Captivated by the idea of exchanging vows at a Lake Como villa or on a tropical beach surrounded by friends and family? Then a destination wedding is the answer. While it may be within budget for some couples, for many, the decision to have a destination wedding rests with the cost.
So what is it that makes destination weddings more expensive? Is the couple responsible for covering certain costs for guests? Are there alternatives to a far-away destination wedding? We have the answers, along with a few tips from an award-winning wedding planner.
Average Cost of a Destination Wedding
The total cost of a destination wedding varies. Prices depend on location, the number of days, the number of events, the U.S. dollar to local currency exchange rate, the time of year, the number of guests, and more. That said, the average estimated baseline cost of a destination wedding hovers around $35,000.
What Influences the Cost of a Destination Wedding
A destination wedding has the same essential elements as a local wedding. You’ll want invitations, a dress, rings, a venue, catering, a florist, music, a photographer, cake, and an officiant. Travel, accommodations, group activities, little extras, and a full-service destination wedding planner are the factors that will end up costing more.
Planning a wedding from a distance comes with its own set of additional challenges and logistics, so hire a planner who has experience with destination weddings and a trusted network of local vendors.
However, there are some details of destination weddings that could save you money. Destinations in countries where the currency exchange rate works in your favor will typically end up being less costly because your money will go further.
Who Pays for What
Customarily, travel and accommodations are the guests' responsibility. Depending on the location, your destination wedding might include airfare, a few nights at a hotel, meals and entertainment aside from the wedding itself, and local transportation. In addition, they may have to shop for suitable clothing for the location, and perhaps take days off from work.
In consideration of these expenses (and the fact that everyone is from out of town), you may want to host extra meals and events like a welcome dinner, cocktail hour, or farewell brunch. You are definitely not required to rent a car for anyone, but coordinating group transportation to and from the various events is a thoughtful touch, especially if alcohol is being served.
Ask the hotel(s) whether transportation to and from the airport is offered. If it’s not, you could consider covering that cost for your guests.
If you’d like to welcome your guests with a basket of goodies, a personal note, and a wedding weekend outline, have the hotel deliver to the rooms upon check-in. Fill them with local items like snacks and fruit, wine and bubbly, or any other token you’d like. It's all to say how happy you are that they made the journey to celebrate with you.
Destination Wedding Tips
You've decided on a spectacular wedding location. Now it’s time to read up on some helpful destination wedding planning tips.
Manage your guest list.
The number of guests will influence your decisions on everything, beginning with the venue. If you have your heart set on a remote location or a site with limited space, you’ll have to be a bit stricter with your guest list. If you’re not able to shorten your guest list, consider a destination close to your home city. “We offer what we call ‘local destinations’—venues that are near the couple's home area but may require having guests stay overnight,” says wedding planner Holly Olsen. “Guests feel like they are attending a destination wedding, but they didn’t have to get on a plane.”
Meet the Expert
Holly Olsen is the founder of Seattle’s Perfectly Posh Events. With over a decade of experience professionally planning and designing more than 300 weddings, Holly and Perfectly Posh Events have been named Seattle’s Best Wedding Coordinator, Best Wedding Planner, Best Wedding Vendor by Seattle Bride Magazine.
Consider your wedding date.
If you have your heart set on a popular destination, avoid the high-season crowds, and book your wedding during a quieter time for the locale. A shoulder-season of spring or fall will have the best prices for your guests' airfare and rooms, and you’ll likely get your preferred dates (and perhaps a better deal) at your venue.
Set up a wedding website.
Create your wedding website as soon as your venue and dates are confirmed. If you’re not hosting all travel and meals for your guests, offer a myriad of choices and details so they can make their arrangements. List luxury, mid-range, and budget suggestions for hotels and include any pre-arranged hotel room blocks or flight blocks from gateway cities with contact information and booking codes. Provide local transportation options, restaurants, sightseeing spots, details about the hosted events, the average temperatures at the destination, any specialty clothing they need, and the dress code for your wedding.
Mail your save-the-dates with the wedding details and your website information nine to 12 months in advance to give your guests time to determine whether they can attend. It’s helpful to include start and end dates for your entire weekend.
Consider requesting no gifts.
In light of the expenses your guests might incur to attend the wedding, you may want to mention the phrase “your presence is our present" on your website and invitations. Otherwise, if a guest wants to give you a gift, they should have it delivered to your home before the wedding.