My friend Nicole is taking over today, sharing how she planned a long distance wedding. Take it away!
Just recently, I planned my wedding with my middle school sweetheart. My husband is in the Marines and we’re currently stationed in beautiful San Diego. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in elementary education and I’m currently working as a substitute teacher in a middle school.
Our wedding was held at the beautiful “Trinity Tree Farm” in Washington State. It was everything I have ever hoped or dreamed it would be. However, the planning process was much harder than it could have been since I had to plan it from a different state. I was living in California at the time, trying to plan a wedding in Washington. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let me be the first to tell you that it is not an easy task! Here are some tips that I have put together from my experience to help you make your wedding planning process as smooth as possible.
6 Tips for Planning a Long Distance Wedding
If possible, plan to take several trips to the state where the wedding will be held.
My husband and I had an extremely long engagement (about 15 months). He proposed right before he deployed so we had to wait for him to come home, plus another 8 months because we wanted a summer wedding. Both of our families, as well as the majority of our friends, live in Washington so having our wedding there was a no brainer.
About a week after Tanner proposed, I planned 4 trips to Washington over the course of the 15 months leading up to the wedding. I knew that I wanted to be there to make final decisions and see everything for myself at least a few times. Plan on going about every 2-3 months if your schedule and budget allow it. I would go to Washington for a week at a time and I had every single second planned out. That way I was able to make the most of my time while there.
Enlist the help of family and friends
If you’re also planning a wedding from out of state, then you will need to do some online research. I spent hours online, searching for a venue, caterer, cake company, and photographer. When I was picking the venue, my husband and I narrowed it down to about 5 locations. I was fortunate enough to have my sisters living in Washington and I asked them to go check out the venues in person for me.
My mom even flew up to Washington from Arizona to go with my sisters since I was stuck working in California. My sisters and mom were able to narrow down the venues pretty quickly. I sent them with a list of questions that needed to be asked and had them take their own pictures and videos at each venue. I picked my venue without ever seeing it in person and don’t regret it at all. Our venue was beautiful and it was one less thing I had to worry about doing on my short visits there.
Have backup plans
I picked out my caterer an entire year before my wedding. I had traveled to Washington for a visit over summer and went to five tastings and I loved one company so much that I ended up choosing them on the spot. Then in about December, (six months before my wedding), the catering company emailed me saying that she could no longer cater my wedding due to scheduling conflicts.
I was devastated. I didn’t have a “back up” option so I ended up having to go up to Washington for an additional trip and do catering tastings all over again. It was very frustrating. If I would have had a backup option in place I could have saved myself another whole trip. Prepare for the worst, because unless you’re really lucky, something will go wrong. Having a plan in place in case something does happen will save you a lot of unnecessary stress. I wish that I had kept a list of the “second best” options for each vendor.
Figure out transportation.
One of the first things I did during my wedding planning was book flights for Tanner and I for the week of the wedding. I knew that I wanted to get the flights picked early so that they weren’t expensive and so I could check them off my to-do list. Something I didn’t think about until closer to the wedding was how I was going to get everything else there. When you have a wedding out of state, you have to consider how you’re going to get your dress, bridesmaids/groomsmen gifts, decorations and other small details to the wedding state.
My mom brought my dress to Washington for me. I mailed some of the decorations to my sister because I was paranoid about forgetting them and I brought everything else with me in my suitcase. Looking back, I wish I had done it differently. What I recommend to you, is make a list of everything that you will need on the wedding day. Hang it on the fridge or somewhere in your house where you’ll see it every day. That way, when you think of something new you need to bring, you can just add it to the list.
THEN, when it’s closer to wedding day, have some of your friends and family members look over the list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. On that same list, make notes on how each item will be getting to the wedding state. If you do plan on bringing a lot of the decorations and things by yourself, then I recommend packing early on. Make sure that everything will fit in your suitcase so its one less thing to worry about.
Another option is to purchase several of your decorations and things that you may need in your wedding state. You can store anything you buy at family members’ houses. This is a great option to take advantage of and will save you a lot of stress. If you don’t have that option then call on your friends and family to be in charge of certain details such as the guest book or flower girls baskets.
Don’t save anything for the last minute!
This is advice I would give anyone planning a wedding, but ESPECIALLY when planning a wedding out of state. Try to stick to a schedule. They have many different versions of wedding planning timelines online for free. I used the Knot wedding planning timeline and it worked out great for me!
I would even suggest that you try to stay ahead of schedule. It’s never too early to start calling photographers, caterers, and other vendors. I booked my photographer over a year in advance and I am so happy that I did. Staying ahead of the timeline not only keeps you relaxed but it also gives you a stress-free wedding month.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy the wedding planning process.
I remember throughout the entire wedding planning process my dad would always tell me to enjoy it. Looking back, I really wish I enjoyed the planning part more. You only plan a wedding one time. Make sure that you have fun doing it! Have a girl’s night where you and your friends put together centerpieces or address invitations. Go on dates with your fiancé to check out different caterers. Whatever you decide to do, relax. Take it all in.
Planning a wedding from out of state is not easy. But it’s definitely possible. Following these tips will help make the process as smooth as can be. Happy wedding planning!