Destination Weddings: Common Questions from Engaged Couples

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We all have different wedding budgets and preferences.  Then it’s not surprising that not all of us are considering a traditional local wedding for our big day and that is perfectly fine.  While the majority of us will get married at a traditional local venue or run off somewhere to elope, plenty of engaged couples will host a destination wedding instead.  A destination wedding can be more unique and have an inherent excitement that you just can’t get with a conventional wedding.  If you and your partner do decide to hold a destination wedding, here are some answers to the most common questions engaged couples ask when planning a destination wedding:

How much does a destination wedding cost compared to the average wedding?

On average, oddly enough, domestic destination weddings cost couples slightly more than international destination weddings.  Excluding the engagement ring and honeymoon, out of state destination weddings cost about $23,000.  Weddings abroad cost about $22,000.  Because domestic weddings are more affordable and easier for guests to attend, more guests typically attend than their international counterparts which drives costs up for the bride & groom.  Compare these costs to the overall average of $27,000 that we discovered in our research for 2019.  Keep in mind that the specific destination of the wedding, reception location, and the number of guests that attend drastically influence the expenses for the couple.     

What do we need to include in a destination wedding invitation?

As you may have suspected, you will need to provide more information in your wedding invitations than traditional weddings.  Because guests will need to know what the expectations of the bride and groom will be, you will need to provide details regarding travel arrangements, itinerary, accommodations, and celebration locations.  Be very specific with dates, times, and locations of each event.  If you are getting group rates for lodging or activities, share any necessary information with your guests so that they can be included and enjoy the benefits.  For example, you should note that they must reference promotional code “wedding bliss” or say “we are guests of the Donaldson / Sanchez wedding” to stay with group.  You want everyone to be on the same page and know when and where they should be for the duration of the trip.  Allow guests to RSVP for each event independently in case they will not be able to attend all events.

Since you have a lot of information to cover, a wedding website can be even more important for a destination wedding.  This will allow you ample room to cover every detail that your guests will need to know.  We have a great example of a destination wedding invitation to reference too.

When should we send save the dates?

Save the date cards will be very important because guests will need more time than usual to make appropriate travel arrangements to attend your wedding.  Out of state weddings will take some planning but international destinations require even more lead time.  Allow guests a generous amount of time to free up their schedules, take care of any applicable passport applications or renewals, and book flights & other travel arrangements such as hotels and car rentals.  For domestic weddings, provide 5 to 6 months advance notice.  For international destinations, 6 to 8 months is more appropriate.  At the very least, include the time and date of the first and last event, and the location of the ceremony.  
As mentioned above, create a wedding website which can include all the details of the wedding so guests can plan accordingly.

Can we also have a local wedding for guests who can’t attend the destination wedding?

You can definitely do both if it’s within your budget.  Theoretically you may save money on the destination wedding because you will likely have a much shorter guest list and less heads to feed.  It’s common for much less people to attend weddings abroad because of the added cost each guest needs to spend on the trip compared to a traditional wedding.  This will allow you to save money which can go towards the expense of a local wedding reception.  There are many ways to go about your second celebration.  The local wedding reception can be as simple as a home event or as extravagant as a full blown wedding with all of the (wedding) bells and whistles.  How big and how much you want to spend is up to you.  For those of you with the luxury of overfilled coffers, feel free to have an elaborate wedding dress, full liquor bar, live band, dance floor, hor d'oeuvres, multi-tiered cake, and the whole lot.

Many other couples have dual celebrations because they don’t want people to feel left out.  By the same token, make an effort for invited guests not to feel obligated to attend both celebrations.  Not everyone can afford to spend that much time and money for every wedding they receive an invitation.

Are we obligated to pay any additional travel expenses for our wedding party?

Fortunately for you and your future spouse, your wedding party should not expect you to cover any additional expenses that go along with destination weddings.  Though, you should do your best to get the best deals and discounts for your wedding party and all other guests for that matter.  Seek out group discounts, package deals, promotions, and bundle rates.  They will appreciate you making your best effort to save them money on flights and accommodations.  If you can, do some research for them and point out the best prices on flights from their hometowns.     

Other than at the reception, do we need to pay for additional meals for our guests?     

For guests, aside from the wedding reception, you should cover the costs of meals at the rehearsal dinner and the brunch the day after the reception.  Additionally for your wedding party, you should pay for all of their meals on the day of the wedding.  As an added welcomed gesture, you can pay for an additional meal for your guests such as a welcome dinner or a farewell breakfast.  Similarly, you can pay for more meals for your wedding party to minimize their additional costs of joining you out of state or overseas.  The reality is that the more you spend on them, the less they have to, and the more they will appreciate it.  Happy guests, happy wedding.

How many guests should I invite?

Expect roughly have of the guests you invite to RSVP for an out of state wedding.  For weddings abroad, expect less than that to attend.  The more expensive the destination, the less guests you can expect to RSVP.  As an example, inviting 100 people in the United States to attend a wedding in the Maldives may only result in about 20 to 30 people attending.  Keep this in mind when you are trying to manage your budget and guest list.

How should I travel with my wedding dress?

Ask the bridal boutique, where you purchased the wedding dress, for recommendations on how to transport your specific garment especially if it has delicate elements.  Use a garment bag that was designed to store your wedding gown.  If you are travelling by plane, ask a flight attendant where the best place would be to store your wedding dress so that it won’t get wrinkled.  There is no one better than a flight attendant to know the optimal places to store fragile items on a plane.  Many airlines have procedures in place for this precious carry-on item.  You may be able to stow the dress in an available first class storage space or a reserved storage closet for flight attendants to use as they please.  On flights that are not full, you may be able to rest the dress next to you on an open seat.
Once you arrive to your hotel, ask the front desk or concierge for a steamer.  For best results, you should steam the wedding dress as soon as you can and hang it in your hotel room’s closet.
Planning a destination wedding, search flights and hotels for locations that are affordable for your guests.


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