11 Ways to Cut Destination Wedding Costs

Whether you’re saying “I do” in California or the South of France, cut destination wedding costs big and small with these travel hacks.

By McCall Minnor

couple on destination wedding
Photo by Mir Salgado Photography

So, you’re having a destination wedding! Whether you and your partner mulled over your wedding location for a while or immediately knew you wanted to get out of town, now you get to add a touch of adventure to your ceremony. As you begin to plan, though, you realize one major thing: Weddings are expensive—and destination weddings can be even more expensive. 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 plan to say “I do.”

The Average Destination Wedding Cost

It’s important to know what you’re up against. The average cost of a destination wedding is around $20,000 to 35,000. Compared to the average cost of a traditional wedding (around $20,000 to 90,000), this isn’t awful—and, in some cases, equally as affordable. That said, your destination wedding cost can vary wildly thanks to a number of factors, including the length of your guest list. Fortunately, though, a lot of factors means a lot of room to whittle down costs wherever you can.

INLINE WhatADay!Photography 1080x720 Anna&Q Photo Credit // What A Day! Photography

Drive, don’t fly—if you can.

Quick fact: 60% percent of all destination weddings are domestic. So, if your wedding fits into that (meaning you’re getting married in your home country), consider driving instead of flying. This is a no-brainer if your wedding location is only a few hours away. You and your partner could save hundreds—maybe more–by not flying. Even if a plane ticket isn’t too expensive to your location, 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, we still say 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 mania.

Cash in on rewards.

If you do choose to (or need to) fly, don’t forget to take full advantage of any points programs. Look into what, if any, rewards you’ve accrued and see if you can apply those to your trip.

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

Also, we aren’t above suggesting that, when you make any wedding travel bookings, you be upfront that you are, in fact, traveling for your wedding. You’d be surprised how willing companies are to celebrate you even with small discounts.

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 make a big cut in your budget by simply inviting fewer people. For perspective, here are some of the main things you need to pay for for each guest:

  • Airfare: If you opt to (or need to) fly and plan to also fly out your guests, this could quickly add up to a few hundred dollars per person.
  • Accommodations: Destination weddings almost always span more than one evening—it’s a weekend affair. This makes accommodations—like a hotel or similar lodging—a must.
  • Transportation: From the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to your venue, 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 the destination.
  • Meals: Rather than having one large meal, your guests will have around three meals a day. Often, couples will cover a few of the additional meals throughout the trip.

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

The date matters.

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

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. Smart planning can dramatically affect your bottom line.

Choose an off-day.

In that same vein, consider hosting your wedding on a weekday. Chances are there’s a major 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 stay to travel.

INLINE ZakZavadaPhotography 1080x720 Krishna&Sean Photo Credit // Zak Zavada Photography

Actively look for deals.

All-inclusive packages, resort promotions, and group rates are all key phrases you want 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 wedding’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 to also seek out hotel promotions and group airfare rates when booking travel. Often times, if you have enough people, you’ll be eligible for group pricing. You might even earn a complimentary flight or night.

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 chose your destination because you want to embrace the location and all it has to offer. So, don’t spend money on a lot of decor. Instead, search for a spot with a lot of natural beauty—on the coast, in the mountains, on a lake, or in the desert. Let your surroundings do the talking. Even a lit-up cityscape can be all the backdrop you need. Plenty of destination venues require little to no added decoration, which helps you save big.

Embrace local vendors.

Don’t waste your precious wedding budget on shipping. Hire vendors local to your home and you’ll spend most of your money on packing your decor. Understandably, you want to see what you’re going to get—and that’s easy to do at home. At the same time, it’s just as effective to meet your vendors via video chat. You can also have samples from your destination shipped to you while planning. Paying to ship a few samples instead of upwards of 50 things to your destination with you will cut costs astronomically. You also avoid the possibility of things (centerpieces, florals, etc.) being ruined in transit.

Honeymoon at the same location.

No need to book it to the airport after your reception. With a destination wedding, your honeymoon is built-in. 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. Extend your stay, earn great deals, and make more memories. We’ve never had a better reason to keep the party going.

Get legally married locally.

Before jetting off, consider getting legally married locally. Unknown to many, getting married abroad can incur some unexpected expenses. Every destination has its own legalities when it comes to getting married, such as residency periods, paperwork, and even blood tests (Mexico, in case you were curious). Just a few extra days abroad to meet the residency requirement can be shockingly expensive. Save on legal fees, transportation, and extra days by obtaining your marriage license pre-trip. Besides, who wants to do paperwork during their wedding trip?

Getting married in your dream location doesn’t have to break the bank. Keep these ten money-saving tips top of mind when booking your wedding and watch the savings add up.

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