Destination Wedding Cost + Tips to Cut Costs

Whether you’re saying “I do” in California or the South of France, our experts explain how to cut destination wedding costs big and small.

By McCall Minnor

Couple walking hand in hand through a sandy path at a beachside destination wedding
Photo by Mir Salgado Photography

So, you’re considering a destination wedding! As you begin wedding planning, you realize one major thing: Weddings are expensive—and destination weddings can be even more costly. Don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to plan a destination wedding on a budget and stick to it. Here’s how to cut destination wedding costs—no matter where you’re daydreaming about saying “I do.”

Destination wedding cost vs local wedding

The average cost of a destination wedding is around $27,000. However, you can do a cheaper destination wedding starting at under $10,000 if you plan carefully. Compared to the average price of a traditional wedding ( $20,000 to 90,000), this isn’t awful—and, in some cases, it’s equally affordable.

That said, your destination wedding cost can vary wildly thanks to many factors, including the length of your guest list. Fortunately, those many factors create a lot of wiggle room to whittle down the cost.

Want to keep track of your wedding budget? Try our free budget tool with payment reminders and tips on how much to spend.

Affordable destination wedding locations

Let’s get to the fun part: choosing your location! Are destination weddings cheaper? Well, they are if you choose a budget-friendly location like the ones below.



This picturesque Caribbean island is a top choice when it comes to the best affordable destination weddings. It’s home to stunning beaches and lush mountains—AKA the best kind of backdrops for your just-married photos.

Check into: Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall

Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun


Mexico is a cheap destination wedding spot with all the trimmings. Whether you prefer the Pacific or the Caribbean coast, Mexico has plenty of options for cheap destination wedding packages, with beautiful resorts, charming towns, and ancient ruins.

Check into: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

This U.S. territory is easy to access from the mainland, so you (and your wedding guests) don’t need a passport to visit.

Check into: Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

This resort town on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic is known for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and all-inclusive packages.

Check into: Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa



This Central American country is a hidden gem for those looking to reduce destination wedding costs, with its lush rainforests, ancient ruins, and barrier reef.

Check into: Hopkins Bay Resort



Colombia has plenty to offer for all kinds of international wedding vibes, from the Caribbean beaches of Cartagena to the palm trees and coffee plantations of Salento. Fly here for affordable destination wedding packages and plenty of sunshine.

Check into: Hotel Casa San Agustin

Looking for more destination inspo? Here’s our guide to all of the best destination wedding locations.

What’s the cheapest place for destination weddings?

Riviera Maya in Mexico often takes the crown for the cheapest place to host a destination wedding. This stretch of Caribbean coastline is well-equipped for all kinds of destination events, with wedding packages to suit all budgets. Its beautiful turquoise water and sunshine add to the appeal.

What affects the cost of a destination wedding?

Destination weddings aren't a one-size-fits-all expense; the price tag for your big day can vary wildly based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Travel expenses associated with your destination
  • Number of guests
  • Type of wedding venue
  • Whether you hire a destination wedding planner
  • Whether you cover costs for your wedding guests (more on this shortly)

The good news? With so many variable costs, there's a lot of room to bring down expenses.

Hidden destination wedding costs

You and your partner will also need to keep an eye out for hidden costs. These include:

  • Added taxes after the final quoted amount
  • Resort fees for anyone staying at the hotel
  • Wedding access daily fees for guests who don’t stay at the resort
  • Service fees for (or rule against) bringing your own vendors
  • Rooms and suites not available at the hotel’s quoted “prices start from” amount
  • Planning costs, especially if you need to fly to the destination before the big day

10 ways to cut destination wedding costs

1. Drive, don’t fly—if you can.

Quick fact: 60% percent of all destination weddings are domestic. So, if your wedding fits into that (getting married in your home country), consider driving instead of flying. This is a no-brainer if your wedding ceremony is only a few hours away. You and your partner could save hundreds—maybe more—by not flying. Even if a plane to your location ticket isn’t too expensive, you have to consider the cost of checking bags to accommodate your wardrobe and likely much more.

If your domestic destination wedding is a little further than a day’s drive and you don’t get car sick easily, consider driving. You could even rent a van and turn it into a mini road trip. You’ll spend less, have more freedom over your travel itinerary, and spend some quality time with your partner before the wedding day mania.

2. Cash in on rewards.

If you fly, don’t forget to take full advantage of any points programs for travel expenses. Look into what rewards you’ve accrued and see if you can apply those to your trip.

Additionally, if you’re a member of any Caribbean hotel chains or a rental car company, keep them in mind for lodging and transportation needs. Using a brand you’re loyal to could mean discounts on your destination wedding cost or a massive influx of points after the fact—thank you, room blocks.

Also, when traveling for your dream wedding, be upfront that you’re a wedding couple. You’d be surprised how willing companies are to celebrate you, even with small discounts.

3. Keep the guest list small.

On a per-person basis, destination weddings are often more expensive than traditional ones. So, the good news is you can significantly cut your budget by inviting fewer people. For perspective, here are some of the main things you need to expense for wedding guests:

  • Airfare: If you fly and also plan to cover travel costs for your loved ones, this could quickly add up to several hundred dollars per person.
  • Accommodations: Destination weddings almost always span more than one evening. As a result, most are a weekend affair. This makes accommodations—like all-inclusive resorts or similar lodging—a must.
  • Transportation: From the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to wedding venues, and vice-versa, you’ll need to provide at least some transportation for your guests.
  • Activities: Some couples will pay for a portion or all of any group activities at destinations like Jamaica.
  • Meals: Rather than having one large meal and wedding cake, your guests will have around three meals daily. Often, couples will cover a few of the additional meals throughout the trip.

This is in addition to standard special day expenses, such as your venue, rings, and officiant. Even so, most destination weddings are less expensive than traditional weddings. The key? A much smaller guest list. The above can add up per person, but fewer people will attend than if you had a local ceremony. With fewer guests, you can save money while still providing an opulent experience for any number of guests.

4. The date matters.

Booking off-season is possibly the easiest way to save money on your destination wedding. This means booking your location during a non-peak, less popular season. For example, having a Hawaii mid-summer beach wedding will cost more than going in the spring or fall time of year. Do some in-depth research on your ideal spot and consider an off-season wedding to reduce your destination wedding cost.

Also, ask yourself if your dream place is particularly trendy. If so, you’ll also run into high demand—and, therefore, high cost. Take these factors into account when deciding your location and wedding date. Thoughtful planning can dramatically affect your bottom line.

5. Choose an off day.

In that same vein, consider hosting your nuptials on a weekday. Chances are there’s a significant price difference in booking your venue for a Saturday—or popular holiday weekend—and a Monday. By pushing the date forward or back a few days, you’ll spend less on everything from your venue to your hotel room to travel.

6. Actively look for deals.

All-inclusive packages, resort promotions, and group rates are all key phrases to keep an eye out for when planning your destination wedding. All-inclusive packages wrap everything up for you, usually at a reduced rate.

Similarly, most resorts work with local vendors and suppliers. They can also coordinate on your behalf and organize discounts, too. If you’re worried about losing your big day’s personal feel, don’t be. You can still ask for customizations and make suggestions and recommendations as you would with traditional vendors.

Don’t forget also to seek hotel promotions and group airfare rates when booking travel. Often, if you have enough people, you’ll be eligible for group pricing. You might even earn a complimentary flight or night.

7. Book a venue with built-in beauty.

You’re probably not going to Hawaii (or Rome or New York) to hold your reception in a ballroom. You and your SO chose your destination because you want to embrace the location and all it offers. Therefore, search for natural beauty—on the coast, in the mountains, on a lake, or in the desert. Let your surroundings do the talking. A cityscape can be all the backdrop you need. Plenty of destination venues require little to no added decoration and have a wedding planner, which helps you save big.

8. Embrace local vendors.

Don’t waste your precious wedding budget on shipping. Instead, hire local vendors close to the destination wedding venue. Understandably, you want to see what you’re going to get, but the venue and vendors should have tons of photos that showcase their work. At the same time, meeting your vendors via video chat is extremely effective.

If you must bring things from home, be careful in how much you ship if you’re looking to save. Paying to send a few pieces instead of upwards of 50 things to your destination with you will cut costs astronomically. You also avoid the possibility of something (centerpieces, florals, etc.) being ruined in transit.

9. Honeymoon at the same location.

There’s no need to scurry off to the airport after your reception. With a destination wedding, your honeymoon is built-in. So book your trip to include your honeymoon dates, too. You may unlock incredible wedding packages and perks (room upgrade, anyone?). You’ll also save on airfare since you won’t be getting home just to turn around and fly somewhere else. So extend your stay, earn great deals, and make more memories.

10. Get legally married locally.

Before jetting off, consider having a stress-free, local wedding. Unknown to many, getting married abroad can incur some unexpected expenses. Every destination has legalities regarding getting married, such as residency periods, paperwork, and even blood tests (Mexico, in case you were curious). A few extra days abroad to meet the residency requirement can be shockingly expensive. You save on legal fees, transportation, and additional days by obtaining your marriage license pre-trip.

Useful resources for planning your destination wedding

You’ve made some headway choosing your location, and the excitement’s starting to build. Here are a few next steps to plan a special destination wedding:


Who pays for what at a destination wedding?

The couple will generally pay for all wedding essentials (wedding attire, ceremony, reception, and vendors) and maybe some extras like excursions. It's usually expected that guests will pay to cover their travel and accommodation costs, although some hotels offer discounts for guests.

What is the cheapest country to get married in?

The cheapest country for couples to get married in is Mexico. A destination wedding in Riviera Maya can come in at less than $9499, which is far cheaper than the $30,000 average for an at-home wedding. Other cheap places to get married include Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

What is a good budget for a destination wedding?

The average cost of a destination wedding depends on the number of guests, the location, the time of year, and the type of venue. estimates a destination wedding cost starts from around $10,000 for the most budget-friendly affair with a small number of guests.

Zola: The place for destination wedding planning

Getting married in your dream location doesn’t have to break the bank. Remember these tips when booking your wedding, and watch the savings add up.

Check out all the other ways we help make wedding planning a breeze: from building a wedding registry to deciding whether or not to have an open bar to ordering wedding invitations, Zola is your one-stop destination for all things wedding planning.

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