Between hotel rooms and airfare, destination weddings can be costly to attend. In fact, 27% of Americans said attending a destination wedding would make them spend less on a wedding gift than than their typical budget, according to a 2018 NerdWallet study.
Destination weddings are also pricey for the couple. So is it possible to tie the knot away from home and stay on budget? Many experts say yes.
What is a destination wedding?
“A destination wedding is any wedding that you’re having away from where you live,” says Anne Chertoff, wedding trends expert at WeddingWire, a wedding-planning website. “So if you currently live in Chicago, but your hometown is Des Moines, then technically you’d be having a destination in Des Moines.”
A destination wedding could be international or domestic, but it will require you — and many of your family and friends — to travel in order to attend.
For international ceremonies, it’s important to ensure you’ll actually be married when all is said and done. “Every country is going to have their own laws about what constitutes a legal marriage,” Chertoff says. Some countries may require that you establish residency, for instance.
To avoid this, Chertoff suggests getting married at your hometown city hall beforehand. If you go this route, your destination ceremony will function as your symbolic wedding.
In some cases — perhaps surprisingly — destination weddings are economical, according to Spencer Potter, wedding business expert at the National Wedding Council, an industry group.
This can be especially true domestically. Potter says a bride and groom who live in a metro area, like New York City, might consider getting married in a less expensive rural or suburban area so they can afford to invite more guests.
Couples booking a venue in unfamiliar territory can get a technological assist from tools like Peerspace, a peer-to-peer marketplace similar to Airbnb, to find and rent wedding venues. Filter by criteria such as location, number of attendees and budget.
You may find nontraditional options, like a warehouse or cabin, which could cost less than a more traditional venue, according to Mona Desai, special events manager at Peerspace.
But be wary — destination weddings can add line items to your budget.
For example, you may want to travel to the location before the ceremony to see it in person, says Ivy Jacobson, senior digital editor at The Knot, a wedding website.
“If you’re getting married in Italy, you may have to take one or two trips there, and those could be $3,000 trips each time,” Jacobson says. “So you really have to factor that into your budget. Otherwise, you have to have a lot of trust in booking places sight unseen.”
You might also pay to enlist the help of a wedding planner who is familiar with the location, vendors and cultural customs. For international weddings, be prepared to deal with more relaxed “island time,” Jacobson says. Don’t expect rapid-response emails, as you’re accustomed to in the U.S.
Despite the challenges, a destination wedding isn’t always more expensive than a close-to-home ceremony. You can plan either on a budget.
If you decide to wed away from where you live, try these money-saving tips from Ashley Bourque, lead planner of Chancey Charm Nashville, a wedding planning and design company.
- Get your priorities straight. Rank the elements of your wedding in order of importance. It’ll help you gauge “where you can splurge and where you can save,” Bourque says. If your budget gets tight, look at the bottom of the list for places to make cuts.
- Focus on colors. Give the florist a color palette to work with, as opposed to a specific flower. There might be a bloom that’s less expensive but achieves the same look.
- Shop around. Don’t run with the first quote a vendor gives you. If you’re not working with a wedding planner who knows the going rate for the different elements of a wedding, do your own research and get multiple quotes.
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