When planning a wedding, choosing the right venue matters. A destination wedding is something you may consider if you’d like to tie the knot someplace memorable. Destination weddings are ceremonies that are hosted away from the couple’s hometown and usually require travel for the wedding party and guests.
- A destination wedding takes place in a location away from a couple’s hometown.
- Planning a destination wedding could be less expensive than planning a traditional wedding if it entails a smaller guest list or smaller reception.
- Using credit card points or miles can help to save money on destination wedding travel costs.
- Coordinating a destination wedding takes careful planning because things such as changing weather conditions or global travel restrictions may affect your ability to follow through with the ceremony.
According to a survey from The Knot, 19% of couples chose a destination wedding in 2021, which was only slightly less than in the pre-COVID year of 2019, and more are expected to follow suit in 2022 as travel restrictions ease.
When planning one, there are both advantages and disadvantages to weigh in the balance.
Get married in a dream location.
Plan a smaller guest list.
Potentially save money on wedding costs.
More planning may be required.
Guests may not attend.
There are no guarantees.
Destination Wedding Pros
In terms of benefits or advantages, there are several good reasons to consider a destination wedding over a traditional wedding. The biggest pros typically have to do with cost, convenience, and the overall experience that a destination wedding can provide.
Get married in a dream location
The first and most obvious pro associated with planning a destination wedding is being able to get married in a setting that’s special or memorable to you and your future spouse. For some couples that might mean exchanging vows in the Caribbean, while for others it might mean tying the knot just a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower. Regardless of the destination you choose, you have an opportunity to create memories—and capture some stunning wedding photos while you’re at it.
Plan a smaller guest list
Destination weddings can also offer a more intimate feel if there are fewer guests attending. It may not be feasible or realistic for 200 people to attend a wedding in Bali, for example, if most of them have jobs or families requiring their attention. The upshot is that you can tailor your guest list to include the people who are most important to you.
Potentially save money on wedding costs
Getting married, even when it’s on a smaller scale, can still be expensive. The typical couple spent $28,000 on average to get married in 2021, or $34,000 including the engagement ring, and the same in 2019—in 2020, the average outlay dipped to $19,000 as the global coronavirus pandemic crisis curtailed many couples’ wedding plans.
The typical destination wedding, on the other hand, costs $32,700 on average ($38,700 if you include the cost of the engagement ring). At first glance, a traditional wedding might seem like the better way to go, but you could still spend less on a destination wedding with careful planning.
For example, choosing an all-inclusive hotel or resort for the ceremony, reception, and honeymoon could make sense. This reduces the number of venues and vendors you need to book because there may be partner wedding vendors on-site. Planning a destination wedding in a country that has a favorable exchange rate or a lower cost of living could also help your dollars stretch further.
Be sure to read through any wedding services contracts associated with a destination wedding carefully, so you understand cancellation and termination policies and when deposits are refundable.
Destination Wedding Cons
Though destination weddings have their appeal, they may not be right for every couple. If you’re thinking about planning a wedding someplace exotic, here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind.
More planning may be required
Planning a wedding in a country you’ve never been to—or may have only visited once—can add a few wrinkles. For instance, you may need to consider things such as the exchange rates for currency, potential language barriers, and marriage license requirements. You’ll also need to consider travel restrictions to determine whether you’ll even be able to visit the destination of your choice.
Guests may not attend
An unwritten rule about destination weddings is that it’s perfectly acceptable not to invite certain people if you know they won’t be able to come or would prefer not to. That doesn’t mean, however, that the people you do invite are guaranteed to show. There may be financial or logistical barriers that keep them from attending, which can make your wedding party smaller than you originally planned. If someone particularly special to you is unable to attend, that could take some of the joy out of the day.
There are no guarantees
Planning any wedding means taking a chance on the day working out as expected. Still, a destination wedding could present some unusual risks. For instance, you might be two days into your wedding celebrations when a hurricane or an earthquake forces an evacuation. Or your newly wedded spouse might fall and get bitten by a scorpion while you’re exploring the indigenous flora and fauna.
Purchasing wedding insurance and/or travel insurance can help to protect you financially in a worst-case scenario. Depending on the coverage that’s included, you may be able to recover some of the expenses you paid when planning a destination wedding if it ends up cut short.
A basic wedding insurance policy can cost anywhere from $155 to $550. Travel insurance can cost less, averaging $95 for one week of coverage on an international trip. You may consider purchasing one of each type of policy, in addition to any travel insurance coverage you may have with your credit card.
Consider opening a new travel rewards credit card to earn an introductory points or miles bonus that you can use to book your wedding trip.
How to Plan a Destination Wedding
If you think a destination wedding could be right for you, here are some tips to help with the planning process.
- Set your wedding budget—Having a budget is important for planning any type of wedding but especially so for destination weddings. Consider the upper limit you can afford to spend and the specific costs for which you’ll need to budget.
- Plan the guest list—Choosing guests for a destination wedding is important because you need to be fairly certain of how many people will actually attend. So think about whom you most want to attend and who is most likely to be able to come.
- Evaluate the destination—You may have a dream place in mind, but you should stop to consider whether it’s the right choice. For example, what will the weather be like when you plan to visit? Are there any travel restrictions to or from that destination? How easy will it be for guests to get there? If any are older or very young, can they handle the terrain? What is the exchange rate like?
- Apply travel points and miles—If you have travel points or miles you’ve accumulated from one or more rewards credit cards, consider the best way to use them to get maximum value. For example, they may be worth more when booking airfare or hotels than if you use them for rental cars.
- Get the timing right—Traveling to a destination wedding during the off- or shoulder season could be less expensive than during peak season, and you’ll also be able to avoid larger tourist crowds if you’re heading to a popular spot.
- Consider travel or wedding insurance—Buying travel and wedding insurance could give you some peace of mind if you’re worried about potentially losing money due to circumstances beyond your control.
Who Should You Invite to a Destination Wedding?
When you get married outside of the place where you and most of your friends and family live, convincing people to attend gets trickier. If you plan to get married halfway across the world, bear in mind that invitees will need to take more time off work and spend more money to be there. That basically means that you should only really invite people who are very close to you.
Do Guests Pay for Destination Weddings?
Usually, guests are expected to pay to get to the wedding and to cover their accommodation, assuming they’ll need to stay overnight. However, each wedding is different and there are no set rules.
Is a Destination Wedding Cheaper Than a Traditional One?
That depends on a few factors, such as where you get married and how many people are invited. If you end up getting hitched in a cheaper place that's too far away for distant relatives and acquaintances to attend, then, yes, destination weddings can work out cheaper.
The Bottom Line
Destination weddings can be very romantic and memorable—but they aren’t for everybody. If all goes to plan, you could end up getting married in a beautiful location with only the people you care about most while saving money. However, achieving that dream generally requires more planning, accepting greater risk that something could go wrong, and asking more from the people you wish to invite to enjoy your special day.