The Real Cost of Destination Weddings: Are They Less Expensive than Traditional?

Wouldn’t we all like to know how much a destination wedding really costs. Keep reading as I breakdown a destination wedding budget and compare the costs of a traditional wedding. The savings will cause you to head straight to happy hour!

White-and-pink floral arrangements attached to wooden chairs lining a wedding "aisle" on a beach.

Brides-to-be who love to travel are always asking me the same question: Can we REALLY afford a Destination Wedding?

What is the Real Cost of A Destination Wedding???!

When planning your destination wedding, after the engagement party, the next big decision is usually the date and location. Will you plan a tropical affair or domestic charming wedding in the mountains? What month? What about Hurricane Season? What does all this have to do with cost, well the average cost of a wedding continues to rise year after year so these are all factors you should take in consideration. With that said, you really are thinking will you have to give up Starbucks, Netflix and that gym membership that you don’t use but listen, we are going to break down how much a destination wedding really cost? And then the next big question we will tackle is how much it will cost your guests, especially if you are planning for international travel. There are always ways to reduce the costs by using rewards points and racking up miles but It’s time to answer that question once and for all!

This weekend, I set out to prove the naysayers wrong and ended up with me creating a mega-list breaking down the cost involved in both types of weddings.  I thought I would share it with you so we could look at it together and REALLY compare the costs.

For the sake of my sanity, let’s consider two separate brides:

  • We have Bride A (Ashley) - she chose to have a destination wedding.

  • And, we have Bride B (Beth) - she went with a traditional wedding.

Important Note: I am guesstimating here, and wedding costs could vary based on the time of year, location and how personalized each of them get—this is just to give you a better idea of the cost of a destination wedding vs. traditional. 

BONUS:

Before we get into the full breakdown, I want to make sure you have a way to keep track of your own costs — I put together a FREE Destination Wedding Budget Worksheet. Check it out here:

 

What Costs Will I Have with a Destination Wedding vs. Traditional?

Destination Wedding Cost Breakdown for Couples

Note: I know you might say, “but Courtnie, I can get friends & family to help me with some of the above items!”

Yes, you’re right, while that may be true, have you factored in the TIME & STRESS that goes into making sure all of those items are taken care of? And the stress that goes into figuring out who is going to do what?

Most often than not, the resort staff at your destination will take care of everything, and packages often include all of the extras — so you don’t have any drama (which is really priceless, in my opinion).

If you look at how each of the above costs plays out, not only in terms of money but in terms of your time, you will see destination weddings can be substantially cheaper than traditional weddings—especially if you plan to pay for them yourself.

And the biggest reason for that is because many resorts really do take care of everything. They have FREE packages that you can upgrade as well—giving you even more bang for your buck. You can always choose to forgo certain add-ons or you can pick the most important elements. I would say the onsite photographer will be one of the biggest expenses and advise to bring someone with you from back home.

For economical ( let’s say around $5,000) you will get an older resort like Secrets Capri in Riviera Cancun: great service, attentive staff that will help the day of, a simple wedding cake and sparkling wine toast, a few photos, onsite coordinator and a floral arrangement for the bride. This would be a basic package. You could then upgrade for about $7500 and add some features like a band, reception, live music for the ceremony and custom decor for a bit more. You could also go LUXE and add a dance floor, fire dancers, soloist at ceremony, reception meal, decor and alcohol for 30 and cocktail for a bit more than the upgraded package.

It is not uncommon for a bride and groom to get married in Cabo or Riviera Maya for less than $10,000 for a group of 40-50 people. A traditional wedding back home would cost you twice as much. The new average is up to $35,000 for a traditional wedding…. isn’t that the cost of some college tuition these days???

There are some brands that have more wedding perks than others. Couples also don’t know that for booking a stay for 7 days in a higher category or 5 rooms for 3 days or more automatically qualifies them for the FREE wedding package. From there, you can add until your heart’s desire. This is an added bonus and can keep the cost down. Karisma Resorts is great for their “Cash For Your Bash” wedding credits. You are actually rewarded for bringing guests to the resort and that means you won’t go broke in the process.

Destination Wedding Benefits ReCAP

Let’s quickly recap the benefits of destination weddings over traditional weddings:

  • Destination Weddings work as a combo: wedding & honeymoon spot!

  • You only pay for yourself in this scenario (and maybe a few VIP’s)

  • They are all-inclusive, which is just what it sounds like ( yep, alcohol is included) 

  • Usually, you don’t have as many guests as you would at a wedding back home so you can make your budget go further, enjoy a more intimate setting, and spend a lot of time with friends & family

  • Décor: You don’t even have to think about it…your location is the scenery, beach/mountains/Eiffel Tower—who needs all the extra fancy stuff?

  • You get perks when your guests say there are in! ( Think upgrades, FREE weddings and cash back)

  • Bonus: You’re on neutral ground—no family drama!!

That’s a lot of up side to consider for the bride and groom, isn’t it??

What’s that? You’re saying that sounds great for the bride and groom, but what about my guests?? I am so glad you asked!

How Will a Destination Wedding Impact Costs for Guests?

First things first, let’s just put this out there: Not all of your guests live in your hometown, do they? So, chances are they’re likely going to be traveling either way. Why not take them some place where everyone can have a great time?

But even so, I get it, it feels like destination weddings are going to end up costing the guests a ton of money when they’re already taking the time to be at your wedding—but that doesn’t have to be the case! According to The Knot, the average cost for guests attending a destination wedding is $673 per person compared to $703 that it will cost your guests to attend your traditional wedding back home.

Allow me to break down those costs for you, as well.

My husband was in a wedding a couple of years ago, and here's how the weekend went down, in terms of cost.

A table comparing the guests' cost at a destination wedding vs. a traditional wedding.

After looking at the side-by side-comparison, I was SHOCKED. I’m thinking you might be, as well.

It is legitimately so much cheaper for us to be a guest at a destination wedding with the awesome bonus of visiting an amazing location! I'd sign up to go to that wedding any day of the week.

Bottom line: While at first your guests might seem turned off by the price they will pay up front, and the perceived commitment of going to a destination wedding, what they often do not factor in is how much they REALLY spend attending a traditional wedding—even one nearby.

They don’t realize that once they get to the destination wedding location they do not have to pay another dime if they don't want to. And the biggest advantage? They get to experience a vacation of a lifetime with YOU! So, guests honestly end up saving on having to go on a separate vacation that year, which is a plus!

I know, I know. It all seems just a little too good to be true, and you might be thinking that I’m not considering the whole picture, or that maybe your situation is different and it won’t work out this well.

If you’re in doubt about how much less expensive a GORGEOUS, totally customized destination wedding might be, just go ahead and call me (561-507-0381)—we’ll talk it through together, crunch some real numbers and I’ll do my best to show you what I’m talking about. We can even talk about saving vs. splurging on your destination wedding.  Please note: Weddings in Europe do not apply to these same standards and most of the venues and hotels will be much more expensive than those in the Caribbean as if you are looking for budget friendly locales, then hands down the Caribbean beats Europe by a landslide if price is the hands down most important factor.

If budget is an important factor in deciding whether a destination wedding is right for you then, I encourage you to read through more posts regarding the costs of a destination wedding and why more and more couples are choosing a destination wedding instead of having a traditional wedding with family they have met once since the age of five that parents are pushing to invite. ( been there, haha!) 

 There are multiple benefits to a destination wedding. Remember, you are starting a life together and who wants to be $30,000, $40,000 or even $50,000 in debt. 

There’s no risk for you, just a ton of reward (and maybe a few piña coladas)!

Eat, Drink and Be Married Away

Courtnie

xoxo

Want to Know Something Crazy? The Most Expensive Place to Get Hitched in the US: New York, which comes in at an average of almost $71k, according to The Knot. That’s insane! New Yorkers, it might be time to seriously consider a destination wedding!