Destination wedding cost: what you need to know
Many couples associate destination weddings with “cheaper than a stateside wedding.” An all-inclusive package you see on your family vacation may come to mind. But don’t take this as fact – destination weddings can often be more lavish than a local wedding!
Be careful what resources you’re getting your information from, as many averages include large data pools that might not reflect what you’re looking for.
According to Wedding Wire, the average cost of a destination wedding is $32,000. That’s only $4,000 more than the average cost of a local wedding. Weddings often cost much more than these totals, depending on where you are, the time of year, and a million other factors. Our clientele at B Astonished Events have much higher budgets than this.
Like local weddings, you can find options for destination weddings within many budgets. It all depends on where you stay! A 5-star hotel venue or private chateau rental will cost more than a local wedding venue or beach ceremony.
No matter what kind of wedding matches your vibe, we’re huge fans of destination weddings. Keep reading to find out why!
Destination Wedding Pros and Cons
We’ll start with the pros and cons. You might find that some of these don’t necessarily apply to you, and that’s okay!
Pros of a Destination Wedding
The options are endless for a destination wedding. You can get married almost anywhere in the world, and many popular international destinations have dozens of venue options.
Whereas a local wedding might give you a few options that match your desired aesthetic, for a destination wedding, you can choose the location that gives you the exact vibe you want. For many couples, the location is often the inspiration for everything that follows in the wedding planning process.
Cons of a Destination Wedding
Depending on your location, not all guests may be able to travel for your wedding. If you have elderly guests or guests with a disability, it may be harder for them to attend. If you have guests that are very important to you, think about choosing a location that can accommodate their needs.
Generally speaking, destination weddings take more coordination than local weddings. The venue and many vendors are likely in different cities, countries, and time zones. Coordinating an event with vendors so far away can make the process longer and more complex, but a wedding planner with experience with destination weddings can take all of this off your plate!
Are destination weddings considered elopements?
Traditionally, elopements meant going away without telling anyone to get married. However, today they’re largely determined by the number of guests. Elopements are typically small weddings, with anywhere from 20 people to just 2. Destination weddings are often the same size as a local wedding, just in a different location.
Hiring a wedding planner: local to the destination or local to you?
You’ll see many different opinions on this, but here’s our take: it really comes down to your chosen person.
A local planner to your destination will likely know more local vendors, but communication between language barriers and time differences can be difficult.
Hiring a local planner to you may make the planning process easier, and plenty of US-based planners have lots of experience with destination weddings.
If you’re unsure which way to go, research planners and ask to get on a call. Once you have all the information you need, go with your gut! Having a good relationship with your planner is important because it will make your wedding day much smoother.
Should you visit your wedding destination in advance?
100% yes if you can! Visiting your wedding destination can allow you to feel the vibe of the location, meet with local vendors and artisans you’re interested in working with, do food tastings, and more.
Use this as a mini pre-wedding honeymoon. Closer to your date, things will get crazy, and you’ll likely be a little stressed. If you can, add a day or two to relax and enjoy your trip!
Our tip: this is the perfect opportunity to complete your engagement photos! One of our couples, Shonté and Derrick, did this for their wedding, and the photos turned out GORGEOUS.
What costs should you consider in your destination wedding budget?
Once you’ve determined that a destination wedding is the way you want to go, consider these factors to create a budget.
The time of year you get married affects everything from weather to flight and hotel costs. Before settling on your wedding date, make sure you complete research for your destination. Be mindful of holidays and other events that may be taking place in your destination around your desired date.
Every destination has peak and off seasons. If you want to get married during peak season, expect prices to be higher.
A flexible wedding date is always a good idea, so you can choose the venue you really want. This is why reaching out to venues as early as possible is important! Popular wedding destinations like Lake Como, Italy, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico book 1-2 years or more in advance.
Your guest list is a big cost factor. First, determine what you’ll be covering for guests if anything. This could include travel, accommodations, and food and will determine how much you’ll need to budget for guests.
If you’re planning to hire local vendors to your destination, research conversion rates, taxes, and tipping etiquette before you sign your contracts! If you’re bringing cash for tips, make sure you bring enough to have your desired amount after you’ve exchanged it for local currency.
Local vendors can be a great option for your destination wedding. If you hire vendors close to home, prepare to pay for them to travel to your destination. We recommend hiring locally for vendors you don’t need too much communication with. This might include florists, decor and rentals, catering, signage, and local artisans for guest gifts. For vendors like planners and photographers, finding someone whose work you love is more important than where they’re based.
Legal details to consider
1. Secure Wedding Insurance
Don’t forget to do this! Wedding insurance is important, especially if your wedding is postponed or canceled due to complications.
2. Check Local Marriage Requirements
If you plan to marry legally at your ceremony, follow all requirements. You may find it easier to make things official shortly before or after your wedding date so that you can spend the day stress-free.
3. Secure Passports and Other Documents
Ensure your documents are ready to go well before your wedding. If you do not have a passport and need one, give yourself six months or more to settle that. If you already have a passport, check the expiration date!
Make physical and digital copies of all your paperwork if anything gets misplaced while you’re away.
Destination Wedding FAQs
When should I have my destination wedding?
Check local weather and average temperatures for your destination. Resources like this one from The Knot can help you choose a date.
Certain months may be better than others based on weather conditions in the area. For example, you don’t want to get married in the Caribbean during hurricane season!
When do I notify guests of my destination wedding?
As soon as possible! It’s essential to give your guest ample time to make travel arrangements. A wedding website is very helpful for keeping all the information in one place for your guests’ convenience.
Does a destination wedding have to be international?
Not at all. A destination wedding can be anywhere you want! There are plenty of beautiful wedding destinations in the US. Among the most popular are:
- California (San Francisco, Napa Valley)
- Florida (Miami, Key West)
- Louisiana (New Orleans)
- Hawaii (Maui, Oahu)
- Arizona (Sedona)
- Colorado (Aspen)
- New York (NYC)
Real B Astonished Wedding Examples
Check out these budgets from our couples!
You can see from these examples that all of our couples ended up spending more than they originally budgeted. Going over budget is common for all weddings, destination or not. An experienced planner can give you suggestions to help you navigate wedding costs.