You could be dreaming about exchanging vows in a castle or celebrating alongside your loved ones at a far-flung locale. A destination wedding is certainly a special way to celebrate your love, but budgetary questions could restrict you from achieving your dream day. We surveyed over 27,000 couples who got married last year to find the average destination wedding cost.
While many elements might go into determining whether you should have a destination wedding, the most important one is probably the price tag. According to an internal study, the average destination wedding cost is $32,000 (excluding the cost of the engagement ring). Including the price of the engagement ring, the average destination wedding cost is $38,500. As these numbers are averages, use them for baseline knowledge as you begin planning your destination wedding.
And it's important to remember that this number is a national average, meaning we took numbers from couples all over the country with varying destinations, styles and guests counts and divided it by the total number of respondents.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that destination weddings are one of the hottest trends around. Brides all over the world are ditching tradition and opting for a more stress-free, luxurious, and cheaper wedding option.
Yes, you read that right—CHEAPER! Destination weddings aren't just for those with big money. 1 in 4 brides have a destination wedding and pay for it themselves!
The average cost of a destination wedding is $20,000, which is far less than the national average for traditional weddings. In big cities like New York, people regularly spend almost $100,000 on their big day.
Table of Contents
- 1 So how the heck can destination weddings cost so much less than traditional weddings? Let's have a look:
- 2 Destination Weddings
- 3 Average Cost of a Destination Wedding
- 4 What Influences the Cost of a Destination Wedding
- 5 Who Pays for What
- 6 How Popular are Destination Weddings?
- 7 How Do Couples Choose Their Destinations?
- 8 Emotional Costs
So how the heck can destination weddings cost so much less than traditional weddings? Let's have a look:
Plenty of destinations and resorts recognize the popularity of destination weddings and are eager to get a piece of the action. Because they need to keep up with the competition, most offer some sort of destination wedding package at an extremely reasonable rate.
Destination weddings bring in huge money for resorts with minimal effort on their part. There's no harm in asking your resort or venue about freebies and perks when booking a large event like a wedding with them. You might be offered free accommodation for a certain number of nights, a percentage off your stay, a free upgrade to the honeymoon suite—the sky's the limit!
Ever dreamed of getting married on the beach wedding venue in Mexico? In the lush valleys of South Africa's wine country? Or maybe even on the edge of a Costa Rican volcano?
That you'll be getting married in paradise is reason enough to have a destination wedding. Still, the icing on the cake is the fact that these mind-blowingly beautiful destinations often end up being cheaper than booking everything stateside. Depending on the destination you choose, the lower cost of living, a favourable exchange rate, and less expensive venues mean your dream wedding might be more doable than you think!
There's no need to spend thousands of dollars on store-bought decorations when your location IS your decoration. With a traditional wedding, a ton of your budget will go towards flowers and adornments to give the venue a certain look. Destination weddings, on the other hand, emphasize the natural beauty of the location and use that as decoration instead. By using the gorgeous scenery at your destination as your backdrop, you will shave thousands of dollars off your wedding budget (not to mention that mountains and beaches trump basic flowers any day of the week)!
Lots of people who choose to have a destination wedding extend their stay to include their honeymoon. Most resorts offer some sort of package that encourages you to have your wedding and honeymoon at the same resort by giving you all kinds of bonuses and discounts if you do. This will lead to major savings in the long run if that's something you decide you want to do!
If you're not sold on honeymooning in the same place you got married, choose a location nearby instead! If you get married in Hawaii, you can honeymoon on Maui; if your wedding is in Paris, you can honeymoon in Spain—you get the idea.
Having fewer guests at your wedding is the biggest money saver ever—and let's be real, your second cousin twice removed or that aunt you've only met once isn't gonna make the trek to your destination wedding.
Destination weddings are typically more intimate occasions with just a handful of close friends and family in attendance. Even if you do send invites to a lot of people, only your nearest and dearest will likely end up spending the time and money to celebrate at the destination of your choice. Not only can you provide a much more luxurious experience for your guests if there's less of them (on a smaller budget, too!), but you'll also be able to spend way more time with the people that matter to you.
You may not be saving money with this one, but it's such a huge deal that I include it anyway. Saving yourself time and stress is honestly priceless, in my opinion. This experience is all about you and your significant other, and the less stress you have to deal with, the more you'll enjoy your special day.
A lot of big resorts have full-time wedding coordinators available at your disposal—hire them, sign the papers, and the rest is taken care of! If you'd rather hire your wedding planner, that's an option too. Either way, all the hard work is done for you!
This isn't always the case, but many destination wedding packages include free alcohol. You can end up spending a good portion of your budget on providing alcohol for your guests during traditional weddings, so this is a huge bonus. It's such an easy way to save thousands of dollars and keep the drinks flowing all night long!
Cheaper Wedding Attire
Traditional wedding gowns can be expensive, depending on your taste—all that beading and lace add up after a while!
Most destination weddings, by contrast, are a more casual occasion. Some are even as casual as a shirt and shorts! And even if you want to stick with the classic wedding attire, you're free to tone down the formality and pick a less fussy (and expensive) outfit. Who wants to wear a full-length ball gown on the beach? Travelling with a large dress can be extremely difficult, and it's not necessary for most destination weddings.
We have compiled a list of Melbourne Wedding Dress Shops to make the search as easy as possible for your perfect gown.
Population destination sites internationally are the Caribbean and developing countries (like Guatemala). Weddings in the Caribbean are popular for a reason: they have beautiful backdrops, honeymoons are built-in, flights are quick and cheap, and there is little to no legal requirements to get married.
A destination wedding is where the bride and groom invite the wedding party and close family & friends to an exotic resort location or a tourist mecca such as Cancun while turning it into a mini-vacation for all. Destination Weddings have increased by 400% in recent years, clearly becoming more popular. Common destination wedding locales are usually warm sunny places such as Mexico, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Italy, and the Caribbean, to name a few.
Planning a destination wedding is much simpler than traditional at-home weddings. Resorts that host weddings, like Sandals, have wedding packages that include wedding planners, cakes, and photographers. Having a destination wedding, your venue is the scenery. Whether it is snowy mountain peaks or the turquoise blue ocean of the Caribbean, your venue is built-in to your destination. It is less likely you will need to spend money on decorating the site with such idyllic backdrops.
Destination weddings keep guest lists smaller, which keeps the overall cost lower. The largest percentage of wedding costs are spent on the reception. With a smaller guest list, these costs decrease.
Destination weddings are substantially cheaper in most cases. The average cost for a destination wedding is $17,000 for 100 people (and in many cases, there are far less than 100 people that wish to attend) whereas a traditional wedding costs $25,000 for the same amount of people and here's why:
- You can combine your wedding and honeymoon – no new travel plans needed.
- You usually pay for only yourselves as the bride and groom.
- Your guests pay for their package (flight and hotel) to get there, and if you choose an all-inclusive resort it makes things simple, and low maintenance as all the food and drinks are paid for as well.
- There usually aren't as many guests (average is around 40 guests) because of obvious financial hurdles.
- You don't need to be as elaborate (read: expensive venue and decorations) at your reception because the location (beaches!!) speaks for itself.
The costs you would need to consider for a destination wedding are:
- Your wedding dress and suits.
- Passports if you don't have them already; and Visas, if the destination requires it.
- Wedding Insurance (if you want) in the event of extreme weather issues or other unpredictable events (hurricanes! tropical storms! yuck!).
- Bridesmaid and groomsmen outfits.
- Your flight and hotel package.
- The reception (should be much cheaper because there are fewer guests) – you can probably strike a deal with the resort to include this in a package.
- Photographer and their transport costs – although resorts often include this option in their packages.
- Destination wedding planner if you're using one to make sure you pick a good location and help coordinate the shindig.
- Flowers – a base package is already included in most destination wedding packages. Of course, you can always pay for more, but with the beautiful beach to compete with I'm not sure folks will notice them much!
Although this list seems a bit lengthy, the actual cost pales in comparison to what many Canadians are paying for local weddings these days. Usually, places have packages for the bride and groom, but make sure that the hotel will give your wedding party and guests a package deal as well. This is where negotiating comes into play.
Guests pay for their flights, hotel, and activities outside of the wedding day; unless you decide you want to cover some of the expenses for them. Destination weddings allow couples to be flexible with their budgets. Oftentimes, couples are able to offer open bars, cocktail hours or top-of-the-line dinners when otherwise it wouldn't be possible.
Learn more about weddings and check out our post on How to plan a wedding on a budget?
Traditional At-Home Wedding
One of the biggest draws of a traditional at-home wedding is that nearly everyone invited is able to attend. You'll be able to share your special day with everyone important to you. However, the larger the guest list, the larger the price tag on reception costs.
In many metropolitan areas, venue sites can increase wedding costs dramatically. Everyone wants a beautiful wedding they will remember forever. The venue site is a major part of those memories but is also costly.
With at-home weddings, logistics tend to be much simpler than at destination weddings. Hiring a wedding planner is still common but not necessary. However, with destination weddings, having a wedding planner is essential in order to handle all of the logistics, vendors, and any legalities.
Average Cost of a Destination Wedding
The total cost of a destination wedding varies. Prices depend on location, the number of days, the number of events, the US dollar to local currency exchange rate, the time of year, the number of guests, and more. That said, the average estimated baseline cost of a destination wedding hovers around $35,000.
What Influences the Cost of a Destination Wedding
A destination wedding has the same essential elements as a local wedding. You'll want invitations, a dress, rings, a venue, catering, a florist, music, a photographer, cake, and an officiant. Travel, accommodations, group activities, little extras, and a full-service destination wedding planner are the factors that will end up costing more.
However, there are some details of destination weddings that could save you money. Destinations in countries where the currency exchange rate works in your favour will typically end up being less costly because your money will go further.
Who Pays for What
Customarily, travel and accommodations are the guests' responsibility. Depending on the location, your destination wedding might include airfare, a few nights at a hotel, meals and entertainment aside from the wedding itself, and local transportation. In addition, they may have to shop for suitable clothing for the location, and perhaps take days off from work.
In consideration of these expenses (and the fact that everyone is from out of town), you may want to host extra meals and events like a welcome dinner, cocktail hour, or farewell brunch. You are not required to rent a car for anyone, but coordinating group transportation to and from the various events is a thoughtful touch, especially if alcohol is being served.
If you'd like to welcome your guests with a basket of goodies, a personal note, and a wedding weekend outline, have the hotel deliver to the rooms upon check-in. Fill them with local items like snacks and fruit, wine and bubbly, or any other token you'd like. It's all to say how happy you are that they made the journey to celebrate with you.
How Popular are Destination Weddings?
Our findings indicate that more and more couples are opting out of hometown weddings. According to our study in 2019, 21 per cent of couples got married under what they consider a destination wedding. This category includes couples who wed in both international locations as well as domestic destinations (a place in the continental US that's not local to their hometowns). The same study also found there were 5,618 destination weddings last year; of those, 37 per cent took place in the continental US (in destinations like California, Florida and Colorado) and 11 per cent at international destinations, like the Caribbean and Mexico.
How Do Couples Choose Their Destinations?
When it comes to planning a destination wedding, the world is your oyster—literally. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all of the options out there, consider stealing strategies from the couples we surveyed. Nearly six in ten couples said that they chose their location because it was interesting, meaning it was unique or it offered great sight-seeing. If you're looking for a way to personalize your wedding, choosing a meaningful location is a great way to do so. Just over half of couples who wed in 2019 said they decided on their spot because it was special to them and their partner. Consider going back to the place where you first said "I love you" or the spot where you got engaged.
Wedding expenses aren't limited to financial transactions. Every choice you make also comes with an emotional cost attached. Much of this can be attributed to the stress of planning.
Perhaps, for example, you choose to throw a wedding at home in hopes of reducing financial pressures via DIY projects. Yes, this will save you money, but it will cost you in time, and certainly, no couple is immune to the stresses of wedding planning. Overwhelmed by an ever-expanding list of to do's, you may struggle to keep so many obligations straight in the lead-up to your wedding.
Not only does a destination wedding financially cost less than domestic nuptials, but it can also reduce emotional costs. While there's a certain element of planning involved, much of this can be tackled by your Wedding Specialist. Many resorts offer customizable packages, which take care of details you might otherwise forget. These packages also grant you the freedom to personalize your big day as you see fit.
Destination weddings deliver unforgettable memories while minimizing both stress and the final price tag. What's not to love? No matter where you marry, you'll thank yourself for planning such a beautiful experience for you, your sweetheart, and those you love most.