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How to Plan a Successful Destination Wedding Scouting Trip

I always love that first moment, meeting an excited and radiant couple ready to take on the wedding world and dying to get their destination wedding scouting underway.  These days are golden.  They are filled with energy, all the positive vibes and so much hope! 

excited bride jumps up and down at this luxury destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico
Photo by Eva Sica

Scouting Trip Timing

I am often asked in Dazzling consults with couples, “When should we plan to visit and how many times will we need to come.”  The answer is simple.  Now and once.

A scouting trip is an investment –  airfare and hotel at the minimum – so invest wisely.  Visit once.  Conquer tasks that are challenging to achieve in the virtual world. Then, rather than visiting again, save those funds to book something extra and amazing at the actual wedding.

Get Help

A scouting trip is always, without exception, more successful when guided by a professional.  If you are considering a private wedding planner, hire that person to lead your scouting exhibition.  If you are thinking about utilizing the already-on-site hotel planner, contact each one you are considering in advance.

Couples often make the mistake of jumping on a plane, then in a rental car and attempting to venture on their own to locate and visit venues (that aren’t easy to locate or visit).  I know this because I get calls from these couples on their second-to-last-day of scouting, when they are feeling desperately disappointed and defeated. 

Photo by Jess Leigh

Steps to Plan a Successful Scouting Trip

1.  If you are considering a private wedding planner, speak with a few.  Check references.  If you find someone that you click with immediately, hire that person.  The scouting trip planning will be done for you. 

If you aren’t sure who is the right wedding planner for you, set up several appointments to meet with them.  You still need a guide, so choose only ONE planner in advance to hire to organize your scouting trip.

YES.  I’m going to say it.  A scouting trip costs money.  It is money well-spent. 

The bride and groom pose for a photo at this luxury villa destination wedding in Punta Mita MExico
Photo by Eva Sica

2.  If you are NOT considering a private wedding planner, do your due diligence prior to your trip.  Make ALL the appointments.  Get specific instructions for how to arrive, who to speak to, who to call if you get lost.  Ask ALL the questions. 

3.  Set realistic expectations.  If you don’t have a venue yet, don’t worry about what silverware will play a part in your glorious place setting.  If you don’t have a caterer, don’t be concerned with the shape of the centerpiece vase.

Five Goals for Destination Wedding Scouting

1) Meet with your planner (OR if you haven’t selected one yet, meet with several and choose ONE).

2) Visit at least three – five pre-selected wedding venues that fit with your vision, budget and ideal date.  Pro tip:  Nearly every location has a name sign posted somewhere.  Take a photo of that SIGN as you begin your tour of the location so that, later on when you are scrolling through the hundreds of venue photos, they are easily divided.  It seems silly, but after you’ve seen several, the info can begin to jumble in your brain.

3) Schedule a catering tasting (or two).  It isn’t nearly as fun to choose your menu via ZOOM.

a delicious molcajete entree served by waiters at this Punta Mita Mexico destination wedding
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

4) Visit at least two – three locations for any additional events that apply:  welcome party/rehearsal dinner/brunch location.  This is sometimes the same hotel where guests are lodged OR a nearby restaurant. 

5) Visit and tour at least two – three pre-selected nearby hotels for guest lodging.  Ask about the room block process as well as minimum number of rooms and nights required by the hotel to ensure special rates.

Villa La Estancia Wedding Hotel and Venue

With some foresight and planning, you sweethearts should be able to board that flight home with all the information to make final decisions on the above.  It always makes for an interesting plane ride!

Love Kristin

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