When Val Brexit and her husband decided to get married, they planned their wedding at an all-inclusive resort at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Since they were still paying off student debt, they didn’t want to start their marriage off with even more debt.
“We had a small and intimate wedding with around 30 guests,” she says. “It allowed us to keep the day small and focused on the people instead of all the obligations of a traditional wedding.”
If you’re dreaming of a destination wedding, you’re not alone. Who wouldn’t want to save money, and have the wedding planning done for you? And if it’s in a beautiful destination, you can combine your wedding and honeymoon in one go.
Planning your dream destination wedding can certainly be affordable (and definitely memorable), but is it really worth it?
Destination wedding cost: You can save money
When it comes to saying I do, it can cost you a pretty penny any way you slice it. According to popular wedding website The Knot’s 2018 Real Weddings study, the national average cost of a wedding is a whopping $33,931. That’s not including the honeymoon.
Let that sink in. If you’re going to spend anywhere close to that amount, wouldn’t you want your dream destination wedding to be a memorable experience?
If you want to save money, there are ways to do so with a destination wedding.
For Brad Ruttenberg, he and his wife wanted a simple wedding that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
“Neither of us were all about the custom fairy-tale wedding concept, so [a destination wedding] was perfect for us.” he says.
They decided to get married in Maui and hired a wedding planning agency that coordinated everything. All they had to do was choose from the different wedding packages, and off they went.
Sure, agencies do offer more expensive wedding packages, but having a planner on hand can reduce the hundreds of small decisions that threaten to overwhelm couples. And those impulse purchases? Going with a destination wedding can help curb them.
Riley Adams and his wife decided to have their wedding at a vineyard in California and found that it was not only a relatively stress-free process, it saved them money as well.
They did hire a wedding planner, but there was some flexibility in the types of choices they could make, compared to the more restrictive packages in some faraway places like Mexico or the Dominican Republic. By keeping it local, Adams liked that he was able to handle all the major items, such as the venue and food, and then have the planner handle the smaller elements.
“We liked that we only had a limited number of options to choose from,” he says.
“This dramatically reduced the time spent planning as well as money spent on unnecessary add-ons. Being a far distance saved us from indecision, extra splurges, and ultimately, ourselves.”
Another way you’re saving money is by having the honeymoon and wedding in the same place. Both Brexit and Ruttenberg spent their honeymoon at the resort where they got married. Because it was a small wedding, it was a more intimate affair so the couples were able to spend quality time with everyone in attendance.
Destinations weddings sound super appealing but — here’s a shocker — there are cons as well. The three main considerations are marriage legality issues, drama with guests, and lack of privacy.
Negatives to a destination wedding
Most resorts will be on the up and up, but verify that you meet the country’s requirements to ensure your marriage is legal. This includes laws in the U.S., so check what kind of paperwork you’ll need to bring. Your wedding planner should be able to tell you what you need, but it doesn’t hurt to do your own research.
Even though it may save you money, a destination wedding can place a burden on your guests. They’ll have considerable costs, such as flights, hotel, food, and activities. That means people you really want to show up at your wedding may not be able to because it’s too costly. They may also have scheduling conflicts to consider. And if you’re going to make your wedding an intimate affair, guests who aren’t invited may question your choice.
That’s not to say that all destination weddings need to be tiny and far away. Local and medium-sized is also an option. Adams chose California because he and his wife wanted to get married near his wife’s family. In the end, they chose a venue that was around an hour’s drive from her family members and they were happy with their decision.
How to plan your own destination wedding
When planning your own destination wedding, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there. Instead, start with where you want to get married and have your honeymoon in mind — Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and other beach destinations are usually the most popular. From there, you’ll be able to look at different resorts and what they have to offer.
Before booking anything, determine your budget and determine your wedding guest list. That way, you can tell your guests well in advance and see if you’ll need to factor in their spending limits. Then, do your research so you can hire a local wedding planner to coordinate things like the venue, vendors, and your honeymoon.
Make your wedding memorable and tailored to you. There are more options than ever to make that happen.