Episode 3: Planning a Wedding in Another City – Where to Start?

Did you know 1 in 4 weddings are considered a “destination wedding,” with most occurring within the continental United States (source: XO Group, Travel Agent Central)? I’m not really calling what I did a destination wedding, since ours was just in another city – a SMALLER city than where we essentially live. We chose it for family reasons – largely so my 92-year old grandma could attend without having to spend the night somewhere (something she absolutely cannot do with her sundowners version of dementia). However, neither of us lived in that city, nor did any of our family members or friends (or planner!!). So I think I picked up a few tips you might wanna know. So if you’re planning a wedding in a city where no one else lives, this blog’s for you. Also, be sure to grab my freebie Ultimate 40 Year Old Bride Guide – with all my best tips I wish I had my hands on when I was planning my wedding this year. Cheers and you’re welcome!

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So how do you plan your wedding from a distance?

Start with vision.

One of the first most important things you can do is consider your vision. Before you begin anything, take a weekend to see your wedding week, weekend and day from beginning to end. Imagine everything that happens from your perspective. Then from your family’s perspective – close and extended. From your friend’s perspective, wedding party and so on. Every type of person there will need consideration and having a vision for how you wish to have their experience go will make a big difference in how you shape that experience through the city you choose, your venue, host hotels, vendors and more. So if you haven’t already – pause right now and do that. Not only will it help you ultimately decide on your city and venue (if you haven’t done that already), but that vision helps dictate your priorities, which in turn dictates your budget. You’ll need a whole ‘nother week at least to get your guest list together – another critical item – because that determines your numbers, which every single vendor will want and need to know. So start there.

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Next: lock down your planner.

I cannot reiterate this enough – a planner is a MUST! I don’t care if you end up with your auntie or favorite neighbor being your day-of-coordinator, you CAN NOT be the one in charge of your big day. So you must find someone – paid or not – to help you. Paid, of course, would be better and far more appreciated. 🙂 When planning your wedding from a distance or out of town, the most ideal scenario is to find a planner in the city that you’re wedding will be in. Why? Because he or she’s gonna have the most and best contacts and network – tried, true and tested – for you to work with. Everyone from photographers to florists, bakers and venues – that competent, knowledgeable, trusted vendor is going to save you a lot of time and heartache from picking faulty vendors over the internet. So find someone in the area.

Can’t? Maybe the city or town is very small and the pickins are slim. If so, your next best choice is to find someone 25 miles away, 50 miles away, etc. At the end of the day, if you can’t take advantage of a planner’s network with vendors, at LEAST you have the advantage of working with someone you know, like and trust (a must with any vendor). That’s worth its weight in gold too. If neither of you have a network of vendors in the area, you can still use trusted resources – like your venue’s recommendations for reliable makeup artists or your videographers – people who’ve worked with them time and time again that they know are dependable and do great, quality work. That’s always an option.

Maximize Your Visits

Once you’ve found that dream venue and your date and venue is locked with a contract and deposit, you’re going to want to plan your visits to the city. Obviously, you don’t want to be going down there every other day for one or two appointments here and there. Within reason, pack your schedule as much as you can with each visit. Do your hair and makeup trial on the same day and see if you can get your photographer to come down and do your engagement shoot at the same time (if you’re doing one of those). Throw in a quick cake-tasting and venue food tasting while you’re at it. Trust me, your job or business, car and wallet will thank you for being as efficient as possible with these wedding city visits.

Consider Your Host Hotel

In a perfect world, your dream venue is within walking distance of an awesome host hotel. However, since that may not be the case, pick one that’s as close as possible. I lucked up and had my venue downtown in a smaller city – so the venue had the benefits of an off-the-beaten-path, riverview, garden-feel but my host hotel with all the amenities of downtown access was just a 6 minute drive away. Perfect!

Depending on who’s coming to the wedding, you’re never going to satisfy every guest with your hotel choice. Some people just don’t travel very much. Others hate paying for nicer hotels. Still others will grumble about valet prices. That’s not your concern. Do your best to consider your guests, but at the end of the day, it’s your choice and you’re not forcing them to choose that hotel either. It’s just the recommended one where you’re staying and everyone else will be staying (hence, where all the fun will be happening)!

It’s awesome for your guests to get a special VIP welcome basket (or in my case, box) as they check in for the weekend. What’s not to love?!

In order to reserve your block of rooms, your hotel is going to need to know a number. How many rooms, what kinds of rooms (king, queen, two beds or one, river views or street views, etc.). You can’t possibly know that without having done your homework on your guest list and then considering the groups of people who will be traveling out of town and most likely want a room. So, get that list in order first and then lock down that hotel.

One other consideration is that a big part of your experience and your guest’s experience will happen at this hotel. In addition to the caliber of rooms it offers, its proximity to a Starbucks, whether it has a continental breakfast included or at least a restaurant downstairs, think of all the places you would gather: in passing in the elevators going to and from rooms and events that weekend, at the bars – up / downstairs, in the pool (if the weather’s conducive or it’s inside). A lot can happen at this hotel – your welcome cocktail party, your post-wedding brunch potentially, etc. So think of all those things before locking a host hotel down as your hotel of choice.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

I’m a marketer by day, so this one hits home for me. When you’re planning a wedding in a city where no one lives, communication is going to be critical! Think of all the ways your guests communicate best and fastest – cell phones, text, email, Instagram DM’s, Facebook DM’s or groups, etc. Where are they most likely and most quickly apt to see a message and respond? The answer will be different for all of them – so know thy audience! And be prepared to communicate in a number of different ways. You can get some quick mass messages out in a private Facebook group – for those who pay attention to Facebook on a regular basis. Others, you’ll have to snag on IG. Still others you’ll have to call directly or text. Some will do just fine with email and are pretty responsive there.

This is a sample of the type of post I liked to make in our Wedding Facebook Group. It helped guests feel like they knew someone else at the party besides us!

Facebook Groups were a personal fav for me because it allows people to interact with other guests ahead of time, plus you can have separate groups for all the different circles of people you need to talk to: your online-only (Zoom) guests, your in-person guests, your wedding party, etc. Not only can you share pertinent quick info, like getting RSVP counts in and meal choices to you on time, but you can also share helpful info like things to do in the area, restaurants to try out (low-end and higher-end), etc. Your wedding website can be a great communication tool for all the wedding basics and FAQs – truly a wonderful main information hub for you and your guests. You’ve got a lot of tools at your disposal – you just have to get yourself organized to use them!

How are you getting to and from your wedding city? How about to and from your venue? Here are all the things to think about with regards to transportation for your week/weekend and day:


Finally, don’t forget about transportation in this wedding city. Will both you and your hubby-to-be bring both of your cars? Likely – since you’re going to have a lot of stuff to bring with you from your home for the week/weekend. How and who will help get all your personal items (flower leftovers, favor leftovers, centerpiece decor, guestbook stuff, etc.) from the venue back to the hotel? Will you need extra transportation for special items? I had to rent a small U-Haul trailer to carry my grandma’s antique sofa in (something I really wanted as part of my pictures and it was perfectly amazing!). What about your wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) – will you carpool over together from the host hotel to the venue? How about getting back together? The bridesmaids will likely ride separately with you over to the venue (along with your big huge gown and other bags for your bridal suite) and your groomsmen will come separately later. Can the same limo or UberLUX take both parties to and from the venue? How about parents, grandparents, people who flew in and took Ubers over to the hotel – would they appreciate a shuttle to the venue? Does the hotel have one and will it go out far enough to your venue? All things that have to be thought through. Don’t just assume there are enough cars around to handle whatever comes up. There likely is, but it’s far better to think it through ahead of time to lessen confusion and stress the day-of.

FREEBIE DOWNLOAD:The Ultimate 40 Year Old Bride Guide

TIME STAMPS: Jump to these time stamps below if you want to hear a specific tip on YouTube:

  • TIP NO. 1: Vision – 6:18
  • TIP NO. 2: Planner – 9:01
  • TIP NO. 3: Maximize Your Visits – 11:19
  • TIP NO. 4: Venue Visits – 12:44
  • TIP NO. 5: Host Hotel – 13:55
  • TIP NO. 6: Communications – 16:22
  • TIP NO. 7: Transportation – 18:24

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