Destination weddings are big business. The global market for these specialized events is forecast to reach $28.31 billion by the end of 2023.
A report by the Business Research Company estimates the market will increase to $78.89 billion by 2027, driven mainly by social media and other online products.
Not only are destination weddings cash cows for the businesses that provide them, but couples will often pay a lot of money to have one.
Michelle M. Winner and Ellie Nan Storck, with Brides magazine, estimate the average bill for a “baseline” destination wedding is about $35,000.
What’s a Destination Wedding?
A destination wedding is a ceremony outside of the couple’s local area. It can be within the country where the couple lives or in another country. It usually involves the wedding party and guests staying several nights at the destination.
Destination weddings can be simple ceremonies well under the baseline estimate, or they can be elaborate parties requiring an elaborate budget.
Why Have a Destination Wedding?
Couples have many reasons to plan a wedding in another location. Perhaps it’s a place they visited once together, or they’ve always wanted to see. Maybe it’s a second wedding, and the first, more traditional ceremony holds bad memories. Perhaps they want to combine their wedding day and honeymoon. Whatever the reason, the destination wedding is a popular event.
What’s Included in a Destination Wedding?
Planning a destination wedding can include just the ceremony or an event with invited guests, rehearsal parties, other get-togethers, group activities, catering, etc. The more you add, the more you pay.
Couples must determine whether their friends and loved ones can afford the travel and hotel costs to a destination wedding and factor this into their planning. For instance, if they have older relatives or other loved ones with physical and/or mental challenges, a destination wedding with many guests may not be feasible if including these persons in the celebrations is non-negotiable.
The wedding couple has to plan for their ceremony attire, rings or other tokens, the venue, an officiant, photographer, florist, catering, and any other extras they want. If their wedding is in another country, they may want to contract with a wedding planner in that country so they can be sure all the legal angles are covered.
Planning, Planning, Planning
A couple who wants a destination wedding needs to start planning that event early. They will need to research the best time to visit their destination. High season may not be the best time to travel somewhere since the venue will be crowded with tourists, and some aspects of the event, like hotel accommodations and airfare, will probably be more expensive.
If the primary tourist season is summer, couples may find more cost-effective options during the “shoulder” seasons of spring or fall. They may have less difficulty setting their desired date, getting their preferred venue, and finding accommodations. Vendors may also charge less during the shoulder seasons.
If the event is essentially an elopement, the couple may want to hire just an officiant and a photographer. In that case, their costs will be little more than what they’d pay to honeymoon at their destination. Some venues even offer gown and tuxedo rentals for the happy couple.
The planning phase is the first time the couple needs to consider hiring a wedding planner, especially if the event is not in their home country. If they’re planning a large event, a planner must help them navigate all the aspects of an international wedding. Planners based in the country of choice will also have lists of officiants, photographers, florists, etc., that the couple can contact for their ceremony.
The earlier a couple starts the planning process, the better off they are. They will be more organized, will have their dates set, and have more time to get all the details organized and finalized.
Destination or Stay Home?
With all the above information to ponder, should a couple opt for the dream destination wedding, or should they stay home?
One hybrid option is to plan a “local destination” wedding, where the venue is within driving distance, guests can stay overnight, and then go home within a day or so. This allows the couple to have a wedding in a more desirable location but without the extra expense.
Expense is a big part of wedding planning in 2023. Gabrielle Fonrouge with CNBC reports the average wedding cost this year is about $29,000. Vendors estimate supplier costs “have tripled or worse,” forcing vendors like bakers and florists to raise their prices.
Couples will have to budget carefully to make sure their big day is what they want and within their budget.
Cutting the Budget
Whether a couple plans a destination wedding or an event close to home, there are ways to cut the budget. Streamlining the guest list is one of the best ways couples can save money. The size of the guest list affects everything from the venue size to catering costs. Fewer people at the wedding translates into spending less cash.
Couples can also consider having their wedding at a less traditional time, like late morning or early afternoon. Venues may not charge as much for these times, plus the catering needs differ from an ample buffet or sit-down dinner. An early afternoon wedding can feature light nibbles, like nuts, mints, cheese straws, tiny finger sandwiches, punch, and cake. That’s a lot cheaper than a steak buffet.
Omitting alcohol can save the couple thousands of dollars, according to The Knot. The average reception may drink up as much as $3,000 on booze. Serving punch offers several advantages besides saving money: no one gets drunk and offensive at the reception, fights are less likely to occur among warring family members, and no one has to monitor who’s had too much and needs a taxi home. Plus, according to Drink Surely, the choice of venues may be wider since many locations do not allow alcohol to be served.
Those wearing tuxedos usually rent them, and those wishing to wear a dress can do the same. Many shops rent bridesmaid dresses and bridal gowns in the latest styles, with all the accessories, including veils and shoes. A bride who wants to keep her dress can go to a shop that sells samples at a steep discount. Many sample shops cap the prices of their dresses so a bride knows the maximum she will pay for her gown.
Planning and budgeting will help wedding couples have that event of their dreams, whether at home or far away.