A destination wedding can be one of the most gorgeous (and fun!) options for your celebration. But unless you're just inviting a small group of people, it can also quickly become very expensive when you add up all of the costs associated with hosting a far-away celebration. Though it is possible to host a dream destination wedding on a budget — even if you're not working with a bottomless budget. You may think a destination event would create a mountain of debt, but there are ways to scale down the costs. We tapped a few experts to help you navigate a destination wedding budget.
Plan Around the Shoulder Seasons
High season—typically June through August in Europe and Asia; December through February south of the equator—will cost you dearly. Resorts may ask you to buy out the entire property for three days instead of the usual two, boosting cash outlays into the stratosphere. That’s why booking in May or October can save you a ton of cash on everything from buyout costs to flights. “Whether it’s Hawaii, Europe, the Caribbean, or Greece, shoulder season is key,” says Kara Bebell, who cofounded the Travel Siblings with brother Harlan deBell. “Otherwise, your guests are paying exorbitant airfares.”
Have Someone on the Ground
Technology makes long-distance planning fairly easy, but planners such as Fremont of Loli Events, who specializes in weddings in France, says “having somebody on-site is priceless” to negotiate the best prices. Fremont works hand in hand with her business partner, Coralie Prats, who is based in Paris.
Don't try to import something completely different and foreign into your chosen destination. Here’s a jaw-dropping comparison: “You can get $25,000 worth of flowers in New York City for $5,000 in France,” says Fremont. Clients reap the benefits of being close to where the petunias are picked or when labor costs are less, she adds. It also means your wedding can look like it meshes with the gorgeous back- drop you’ve chosen. Using libations from a close-by vineyard or charcuterie snacks from the town butcher pay off at reception and dinnertime. And why not review SoundCloud mixes for in-town musicians recommended by the venue, instead of opting for the expense of flying in your favorite funk band?
Your Destination Can Make the Budget
Commonly overlooked things like taxes and duties, transportation requirements, and travel documents can quickly add to the cost of a destination wedding. "For example, if you're thinking of a seaside event, the Riviera Maya is a much more budget-friendly option than Turks & Caicos," says event producer Lisa Vorce. "Getting things to a more remote location that's not easily accessible by airplane is challenging and costly. Also, don't forget about passport and visa requirements for certain countries and the associated fees."
Opt for no Tent
A tented event can be extremely expensive. "You have to take into consideration the cost of the material, getting it there, decorating it, lighting it, and putting in flooring just to name a few things," explains Vorce. "If I'm working with a client that doesn't have a full-blown production budget, I usually look for venues that don't require tenting and have a covered area that could work as backup in case of inclement weather. This way, even if we have to go to Plan B, it doesn't cost extra."
Consider Buying Out a Property, or Part of It
"If a complete resort buyout is not in your destination wedding budget, ask the venue if you can buy out part of the property instead," says Vorce. This way, you're able to benefit from having privacy — at least in the areas surrounding your event — without the stress of having to pay for every room on the resort. "Venues usually consider partial buyouts on a case by case basis," Vorce explains. "And the design of some properties — for example, if it only has one main beach — might not lend itself well to a partial buyout. Try to find a resort that might have different wings or areas and see if you're able to reserve just that particular space."
Fly in your most important vendors and use local talent for the rest.
"Flying in a full team of vendors is exponentially more expensive than using local talent," says Vorce. "You might want to bring in your own photographer and videographer, but for other things, consider using local vendors. Not only is this a smarter choice financially, but the true beauty of having these destination weddings is being able to work with regional artisans and support the local economy."