Destination weddings are a fun and exciting way to kick off a magical new chapter in your life. And when it comes to destinations, there’s really no place better to say “I do” than Southern California. With beautiful beaches, (almost) perfect weather, and, of course, Disneyland® Resort, it’s no surprise that many happy couples travel miles and miles to get married here. However, planning a wedding isn’t easy — especially if you’re planning from a distance. Don’t fret! If you’re considering Anaheim and the SoCal area for your destination wedding, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you out!
1. Do plenty of research about the area…
Research is critical to planning a destination wedding — both before and after choosing a location. Since you’re not there to visually take it in and make decisions, you have to rely on the internet and other resources, like travel books and magazines. Reviews and travel blogs are going to be your best friend throughout the process. When researching, be sure to consider local events and busy seasons that may impact travel, lodging, and booking your venue. Holidays, summertime, and spring break draw a lot of people to Disneyland® Resort and the SoCal area, so there’s a lot of fun stuff going on around here.
2. … and the marriage requirements!
Also, you’ll want to be sure you research the local marriage requirements. Generally, you’ll want to apply for a marriage license in the state and county you’ll be married in about 6 weeks before the wedding. All this takes time to process and different areas have different requirements, so you may need to reach out to local clerk for additional information. If you’ll be celebrating the big day at Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel or in the surrounding area, learn more about applying for marriage licenses in Orange County.
3. Visit the area & venue beforehand.
If your budget and schedule allow, it’s best if you’re able to take a trip (or multiple) to your destination. If you’ve never been to Anaheim, your trip will serve as your baseline reference throughout the planning process. If you’re already familiar with the area, you’ll definitely start to see things with new eyes once you begin planning a wedding. While you’re here, take lots of pictures and notes to help jog your memory and set up introductory meetings with vendors. Check out our handy event checklist to help you focus and narrow down the perfect venue while you’re here!
(P.S. Don’t forget to ask these questions during your wedding venue tour!)
4. Notify guests well in advance.
Destination weddings often require more money, time, and planning from your guests, so make sure they are in the loop well in advance. We recommend sending out Save the Date cards as soon as you can — at least 6 months in advance, but closer to 12 if possible. Follow it up with an official invite about 3-4 months ahead of time to allow them to finalize travel plans and search for deals. Along with invitations, consider sending some travel information about the Anaheim area so friends and family can start to get excited and know what to expect once they get there.
5. Use online tools for improved communication.
While we’re on the subject of research and communication, the internet has made it easier than ever to plan a destination wedding. Use it to your advantage! Consider creating a wedding website or Facebook group for posting travel updates, venue information, and fielding questions from guests. Online chats and wedding vision boards on Pinterest are great for sparking ideas and collaborating with local vendors even though you might not be nearby. Being active online can help save you loads of time answering the same questions over and over again from your vendors and guests.
6. Hire a local planner and vendors.
It always helps to have someone on the inside. When it comes to destination wedding planning, your local wedding planner and vendors are your eyes and ears on the ground. A local wedding planner is going to have connections and provide invaluable insights into the Anaheim area. A local photographer is going to know some secret locations that make for great photos. Local caterers are going to be able to craft a reception menu with fresh, locally-sourced foods. The list goes on. When choosing vendors, don’t be afraid to ask about their experience with destination weddings and look for ones that specialize in working with couples from a distance.
7. Don’t forget to plan your travel.
When you’re rushing around trying to plan your wedding and accommodate guests, it can be easy to forget about yourself. Stop worrying about your guests for two seconds and make sure you have everything you and your soon-to-be-spouse need to make the trek to California — including transportation and up-to-date identification cards and passports. Flights can fill up quickly and official documentation can take weeks to renew, so you don’t want to leave it to the last minute and get yourself in a pickle. (Trust us, we’ve heard the horror stories about this from our out-of-town couples.) You may want to consider working with a travel agent, just to take some of that travel stress off your plate.
8. Arrive in Anaheim early before the big day.
Your wedding is a whirlwind. No matter how early you arrive, it’s going to feel like it flies by. We recommend arriving in Anaheim at least a day or two before your guests. That allows time for rest, organizing last minute details, hair and makeup trials, and any final meetings with your wedding planner and vendors before you’re expected to be a host to family and friends. If possible, you may want your wedding crew — parents, best man, maid-of-honor, etc. — to arrive early to help out as well. Since you’re here early, hitch a ride on the Dream Machine Shuttle to Disneyland® Resort or hit up one of our local breweries for a memorable bachelor or bachelorette party with your crew!
9. Avoid DIY.
Do-it-yourself wedding decor and projects are beautiful and can be a great way to save money, but they usually aren’t the best option for destination weddings. You’ll have to carry a bunch of stuff with you on the plane or coordinate shipping things to your location, which can be costly and time-consuming. Plus, you’ll likely be rushing to finalize everything once you arrive, rather than relaxing and enjoying yourself. We recommend keeping it simple and finding full-service vendors and venues in Anaheim that take care of the details and minimize the work you have to do off-site. (Sorry, we know this may make some Type-A people cringe.)
10. Plan other fun wedding-related events.
Destination weddings are naturally longer celebrations since they require extended travel from the majority of guests. With that in mind, additional events can help you make the most of your time in SoCal with family and friends — and help you relax. A welcome reception, post-wedding brunch, or group outing to Disneyland® Resort or other nearby attractions are all great options. Be sure to add these events to your RSVP cards so it’s easy for all to plan accordingly. Keep in mind that guests may be tired and jet-lagged from a long day of travel, so be sure schedule events around rest and relaxation time.
11. Welcome bags are a must.
Welcome bags are a great idea for any destination wedding since the majority of your guests are coming from a distance and are unfamiliar with the area. Your welcome bags should be a reflection of you as a couple, and can include whatever you think will make your loved ones feel most at home or help them better enjoy the area. Things you might want to put in your Anaheim welcome bags include:
- A letter from the happy couple.
- Information about the Anaheim area (brochures, maps, guides, etc.).
- A detailed itinerary of the wedding festivities.
- Themed/local treats & refreshments (California wine, Mickey Mouse lollipop, etc.)
- Destination essentials (sunglasses, sunscreen, Mickey Mouse ears, etc.)
Just have fun with it!
Great tips! Now what?
Good question! This is only the beginning of destination wedding planning. There’s a lot to do, but we’ve got your back! Follow our Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline to pull off the most magical destination wedding ever!
P.S. If you’re searching for a great wedding venue in SoCal, we’ve got you covered there too!