Tips on Having a Destination Wedding in Western North Carolina
Planning a wedding involves so many moving parts, expenses, and decisions to make! But planning a destination wedding comes with its own unique set of worries and tasks. While many couples choose to have a destination wedding on the beach or somewhere tropical, heading to the Smoky Mountains instead is becoming increasingly more popular! And for good reason – these mountains have their own special allure. Plus there is so much for guests and couples to do while visiting! If you want to have your destination wedding in Western North Carolina, here are some of my best tips!
Hire a local wedding planner
I always recommend hiring a wedding planner for my local couples, but it becomes even more crucial for long-distance couples to work with a planner! They can be a huge resource for you! As you begin to look for vendors, a wedding planner will have local, lesser-known talent to share with you! They can also be the in-between person for you when you’re unable to attend all the meetings. Plus, they help you stay on budget and turn your vision into reality!
Choosing your date
Be mindful of the date and season you book your wedding. Typically the season with the best weather is also the busiest tourist season! Personally, I always tell people to visit during early May or early September. This way kids are still in school, but it’s still warm enough out to enjoy all the hiking, waterfalls, and other fun things to do!
Send out invitations early
Make sure you give your guests plenty of heads up!! You could send Save the Dates 6-10 months prior, and then the invitations 8 weeks to 3 months before. This way they can save up and clear their calendar for a longer trip! Also realize that while you can’t invite everyone, you also can’t expect everyone you do invite to come. Plus, what may be an awesome vacation for you and your fiance, may not be their ideal way of spending their time off of work and vacation budget.
Create a wedding website
Having a website is an easy way to update and share information with all your guests. Here you can provide maps, directions to their lodging and the ceremony site, fun things to do in the area with their spare time, and a schedule of the weekend.
Embrace the setting
If you’re spending the time and energy to plan a destination wedding in Western North Carolina, then live it up! Find a venue that shows off those mountains! If you only get this one chance to get wedding photos in the mountains, then be flexible in your wedding dress/attire. Be okay with a short hike or, in some cases, a 4-wheel ride, to get to the best views. You could also consider having a day before or a day after photo session where it’s just the two of you and your photographer. You won’t be on a time-constraint and you can really find those epic locations!
Also, try to find a unique way to include North Carolina or the Smokies into your guest’s experience. Consider serving traditional Southern Barbecue, fresh seafood from the coast, shrimp and grits, or Cheerwine.
You can incorporate this with food, a welcome bag or gift, or the wedding favor. Here are some seriously cute ideas from Pinterest.
Also be aware that when you’re in the Smokies, the weather is always changing! You’ll want to be mentally prepared for rain, sure but FOG is also a big factor in the mountains. That awesome lookout you saw in perfect daylight? You might only see a big white wall if it decides to be a foggy day instead. Try not to be disappointed and just realize such is the nature of life in the Smokies (hence the name!)
Consider all-inclusive venues
Since you’ll be having lots of guests coming in from out of town, you will need a place for all of them to stay! There are lots of venues that offer on-site lodging and catering, which could make your experience and wedding day a much easier process. Venues such as The Farm in Candler have cozy cabins and homes to rent out. This makes it so the entire property is yours for your wedding day weekend! Everything you need is all one place.
Paint Rock Farm in Hot Springs, NC has a more rustic vibe with glamping sites. Each site is a tiny cabin with its own porch overlooking the river. The venue is ontop of a hill with gorgeous views and is very secluded. You would be in your own oasis!
Other options to look at:
Other things to consider when choosing your venue
Even if you do choose an all-inclusive venue, you will still have guests that need to stay elsewhere (unless you are eloping or having a micro-wedding). Make sure that wherever you choose has easy access to other amenities. As tempting as it is to be out in the middle of nowhere with gorgeous views, it would make a wedding day extremely difficult! You don’t want to be too far away from grocery stores or lodging/hotels. I would recommend making sure your guests’ lodging are within 15 minutes of the wedding venue. You don’t want them getting lost on the way there!
Make sure to visit your venue in person to book, and then again a few months before the wedding date to finalize. If not you’re not able to make that last trip before the wedding day, plan on arriving at least 5 days before your wedding. This gives you enough time to finalize things with your venue, do a trial hair and makeup run through, and connect with any other vendors for last-minute details.
Tips for packing
Even if you have to bring 10 checked bags for this trip, I would recommend stuffing your bags with all your items instead of mailing anything! You don’t want to risk anything getting lost in the mail or not arriving on time. While there is a risk of bags getting lost, I feel it’s more reliable than the mail. Don’t pack your wedding dress in a checked bag, though! Put it in a dress bag and take it as a carry-on. This way you can always keep your eye on it. For your rings, you can find a nice ring box and put them in a zippered pocket in your carry-on, too.
Make sure you’re familiar with permits + licenses
Especially if you’re planning on getting married in a State Park or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll want to make sure you’ve investigated the necessary permit requirements! This post from The Knot also has great info about obtaining your marriage license!
The Knot article also mentions to that you need a “special occasion permit if you want to serve alcohol at your reception. Although your caterer will likely take care of this, make sure you pay the fee and have the permit on-site.”
So there you have it – just a few of my best tips for planning a destination wedding in North Carolina! I hope if you’re planning on traveling to the beautiful Smoky Mountains to say your vows, you’ll reach out to me with any questions you might have!
Prefer video? Here ya go!
Meghan Rose Photography | North Carolina Film Wedding Photographer
Meghan is a North Carolina film wedding photographer based in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. If you’re interested in working with her for your destination wedding in western North Carolina, you can contact her here. If you found this blog post helpful, you can also see her other articles on planning your wedding (from a photographer’s perspective!) here:
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