I’m all about traveling light, and didn’t think my destination wedding to Costa Rica should be any exception. I was able to pack most items in my carry-on bag, and the rest were checked in a suitcase I shared with my husband.
I would urge any bride to find a venue that will provide your table centerpieces, decor, menus, programs, etc. The less you have to lug through the airport, the happier you’ll be. Trust me.
Since the standard length of a honeymoon is typically around a week, and many destination weddings take place in warm climates, this packing list should be a useful guide for most destination brides.
Wedding dress – Carry this on. Do not check it! You definitely don’t want to be wedding dress-less if your luggage gets lost in transit. Put it in a garment bag and stow it in the overhead bin of the plane.
2 bathing suits – One for sunbathing, one for recreation.
1 bathing suit cover-up – If you’re like me (the beach is where you’ll usually find me), then your bathing suit cover-up will be your most worn article of clothing.
1 evening dress / reception dress – Something a little more comfortable to slip into after the ceremony. Think: cocktail attire.
2 pairs of shorts
2 tanks or camisoles
2 tube tops – I basically live in tube tops in warm weather, but that’s just because I hate tan lines.
1 light cardigan – Stick to a neutral color that will go with most outfits.
7 pairs of underwear – Also whatever undergarments you will be wearing on the day of the wedding.
1 strapless bra
1 regular bra – Preferably convertible.
1 sports bra – Bring only if you plan on exercising. I left mine at home.
1 pair of pajamas
1 set of wedding night lingerie
1 pair of socks – Just in case. Getting cold feet is not an option on this trip!
Wedding shoes – If you’re getting married on a beach, I would recommend flat sandals. I tried to pull off wedges since I’m very short and didn’t want my husband towering over me during the ceremony, but found it almost impossible to walk on the sand with them on.
Hiking sandals / shoes – I brought my Teva hiking sandals. They’re comfortable and – BONUS – you don’t have to pack any extra socks! If you get them muddy like I did, just toss them in the shower and rinse them off.
Flip flops – Great for most days exploring, walking to the beach, around the pool, etc.
Wedges – Bring a pair that you can either dress up or down.
Bobby pins / hair ties
Brush / comb – I like the Goody Folding Brush/Comb combo. It folds into itself and really helps save space.
Hairspray / hair product – Go with something light, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time by the salty ocean breeze.
Makeup – For the wedding, I chose to have my makeup done for me by the hotel spa, so I only brought my everyday makeup along. Try to stick to the bare necessities. A bit of concealer, mascara, and lip gloss was pretty much all I wore most days. You’ll have a glowing tan to boast, so you probably won’t need much anyway.
Shampoo / conditioner – Call the hotel in advance and ask if they supply these items. There’s no sense packing them if they are provided.
Body wash – Ditto above.
Body / face lotion
Contacts / solution – I use the one-day Acuvue contacts when traveling. It’s easier to just toss them out at the end of the night, rather than deal with cleaning and storing one pair for the week.
Nail clippers / file
Sunscreen – Use liberally before the wedding. The last thing you want is sunburn or obvious tan lines on your wedding day.
Aloe vera – Just in case you don’t follow my advice above.
SPF Chapstick – My lips are usually the first things to burn, so I always make sure they are covered in chapstick.
Birth control / contraceptives – Unless you plan on making those babies right away. In that case, throw these out the window!
Pain reliever – Just in case the reception gets wild, you’ll want to minimize the chance of a next-day hangover.
Prescriptions – Make sure you carry these on in the original bottle(s).
Camera – Even if you hired a photographer for your wedding day, you’ll probably want to capture more private moments in between.
Cell phone – I was able to pick up a Wi-Fi signal at most restaurants and bars in Costa Rica, and our hotel provided free Wi-Fi. I set my Android to “Airplane Mode” for the entire trip and was able to access the web and take pictures almost everywhere I went.
iPod / headphones – Our iPod took the place of a wedding DJ. We made three playlists ahead of time: one for the beach ceremony, one for during dinner, and one for dancing. Alternately, if you want to save extra space, you can use your smartphone for music purposes.
Chargers / batteries – The more devices you bring, the more room you’ll be taking up with chargers and cords.
Wedding bands – These are other important items to travel with in your carry-on. Put them in a separate zippered compartment inside your bag. DON’T check them in your suitcase.
Wedding jewelry – I like to tuck my jewelry inside a pair of socks. It keeps them safe and utilizes another item you’d be packing anyway.
Mending kit – This will come in handy when your mom rips your dress while she’s zipping you up. (Yup, this happened to me. Mo-om!)
Vows – Unless you plan to write them the day of. (Like my writer husband.)
Legal documents – My husband and I were legally married in the U.S. a week before the symbolic Costa Rican ceremony. This saved us the hassle of dealing with international marriage laws and paperwork. However, if you are planning on getting legally married at your venue, be sure to do your research in advance. Check www.travel.state.gov for any documents you may be asked to provide.
Wedding favors – If you want to give your guests a memento, a souvenir or local craft is a perfect gift. Attempting to bring favors for the entire party from your home country would be a huge waste of space.
Passport – A valid passport is necessary if you’re going to be traveling out of country. Check your expiration dates well in advance.
Credit card – If you have a great travel card (we love our Chase Sapphire Preferred for its zero foreign transaction-fee feature), bring it along, but make sure to alert your bank of your travel plans ahead of time. Ditto for any debit cards.
About the Author: Katie Kurlyandchik is a dog lover, road tripper, and Detroit native moving to the Bay Area next month. She and her husband were married on Playa Conchal in Costa Rica earlier this year and never wanted to return home. You can follow them on their quest for location independence on their blog, Swoon Divers, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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