How to plan a destination wedding


Destination weddings are the stuff of dreams, right? After all, there’s a reason that A-listers (think the Clooneys and Crawfords) often swan off to sunnier climes to tie the knot. European cityscapes, Caribbean coastlines and Mediterranean islands were once honeymoon-only destinations, but those with enough cash to splash have found they also make for stunning backdrops for a stylish wedding. But, as always, the devil is in the detail and taking your celebration overseas will take a lot of planning. 

Around 25 per cent of British couples host destination weddings each year totalling around 340,000 foreign nuptials. If the thought of planning a wedding on home soil, let alone abroad, is stressful enough, enter Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, founder and creative director of award-winning events company, La Fête. Following a decade-long career working in luxury fashion for the likes of Dior and Tom Ford, Ricard-Quesada ventured out on her own in 2016 and has since won several awards for her diligent planning, with La Fête recognised in 2022 as the Best Wedding Planner at Bridelux’s UK awards. Aiming to take the faff out of wedding planning for her clients, we ask Ricard-Quesada where couples considering a destination celebration should start, as well as her top tips for those already in the throes. 

Where do you start when planning a destination wedding?

There are three things to focus on first of all: the three Ws.

First up: Where – what country, what region, what landscape? Think of these things carefully as they will set the tone for the entire wedding. From aesthetics to catering, everything will be influenced.

When – depending on your answer to the first question, look into the weather forecasts of said place. Think about which seasons you prefer and whether there are any bank holidays which you can utilise so your guests can travel with ease.

Who – depending on the limitations of your selected venue, how many people are you inviting? Limited capacity means inviting a selected few. While bigger venues mean you invite more people, you’ll then need to start thinking about additional accommodation.

What are the most important things to bear in mind when planning an overseas wedding?

You need to look at the financials and make sure to take into account exchange rates constantly throughout the process. This can sometimes make a huge difference to the overall wedding budget. Also take into consideration your guests’ budget and make sure that, if you want them there, you aren’t asking too much of them. Also factor in travel logistics, and whether you want your guests near you and available for different activities so they can explore the destination you’ve chosen. Ultimately, I would definitely recommend a planner when it comes to organising your wedding abroad. You may not have the language skills or the cultural knowledge of how to get the best price, and when to push or not.

What’s the starting point for styling a wedding?

It depends on each couple; some couples have a very clear vision, some don’t. Firstly, it’s a question of understanding who they are, what makes them tick, what they like or dislike. I then build a mood board based on what we have discussed and accompany it with a sentence that encapsulates the essence of the wedding. Once approved by the couple, this becomes the guideline for the whole event.

You only get to be fiancés once, so enjoy it! The magic of having time on your side is that you can chat wedding talk every now and again, and tick things off.

Charlotte Ricard-Quesada

How would a wedding planner help a couple plan an overseas wedding?

A planner is there to do all the legwork for the couple. I always check how involved or uninvolved the couple want to be when we start planning. Being quadrilingual, I’m able to converse with all Spanish, Italian and French suppliers in their languages which makes negotiating much easier and smoother. My couples rely on me to make their vision a reality and for the execution to be beyond perfect. They get to enjoy the day and also the whole process.

What is the most challenging request you’ve ever been asked to fulfil?

One of the first weddings I planned after setting up La Fête was in the Tuscan hills for a Paris-based couple. Their Catholic priest was undecided about travelling to Italy, which meant we had to find a local French-speaking priest, willing to marry them in a church that wasn’t his, as well as an Italian priest who would agree for his church to be used! Quite miraculously, we were able to set all of this up in a church that the couple loved, coordinating with two priests that were well into their 80s and who only had access to a landline.

Which celebrity wedding would you most like to have attended?

I would have loved to have been a guest at Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ wedding at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in India. They seamlessly blended their cultures in such a beautiful, respectful and unique way that truly showed who they are as individuals and together as a couple.

Does the couple usually arrange for guests’ travel to the destination?

Sometimes. Mostly, the couple will plan accommodation at or around the venue for the guests. This accommodation is often priced at negotiated lower rates. The only travel that is always planned by the couple is the one from the wedding ceremony to reception, and from the reception to a couple of central drop off points if need be.

What’s something people often forget to organise for an overseas wedding that’s really important?

One that’s often last on the list is checking passports validity. It seems trivial but since Brexit the laws are a lot more stringent and we need to be careful.

Are overseas weddings harder to plan than those in the UK?

No, it’s just a different way of planning. It means less physical site visits, more emails, phone and video calls. But we all learnt during the pandemic that a video call can solve a lot of questions and we don’t need to physically see each other.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give a couple about to start planning their own wedding?

Take your time! If you want a summer wedding, plan it for the following summer. You only get to be fiancés once, so enjoy it! The magic of having time on your side is that you can chat wedding talk every now and again, and tick things off. If you rush it, you will end up having to chat wedding every single night and it will take away the pleasure of planning your big day.

Which countries are best for a summer wedding and why?

My favourites for summer weddings are Spain, Italy, France and Greece. The weather is nearly guaranteed, the food is delicious and all types of venues are available. Italy, in particular, is popular with my clients. It offers so many different landscapes and all are within 1 hour drive from an international airport, which is the most important point that clients always ask for.

What is the most beautiful wedding venue you’ve ever seen?

This is a difficult one, because each wedding venue has a style that can then be decorated a certain way. There are several wedding venues that make my heart flutter though. The Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna, La Foce in Tuscany and the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte just outside of Paris. All three venues are majestic in different ways.

Which do you think is London’s most spectacular wedding venue?

London is full of remarkable venues, in every shape, size and style, but one in particular is very close to my heart. Banqueting House, part of the Historic Royal Palaces in Whitehall, is such a grand space where there are infinite options to create something unique. It’s also always incredible to look up and see the ceiling – it’s the only Rubens in the world that’s still in the original place for which it was commissioned.


Read more: The green wedding guide: How to throw a sustainable wedding

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