Do Destination Weddings Save You Money or Your Mind?

As an Event Planner, we have couples discuss the option of just saying forget it and running off into the sunset and getting married on the beach somewhere, all the time. Well, it really does happen! And, sometimes we are just lucky enough to tag along and plan the event as well. But, for others, this process becomes a thought out, pros and cons list of what is realistic and what is not, to see if getting married in their home town or in their dream town is where they are going to say “I do!”


Getting married, unfortunately, isn’t just about the couple anymore. It’s about the parents, the attendants, the families, the friends, the colors, the table decor, the wedding they just went to and not wanting to have the same style or flowers, or God forbid, the same venue! *gasp!!!* These days, it’s all about pleasing everyone – passing down your great grandmother’s dress, having an awesome engagement party for your bridal party, pleasing the inlaws at a family dinner, wearing your new mother-in-law’s family pearls, saying the family prayer before dinner etc… etc… etc… As you can see, a wedding is a huge production anymore. And, the pressure of it all is more than most can possibly bear. So, the appeal of running away is becoming bigger and better than every before. But, before you throw in the towel and join the masses on the next plane out for Tahiti, let me bring a few things to your attention:

1. Be Ready For The Bottom Line – Just like buying a luxury sedan vs. a two-door economy vehicle, when you go to a vacation spot for beautiful wedding, regardless of the size, it is a commodity and it is going to cost a pretty penny. And, in most cases, destination weddings for 20 people can be significantly more expensive than weddings for 200 back home. There are very few places to have these beautiful weddings, with accommodations, reception areas, views, caterers, flowers, photographers, (you get the picture!) and they are going to cost you because, well, as long as people keep coming, they can charge whatever they want! It’s a supply and demand item. There is a limited supply and a huge demand. You don’t know the area as well as they do, you are coming from far away and the last thing you want to do when you get there is scramble to find all these vendors or a venue when you do arrive. So, you book a package, everything included, you arrive, you get pampered, everything is perfectly set and ready to go, you walk down the aisle in the beautiful wedding dresses, overlooking the most amazing beach, waves crashing in the background, the sun is setting and, voila, you are married. No arguing, no stressing out, no traditions you don’t want, no ugly dresses passed down, only the things that matter to you. And, you only have to invite the people you want to be there, if anyone. Heck, they will even provide witnesses if you choose to only have the two of you there!! Again, you paid top dollar for perfection. So, enjoy every last penny of it!


2. If You Invite Guests, It’s No Longer Just Your Wedding – That’s right! If you do decide to make this an intimate wedding with 30 of your favorite friends and family invited to join you, this no longer becomes a “wedding” for them. This is now their “vacation”. Believe me, we’ve all been in this boat. We all want to say that you are their top priority and that you are the number one reason for every minute they are there. But, deep down we all know that unless you pay for all their travel arrangements – airfare, hotel, car, food etc… – this is their time and their money and, thus, their vacation. So, no matter how unselfish we all wish we say we want to be, when it comes to our time and money, well, you just can’t have it all! Therefore, when booking excursions, appointments, meetings and group events, keep in mind that your friends and family will be hoping to take some time on this trip to wander off and have some alone time. It’s definitely fun to do one or two big group events but also keep in mind that having every minute planned will make some frazzled nerves and grow tension with the guests. If you plan on having meetings with the bridal party at the venue, make it in the morning so they have the rest of the day to have fun with their significant others or families. And, just maybe, they will want to do a group activity instead! It just might work to your benefit in the long run. Make a calendar for the week when everyone is arriving and departing so that the entire group knows who is coming and going. That way, making plans will be easy for everyone. Also, if you plan on doing a group event, let everyone know far in advance so that they can schedule plans around it. Obviously a rehearsal dinner the night before is assumed or expected so that is an easy one! And, if you weren’t planning one, take advantage of that night to do a group activity instead – maybe book a luau or a boat excursion. Something fun for your entire group. You know your guests better than everyone so keep in mind who can stay out late, who needs sitters, who wants to party and who wants some one-on-one time with their spouse. You will win some bonus points and have a better turnout in the long run with overall guests on this trip, plus with the activities you do book with the whole group. Don’t forget, small group events are great too. It’s wonderful in an environment like this to have bonding time with your mom, aunts or bridal party. So, take advantage!


3. Exciting Does Not Always Equal Economical – Remember when you asked your Maid of Honor to stand up for you? And she was so excited and said of course? Well, that was when she knew you were getting married in the same town. Down the road. Less than 30 minutes away. Did I mention in the same town? Well, when you changed your wedding to a destination wedding, did you think to ask your wedding party again or did you just “tell” them it was now a destination wedding? Surprise!!! You may have sent more than one of your wedding party attendants into a tail spin, at a local bar, breathing into a paper bag, crying on a friend’s shoulder or all of the above. What you may have overlooked was the fact that YOU were planning an expensive wedding and were budgeting thousands of dollars for an upcoming event, they were not. That’s right, your wedding party attendants were planning on renting/buying flower girl dresses/red lapel suits, getting some jewelry and shoes, planning a fun bachelor/bachelorette party and a gift or two. What they weren’t planning on was airfare, hotel for a week, rental car, excursions, dining out in expensive restaurants three meals a day for seven days, and the list goes on… So, before you get totally excited for the 6 or 8 or however many of you going on an awesome trip together, you might want to sit down with your soon to be spouse and come up with a way to break it to your wedding party that you have decided to move the wedding to a destination location. Whether it was due to crazy family drama or too much to plan with 200 guests or you just didn’t want a big wedding in the first place, you owe that much to the best friends you both have! Then, they deserve a few days to mull it over and decide it they can afford to join you. If you really love them, you will also let them know that you totally understand if they cannot make the big jaunt and they will be with you in spirit. And, you all can do an engagement party before you depart instead or a celebratory dinner when you return! That way, they can still be a big part of their special day without needing to make the huge, and expensive, trek to the destination. In this case, maybe have a cousin, the fun aunt or a long-time friend from college step in, that you know for sure is coming. Or, if equal attendants on each side bow out, then just have a smaller wedding party. In a destination setting, having a more intimate party is perfectly acceptable!


4. Planning Is For Planners – As your wedding date gets closer and all the details are coming together, your airfare is booked, the hotel is confirmed, the guest list is set, and the venue is chosen, then what? Are you going to plan the rest of the wedding yourself? Do you know any local vendors or did you bring them all with you? Did the venue provide you with a list or do you have to find them all on your own? Have you looked into the customs of the destination already? If you have picked a location outside of your native homeland, what are the laws involved with getting a marriage license? Will you be legally wed or will you have to perform your vows again once you return home in front of a judge to make it legally binding? Will you have to do anything else? A lot of details go into planning a wedding so are you up to the challenge? It’s one thing doing it in the comfort of your own “backyard.” It’s an entirely different thing doing it in a strange place or foreign land where you don’t know anyone or anything, have no idea what the laws are or who to ask to find out if you are even following them. This is where I highly recommend hiring an event planner. Whether it is one that is local and is with the venue that you just booked or one that specializes in destination weddings and can come with you, these are your greatest resources! And, I’m not talking about your best friend that is volunteering to take on the task or your mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law that knows the island “like the back of her hand”. This does not now, nor will it ever, make them a wedding planner! Kindly thank them for the offer but remind them that they, too, are your guests and you want them to be able to enjoy all that you have in store for them when you arrive. And, if they are planning the wedding then who will be getting you down the aisle when they are down front standing up for you or in the front row taking their place in their assigned seats? Just because they know the island or are an eager friend, they do not know the local vendors or have “in’s” with the best baker in town to get you that perfect dream cake you have always wanted. A planner will take off the stress, handle all the details, right down to the cake cutting and signing the marriage license, and will help you get down the aisle on time, make sure you get all those perfect photos and enjoy a wonderful, relaxing reception with your guests, while all your vendors handle all the behind-the-scenes work for you. I know it is another expense on the bottom line but this one is well worth the money. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is working! So, spend a little extra to make sure you don’t have to.


Well, now you are set and ready to roll. Take your time and weigh out your options before you hop on that flight. Destination weddings can be absolutely amazing if you do them right!