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7 Must-Dos when Planning a Destination Wedding ...

Destination weddings look magical, don't they? What you may not realize is the extent of planning that goes into making a picture perfect destination wedding. Guest contributor Patricia Collins shares a few things that are an absolute must-do when planning your special day!

Destination weddings sound romantic. An ocean sunset on a tropical island, exotic nuptials in China, or a gourmandized celebration in Italy are all some of the great reasons to have a destination wedding. Unfortunately, not all destination weddings are crusty bread and sand between your toes. To have the perfect destination wedding, there are some things that you need to do well in advance.

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1. Protect the Guests

Every travel location has its dangers, but some are more dangerous than others. Sadly, some of these perilous locales are also beautiful wedding destinations. Mexico, China and Brazil have amazing wedding scenes, but also have higher than average travel tourist crime, according to CBC News. Keeping Nana safe while she enjoys your happiest day is one of your priorities. The security giant Lifelock has a lot of good advice about keeping yourself and your guests safe while travelling. It may be a good idea to create a LifeLock profile and print out the guidelines for all of the attendees.

2. Paperwork!

Even though most states recognize foreign weddings, not all countries have the same rules as the United States. Some countries require blood tests or parental consent, according to State.gov. Others have age limits and residency rules. These are all things that you will want to know about well in advance. Mexico requires an official birth certificate, a valid and non-expired passport, a tourist card, and a blood test to get married, as VaxVacationAccess.com explains. A wedding in Italy will most likely need to be performed by a civil authority since a Catholic ceremony is very difficult to arrange. No matter where you go to be married, it is recommended that you arrive five days in advance to have documents translated, and apply for the necessary paperwork.

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3. Meat-Eaters, Vegans and Gluten Intolerance

When planning your wedding fare, the beef or chicken decision may transform to squid or eel. Some of your less hardy guests may not appreciate the local cuisine. A vegetarian meal in Hungary only has a little pork, and a steak in India is a near impossibility. Taste Guru explains how some countries do not understand the concept of gluten intolerance. As part of the wedding invitation, either tell the guests what they are going to be eating or ask for any special dietary needs. By doing this well in advance, you and your guests can make the appropriate accommodations without going through the panic of learning how to say gluten in Mandarin.

4. Make Sure Everyone Can Come

One of the hardest parts of a destination wedding is making sure everyone can get there. Some family members may have financial constraints or trouble getting off work for a long period of time. Planning far in advance is the best way to ensure all of your important guests can come to your wedding. Check with airlines for group deals. Many will offer a discounted rate for a large group traveling together. Check with hotels for group discounts as well.

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5. Invitation Etiquette

While we are on the topic of guests, keep in mind that not as many people will be able to come to a destination wedding. Instead of sending invitations to everyone, invite the small group of family and friends you know will come, then send wedding announcements to everyone else. With announcements, people will not feel left out like they would if you just excluded them from invitations. Announcements also will not make people feel obligated to take an expensive trip. If you want to celebrate with everyone who can't come, plan a more casual party for when you return from your honeymoon. That way everyone will be able to enjoy your wedding.

6. Gifts

When you are at a far-off destination with only a few suitcases, lugging around a mountain of wedding gifts can be quite a problem. Make sure guests know if you decide to throw a sans-gift wedding. Offer guests other options, such as making a charity donation in your name or giving you "experience" gifts, such as a spa day or scuba diving lessons, that you can enjoy on your honeymoon.

7. Plan for the Worst

One of the benefits of getting married near home is that, if stuff hits the fan, you can easily go to plan B. That may not always be easy with destination weddings. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Understand the lay of the land and know what some of the common natural issues that could arise are. Find out if the island you are visiting is prone to monsoons, or where to go if your guests get food poisoning. A little extra preparation can be the difference between a dream wedding and a nightmare.

Are you considering a destination wedding? What are some other must-do things that you can think of? Share in the comments below.

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