It’s easy to see why many people have a destination wedding on their wishlist. After all, what’s not to like?
Laying on the beach with the sun on your face, cocktail in hand, while local music plays in the distance. Or perhaps you prefer the lush green landscape of an upscale vineyard or the regal backdrop of a romantic chateau? Whatever your preference, it’s paradise and where you can say your very special “I do’s.”
But we know what you’re thinking. Destination weddings are expensive, right?
Well, not always. An affordable destination wedding may be within reach.
As with everything, the cost of a destination wedding depends on many factors. So, let’s break it all down. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that a destination dream wedding is in the cards after all.
There are four primary costs to consider when looking at the overall price of a destination wedding:
These four components can impact your wedding cost to wildly varying degrees, depending on where you go and your expectations. Some destination wedding locations are affordable to travel to, but the accommodations are pricey, and vice versa. Some pricey resorts offer free wedding packages, while cheaper resorts may charge more for wedding ceremonies.
For example, if you’re based in the United States, a flight to Mexico will be significantly cheaper than a flight to Italy. Still, a wedding at a 5-star Mexican resort with all the works may be pricier than the wedding at an Italian villa you booked on Airbnb. Similarly, a 10-guest wedding, no matter where it is, will be much easier on the wallet than a 100-guest affair in even the most affordable destination.
In 2022, the average cost of a standard wedding was $30,433. In comparison, these are the average costs of destination weddings in some of the top destination wedding locations among U.S. citizens, according to GroupTravel:
Remember that the above numbers do not include the costs of your flights, other transportation, wedding attire, rings, or any other planned activities, so you would have to add these expenses on top. These costs just cover the wedding. Overall, the average cost of a destination wedding, in total, is about $27,227 (according to CondorFerries), but pricier destinations like Hawaii will cost significantly more.
So, are destination weddings cheaper? The data says yes!
On a more serious note, let’s look at some of the ways you can ensure your destination wedding is as affordable as possible.
An affordable destination wedding starts with an affordable location. Pick a destination reasonably close to home, with straightforward and plentiful flight connections, for cheaper travel costs. An island off the coast of Thailand may sound extra appealing, but when you learn you have to take three flights to get there, suddenly, the costs escalate.
When taking your pick of affordable destination wedding locations, also consider the overall cost of traveling and staying within that destination. For example, food, drinks, accommodation, and activities in Barbados are cheaper than in St. Barts, and Mexico is much more affordable to stay in than Costa Rica.
Cheap destination wedding locations are always plentiful if you travel out of season. Flight and accommodation costs are lower overall, and vendors are more willing to cut you a deal. That said, there’s a reason the off-season exists, and it’s usually undesirable weather.
When you plan an off-season destination wedding, there is a risk of bad weather, such as monsoons on your big day or hurricanes preventing you from traveling to your destination altogether.
For the best results, look at your country of choice and its weather, and pick dates right at the very end or very beginning of the off-season. That way, the risk of bad weather isn’t quite so high.
Traveling at the last minute is always more expensive, as choice is limited and flight and accommodation costs rise.
So, plan and book your wedding as early as possible, ideally around a year or even further in advance. You can pick flights and accommodations and secure the lowest prices.
All-inclusive resorts often offer fantastic deals. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content without worrying about the extra expenses. Some all-inclusive places even include leisure activities such as snorkeling or canoeing at the cost of your stay.
An all-inclusive resort can make for a much more affordable destination wedding, as you’re effectively cutting out the cost of your dining and activities. If you’re thinking of going this route, Hilton Honors has over 13 resort locations!
Often, the most cost-effective way to host your dream destination wedding is to purchase one of the many wedding packages on offer.
Affordable destination wedding packages are plentiful in popular locales and typically include everything you need for the big day, including:
You can also purchase all-inclusive wedding packages that will include extras such as:
The cost of wedding packages varies greatly from resort to resort. However, some actually offer free wedding packages. Brands such as Sandals will provide basic wedding packages so long as you book a minimum three-night stay. Likewise, the Azul group of resorts offers a complimentary wedding package, as well as affordable wedding packages starting at just $950.
If you can confirm your guest list early on and guarantee numbers, it’s highly possible you could get a group discount on accommodations by block-booking rooms. Many resorts also provide a bridal suite for free, so long as you book and pay for a certain number of rooms elsewhere on the property.
Who needs garlands and fairy lights when you’ve got the turquoise ocean and soft white sands as your backdrop? Why spend on fancy centerpieces when you can look out over the lush green countryside?
Put your wallet away and let the location do the talking.
Destination wedding venues are often favored for their climates. In most cases, warm and sunny is the order of the day.
However, no one wants to be sweating their socks off for the sake of formal wedding attire, so this is your chance to pick something lighter and more casual. Not only will more casual wedding attire keep you comfortable, but it’ll also save you money.
For example, smart shorts, a loose white shirt, and bare feet for a beach wedding look great. For women, a light, flowy dress fits the scene rather than something weighed down with lace and sequins.
Overall, a destination wedding is more affordable than a standard wedding, but location greatly influences cost. If you choose one of the numerous affordable wedding venues and locations, you will find the cost is cheaper.
For a personalized wedding cost estimate, we recommend checking out The Wedding Report. Just answer a few quick questions about your wedding details, from location to size to style, and everything in between, for your own estimate, planning guide, budgeting tips, and more!
Wedding guests typically pay for their own transport, accommodations, and activities for a destination wedding. However, the couple may cover the cost for their immediate family if it is an intimate affair.
For an international destination wedding, guests, on average, spend around $2,500 per person. This includes transport, flights, accommodations, food, drinks, and activities.
If the destination wedding is a very small, intimate affair, the couple usually covers the cost for everyone. For larger destination weddings, guests are expected to foot their own bills. However, it is entirely up to the couple.
Like standard weddings, it is up to the couple as to how many guests they invite. Overall, the average number of guests at a destination wedding is around 60. Just be cautious if you plan to invite a lot of people, as getting confirmations and organizing everyone can become tricky and complicated.
It’s official. Affordable destination weddings are a thing, and even though the overall average cost of a destination wedding is quite high, it doesn’t mean yours has to be. With careful research and planning, you could have the wedding of your dreams without spending your life savings.
At The Groom Club, we know how eye-watering the cost of weddings can be. That’s why we’re on hand to ensure you stay on the right side of your finances, from breaking down the cost of wedding cakes to understanding the best options for financing an engagement ring. We’re here to help you with tons of tips and advice!