Who Pays for Destination Weddings? How to Break Down All the Costs

The answer might surprise you

Updated 09/27/19

Photo by Ana Lui

Do you dream of saying "I do" in a far-flung destination? Heading off to an exotic location for your nuptials is very tempting, but many couples are concerned this option will break the bank. So, if you're having a destination wedding, who pays? The first thing you should know is it's not on the couple to cover guest accommodations and airfare. This is a common misconception—and while there are certainly additional costs associated with a destination wedding, these big-ticket items aren't among them. Read on to find out what else the couple is and is not responsible for.

Don't Feel Responsible for Everyone's Airfare and Accommodations

Consider this: If you live in Miami and attend a wedding as a guest or bridesmaid in Chicago, the couple isn't expected to pick up your airfare or hotel expenses. Nobody ever pays for out-of-town guests as a matter of tradition or etiquette, and choosing to have a destination wedding does not change the rules. It simply levels the playing field for your guests: Everybody has to travel and, therefore, everybody has expenses.

You Can, However, Discreetly Pay for a Few Guests Who Couldn't Otherwise Make It

In some special cases, however, you may feel compelled to help out a few specific family members, friends, or wedding party members who you know couldn't afford to make the trip otherwise. But this should be done very discreetly, and you shouldn't tell anyone else about it. Others might feel put off that you didn't think they were entitled to assistance, and the receiver of your help could be embarrassed.

Use serious judgment about whom to pay for before you make any offers though. You could easily spend as much money on guests' travel and accommodations as you spend on the entire wedding. Just because somebody can't afford to travel to your destination wedding—for whatever reason—doesn't make it your obligation or responsibility to pick up the tab. Only do so when the person you're helping is someone you absolutely, positively have to have at your wedding. You might even be able to use some of those points you've racked up to cover the cost of a flight.

Invite All of Your Destination Wedding Guests to the Rehearsal Dinner

You are actually probably doing far more for your guests at a destination wedding than most brides and grooms do for wedding guests at home. Case in point: the rehearsal dinner. Traditionally, only the wedding party, family, and some out-of-town guests are invited to the rehearsal dinner. At a destination wedding, everybody is from out of town, and therefore, everybody should be invited to attend everything (with the exception, perhaps, of something like a bridesmaid luncheon).

Host a Welcome Event and/or Farewell Brunch

In addition to the rehearsal dinner, make sure to keep your guests well fed throughout the wedding weekend. Most destination wedding couples have some kind of welcome event or farewell brunch. Consider throwing a beach party or casual picnic instead of a traditional formal sit-down affair for these events. Everyone made such an effort to be there for your wedding, and these events give you more time to spend with them, as well as the opportunity to show your appreciation one more time.

Offset Your Guests' Destination Wedding Costs

Though you won't be paying everyone's way, you can do things to offset their costs, especially for your wedding party. For example, you can check with the hotel where you're booking rooms to see if they offer any free rooms if a certain number of reservations are made. If they offer a deal—like a free night for every 10 booked—set those free rooms aside for your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Another idea to consider is requesting that your guests not give gifts. Emphasize that their presence is gift enough and that you wouldn't dream of letting them buy you a wedding gift on top of paying for airfare and lodging. Even if you don't extend this request to all your guests, it's good destination wedding etiquette to tell your wedding party that gifts are unnecessary.

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