Pro-tip(s): It's cheaper than you'd think
If you’ve ever found yourself lost in the hashtag “destination wedding” on Instagram (or you follow pretty much any celebrity wedding planners #guiltypleasure), you’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of incredible-looking weddings in foreign locales. Every weekend, all summer long, you can find photos of massive floral installations, hundreds of candles, and even perfectly curated welcome bags with hand-drawn maps from destination weddings. It’s easy to get intimidated by the thought of celebrating your marriage in the way that couples like Amal and George or Chrissy and John did, but wouldn’t it be so awesome? You, your partner, your families, and your friends, all having dinner overlooking the ocean seems like a (very expensive) dream… right?
Well sure. Destination weddings can cost as many million as you have on hand. (Really, what wedding can’t offer the same opportunities to spend?) But the fact is, if it’s what you want, destination weddings can be far more affordable—and far more practical—than you think. And some helpful planning spreadsheets help make executing any wedding a little easier.
A destination wedding is not always two hundred people in a secret French location. Sometimes it’s fifty at a beach resort that’s an 2-4 hour-long flight from home depending on where your going and were you and your guest are travelling from—and that makes them totally worth considering. To help demystify destination weddings a bit, As a destination wedding planner who loves to travel:
Here’s what you need to know.
WHO SHOULD CONSIDER A DESTINATION WEDDING?
There are three types of couples who should seriously consider a destination wedding:
1. COUPLES WHO ARE INVITING LOTS OF GUESTS FROM OUT OF TOWN. If everyone is going to travel anyway, you might as well make the location somewhere people are excited to go, and give yourself more quality time with people you wish you saw more often. "opportunities to hang out at the beach, the pool, and nightclubs prior to the big day and afterward.” Let your wedding become the reason for a vacation.
2. COUPLES WHO ARE HAVING A HARD TIME CONTROLLING THE GUEST COUNT. You will most likely end up with fewer RSVPs because of the cost and time commitment associated with a destination wedding. But “Beware—don’t invite more than you can handle. In the odd scenario that most people are able to go you don’t want to find yourself in a financial crisis.”
3. COUPLES WHO LOVE TO TRAVEL OR HAVE AN EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO A CERTAIN DESTINATION. It’s a pretty great way to show off something so important to the two of you. “Do it if you are a travel buff and that’s truly what you want to do. The people who really care about you will find a way to be there no matter what.
IS HAVING A DESTINATION WEDDING EXPENSIVE?
In short, not necessarily! There are a few factors to consider to determine whether or not a destination wedding might be expensive for the hosts. I suggests a straightforward way to figure out if a destination wedding will be expensive for you: “Like any wedding, you can go luxury or economical. It all depends on location, season, design vision, and guest count. First identify how much it would cost to get married in the city where you live. Then identify the cost of doing a similar wedding in your dream destination.”
“Typically, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean will give you the most for your money.” However, keep in mind that the cost can also vary depending on the time of year you plan to host your wedding: “Winter months and holiday weekends are in high demand, so expect higher pricing at those times.”
There is one additional expense for destination weddings, though, that you’ll need to consider: additional travel. “Keep in mind that hosting a destination wedding usually lowers your guest count, but you will now need to factor in the cost of traveling for site visits to iron out details,”
WHAT LOCATIONS DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR A DESTINATION WEDDING?
To avoid the threat of a tropical storm, stay out of the hurricane belt! Aruba is one of my favorites because, “You’ll be hard pressed to find a rainy day in Aruba. Since it’s south of the Hurricane Belt, it rarely experiences wet weather, so you are almost guaranteed a picture-perfect wedding day. The Dominican Republic is also a great choice for some of the best all-inclusive deals.”
Or if you can swing Italy, do it! good food, beaches, and strong drinks, so which are some of my favorite destinations? “My top three would have to be Italy, Mexico, and Columbia. The idea of an Italian wedding: “I’m a big fan of Italy—imagine a romantic villa in Tuscany as the setting for your nuptials! It’s what dreams are made of!”
HOW SHOULD WE CHOOSE OUR WEDDING LOCATION?
Brainstorming + research = finding the perfect destination for you and your partner. The importance of working together with your partner to decide on locations for destination weddings: “Both you and your futur e spouse should write out a list of your dream wedding destinations—the crazier the better. Then combine the lists and identify which destinations are in common… or spark interest in the other partner.”
It’s important to think about how you would like your wedding weekend to feel—for both you and your guests. Question, “Do you envision relaxing with your guests beachside with drinks in hand, going on a morning hike to watch the sunrise, or maybe learning about the pyramids while on the back of a camel? Set the intention of how you would like to spend your wedding weekend and which destination will translate that the best. Remember, you are not just planning a trip for you and your partner, but all of your family and friends as well, so you want to be aware of their experience. Pick a destination that you love but that won’t scare guests away with a high flight cost or a Zika (or other CDC) warning.”
IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO CHOOSE A RESORT FOR A DESTINATION WEDDING?
Resorts are often budget friendly, and they simplify the planning process for destination weddings. In particular, A full-service venue such as an all-inclusive resort is great for those who are looking for a packaged concept. It usually includes a photographer, flowers, musicians, food and beverage, a cake, and an attendant on the wedding day.”
If you do go with a resort, it’s important to be sure to ask questions about the restrictions, though, which can determine your choices for vendors or the size of your room blocks. If you are looking to design your own wedding and bring in your own vendors, then inquire with the resort before booking to see if it’s possible to just rent the space and bring in your own team. Also inquire about any room block requirements, and the cost per night for your guests.” Working with a travel professional or destination wedding planner could ease some of time researching since they do have relationships and are familiar with resorts and locations.
WHOSE COSTS DO WE NEED TO COVER?
There are no standard expectations here! If you’d like to be generous (especially for someone special who may not be able to attend otherwise), go ahead, but there’s no requirement that you pay your guests’ way, including the wedding party and immediate family.
As a reminder, “This is your wedding, so do what works best for you. Some couples manage the housing costs, all meals, or the cost of flight. Others manage only the costs for the wedding day and their guests manage their own travel details.”
As the hosts of the party, it is also nice to consider doing a little something extra to make your guests feel loved and appreciated. “If your guests are paying for the majority of their travel expenses, try to find your own budget-friendly ways to improve their experience. This could include putting special care and attention into welcome bags (even just packaged snacks and bottled water goes a long way!), choosing a resort that includes options for day trips and excursions, arranging airport transfers, or simply feeding them gummy bears by the pool. How you spoil your guests is totally up to you (and doesn’t have to break the bank)… just make sure they know you appreciate how far they have come to celebrate with you.”
SHOULD WE HIRE VENDORS LOCAL TO THE DESTINATION OR VENDORS WHO ARE NEAR US AND WILL TRAVEL FOR DESTINATION WEDDINGS?
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding who to hire for any wedding, but that’s especially true for destination weddings. There are certainly some benefits to hiring a vendor local to your destination. “If you and your partner are planning the wedding yourselves, it can be beneficial to use vendors that are local and familiar with the area and your venue. It helps to save on travel expenses, they have great insight on what works well, and they can flag details you may need to consider.”
“A great way to save money and simultaneously support the economy of your chosen destination is to hire local vendors.” However, she also notes that there are times when it makes sense to hire someone to travel to your destination: “If one particular aspect of your wedding is very important to you, then you may want to consider splurging and flying in your dream vendor. For example, if you are having your wedding in the Caribbean, but don’t necessarily want the standard cookie cutter beach poses in your album, consider flying in the documentary-style photographer you’ve been eyeing. If you are very particular about your hair and makeup, fly in the artist you go to regularly so you are guaranteed to look your very best. Or if you want to have an amazing party, fly in your favorite DJ from your city to ensure the dance floor is packed all night. Incorporating just one of these vendors is a great way to bring a little bit of home along with you without breaking the bank.”
As a destination planner, I work with couples that are looking to have someone manage the moving parts around their destination event, while also having the ability to meet with me in person and receive real-time updates. In an effort to support local business, I do my best to select vendors that will be able to execute the client’s vision, but sometimes, the couple has their heart set on a certain photographer or certain DJ, and we decide to bring them along for their special day, which also works.”
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