Real Brides Speak: Out-of-State Weddings Made Easy

Out-of-state weddings:

Daunting? At times. 

Stressful? Only if you let them be. 

Worth it? HECK YES.

In the second installment of our "Real Brides Speak" series, we talk to four women from across the country about their experiences planning out-of-state weddings. 

Their reasons for taking on such a seemingly herculean feat were varied… 

Some wanted to get married back in their home states surrounded by their childhood friends. Some felt compelled to choose a location convenient for their families. Some wanted to avoid the pressure of a big wedding and just have fun.

But they all said that no matter your reasons, planning a wedding from hundreds of miles away is not only doable, but rewarding—and in some ways, easier than staying in state.

All you need is the right mindset, a quality wedding planner, and a go-with-the-flow attitude.

The women we spoke with this month reveal their secrets for keeping your destination wedding simple, beautiful, and stress free. They share the pros and cons, their favorite vendors for the area, and the one thing every bride must do when getting married out of state.

First up is bride K.B. She and her husband live in Minnesota and opted for both a civil service at home and a dream ceremony in the Caribbean. (Yes girl!) She names some of the services and vendors that made her destination wedding so easy. And she shares a great tip for brides on a budget…

When You Choose to Split the Difference

Vow Muse: What made you decide to have the legal service at home and another ceremony abroad?

K.B: It was easier to change my name!

We got legally married in our home state of Minnesota and then held a small ceremony in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. We wanted to have the wedding in St. Croix because that's where we got engaged. But by having the civil ceremony at home first, it was easier to change my name. 

In Minnesota, paperwork for the name-change process is included with the state marriage license. In St. Croix, it's not. So I would have still had to fill out separate documentation. It was weird and a hassle. 

Vow Muse: What was the biggest challenge you faced? What strategies did you use to make it work?

K.B: Trusting that everything I was getting was going to be good (mainly the food) because I couldn't be there to try things! 

Reviews were the most helpful. We went through SunCelebrations, a St. Croix wedding planning service, and they literally had all the info on everything! Cindy Clearwater owns SunCelebrations. She conducted our ceremony and put everything together for us.

Vow Muse: What were the benefits of doing half in state/half out of state?
K.B: By doing half of it at home, we were able to involve a few more family members in our special day. By having the other half out of state, we were able to have the wedding we wanted, and we got some amazing pictures!

Photo credit    Kelly Greer   .

Photo credit Kelly Greer.

Vow Muse: What did you like/dislike most about your experience?

K.B: I liked that I didn't have to do much for just a small, simple ceremony. They really took care of everything for me.

Vow Muse: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

K.B: Not at all. It was perfect.

Vow Muse: What advice do you have for brides doing what you did?

K.B: Make sure you have a plan for hair and makeup! Especially if you're on a budget. I did my own makeup, curled my hair, and my friend styled it for me! She was a real lifesaver!

Bride M.M. also had two ceremonies. She and her military fiancé were stationed hundreds of miles away from family and friends. And he was about to be deployed overseas. There was no time to plan a full wedding back home. And they weren't about to put their love on hold…

When You Just Can't Wait

Vow Muse: Most people get stressed out planning just one wedding. What made you plan two?

M.M.: My husband is in the military. Shortly after getting engaged, he was set to deploy. We were living in Texas at the time and decided to get married there before his deployment. Just a small ceremony with our families. 

Upon his return, we had a "big wedding" with extended family and friends in our home state of Arizona. I planned that from Texas while he was away.

Photo credit    Bethaney Photography   .

Photo credit Bethaney Photography.

Vow Muse: What was the biggest challenge you faced? Were there any benefits?

M.M.: The biggest challenge for me was not being able to be in Arizona for the little things. Every visit I made prior to the wedding had to be strategically planned out and was a little chaotic. I purchased my dress in Arizona too, so my alterations gal was there. I had to fly in for fittings, which was costly and a huge pain. 

Finding/working with vendors was also somewhat challenging. For example, I would have loved to sit down with my photographer prior to the wedding. At least we had a few FaceTime calls before the big day.

Vow Muse: What strategies did you use to make it work?

M.M.: Our venue, SoHo63, was incredibly beautiful and so on brand with our wedding. But the main reason I locked it in was because of our curator Stephanie! She was extremely detail oriented and ensured that each visit I made prior to the wedding was ultra-productive and efficient! She opened the lines of communication and was never afraid to reach out with questions or concerns. 

So that's my biggest tip for planning a wedding out of state: Find someone who can be your "boots on the ground" and keep up with the little details for you.

Vow Muse: What did you like/dislike most about your experience?

M.M.: Like: It was the most perfect day ever! I had the best vendors who were all very understanding of our situation and the best of friends who made sure everything went extremely smooth! And I got to marry my best friend... again. (Awww.)

Dislike: it was costly flying back and forth prior to the wedding and trips home were extremely stressful.

Vow Muse: What advice do you have for brides doing what you did?

M.M.: Get yourself a Stephanie! But really, only lock in vendors who understand the fact that you are out of state and are willing to cater your experience with them to your situation.

Next, we feature bride G.W. To make the location more convenient for family, she got stuck planning a ceremony and reception for 400 people without ever meeting any of the vendors in person! She says her saving grace was picking her battles and trusting in the coordinator…

When It's Easy for the Family

Vow Muse: Where were you planning the wedding from? And what made you choose to hold it out of state?

G.W.: We live in Maryland. We had initially decided on a destination wedding, but Florida turned out to be a more convenient location for my husband's family.

Vow Muse: What was the biggest challenge you faced? What strategies did you use to make it work?

G.W.: My biggest challenge was that I was too far away to see certain things or make my wishes a priority. I gave relatively free license to my husband's family to go ahead and plan, but there were certain aspects I did care about. And it was slightly more difficult to enforce my wishes and double check that vendors were doing things appropriately.

The venue we used required a wedding coordinator, so I was honest with her about the dynamics of the planning. I expressed my priorities and had to trust her to follow through.

Vow Muse: How did you include your partner in the planning?

G.W.: I made sure to double-check with him about wedding-day procedural points, like what activities he wanted to do or not do and what he preferred to wear. It was important to me that he got whatever he wanted as well.

Vow Muse: What advice do you have for brides planning an out-of-state wedding?

G.W.: Hire a coordinator or planner and have them work with someone you trust. That way, you can stay out of the day-to-day tasks unless absolutely necessary.

Delegate and choose only one or two priorities to enforce. Not being the one to plan directly really helps because you're less invested in the process, and you have fewer expectations for what is supposed to happen. So when the whole thing flows sideways, it won't be a big deal. All that will matter is you're having a good time the day-of.

Vow Muse: What would you tell a bride looking to get married in Florida?

G.W.: Florida is sticky, so make sure you do a trial run with the hair person, especially if you have curly hair like me! And keep that A/C on full blast in the hotel room.

And just in general… if family wants things you don't, let them do it but make them cover the cost! It's a nice compromise. 

Finally, we spoke with bride M.I. Overwhelmed by how expensive and huge weddings can get (think G.W.'s massive guest list!), she and her husband scrapped the whole thing and eloped to Hawaii…

When You Want to Keep It Small

Vow Muse: Where were you planning the wedding from? And what made you choose to hold it out of state?

M.I.: My husband had wanted to go to Hawaii for a long time, so we picked it for the honeymoon right away. We then started to plan the wedding where we lived in Oklahoma, but we felt overwhelmed by how big things could get! So instead of opting for a simple courthouse wedding at home, we decided to just get married in Hawaii. 

Vow Muse: What was the biggest challenge you faced? What strategies did you use to make it work?

M.I.: The biggest challenge was trusting based on photos and reviews alone. Online reviews were absolutely vital. I used Yelp to pick the hair/makeup artist.

Thankfully, there were planning services available to help as well. This allowed me to have everything figured out and booked within a day. We used Weddings of Hawaii to arrange everything. It was super easy. We just went through their packages to find one that fit with us. Then we booked the travel arrangements and honeymoon on our own.

Vow Muse: What did you like/dislike most about your experience? 

M.I.: I liked the low-stress approach. The service was awesome because all I had to do was show up and look pretty. 

I disliked the lack of details… For instance, we didn't get to pick our photographer, so we ended up with someone who almost made it more of a staged production than a wedding. In hindsight, I would make my wishes for a more candid experience clear to the vendor beforehand.

Vow Muse: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

M.I.: Even though getting married alone in Hawaii was what we had decided on and agreed to, I was sad the day-of that my family wasn't there. Also, I wish I had done more research on the location. Though beautiful and secluded, Sherwood Forrest is, apparently, an extremely windy beach!

Photo credit    Weddings of Hawaii   .

Photo credit Weddings of Hawaii.

Vow Muse: What advice do you have for brides doing what you did?

M.I.: Make a packing list! I got there, couldn't find the belt to my wedding dress a couple hours before the service, and a meltdown ensued. It was in my bag the entire time. You just don't think as clearly with emotions that high.

Vow Muse: What would you tell a bride looking to get married in Hawaii? 

M.I.: There are weddings everywhere on Oahu. And 365 days a year, you will see brides and grooms just walking around. Research your time of day and location well, so you're not competing for privacy. And find your makeup and hair stylists way in advance. They book up fast!


Writer Fawn believes in the power of a well-crafted story, the promise of an adventurous future, and the perfection of a Nutella-covered strawberry.


Cover photo by Weddings of Hawaii.