If you’ve checked your Pinterest board or Instagram feed lately, you know that beachside and mountaintop weddings are on trend. But if you don’t live near a majestic backdrop, and you're set on traveling to a picture perfect ceremony site, it will likely be more expensive than tying the knot close to home.
So should you stay or should you go? If you’re dreaming of a destination wedding, these expert tips will make it unforgettable, while also keeping it affordable.
1. Drive instead of fly
Don’t limit yourself to tropical islands as you imagine a destination wedding.
“We would define a destination wedding essentially as anything that is not in your home territory — anywhere you have to travel several hours or more to get to or have your guests get to,” says Spencer Potter, executive director of the National Wedding Council, a wedding industry group.
If you’re itching to get out of your hometown but don’t want to pay for a plane ticket, a regional destination wedding might be a fit. So if you live in New York, think less Jamaica and more Cape Cod.
2. Pick a convenient location
Make sure you, your future spouse and your guests can reach your ceremony site fairly easily. The larger the burden to attend a wedding, the lower the turnout you can expect.
“The larger the burden to attend a wedding, the lower the turnout you can expect.”
“See if your wedding can be close to a major transportation hub,” says Jennifer Spector, the newlywed-at-large and director of brand at Zola, a wedding planning and registry website. “If you have to take multiple flights or multiple modes of transportation, it’s going to add costs for your guests and it’s going to add costs for you.”
Additionally, because you might want to preview the venue in person, you may make multiple trips, which would quickly add up.
3. Honeymoon where you wed
Because you’ll already be traveling to the ceremony, avoid making an additional drive or flight for your honeymoon. Potter says some resorts will give you an incentive to stay extra nights after the wedding if you use their venue for the ceremony, so you can get married and honeymoon in the same place.
4. Choose an offseason date
Whether you’re getting married in the U.S. or abroad, you can expect better rates on everything if you avoid peak wedding season.
“If you really have your heart set on a destination, try getting married in a shoulder season or an offseason,” Spector says. “Obviously weather tends to be a factor, but make sure you have a good rain plan or snow plan.”
Find out when your destination's offseason falls. For instance, Potter says America’s summer is the offseason for the Caribbean.
5. Make it a brunch
Many of the money-saving strategies that work for a local wedding apply to a destination wedding as well. That goes for the day of the week you select, as well as the time of the reception.
Be open to scheduling your wedding in a less traditional time slot. For example, having a Sunday brunch after the ceremony will be more cost-effective than a Saturday dinner. Venues generally charge less, and guests will probably drink less.
6. Package it up
Potter says all-inclusive package deals from resorts in places such as the Dominican Republic can be a fairly economical option for destination weddings.
“They tend to be one-stop-shops, and they sort of offer you incentives for bringing 20 or 30 people into this resort,” he says. “They’ll basically give you the flowers and the cake and throw in a lot of the typical things you would have to pay for individually.”
Research online and read reviews from sources such as Yelp before committing. Potter recommends working directly with the resort and reading the contract carefully so you won't be surprised by any fees.
7. Stick to local vendors
If you need to use vendors beyond those provided by the venue, hire nearby professionals. Bringing in vendors from your hometown can be expensive, as you’d likely be expected to foot the bill for their travel and lodging.
“It really depends on where the destination is, but if you don’t have to pay for travel for your florist or your hair and makeup person, that’s really going to help,” Spector says.
And because you might not be familiar with vendors near the destination, Spector and Potter stress the importance of recommendations from family, friends, past brides or other vendors you trust. Your social media accounts can come in handy, too.
“Instagram and Pinterest are really the best ways to plan a wedding,” Spector says. “Like on Instagram you can look at your venue, look at the location and look at people whose weddings have been there before.”
8. Give your guests lodging options
Making a destination wedding affordable means easing the pressure on your guests’ wallets as well as your own. Help your friends and family by locating housing options, one of the pricier parts of travel.
“When you’re booking accommodations, make sure you have accommodations at every price point,” Spector says. “Many couples are now often providing links or houses to people on Airbnb or elsewhere to keep costs down.”
In addition to identifying affordable vacation rental options, call hotels in the area to see if they're willing to offer a discounted group rate.
If you’re dreaming of a destination wedding and working on a budget, Spector says you’ll have to be flexible. You don’t have to be wed to all of these ideas, but you can make your Pinterest dream come true at a price point that works for you.