at least take your wedding dress and shoes in your carry-on bag or a garment bag on the plane. You do not want to risk luggage being lost or delayed and losing your dress.”
If you can’t get everything into a carry-on, Velez adds, ask friends and family to pitch in by stowing items in their carry-ons. “Get in touch with your airline in advance to see if they can accommodate your delicate carry-ons. You may even be allowed to hang your dress in a coat closet.”
Gifts for Guests
"My destination couples love to bring welcome bags for their guests,” says photojournalist James Berglie, who owns Be Photography. The bags can be filled with anything from destination souvenirs to “"hangover kits,” but Berglie says you may have to bring them on the plane. He recommends researching your destination to see if you can shop after you arrive. “You could potentially save money from luggage fees with your airline, and you can likely find some unique items.”
Some brides, he adds, pack gifts, wedding décor and other necessities in old suitcases they don’t plan to take home. "Check with the resort, as many will happily take your old luggage and donate it for you.”
While all packing lists will include similar things, says Velez, such as centerpieces, programs and escort cards, your wedding location may call for extras. If you’ll be in a warm climate, “bring fun fans for guests to use. Better yet, have them second as ceremony programs!”
You can also “gift” your guests with a suggested itinerary. Amy Kolodziej, owner of Sunshower Photography, says that will help them plan their schedules and go sightseeing.
Meds, Makeup and Other Essentials
Be sure to take your regular medications, as well as an emergency kit, says Farhoud. Include painkillers, Band-Aids, insect repellent, antiseptic and sunburn creams and over-the-counter meds.
Kolodziej advises bringing sunscreen, no matter where you’re going. “By the time you realize you need it, it may be too late and you do not want to be horribly red for your wedding."
Sunscreen should be available at most resorts and tourist sites, says Velez, but “they’ll be happy to charge you double for it. Stash a tube in your checked bag to save big.”
Don’t forget your favorite makeup and skincare products, says Chang, as well as a nail file for unexpected breaks. “Scissors, a sewing kit, safety pins and ribbon can also be helpful for quick fixes.”
Bring extras of everything, she adds, including pens, seating cards, schedules and gift bags, just in case.
And don’ assume a hair dryer will be readily available, says Orlando. It's smart to bring your own.
Other Life Savers for a Destination Wedding
Tuck in some clear nail polish to handle fallen sequins and runs in your hose, says Farhoud, as well as chalk to absorb stains and a wrinkle-free spray, in case there’s no steamer available. If you don’t want to drink directly from glasses or bottles, stash paper straws in your purse.
Finally, Berglie reminds couples not to pack sparklers for a sparkly send-off. While they can be expensive at destination wedding locations, “The TSA forbids bringing any fireworks onto a plane in your checked or carry-on luggage, and this include sparklers!” Don’t get yourself in trouble with the authorities; buy them when you arrive, or opt for a safe and fun alternative, like blowing bubbles.