The Ultimate Guide to a Destination Wedding

Wedding planning season is finally in full swing! Budgets are being broken, bridesmaids are conspiring bachelorette parties, and brides are just about ready to throw in the towel. Which is why I have always been a proponent of the less expensive, less stressful, but equally fabulous option—a destination wedding. Having planned my own destination wedding three (long) years ago, I can help you figure the easy way out of the typical American wedding (which typically involves 400 aunts, uncles, and cousins that you’ve never met). Here are my tips and tricks for planning the perfect destination wedding, with plenty of pics along the way:

1. Hire Local

Haley + Geneo

Geneo and I with our AMAZING French celebrant, Aude Abadie.

Sure, domestic wedding planners could put together a nice event overseas. But that’s not what you want (or it shouldn’t be). You want an effortless destination wedding that you and everyone else on your timeline will remember forever. For that, you need a foot soldier, someone who was born and raised in the destination you’re traveling to and who has all of the connections to make things happen.

For our Paris wedding, we went with Paris native Agathe (, trusting her to use her local intellect in putting together the perfect French celebration. Because she was local, I gave her full reign to choose Parisian vendors, from my Paris Fashion Week makeup artist (, to our celebrant ( (who I keep in contact with to this day!), to our authentic French after-party at the Musée Baccarat. She even got together our hotel and travel to and from the airport (which was clutch after so much time and energy traveling).

Before you call me boujie, watch this—hiring her was literally a third of the cost of the average American wedding. A THIRD. So, I got to feel like a true Parisian princess at a third of the cost of having an American wedding (in a basic hotel ballroom with hundreds of my family’s friends I’d never even met). Ummm, yes, sign me up.

2. Be Upfront

Honestly, we could have been a little better about this. If you decide on a destination wedding, you need to be upfront and honest with your family and friends as soon as possible (at least if you want things to go smoothly). This is applicable whether you want them there or not. If you want your friends and family at your destination wedding, you have to remember that not everyone can jet off for 2 weeks to Paris (or wherever else) at the drop of a dime. If you really want them there, you’ll give them time to save up money and coordinate with their work schedules.

If you don’t want them there, which is a very realistic possibility, you’ll want to give them time to mourn the loss of the big wedding dreams they’ve had for you all of these years. It sounds silly, but I’m so serious. For our wedding venue, we were only allowed to have 5 guests. FIVE! Five guests did not cover all of the siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who had invested so much into us over the years. Regrettably, most of them found out about our Parisian elopement along with the rest of Instagram (oops!). Learn from our mistakes and be considerate, especially to those who would expect an invite.

3. Check your Future Husband’s Luggage Before You Go . . . And then Check It Again

Haley + Geneo

It’s 20 minutes before we’re about to head to Notre Dame for our wedding ceremony. James is doing my makeup while I eat bon bons in a mansion in Trocadero. I am truly living my best life. That is, until a panicked knock comes at the door—“Babe, I forgot my tuxedo shirt in Boston!” I’m sorry, Geneo, what?! My stomach drops while James tries to calm me down. It’s early morning in Paris. No shops are open (and even if they were, would they even have a 2XL?). I tried to quickly think up a solution—perhaps Geneo could instead wear a white t-shirt, or maybe no shirt at all? This only made me want to cry more. Fortunately, an angel from heaven (AKA our host, Jean-Christophe ( was able to save the day by securing a tuxedo shirt from an exceptionally large friend of his. However, the damage of those stressful moments was already done. Skip the drama and just check, double check, and then triple check that you have packed all of your wedding necessities before stepping on that international flight.

4. Don’t Forget What Matters Most

Haley + Geneo

No, I’m not talking about love or commitment. I’m talking about the MARRIAGE LICENSE. AKA the piece of paper that means you’re actually married. Any wedding that you have in another country will count only as a Civil Union—a sentimental ceremony, but with no legal effect. Thus, you will definitely want to swing by the local courthouse before getting on that plane for your destination wedding.

The week Geneo and I got engaged, we just went straight to the local agency to start the licensing process. In Texas, you have to wait 72 hours after requesting the license before having it officiated by an ordained minister or judge. We opted for the courthouse, where a very southern judge did the honors of making us legally husband and wife. Don’t forget this very simple but important step, at least if you don’t want your destination wedding to be all for nothing!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips and tricks for planning a destination wedding! Comment below or message me on Instagram at @mrshaleygrissom if you need more destination wedding guidance!

PS: I couldn’t help myself—I had to include some of my favorite wedding pics! All photographs by: @bysonjaphotography.

Haley + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo + Geneo

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