2019 Destination Wedding Trends & Tips

Two fancy place settings and a vase of red, white, and pink flowers on a wooden trestle table overlooking the ocean.

Destination weddings have evolved over the years as more and more millennials are choosing to get married abroad. Whether you call it a “destination wedding,” “destination marriage,” or even “eloping,” there are tons of solid reasons why you should consider hopping on a plane for your big day! Let’s take a look at some of 2019’s hottest destination wedding trends and tips:

The cost of a destination wedding

Let’s start off with the $$$. According to The Knot, the cost of destination weddings is actually now on the rise (the price of popularity, am I right?). Even with the average cost of a destination wedding creeping up to around $20,000, it is still much less expensive than a traditional wedding, the cost of which averaged out at $33,931 in 2018.

One destination trend that has stayed the same is having a smaller guest list. The average number of guests invited to a destination wedding is 48. At my own destination wedding, the final guest count was 45—compare that to guest lists numbering well over 100 people for a traditional wedding and it’s not hard to see where the savings come in!

When it comes to the length of the celebration, however, destination weddings are undoubtedly growing longer. Nowadays, couples and their guests are spending more than just a long weekend at their destination—typically they’ll spend anywhere from 5-7 days at the property! This is one area where the experience of the destination wedding trumps the cost.

Good news for destination wedding guests, however: many couples are now paying for extra activities onsite as well as assisting family and close friends with their flights and accommodation. (Keep in mind that this isn’t always the case and the bride and groom are definitely not obligated to pay for their guests. Ultimately, it’s up to your guests to decide if they’re able to join you at your destination wedding.)

Why couples choose to have a destination wedding

The reasons why a couple chooses a destination wedding over a traditional one vary, but these are the most common:

  • Unique style // Destination weddings are even more personalized to the couple involved than traditional weddings.

  • Ease of planning // Fewer guests, all-inclusive options, and help from travel advisors mean destination weddings are often less stressful to plan!

  • Quality // Luxe weddings are a trend that’s here to stay and (depending on the destination) couples often plan the fairytale wedding of their dreams for a fraction of the cost when they go abroad.

  • Extras // It’s all about the experience! (Millennials are the experience-economy generation, after all 💁🏾‍♀️) Fun activities for the guests, cute extras like locally-inspired welcome bags, and resort perks set destination weddings apart from their traditional counterparts.

Where couples choose to get married

Right now, the most popular destination wedding locations for Americans include the Caribbean and Mexico. And even though it’s technically still within the U.S., Hawaii is also a major player in the destination wedding market—it’s an excellent option for couples who don’t want to deal with any passport hassle but still want to feel like they’re somewhere new and exciting.

In terms of venue, beaches, botanical gardens, mountains, sky decks, poolside, private islands, outdoor gazebos, and over-the-water chapels are all popular choices with destination wedding couples. That’s the beauty of getting married abroad—the tone you want to set for your wedding is really up to you! Ski fans? Cozy alpine lodge it is! Nature-lovers? There are tons of gorgeous, green spaces to be found no matter where in the world you go. Sandals Resorts even allows couples to get married on a boat in the middle of the ocean while guests look on!

Guest experience plays a big role in where couples decide to get married, too. Here are some fun guest event ideas that always go over well:

  • Bonfire on the beach

  • Private catamaran cruise

  • Fire dancers performance

  • Welcome cocktail party

  • Group spa day

Need more help? Check out our guide to upping the guest experience at your destination wedding!

Things to remember when planning your destination wedding

  1. Remember, the bottom line is that your wedding is about YOU. Don’t lose your mind trying to please everyone—choose a destination and venue that matches your style and personality. You’re not tied to the place you get married, either! Remember that you can always hop over to a new location (or locations!) when it’s time for the honeymoon.

  2. You don’t have to invite everyone and their mama. When creating your guest list, it’s important that you think about who you really want to share this special celebration with and choose wisely! Also take your guest list into consideration when selecting the resort—not all venues are made equal and some can only accommodate so many guests. (For example, I was just at Hodges Bay in Antigua and although it’s a beautiful location, it’s not very big. They only have 79 units so the resort can fill up quite quickly, unlike a Sandals property that has over 300 rooms.)

  3. I know I keep saying that budget is important but that’s only because IT IS! Whether you’re working with $5,000 or $50,000, you need to keep cost in mind, especially for your guests. Some couples settle on their favorite high-end resort only to discover that half their guests can’t afford it, so make sure you get clear on not only how much you want to spend but also how much your family and friends can reasonably invest in the trip.

  4. Take time to think about the people you’re inviting and what sort of vibe they’ll enjoy for the celebration. For me, my family and friends like to really get after it so a quieter boutique property likely wouldn’t have been the best option for my wedding. 

Even beyond the vibe, take special considerations into account—if you have a grandmother who is disabled, can the venue you chose accommodate this? Will kids be coming along? What time will everyone be winding down for the night? Is a long trip from the airport to the resort going to be an issue for any of your guests? What sort of activities will they enjoy (and can they realistically handle)? It’s all about striking the right balance.

Special Tip: Pick a resort that picks you

What I mean by this is how eager is the resort to host your wedding? What’s in it for you? There’s a difference between a hotel or resort that specializes in weddings and a resort that simply allows them (just like how there are regular travel agents and then there are travel agents that specialize in destination weddings). Choosing a resort that caters to couples looking to get married abroad can often help you score special perks and save big.

In the end, your vision, budget, and the type of guest experience you’re after are the most important things to consider when planning your destination wedding. With this type of wedding on the rise, brides and grooms are choosing increasingly unique and memorable ways to make this special day even more curated and special to them.

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