The first thing I thought about when planning my wedding was “how much would this destination wedding cost?” Will I even be able to afford one? The average cost changes each year, but we will break down what you can expect for your money below:
Thinking about a destination wedding? Some of the hotspots include Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida, and Mexico — there are so many different choices you can make!
The Knot conducts a survey each year and found that more than 70% of destination weddings take place right here in the US, but there are still many people who choose the Caribbean as their top choice.
Most couples say cost is the most important factor in deciding to have a destination wedding, which is why we want to make sure you understand all of the costs associated with your far-off fling.
What’s the Biggest Factor in a Destination Wedding Cost?
Hands down, domestic destination weddings will cost more, this is because most US hotels do not do all-inclusive packages, and everything you purchase will be ala carte. The second most expensive option would be going to international destinations outside of the Caribbean.
This makes sense because flights are longer, it takes more coordination and preparation, it costs more for décor etc.…. With that said your cost will hands-down be affected by the location you choose.
Some couples use points for domestic and international travel using chains like Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt, however, think about this wisely as it may still cost you more in the long run. There is more to cover than the stay and flight — you will need to think about the ceremony and reception, and then welcome bags and activities for guests — which is why I always advocate for all-inclusive resorts. They are changing and becoming more versatile, and they are offering more than cookie cutter packages these days, but you will need to know where you are going before choosing a specific resort/hotel/venue.
Photo by: Marla Dee Photography.
Location, Location, Location …
The location should be the first order of business when deciding if a destination wedding, and all the costs associated with it, is right for you. Are you thinking Paris or Jamaica? Are you thinking rooftop party in Chicago or tropical oasis in the Dominican Republic?
Note: Destination weddings don’t have to be on beaches — meaning you could plan a snowy dream in Aspen or Switzerland. It’s totally your call! Just know that you will probably always spend more on a domestic location, which costs more than $20,000, according to The Knot.
We suggest if the budget is tight, choosing the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or Mexico for the best bang for your buck. However, there are several Caribbean locations with FREE packages you can take advantage of. Just like a traditional wedding, the bulk of the costs come from the reception — meaning food + alcohol, fortunately, most all-inclusive resorts include alcohol so that is one less thing you have to think about.
But, the number of people attending also plays a role. Consider costs may actually be lower than you expect because it's more than likely you will have fewer guests than at a traditional wedding, meaning the price will surely go down.
Think About Travel Expenses When Considering the Cost of a Destination Wedding
Make sure to consider travel expenses for not only yourselves but guests, too. When thinking about costs, make sure to remember they will need to plan ahead and save — $1000 is a lot easier to save than $5,000 in one year. Still, the average cost that guests spend on a destination wedding in the Caribbean is far lower than a guest flying in for a traditional wedding — especially if they are in the bridal party. What does that mean? HAPPY guests that are excited to share your special day! In fact, we want you to look at it in two parts. You will have costs for the travel and cost for the actual wedding. Think ceremong, reception and any other special events you might host. I had 45 guests at my wedding which is within the average for a destination wedding. Usually clients spend on avergae about $10,000 for both their travel and wedding extras.
What about all the extras?
A few extra splurges you should consider are: covering VIP guest travel if you can swing it (mostly to help out your bridal party and really important loved ones), throwing a welcome party at your destination and/or a back home party when you get home, flying your photographer over (I did this myself — best money a girl could buy), organizing a group activity like snorkeling, or salsa lessons, and providing welcome bags and some good live entertainment. We loved our fire dancers, but those could set you back about $1500 alone.
Just think through all the things you want to have both in a traditional setting and in a destination setting, and even with the extras, a destination wedding will likely leave you coming out on top.
Along with your location, will you need to decide if you have a formal wedding or a laid-back wedding — the less formal, the cheaper. You can cut out the tux, flowers, and décor and trade it for bare feet and sand.
Some Example Costs of Destination Weddings:
Let’s dig deeper into the costs of an example destination wedding. For about $5,000 in Mexico you can get:
Some ceremony décor
Flowers for the aisle
Flowers for the bride and centerpieces for the reception
Live music at a cocktail party
Wedding cake and a cocktail toast
An onsite wedding planner
A semi-private dinner for 25 people
This is as basic as it gets. If you are looking for something like this, hands down Mexico or Jamaica are where you want to be.
You can take it up a notch for about $10,000 in Mexico and get:
Legal papers and the service of a judge
Hairstyle and makeup
Florals and centerpieces
A private cocktail hour
Three-hour private reception (food + alcohol)
Photos and videos with an onsite photographer
Choice of a special couple’s spa treatment
Welcome bag delivery for 25 rooms
There might be a few other perks not attached but they will all vary depending on the location and resort. This example just shows you the basics of each package. (Of course, there are the luxe destination weddings starting at around $20,000, which is really over the top!)
You can contact me to discuss your specific options, but you should start to have a better idea of what you can get for your money.
The most important thing to do to hit the ground running is to SET A BUDGET and stick to it. Need help creating a budget? Download our destination wedding budget tracker.
Whether it’s 5 or $50k, have a plan and make sure your agent and planner are adding value to the best day of your life. This will also help them narrow down the right destination for you.
Flying halfway across the world isn’t always an option so eliminate distant locations if budget truly is the deciding factor. Also, to cut down costs, make sure your honeymoon is at the same destination and resort as your wedding! This will help you maximize the perks you get and sometimes you even end up staying FREE. Could your honeymoon really double as a wedding location? OF COURSE! You will also be treated like royalty.
Make sure to check out our wedding checklist to help you keep your planning in order. This timeline will help you cross off the important to-dos.
At the end of the day, it’s all about YOU!! A destination wedding can be an amazing way to start your life together without feeling like you are depleting your savings. If you are looking for some help putting the pieces together, Say Hello! We would love to help you figure out if a destination wedding is right for you!