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How I Planned Our Destination Wedding

Destination wedding in Costa Rica | Kitty Cotten

Our Destination Wedding
Location: Tamarindo Diria Hotel in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Date: February 29, 2016

This is my story of planning our destination wedding. If you have any questions please comment below and thanks for stopping by!

Picking Our Location:

We wanted tropical beach vibes, fun town and local culture, and somewhere we could explore after our wedding for our honeymoon. It was also important that the flights were direct and affordable for our guests. We landed on Costa Rica! It has so many amazing things offer and beautiful sites to see, plus most of our guests had never been before, which was exciting to us! Actually, we had never been either. Okay, location set. Now, to find a town and hotel that would work for us…

Choosing A Town & Hotel:

I had a bit of a stumble here trying to find a hotel that felt right AND didn’t require a long car ride from Liberia airport. I saw some amazing hotels all across Costa Rica, but most of them were a two to four hour drive after the five hour flight! We knew Joel’s 92-year-old grandpa was coming and we really wanted to limit his and the other guests travel time as much as possible. I book an all inclusive megaplex hotel only a 20 minute drive from the hotel. My gut told me it wasn’t for us, but I was worried all the travel I was going to be putting people through (it’s the midwestern in me).

I had that hotel book for all of three days until I cancelled without a replacement hotel. Totally freaked Joel out, but he trusted me. I went back to the drawing board and found an adorable, sleepy surf town about an hour down the coast from the airport named Tamarindo. I was giddy. Searched a few hotels that could fit our 50+ guests and landed on Tamarindo Diria Hotel.

It had everything I (and Joel) wanted! A dedicated wedding planner on site. They only did a wedding once a week or every other week, so it felt personal. Our planner was amazing. The hotel was gorgeous. I can’t say enough good things about Tamarindo Diria!

Picking Our Date:

Working with our travel agent helped us narrow down the main days Delta (the airline we choose to use) flew in and out of Liberia, Costa Rica. They were Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. I figured most people would fly in Friday or Saturday. I didn’t want our guests to stay a whole week if they didn’t want to (or weren’t able to take off that much time from work).

So, I wanted those guests to be able to fly in Friday and leave Tuesday (if needed). Working backwards from Tuesday as a departure date for some – Monday became ceremony day, Sunday rehearsal/groom’s dinner, and then they could fly in Saturday or Friday.

Knowing the layout of the week, we check with our friends and family to find a time in February or March that worked best. It just so happened the week of leap year fit for nearly everyone! We got hitched on February 29, 2016!

Working With A Wedding Planner:

The wedding planner onsite at the hotel was wonderful! She made the whole process very simple, stress free and honestly fun! It was important that the hotel we choose had a wedding planner, because honestly, I didn’t want to deal with finding one. I figured a hotel provided one would be ideal. For us, it totally was!

There’s no way Joel and I could’ve planned our wedding without a coordinator located in Costa Rica. If you’re doing a destination wedding, a wedding coordinator is priority #1. Seriously!

Working With A Travel Agent:

A travel agent is really helpful when planning a destination wedding. They help with logistics, timing, deals, etc. Our travel agent was excellent (a recommendation from Joel’s mom)! She helped us and our guests save a lot of money by choosing dates that worked with Delta’s flight schedules and negotiate reduces rates bundling the flights, hotel and transportation together. A travel agent made it really easy for our friends and family to book their stays. I highly recommend using a travel agent for your destination wedding. For us it saved us money, saved our guests money and helped organize our big group versa Joel and I needing field a bunch of questions and figuring out all the logistics.

Our Travel Agent:
Barb Connolly
Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Wrap Up All Wedding Tasks A Week Before The Wedding:

Avoid planning anything wedding related the week before your wedding, because inevitably something unexpected with come up last minute you’ll have to deal with!

Paying With A Credit Card:

This is totally optional, but I’m throwing it in here, because people don’t always like to talk about money around weddings. But it’s a HUGE part! We used a credit card to pay for our whole wedding. Since we knew we were going to be flying Delta, we opted to open a Delta credit card with 50,000 bonus miles when you spent X amount in the first three months.

We were working on fixing up our home during the wedding planning process, so we knew we’d be able to easily meet the amount needed for the bonus miles, which allowed one of us to fly to Costa Rica on miles! This saved us a couple hundred dollars. We NEVER paid interest. We ALWAYS paid off our balance in full every month. We didn’t want to rack up any debt on our wedding.

Another benefit to using a credit card to pay for your destination wedding is the protection you get with a credit card versa bank transfer or check. The Delta card we got was free of foreign transaction fees, so when we were in Costa Rica we also used the card without getting those annoying little transaction fees usually associated with debit cards.

Final Thoughts:

My best advice when planning your destination wedding is trust your gut. It’s easy to feel pressure from friends and family when making decisions, but you and your parent just need to stay true to yourselves and trust your instincts. It sounds kind of cliche, but if something doesn’t add up or things just don’t feel right – take a step back and evaluate before making any final decisions.

Also, go into your wedding with an open mind and try not to get caught up in the details. I had no idea what the hotel looked like (besides from photos) or what our flowers would turn out like or if the food was good. I just had to be open, appreciate and except whatever the day turned out like! As a self proclaimed perfectionist and control freak, it wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it.


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The Comments

  • Hannah mann
    March 14, 2017

    This is good stuff! I especially agree with the bitS about the credit card & YOUR FINAL THOUGHTS. My husband & I also used this strategy WITH THE CREDIT CARD when planning for Kauai & it paid off! LIKE YOU, I’M A PERFECTIONIST, BUT I JUST WENT WITH SOME OF IT (#ididntdieofaheartattack). LUCKILY ENOUGH, I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED WITH HOW FLOWERS I’d NEVER SEEN COORDINATED PERFECTLY WITH OUR ATTIRE, HOW THE FURNITURE IN OUR RENTAL (READ: RESTORATION HARDWARE) WAS AMAZING ENOUGH TO BE USED DURING THE CEREMONY (FOOT WASHING service), & HOW SEEMELESSLY OUR OFFICIANT WOVE SOUTHERN & NATIVE HAWAIAN TRADITIONS TOGETHER. warmed that you’ve shared your best day ever with us & am reminded that life’s good when the one you love’s by your side :) Thanks, Kitty. Be well, Hannah.

  • Laura
    March 31, 2017

    Hello from a fellow Minneapolis-ite! When you first discussed having a destination wedding, did you get any push-back from family or guests? Sometimes there’s a stigma with destination weddings around guests having to take time off work and pay for a ticket, but I love the idea of a full ‘wedding experience’. Any suggestions on how to overcome that? Love your blog / YouTube channel!

    • Kitty
      > Laura
      April 8, 2017

      We didn’t get too much push back from our family. Honestly, I think they were just excited we’d finally come up with a plan for our wedding since, we’d been together for about 9 years at that point. Joel was a bit hesitant to do a destination wedding at first because its likely not everyone you’d like to have there for your big day can make it. One of the biggest costs for guests is their airfare. Finding an affordable place to fly to is key. Also, cutting down on pre-wedding events like showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties and minimizing your registry is another great way to take the financial sting out for your guests. I also think its important to be excited for your destination wedding when talking to guests to get them excited for the trip as a whole! Good luck wedding planning!

  • Taniel
    April 24, 2017

    Hello and thank you for making this blog post/ video!! I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out where to begin in this whole planning process. Deciding on Costa Rica was easy for us too, but the where to stay and accommodations part was causing some serious stress. (I know what you mean about the pressure to “hurry and find a place”) Like you, I was first drawn (pushed) to go the all inclusive route but didn’t want to just be on a resort. We love traveling and wanted to experience the country. Hearing your story really resonated with me and I was almost in tears saying “yes yes yes that’s how I feel!!” Having someone’s step by step prespective on the planning process has been such an imense help I can’t even explain. So I just wanted to say THANK YOU for making this easier, I feel like I have a new outlook on the whole thing and am so excited. You’re wedding was beautiful!! One last thing; My fiancé and I are huge foodies, so if there is one or two restaurants that you loved and would recommend I would greatly appreciate it!! Thanks again!!