What Should You Know About Planning a Destination Wedding?
A destination wedding is one that can hold a lot of appeal for couples, particularly following the pandemic. You may still be cautious about having a massive wedding, so a destination wedding lets you keep it intimate. Plus, you could be ready for a getaway.
Not every destination is on a beach somewhere'.
You can tailor it to whatever you’re interested in.
Various events take place in Branson throughout the year and maybe you book a destination wedding in Branson, Missouri, where' everyone can get together in a rental house. You could do a destination wedding in Las Vegas, or you could go to a foreign country steeped in history if your guests are willing.
The great thing about a destination wedding is that you can make it your own and a truly one-of-a-kind experience that’s a lot different from a traditional wedding.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or it’s feasible for every couple, though.
The following is what you should know before you think about planning a vacation wedding.
The Basics of Destination Weddings
Typically, a destination wedding is anything that’s held outside of your hometown and involves travel for most and often all of your guests.
The location you choose might be personally special to you as a couple, or maybe it’s somewhere' picturesque that you’ve never been to before.
Around 9% of people who plan a destination wedding say they did so in a foreign country, with the Caribbean and Mexico being the most popular out-of-the-country locations. Around 17% of survey respondents recently said they considered their location tropical.
That means the majority of people who technically had a destination wedding did so in the U.S.
If you stay in the U.S., it’s easier to get a marriage license than it is abroad.
Around 30% of recently surveyed couples said they had to fly to their wedding destinations, and that means their guests probably did too.
The average cost of a domestic wedding is higher than weddings in your hometown. The Knot says the average cost of a hometown wedding is around $27,300, while the average cost of a destination wedding is $33,400.
There seems to be a trend moving toward more destination weddings, likely because couples are interested in something memorable and personalized, as well as the chance to put their own spin on tradition.
Who Pays for What?
For couples thinking about having a destination wedding, there’s often the question of who should pay for what. This can get tricky. There are some things that the couple should cover, but also a fair amount that your guests will be expected to pay for as well.
The things that you’re expected to pay for if you’re hosting a wedding away are the typical things that you would pay for in your wedding, no matter where' you have it. For example, you should pay for the reception and rehearsal dinner.
Since people are traveling for your wedding, you should also consider hosting a welcoming party and a brunch the morning after the big event.
You might also cover the costs of some fun activities everyone can do while they’re there.
It could be that someone volunteers to host an event for you while you’re away too.
It’s a good rule of thumb to splurge on something like a boat tour for your guests to thank them for coming to your wedding. You should cover any needed transportation between- the venues, and you should also think about renting a shuttle that will pick up your guests at the airport upon arrival.
Your guests should pay for their airfare and hotel rooms, but as a couple, you should try to get options and hotel blocks so they’ll have access to discounts. The guests should pay for drinks and food that aren’t part of the wedding and anything they choose to do outside of the wedding events and activities.
Your wedding party traditionally pays for their accommodations and travel expenses, formalwear, hair and makeup, and food and drinks not part of the wedding.
The exception to this might be if there’s a very special guest that you would be upset not to have at your wedding who can’t afford the trip. You might help a grandparent with the costs, for example, or cover their trip.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Destination Wedding?
The venue is integral to your wedding day. There are pros and cons of a destination wedding, which are talked about more below.
What Are the Pros of a Destination Wedding?
Some of the possible upsides of traveling for your wedding include:
- You can get married in a place that’s beautiful and feels like a dream for you. Your wedding photos will likely be stunning, and everyone will create memories set against an idyllic backdrop.
- You can plan a smaller wedding when it’s a destination. Your wedding can feel simpler and more intimate. Although some of the costs of traveling to get married might be higher than staying in town, you can actually balance these out with a small wedding. You’re choosing the people most important to you when you travel, and you don’t have to feel like you’re leaving people out.
- We touched on this above, but it is possible to save money on a travel wedding compared to something in your city or town. This is up to how you plan things, but with careful strategizing, it’s definitely feasible. If you choose an all-inclusive resort, for example, then you’re booking fewer vendors and venues, and that’s already going to likely offer the opportunity to save money. If you go to a foreign country and there’s a good exchange rate or the country has a lower cost of living, your money might go further.
What Are the Cons of a Destination Wedding?
There are downsides to carefully consider too.
- You’re going to have to put a lot of planning into the wedding—even more so than a traditional wedding which already requires quite a bit. You have to think about things like possible language barriers if you’re going to a foreign country, travel restrictions, and the requirements for a marriage license. If you stay in the U.S., you avoid most of these possible pitfalls.
- You’re going to have to be okay with the fact that some people you invite aren’t going to attend your wedding. There could be job, family, or money-related barriers that keep them from coming. You have to be okay with this going into it.
- There are also no guarantees with a destination wedding. Of course, things can go wrong no matter where' your wedding is, but if you’re going to a foreign country, there are more variables that can factor into things.
Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding
If you’ve considered all the pros and cons and you feel like a destination is a right choice for your wedding, there are some planning tips to keep in mind.
Choosing the right spot is most important. Again, you don’t have to leave the country. You can get the destination experience, but you can make things easier on yourself and your guests.
Talk to your partner about what you’re both interested in and what you feel passionate about.
Once you choose a destination, you can start thinking about timing.
For example, if you want to go to a beach destination, the times of the year when the weather is best also correlate with the high season for tourists. You’ll have to book far in advance to make sure you secure everything.
Let everyone know that you’re planning a destination wedding as soon as you decide for sure. That way, they’ll be able to start their own planning for things like paying for the trip or getting needed passports.
This will also give people the opportunity to gracefully decline if they can’t swing it and to do so well in advance.
With a destination wedding, aim to send save the dates at least eight months out, but don’t be upset when people can’t attend.
You should plan at least one trip to the destination as part of planning your wedding. You can do a lot over email and Zoom, but not everything. Ideally, three trips can be perfect.
The first trip is about scouting everything out and making sure it’s the right fit. You’ll look at the specific venues, and you might also meet with some local suppliers.
During a second trip, you should have made your key selections, and then you might want to do tastings and see samples. A third trip could be a time to plan activities for your guests and finalize everything.
Finally, plan for local marriage requirements as well. If you’re in a foreign country, they can be tricky, and some places even require you to arrive weeks in advance to get married there.
If you’re hosting a destination wedding, try to find someone who’s located on the ground who you can trust and who can do a lot of the planning for you.