How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Small Budget?

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 04/03/24
How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Small Budget?

How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Small Budget?

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 04/03/24

Part of the Wedding

How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Small Budget?

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 04/03/24

Are you imagining getting married on the beach with the sound of the crashing waves and beautiful blue skies? You’re not alone. Many couples choose the beach as their ideal wedding location. One of the biggest appeals of a destination wedding is that you’re already in a beautiful location for an incredible honeymoon. But, if you are planning a wedding on a budget, you may think a destination wedding is out of the question. That’s not true – you can make your dream destination wedding a reality in many ways, and we will tell you how!

Here are some tips on planning a destination wedding on a small budget.

Determine Your Wedding Budget

Before we start talking about ways you can cut costs when planning a destination wedding, we need to address the wedding budget. If you only have a small budget to plan your wedding, you must outline the budget to ensure you stick to it. 

When planning out your budget, consider your must-haves for the wedding. Deciding the things that are most important to you when planning your wedding can help you prioritize your expenses and help you find ways to cut costs. 

Choose a Destination

Choosing a destination
The destination is one of the first big decisions to make, and where you choose can significantly impact the cost. Consider less popular locations, ones that offer affordable wedding packages, or places that offer all-inclusive. 

Also, remember that an affordable destination wedding doesn’t necessarily have to mean sandy beaches abroad or what you’d stereotypically think about when you think of a destination wedding. 

Affordable Destination Wedding Locations

Some common and affordable wedding locations that often include cheap wedding packages include;

  • Mexico
  • Jamaica 
  • Dominican Republic

However, some fantastic destinations in the US can provide a beautiful location for a destination wedding on a budget. 

Want a beautiful beach? Consider Florida. Destin beach is a beautiful and popular location for weddings, so a number of the local venues have affordable wedding packages. Newport, Rhode Island, is another excellent beach location.

Of course, the beach isn’t the only place that makes a beautiful backdrop for a wedding. 
Destination wedding locations in the U.S.

  • Waitsfield, Vermont is a great location for an intimate wedding; there are many beautiful locations with rivers, barns, and expansive meadows that will make the perfect wedding backdrop.
  • Louisiana, New Orleans has numerous options for stunning indoor wedding locations, such as the Old Governor Mansion. 
  • Sedona, Arizona, is perfect if you’re looking for a more rough or rustic background for your wedding. The breathtaking sunset is one of the major draws for an Arizona wedding.
  • Las Vegas is always another option, but it’s not a suitable location for everyone. (Don’t worry about the stereotypes, if you want to get married in Vegas, do it!)

Choose the Date

When looking at some of the wedding locations, you may have noticed that there are specific dates that are more expensive. If you are willing to have your wedding during the off-season, you can save some money. 

This also applies when planning to travel on weekends versus weekdays and government holidays. Consider the best dates and definitely avoid holiday weekends.

Choose the Guest List

Having a destination wedding often automatically cuts down the guest list because not everyone can travel to your desired location. A smaller guest list can cut down on other costs, such as flights, accommodations, and food.  

When considering the guest list, consider who are the most important people to attend your wedding and whether or not they can afford the flight and accommodations to attend your destination wedding. Some couples choose to pay for essential people such as parents or siblings to attend a destination wedding which can be a significant cost. So, consider whether or not there are essential people that may need support with the cost of attending your wedding.

Also, let your guests know early that you are planning a destination wedding and give them the date so they can make plans for saving money and getting time off work. 

Consider a Wedding Planner

Wedding planner
When planning a destination wedding, a wedding planner can be incredibly helpful but doesn’t necessarily have to be the same type of wedding planner you may hire if you book a local venue for your wedding. For a destination wedding, there are travel agents that are well versed in helping to plan destination weddings, and there are people associated with resorts with wedding packages that can act as a wedding planner. 

Regardless of who you’re working with, a wedding planner can provide invaluable support when it comes to planning your wedding because planning an event in a location where you don’t live is challenging. A local wedding planner has the additional value of knowing the area and having relationships with local vendors. 

At the very least, you should arrive a few days before the wedding day to ensure everything is in order. 

Hire Local Vendors

Hiring local vendors can help you save money on transportation and other costs. Local vendors are also more familiar with the area and can offer valuable insights and recommendations.

Additionally, when it comes to hiring vendors, don’t be afraid to negotiate costs with them to find collaborative ways you may be able to save some money. This doesn’t mean aggressively negotiating their fee, but working together to find services that fit your budget. Local vendors can also help negotiate the resort’s vendor fees on your behalf. 

Cut Down on the Decor

If you’re having a destination wedding, it’s likely because the location is beautiful, so don’t worry too much about the decorations and let the destination speak for itself. 

You’ll likely want a few decorations that bring the wedding feel, like floral arrangements, but your wedding guests aren’t going to remember things like what kind of chairs or plates you had. For the ceremony, depending on how lengthy it is, you may even be able to forgo chairs. There’s no reason your wedding guests can’t sit on a towel on the beach for a 20-minute ceremony.  

You can also save money by DIY-ing your decorations, like your centerpieces for the reception or even some of your lighting. Just be sure to check in with the place you’re staying to ensure you know what you’re allowed to bring. 

Consider the Needs of the Bridal Party

When you have a large bridal party, there are additional costs, including outfits, flowers, hair, makeup, etc. So, it’s important to consider all the costs associated with having a wedding party.

As a couple you may want to forgo having a wedding party completely. Or opt to have only one best person stand with each of you during the wedding ceremony, which is just as meaningful. There isn’t a reason you need to have a large bridal party (unless you decide together you want to). So, think about what’s important to you when it comes to the wedding party or if your close friends can just attend as guests.

Other Ways to Cut Costs

There are a few more things you can consider to cut costs associated with planning your dream destination wedding:

  • Consider having a wedding website and/or sending invites and other communications digitally
  • Consider a smaller wedding cake (or no cake at all)
  • Go less fancy on the food
  • Go less formal
  • Opt out of other wedding traditions like the engagement party, bachelor party, bridal shower, etc.

Affordable Destination Wedding FAQs

What’s the average size of a destination wedding?

Destination wedding guest lists focus on family and close friends. They tend to be between 40 and 100 guests, averaging approximately 60. With a wedding this size, most venues will be able to accommodate. That being said, the guest list is up to you, and if you’d prefer a smaller intimate wedding, you can do that. 

Who pays for guests at a destination wedding? 

Generally, wedding guests are expected to pay for their own flights and accommodations. However, depending on the location, the couple planning the wedding may be able to secure cheaper rates for booking a larger number of rooms

How long do guests stay at a destination wedding?

Most often, wedding guests will stay on-site for a few days to participate in all the wedding activities (they may also be able to help with some of the pre-wedding setup). Some may decide to stay a few days after the wedding ceremony, while others may opt to move to a nearby location to enjoy some additional holiday time. 

How far in advance should you plan a destination wedding?

The venue will be the most important thing to book, depending on where you’re going and what time of year you may need to book quite early. It’s generally recommended to book the venue at least 12 months before. Still, more popular locations may need to be booked 16-18 months out. 

What’s considered a small wedding? 

Some people consider a small wedding to be less than 50 people as that would be small enough that you could fit reasonably comfortably in a backyard. As we mentioned, it’s up to you to decide on your guest list. If you’d prefer to only have 5-15 people, that’s totally okay. 

How to Stick to Your Wedding Budget

Sticking to a wedding budget can be hard, especially since there are likely always going to be expenses that you didn’t plan for. So, the first step is to be realistic when planning your budget and consider building in a cushion for those last-minute expenses you can’t avoid. 

You also definitely want to prioritize, so you know what you can cut if things add up faster than you thought and be willing to compromise. 

Here are some other quick tips on sticking to your wedding budget:

  • Keep track of your spending throughout the process 
  • Organize your budget by sections, i.e. how much you’re able to spend on a venue, on formal attire, on travel, etc.
  • Don’t look at options that fall outside of your budget if at all possible; for example, don’t let yourself research venues that are outside your budget and don’t try on wedding attire that is outside of your budget. These are the easiest ways you may spend more than you want or can afford. 

Final Thoughts on Planning a Destination Wedding on a Budget

Now that you know a cheap destination wedding can still be an option, even with a small wedding budget, you can plan an affordable dream wedding. Start by writing out the budget and then look into affordable wedding destinations to make your wedding dreams come true. 

Looking for advice? Check out more helpful tips for preparing for your wedding and beyond on our site!

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