You’ve decided that a hometown wedding is not what you want. No, you’re after something exciting, something out of the ordinary—so you and your significant other have decided on a destination wedding. Maybe in Bali? Costa Rica? A castle in Europe? Wherever it is, it’s going to be more expensive, and you’re going to need to set some expectations. 

It’s going to be expensive

There’s a lot to pay for besides the obvious things (venue, vendors, outfits, etc.). The Knot suggests you pay “for selected activities (maybe a group sailing trip or a double-decker bus tour around town), transportation to and from the ceremony and reception sites, as well as a shuttle to pick up your guests at the airport when they arrive to make the weekend go off as seamlessly as possible.” makes a good point about travel insurance: “flights get delayed, weather happens, and guests get sick. For the deposit that you’ll spend, you’ll have ample peace of mind knowing that your big day investment is protected from mayhem.” Let’s face it, nature plays a role in every wedding regardless of where it is, but if you’re going abroad, at least you have the option of protecting your investment.

Consider what type of venue that you will use. Will you stay at an all-inclusive resort or one that is a-la-carte? Does the location require you to use their own catering service or can you choose your own (and remember it’s polite to tip them, which you need to factor into your budget)? Venues that offer group pricing might be a good way to go. 

How to save money

One way to save money is by sending digital save the dates and invitations. The thing about destination wedding invitations is that you need to include so much more information, like your itinerary, potential lodging details (sometimes venues will give you discounted rooms for your guests when planning a wedding), recommended flights, and other events outside the ceremony and reception. Paper invitations are customary, but it’s acceptable to sacrifice them. 

You don’t want to get into too much credit card debt, so make sure you prioritize. Gift bags for guests can go. Releasing butterflies can be tossed out the window (please don’t actually). Depending on what vendors you are using, you can even negotiate prices by offering to market for them (like by leaving out visible information cards). You can ask people if they are willing to waive certain fees, too—they might say no, but it never hurts to ask in case they say yes. 

Consider outsourcing your talent, too. If someone attending the ceremony is a great photographer, then you have a photographer. If someone in your family is a musician, ask if they would be willing to play a bit for the night or manage the playlist. Not only is this inclusive, but it also saves you from having to pay and look for professionals. 

The average destination wedding cost is between $17,000-$25,000. If you can afford that, that’s awesome—but if not, Lexington Law suggests, “Look at your expenses and consider cutting three things. For example… choose one brand of wine to serve instead of three. Small savings can add up quickly.” 

Your guest list will be shorter

You’re free to invite as many people as you want to your destination wedding, but not nearly as many people will be able to attend than if it were at home. Travel is expensive and time-consuming, so you need to prepare yourself for a smaller audience that may lack some people you had really wanted to come. You also have full rights (this applies to both abroad and at home) to refuse guest requests—does your cousin’s new boyfriend really need to be there? 

You can breathe a sigh of relief, though: you are not expected to pay for your guests’ travel. That’s more plane tickets than anyone wants to handle. Leave it to them to book their flights and lodging, though recommends that “you should try to hook them up as much as possible. Offer reasonably-priced lodging options, or consider renting a house instead of hotel rooms so everyone can crash together (at a much more reasonable price.” Keep them in the loop regarding your plans so they can orient their own plans around them. 

However, you are expected to pay for your wedding party’s accommodations. If you asked someone to be your best man or maid of honor, it would be kind of a bummer to make them pay for it themselves. You might want to pay for their travel, too, but that’s something you can discuss with them personally. 

Remember: there’s no actual formula

It’s your wedding, and besides basic etiquette, there really are no patterns or rules you need to follow. You don’t even need to wear typical wedding attire at your ceremony (a flowing wedding dress might not be the most comfortable in tropical climates). You can have each of your bridesmaids wear a sorority dress to save money. You can have one reception abroad, and another at home with all the people who couldn’t make it. This weekend is yours. 

What are your expectations for your destination wedding? Let us know in the comments!

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