I was considering having a U.S.-based destination wedding at one point. Instead of getting married in my home state of Arizona, I wanted to get hitched in Washington surrounded by verdant forests and the majesty of the Cascade Range mountains.
After researching the area, its vendors, and possible location venues, I realized that there were many destination wedding costs I'd have to prepare for if I wanted to make a Washington wedding a reality.
I know wasn't alone here -- all couples considering a destination wedding need to understand the costs.
So to help you out, this post is going to cover all the financial angles you'll need to know about before deciding to go with a destination wedding for your nuptials. Some may have larger impacts on your budget than others; you'll have to analyze this according to your needs and as you approach the wedding date.
Grab your wedding planner or notebook and start taking notes on these destination wedding costs and how they'll affect your big day:
The Obvious: Venue, Vendors, & Other Typical Wedding Stuff
A wedding outside of your home location is still a wedding.
The cost of the venue and vendors needs to be included in your overall budget, including all the "typical" options like caterer, florist, photographer, etc. These can cost more or less than local options depending on what you find.
Many times if you can snag the right package, destination wedding costs can be lower than anticipated because you get discounts on the whole shebang.
And your dress, decorations, invitations, and things of that sort probably won't differ in price, either, just because you're getting married in an exotic or distant location.
But this is about where the similarities end, and where destination weddings start to take a different financial route.
The Not-So-Obvious: Pre- and Post-Wedding Parties & Events
Though parties can be a blast, the more you throw, the more likely you'll have to pay for them at a destination wedding.
It's still typical for a friend or family member to pay for the bridal shower, the bachelor party, and the bachelorette party. And the groom's parents generally pay for the rehearsal dinner, too. But that's where the "free" money ends.
Any pre- or post-wedding events or mixers you want to throw for guests will be your financial responsibility. For example, if you want guests to have a meet-up dinner the day before the wedding, or you want to throw a second reception back home for guests who couldn't make it to the wedding, those costs fall on your shoulders.
It's up to you to decide if you want to pay for these kinds of events or forego them all together.
The Necessary: Your Transportation, Lodging, & Paperwork
If you're getting married away from home, how are you going to get there? Where are you going to stay?
Remember to include the cost of your plane tickets (or gas if you're considering a road trip!) to get to your chosen wedding location, as well as any hotel stays you'll be needing for the entire duration of the event.
Fortunately, many event venues will give you those awesome package deals that include your stay costs (which is why many couples are able to afford a destination wedding even when they thought they couldn't). All you have to worry about is getting to the location itself. Don't forget to include the cost of any local transportation needs (like taxis) for pre-wedding parties or last-minute trips to town.
Finally, make sure any travel & wedding insurance, paperwork, or documentation have been properly paid for before the wedding so you can avoid having to deal with any nasty surprises later.
The Not-So-Necessary: Your Guests' Transportation, Lodging, & Entertainment
Though some destination wedding sites and professionals say you or your parents should pay for your guests' travel and stay for your destination wedding, it's not a common practice by any means.
No guest should expect you to pay for their transportation to your wedding, or their lodging during that time. Not even your wedding party should assume this, so choose your bridesmaids and groomsmen wisely!
It's in your best interest to be honest with guests when they ask you if you're going to pay for their trip, and give them a reasonable estimate of what it's going to cost them. Most guests can expect to incur travel fees of about $700-$1200 per person. Be as clear as possible about what they're responsible for paying.
Additionally, guests and the wedding party shouldn't expect for you to pay for their entertainment, food, or any other need during their stay at your wedding location.
However, destination wedding costs can sometimes be more burdensome for your guests than they are for you. In these specific circumstances, you may find that you'd prefer to pay for a portion or all of some of your guests' flights and accommodations, because you'd rather they be present as you exchange your vows than miss out on that moment forever.
Just make sure that whoever you help out financially keeps it under wraps, or you're going to open yourself up to lots of scrutiny from other guests.
The Helpful: A Destination Wedding Planner
Normally, DIY brides see wedding planners as frivolous expenses for their budget.
But if you're considering having a destination wedding, there are loads of reasons why a destination wedding planner is well worth your time and money.
For instance, you may be entirely unfamiliar with the location you've chosen to get married in, but a destination wedding planner will have all the hook-ups and know of the best discounts you can get there.
Though not a necessity, hiring a planner may be one of your smartest financial decisions for your wedding in the long run.
The Not-So-Helpful: Unexpected Guests & Emergencies
As much as you might try, things aren't always going to go according to plan.
It's best you set aside an emergency fund as part of your destination wedding costs to cover anything that may pop up. This could include purchases you need to make for replacement decorations if something gets broken (unless you were smart and got wedding insurance), or that extra plate when a guest shows up with an uninvited plus one.
And make sure that if you're going to be using a credit card for these emergencies, your card company knows not to put a block on your account!
In the end, I didn't get married in Washington, but that had nothing to do with the destination wedding costs. My fiancé and I simply couldn't get the date we wanted in that state, but we found plenty of options we loved in Arizona.
However, I learned quite a bit about all the financial work that goes into destination weddings, and I hope all of it that was laid out here will help you plan the wedding of your dreams!
What's your main concern about affording a destination wedding? Let us know and we'll help you figure out your options!