Budgeting for a Destination Wedding
Destination weddings are some of my favourite to shoot. Who could resist a stunning affair with the Italian countryside as your backdrop? It makes the wedding so much more than just one night–it becomes a unique shared experience as you and your guests explore an exotic destination. But of course, many people worry about how to plan and budget for such an event.
The truth is, a destination wedding may actually be more affordable than a traditional one. According to The Knot, in 2017 the average cost for an international destination wedding was £21,202 while the average cost of any type of wedding rose to £26,002. So although travelling to an exotic location sounds pricey it can actually be done for a similar cost or less than a wedding at home. If you’ve ever wondered how to pull off a destination wedding, here are some great tips on how to budget for your dream destination wedding getaway!
Travel Will Be an Extra Line Item
Budgeting for a destination wedding is completely different from a typical wedding simply because your travel expenses will be a much larger portion. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an affordable destination wedding, but simply that you may have to cut back in other areas in order to account for travel expenses. Luckily, one benefit of a destination wedding is that the location often provides plenty of ambience and activities on its own, so you don’t have to spend as much time or money planning those aspects.
Planning Ahead is Extra Important
With a destination wedding, it’s more important than ever to book everything ahead of time. First, you want to make sure that your guests have ample time to decide if they’re attending and make their own travel arrangements. Second, you’ll want enough time to monitor travel prices and book when they’re at their lowest. Finally, communication with local vendors can be complicated and tricky, so giving all parties enough time to get prepared for the event is a huge benefit. A destination wedding isn’t one you can throw together on short notice so be patient and give yourself enough time to make it a memorable occasion!
(Image by Gary Nunn at Hotel Miramar Barcelona)
Location, Location, Location
A destination wedding can have a lot of meanings to different people. For some, it might be a tropical wedding on the beach of an all-inclusive resort. For others, the destination is a cosy cabin and a remote mountain top ceremony. Still, others may choose a more unique location that has special meaning to the couple. Your destination will greatly inform your budgeting needs, so take some time to shop around if you’re not set on a certain location. USA Today rounded up some of the best budget-friendly locations, so check it out for some ideas! If you have your heart set on one of the top locations, you can still make your dream day happen! Look into options like an easy wedding loan or using credit card rewards to help finance your travel plans.
Research the Legal Side
Before you decide to tie the knot in a foreign locale, make sure you research if you’re actually able to get married there! Different countries have different paperwork requirements such as birth certificates, marriage licenses or health certificates from a resident practitioner so make sure you have everything squared away well before you hop on your flight. In the Caribbean, St. Maarten even has a 10 day residency requirement before you can marry. Be sure you’re aware of all the requirements and any fees they include ahead of time so you can prepare and factor everything correctly into your budget.
Source Local Services
Instead of the expense and hassle of transporting wedding decorations and accessories to your location, try to use local businesses or resources whenever possible. For a beach wedding, source some palm leaves or shells for centrepieces or for a mountain wedding add some decorative elements from nature. You’ll be perfectly on theme and won’t have to worry about shipping items ahead of time. Go local for services like catering and wedding cakes too! Part of the fun of a destination wedding is trying out something different and experiencing the culture of that region.
Keep a Small Guest List
Many people think a destination wedding could be the solution to their guest list woes. They think they can invite a crowd of people but anticipate that only their nearest and dearest will be willing to make the trip to see their vows. This could work out, but it’s a dangerous bet. When sending invitations you should assume that everyone you’re inviting will be attending the wedding, and your budget should reflect that. If you invite more people than your budget allows, thinking the majority will decline, you could be in big trouble when all of your guests accept. Instead of playing this guessing game, pare down your guest list to the people you truly want there on your big day. That way there’s no chance of you ending up in a sticky situation budget-wise.
Be Aware of Peak Season
Peak season can be a tricky thing to navigate when planning your destination wedding. For instance, peak season in the Caribbean is usually from mid-December to mid-April. This is the time when the weather will be the most stable and pleasant, but it also means that resorts will be at their most crowded and prices will likely be inflated. Off-peak season (mid-April to mid-December) could be a good opportunity to save on travel and accommodations but also overlaps with hurricane season (June through November). Be sure to do your research on when peak season falls for your desired destination and check if it would be worth it to schedule your wedding for off-peak time.
Invest In a Local Wedding Planner
This one is especially important if you’re planning your wedding in a place where you don’t speak the dominant language. A native wedding planner who’s knowledgeable about the local wedding industry can be invaluable for finding and communicating with vendors. They can also help scout out venues if you’re unable to make the trip to your destination ahead of the wedding date. A wedding planner is an extra expense for your wedding budget, but it’s an investment that will be well worth it if you’re not prepared for the challenge of language barriers and conflicting time zones.
Be Flexible With Dates
Since your wedding is essentially also a vacation, you have some flexibility to consider hosting your event on a weekday. Vendors and venues may be more flexible with their prices on a weekday, meaning you could score a great deal! You and your guests will also be able to enjoy discounted travel by travelling during less popular days of the week. Don’t worry about inconveniencing your guests either. If they’re okay with making the commitment to travel to your destination wedding, chances are they won’t mind taking a few days off of work to do it!
Don’t Overplan Activities
You’ll usually include a rehearsal dinner and a morning-after brunch in the lineup of festivities, but after that try to hold off on filling up your guest’s schedule too much beyond that. Everyone has different travel styles and some guests might prefer time on their own to explore the destination you’ve chosen. Instead of planning a ton of excursions, which can increase your budget, include a list of suggested activities and let guests decide their itinerary on their own. If you’re worried about spending enough time with your guests, just make sure they’re aware of your own schedule (something casual like “We’ll be hanging by the pool on the afternoon after the wedding”) and let them know they’re welcome to join in. Keeping communication open yet casual lets everyone plan a vacation that they’ll be happy with.
Destination weddings are a dream for many couples and as you can see, it’s actually not too difficult to achieve. By defining your budget and following this guide to make sure all of your bases are covered, you can host a fabulous destination wedding without breaking the bank. The memories you create with your friends and family in your dream destination will be priceless a well. Be sure to reach out if you’re interested in having me capture those special memories for you!