Planning a destination wedding can be a dream. But if you don’t reign in a manageable budget, you might be left looking at a destination wedding cost that is unaffordable.
Today, we’ll take a look at how to plan for the perfect destination wedding so that your far-away wedding is everything you dreamed it to be. Let’s take a close look at how to make your destination wedding absolutely magical, how to account for things like cost, location, the distance you and your guests will need to travel, a reasonable budget, and other important factors.
Average Cost for a Destination Wedding
A destination wedding might sound costly at first, but you might be surprised at how affordable it can actually be, especially when you plan accordingly. On average, destination weddings cost about $32,700 according to industry leader, The Knot. Because these types of weddings require travel from guests, the overall size of a destination wedding is much smaller than a traditional wedding. You should account for sizes anywhere from 30 to 75 guests.
Factors that Affect the Cost of a Distance Wedding
As was with a traditional wedding, there are certain factors that will pick up the cost of a distance wedding. However, destination weddings bring their own factors into play as well.
When planning your destination wedding, the first factor to consider is the location. Some locations will unsurprisingly be more expensive than others. For example, if you’re planning a destination wedding in a European country like France or Italy, you can expect expenses to be much higher than if you stayed closer to home.
Destinations like Mexico, the Caribbean, and other South American countries have competitively priced destination wedding packages that are more affordable than other parts of the globe.
Domestic vs. International
Planning a destination wedding within the United States will almost always be more affordable than planning it internationally. With domestic locations, you should keep in mind that popular states like California, Florida, and Washington may be more expensive to host a wedding than states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee.
According to recent data, the states with the highest average wedding costs include the following:
- New Jersey – $51,000
- Massachusetts – $46,000
- New York – $46,000
- Rhode Island – $43,000
- Vermont – ($43,000
- Washington, D.C. – $40,000
- Connecticut – $39,000
- Delaware – $39,000
- Maryland – $39,000
- California – $37,000
States with the lowest average cost for a wedding include the following:
- Utah – $16,000
- Oklahoma – $16,000
- Kansas – $16,000
- Wyoming – $18,000
- New Mexico – $18,000
- Montana – $18,000
- Oregon – $19,000
- Iowa – $19,000
- Idaho – $19,000
- North Dakota and South Dakota – $20,000
As with the states, there are some destinations that are more affordable to consider for your destination wedding than others. According to experts at Paradise Weddings, some of the most affordable destinations include:
- Playa del Carmen Riviera Maya
- Cabo San Lucas
- Puerto Vallarta
- Playa Mujeres
- Dominican Republic
- Costa Rica
Airfare and Transportation
Airfare is something you may need to consider for wedding party guests. The further the destination, the more expensive you should plan for airfare to be. Once your guests do arrive, you’ll also need to consider transportation so that they can get around the city you are hosting your wedding.
Some of the best ways to cut down on transportation is by doing the following:
- Renting drivers to shuttle guests
- Renting a bus
- Booking lodging in the facility where your wedding will take place in order to avoid the need to provide transportation for guests
- Opting for a walkable travel destination.
Lodging and Accommodation
When your guests arrive, they will need a place to stay. If you’re planning to foot the bill for your wedding guests’ stay, then you should factor this into the overall cost. Some couples may choose to foot the bill for lodging for wedding party members including bridesmaids and groomsmen, however, it ultimately depends on the couple.
Wedding season is a universal theme and some countries offer more affordable wedding packages during the slow season. If you’re planning a destination wedding, make sure the time of year you are going is appropriate and affordable for your budget.
Consider the following wedding season time periods as you plan your destination wedding in the Caribbean.
- January, February, and March (High Season) – Many places across the Caribbean are seasonable during this time. These are great months for hosting a destination wedding. Across North America, the weather is still pretty cold and is not the most favorable for a wedding, but does offer the most competitive prices.
- April, May, and June (Mid Season) – The weather in the Caribbean is still pretty nice, but this is when it starts getting hotter. While this is still a favorable time to have a wedding, be prepared for a hot getaway.
- July, August, and September (Low Season) – During this time period, the Caribbean is prepping for hurricane season. This can dissuade new couples because the weather simply is too unpredictable.
- October, November, and December (Mid Peak-Season) – This is the ideal time for a Caribbean wedding, but be prepared for high prices as this is all so the time. where many major holidays fall.
Currency exchange rate
If you are planning a wedding internationally, consider the currency exchange rate. It might not seem like a big nuance, but if you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars, the difference can be significant.
Traditional Wedding Costs
In addition to these travel and lodging costs, you’ll also need to account for the average costs that go into a wedding. According to industry leaders, the average cost for wedding services includes the following:
- Reception venue – $11,200
- Wedding photographer – $2,600
- Wedding planner – $1,900
- Live band – $3,900
- Reception DJ – $1,500
- Florist – $2,400
- Videographer – $2,100
- Wedding dress – $1,900
- Wedding cake – $510
- Catering – $75 per person
- Transportation – $980
- Favors – $440
- Rehearsal dinner – $2,400
- Wedding invitations – $510
- Hair stylist – $130
- Makeup artist – $120
It’s important to note that if you are going to be having your wedding outside of the U.S., especially in Mexico or the Caribbean, you should lean into your haggling skills. The advertised price can typically be negotiated much more easily than when with services offered here in the states.
Tips To Cut the Cost of a Destination Wedding
Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways you can cut down on the cost of a destination wedding. Check out these popular cost-cutting tips.
Consider All-inclusive Packages at Wedding Resorts
Many countries around South America including Mexico and the Caribbean offer couples who want destination weddings competitive wedding resort packages. When you shop and compare these all-inclusive packages, you’ll be surprised just how affordable your wedding planning can be.
Trim Your Guest List
One of the easiest ways to cut down on costs is by limiting your guest list to close friends and family members. Having a smaller get size is not only affordable but it’s also incredibly manageable too. It allows your wedding celebration to be much more intimate and memorable too.
Work with Vendors at Your Destination
Instead of working with a vendor back home and having them accompany you to your destination, work with wedding vendors at your wedding destination instead. Often, wedding vendors at the destination offer more affordable prices and better service than vendors back home.
Destination Wedding FAQs
Do you still have destination wedding questions and concerns? You are not alone. Check out these common questions couples will often face.
Do I pay for my guests’ travel and accommodation costs?
Typically, guests are responsible for their airfare and lodging. However, it’s entirely up to the couple to decide. Whatever you decide for your destination wedding, it’s important to clearly communicate with your guests so that there is no misunderstanding
What to include in the invitations?
Destination wedding invitations should include the location, dates, and RSVP information. Additionally, this invitation should include a details card that delves into the details that guests should consider. This includes things like whether they should book their rooms, how transportation will be provided, and other cost/travel expectations. You should also include a link to your wedding website or contact info so that guests can contact you if they have additional questions
When do I send out save-me-dates?
Because of the nature of destination weddings, you’ll want to send out invitations much sooner than a traditional wedding. Typically, plan to send out your save-the-date invites at least 8 – 12 months before the wedding. This gives your guests full time to plan accordingly
Should I have a registry?
It is perfectly acceptable to have a traditional guest registry for a destination wedding. Be sure to include wedding registry details on wedding invites so that your guests know exactly what to expect.
Planning a destination wedding can be just as exciting if not more than planning a traditional one. As you plan, costs can quickly get out of hand. However, starting out with a realistic budget, doing your research on different destinations, and comparing prices between different destination wedding resorts and facilities can all help you plan an affordable wedding. If you’ve planned a destination wedding before, be sure to share your tips and tricks with us in the comments section below!