It’s easy to assume that destination weddings simply have to be expensive: after all, they generally imply airfare, lodging, meals, and ground transportation at the very least. However, if having a destination wedding makes the most sense for you (for instance, if all of your guests will be traveling somewhere anyway because they are spread-out), flip the script on your mindset. Here’s how to use advanced planning and thoughtful considerations to make your destination wedding an affordable, if still luxurious, experience.
Plan Ahead (and Invite Ahead!)
You may have heard that save-the-dates and invitations should only be sent a certain time before the wedding, but in the case of a destination wedding, send those save-the-dates and invites as soon as you lock in your details. The longer people have to plan, the cheaper the accommodations and flights will be for them, and the easier it is to get time off of work, too. Planning ahead is almost always a more affordable option than a last-minute choice to fly to Tahiti.
As you begin planning your wedding, consider taking advice from a local wedding planner in the area, and get them to help you keep the destination wedding glitz and glamour to a minimum. After all, you are picking a beautiful location, so there shouldn’t be as much need for frills and decorations to make the wedding incredibly memorable. Obviously, spend on whatever you want, but any money you can save in your general wedding budget can be used to make the trip less costly for your guests.
Consider Airport Hubs When Picking Your Destination
As you select that dream venue, think about flight prices. Google Flights and other aggregators can let you see what a normal plane ticket costs from one city to another; look at the places where your family and friends are likely to catch their flight. If you can find a gorgeous destination within short driving distance of a major airport, rather than out in the middle of nowhere, you are more likely to save your guests some cash.
Consider How You Can Leverage Your Group for Discounts
Depending on where you are getting married, there may be some advantage to booking an entire stay through a single travel agent. For instance, if you are getting married at a resort on a beach, they may have special all-inclusive deals that you can get for a bulk rate that includes airfare as well as lodging and meals. If you do group discounts, you need to verify that your guests are truly on board before you sign anything, but at least consider whether your guests would be better off paying a single fee and knowing upfront all of the costs, or having to do hours of their own searching only to not find as good of a deal.
Another consideration might be if you are renting a large property that contains both wedding venue areas and lodging. If you can get the entire property for a single lower rate, you might want to either budget that into your own wedding budget or decide that only a portion of the rate will be for your guests to pay.
Invite Fewer Guests and Spring for More of the Bill
One consideration is just how many people you want present for your destination wedding. If you spring for more guests, two things happen: yes, your expenses (and theirs) go up, but also it gets harder to find a date that fits for every single person who wants to come. If you keep your numbers small, it’s often possible to get all of the people you want to be present there, even if it is an intimate group.
Another thing to consider is that if you can go with a very small, simple venue (or even a beachside ceremony with everyone standing and just do dinner afterward!) you can pick up more of the bill for those you love. If your choice is between a 50-person destination wedding where your guests pay their own way and a 10-person wedding where you get to take on the cost for everyone, and it all costs the same…well, that certainly makes it much more affordable!
Skip the Gift Registry and Plan Thoughtful Gestures
Still need ways to make this trip feel within reach of your guests? Make it very clear that you aren’t needing gifts by not creating a registry; let everyone invited know, through the grapevine, that you want their presence, not their presents. Another way to show how much you appreciate their expenditures is by leaving notes for your guests in their rooms when they arrive, by providing meals like a post-wedding brunch, or by leaving a basket for them at the desk when they check in. These things aren’t big costs in the scheme of wedding planning, but the remind your guests that you really are glad they came.