Daydreaming about a destination wedding on a remote beach or awe-inspiring mountaintop? Far-flung wedding locales make for a romantic and one-of-a-kind wedding—but are they affordable? How much do destination weddings actually cost?
According to the 2018 Brides American Market Study, the average cost of a traditional wedding is $27,000, meaning a destination wedding can actually be more affordable than a traditional wedding.
But what about your friends and family—when you break down airfare, accommodations, and other travel expenses, what's the destination wedding cost for guests? As you consider destination wedding costs, don't forget to add up their expenses too. To get an idea of how much they're going to have to spend, factor in the following expenses.
Depending on how far away the destination is, airfare expenses can really add up. For example, if almost everybody is on the East Coast, flights to the Caribbean are pretty reasonable, and almost all guests will be able to book direct flights. If everybody is traveling from the East Coast to Hawaii, on the other hand, flights are typically quite expensive and can require multiple plane changes (not to mention suck up more than two solid days of travel to get there and back).
When you think about accommodations, factor in three nights minimum (more if you're planning on an entire wedding weekend filled with activities). Three or more nights can really add up. The most considerate thing to do is offer guests a variety of price points.
An out-of-the-box option is to rent a home (or homes) on Airbnb and make them available for your guests. Just check with the Airbnb hosts to make sure having multiple guests is alright with them (they might charge extra depending on the anticipated number of guests).
One thing to consider, however, is that some wedding venues (usually all-inclusive resorts) require the wedding couple to fill a specific number of rooms in order to host their wedding there. In situations like these, you're potentially locking your guests into higher nightly rates.
While the couple saying "I do" is by no means required to cover accommodations for their guests, it is a very generous option for those who can afford it.
Transportation at the Destination
In more remote destinations, ride shares like Uber and Lyft might not be available, making rentals cars a must. Rental cars can run as much as $90 per day during high season. And even if Uber and taxis are available, multiple rides can add up quickly if there's no public transportation available. One way couples can help with this is to provide your guests with transportation to and from the wedding ceremony, reception, and any other wedding-related activities that are not happening directly on-site.
Meals and Entertainment
Although they'll be eating at many of your wedding festivities, guests will also be paying tourist prices for all of their other snacks and meals, including $10 for a pretzel at the airport. If your wedding guests are all staying at a big resort, they're likely to be paying hotel prices for food, which can be high. To offset some of these costs, plan activities during the destination wedding weekend that include entertainment and/or meals.
Time Off From Work (Including Travel Days)
Don't disregard the number of vacation days your guests will have to take off of work, including travel days. If your guests don't have vacation days built up, this can end up being a direct expense out of their monthly budget. If you choose a destination that requires two days of travel on each end, you may be asking too much of your guests.
Currency Exchange Rate
For destination weddings outside the United States and its territories, you should consider the exchange rate and the value of the dollar wherever you're going. Checking currency valuations for remote locales is wise as you consider your own wedding budget and your guests' overall transportation expenses.
Some exotic destinations are just really expensive in general. The more remote and less commercialized the destination is, the pricier things are when you actually get there. It's not just the eating and drinking that's costly—there are a lot of other things wedding guests plan to buy at the destination. With airlines charging a fortune for checked luggage, more than one wedding guest may plan to purchase sunscreen, bug repellent, batteries, and other essentials once they arrive, only to find that the exorbitant costs of these items in foreign locales can end up being as much as (or more than) a checked bag. Many couples offer welcome baskets with items such as sunscreen, snacks, water bottles, flip-flops, etc.—anything they know guests might need during their stay.