Planning a destination wedding on a budget?
The number one myth that brides believe in when planning a destination wedding is that it will be significantly cheaper than having an at-home wedding. While this is the case the majority of the time, it’s entirely possible to have a destination wedding that’s the same, if not more, than an at-home wedding!
Keep reading, and don’t be scared off of having a destination wedding. This is why I’m here – to show you how to have an affordable destination wedding without going broke!
I’m going to give you the best destination wedding tips and advice based off my 7 years of helping over 7000 brides have the wedding of their dreams, with affordable wedding packages, group comps, outside vendors, and more!
I know – this sounds overwhelming. So let’s take a closer look at how to plan a destination wedding while sticking to a budget (and without going broke!).
This destination wedding post is geared towards weddings in Mexico and the Caribbean, but it can also easily apply to destinations all around the world. Remember – your options aren’t limited to all-inclusives, but this is one of my specialities and can give you your best bang for your buck, which is why I rave about them so much!
I will also preface this by saying that just by having a destination wedding, it will cut down your RSVPs significantly. Some may say it’s selfish to have a destination wedding, but I implore you to ignore the nay-sayers. It’s your wedding. Don’t listen to any outside influence – this is YOUR day! Plus, by having a smaller guest list, it will also reduce your costs. 😉
Advice for having affordable destination weddings
Hopefully these tips will help you save some costs on your wedding! You can easily have a destination wedding for cheap without it looking cheap!
Tip 1: Work with an experienced Destination Wedding Travel Agent
My number one recommendation for brides planning a destination wedding is to work with a travel agent that specializes in destination weddings. Please, do this!
I thought I had it all worked out. I worked with a high-profile vacation supplier in Canada and it’s one of my biggest regrets! It ended up being a nightmare, and I ended up being my own travel agent, collecting passenger info, credit card info, room upgrades, etc!
As a bride, you DO NOT need to take that stress on.
Let the professionals handle your bookings and deal with your guests. Believe me, you have enough to be dealing with than responding to questions from people who may have never travelled before!
How does this save you money?
Working with a destination wedding travel agent will cost you nothing. They’re free for you to use, will ensure you get the best deal possible (some even price match!), and will help you navigate through what would otherwise be a stressful time.
Destination wedding travel agents also work to secure you group perks (if applicable), such as free events with so many room nights booked, a free wedding money back for the bride and groom, comps, and more! This is all resort-dependent, but they can help you select your dream resort while saving you money and keeping you within budget!
Need suggestions? Feel free to contact me and I can help you out (and no, I don’t get a kickback from this, but I’ve come to know some amazing travel agents over the years who specialize in this kind of thing!).
Related: How to Fly with your Wedding Dress (Stress-Free!)
Tip 2: Select a more affordable month to get married away
Destination weddings can be convenient for those who travel during holidays and weekends, because it means guaranteed time off work for most professions. The problem with that is, everyone is thinking the same thing.
This makes travel not only expensive, but also very busy.
Rates will be higher, and if you’re inviting a large group of people, there may not be enough rooms available for your group.
Dates to avoid for destination weddings
Take this with a grain of salt; this is based on experience but you’ll soon find out that it’s much more expensive to travel over the holidays!
Any statutory holiday in Canada like Easter, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, or any major holiday in the USA. March Break, Memorial Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend can be one of the busiest travel times.
Don’t be too discouraged about trying to book your destination wedding around certain times of the year where the weather may be precarious – I’ve travelled numerous times during hurricane season and it’s been some of the best weather I’ve had. That being said, there are definitely some travel nightmare stories about being stuck in hurricanes.
Generally, August-October are known as hurricane months, where there may more rainfall and unfavourable weather. In the past 7 years of being involved with destination wedding groups, I’ve only heard of the weather significantly changing a bride’s big day a handful of times.
If you’re planning to get married on the beach and you’re worried about guests being too hot, you’ll hear that July and August can be some of the hottest months. However, you really aren’t outside for more than 15 minutes during the ceremony – and if you’re going barefoot for your destination wedding, the sand is cool to the touch. Plus, you’re going to be hot regardless. 😂
So what’s the point to all of this?
Travelling during the “off-season” or shoulder season will save you money. The rates are much cheaper than prime travel times and there’s a better chance of getting the room you want, and securing a large enough room block if you’re inviting a large group of guests to your destination wedding.
Tip 3: Don’t be afraid of the vendor fees
Learn from my past mistakes: my biggest regrets are hiring the in-house vendors for our wedding.
You may be wondering why.
Many brides think that hiring the in-house vendors will save them money. That is not the case. Not only are you paying more for services, they really aren’t as qualified as hiring an local outside vendor.
But what about the vendor fee?
Don’t stress about the outside vendor fee – these can be worked around and sometimes eliminated completely. Local vendors are more than willing to work with you to negotiate the resort’s vendor fee (which can range from $100 per vendor upwards of $1500 per service!).
Make sure you get all the details from your wedding coordinator and be sure to ask what the vendor fees are, including the specific details, like if it’s per person, or per service.
Wondering how hiring an outside vendor saves you money?
You will get way more bang for your buck by hiring a local vendor. By far.
The packages are much more budget friendly, the talent is unsurpassed, and you’ll be able to form a bond with who you hire.
My biggest regret was hiring the hotel vendors. I didn’t know who my photographer was until the day of, I didn’t like any of our photos, and I ended up spending more than I would have if I had just hired an outside vendor to begin with. Same with hair and makeup; it was so awful I had them take it off and I did it myself.
Related: Questions to Ask your Destination Wedding Resort Coordinator
Tip 4: Explore off-site venue options
Many people think that having a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort is the cheapest way to get married. This is not true!
While all-inclusive resorts offer a great bang-for-your-buck, the wedding packages, decor, and additional fees can add up quick.
Lots of brides are shifting to off-site venues for their wedding.
There are a few factors that could come into play: more privacy, more flexible options, less expensive decor options, more personalized service, cheaper set menus, no vendor fees, etc! There are brides who have saved thousands by having an off-site venue.
I still love weddings at all-inclusive resorts because it’s easy having your accommodations and wedding in the same spot, but if you’re looking to save some serious money, this may be an option to look into!
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Tipping at Destination Weddings
Tip 5: Let the location speak for itself
Part of having a destination wedding is to let the location speak for itself. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on decor and upgrades – trust me – you won’t need it!
Sure, there are some things like floral arrangements you may want, but your guests won’t remember things like what kind of chairs or charger plates you had. They’ll remember joining you in an amazing setting!
By letting your destination wedding location speak for itself, you will save thousands on decor you may otherwise want or need for a traditional ballroom setting at home. What’s more beautiful than a wedding and reception by the ocean, surrounded by palm trees with a cool breeze and a sunset?
Get creative with DIY options like your own centrepieces or your own faux-flowers (but be sure to check if those are allowed at your resort!). By bringing some of your own decor and lighting, it can save you hundreds! Ask your wedding coordinator if you can reuse your florals from your ceremony for your reception or dinner. This is what we did and it saved us hundreds!
Tip 6: Consider having a symbolic wedding ceremony
I think most brides plan on having a legal wedding ceremony until they begin to realize what’s involved. It costs more money and it’s more of a headache to get married legally in Mexico or the Caribbean.
You may require translating of documents, a blood test, witnesses (if you’re eloping, this is an added cost), etc.
These costs can add up, and depending on where you live, translating documents can range anywhere from $250-$1000+!
If you’re worried about having a symbolic ceremony and having it not feel like the real thing, here’s my two cents: it won’t feel like a symbolic wedding. Trust me.
When you get married at the courthouse, you likely won’t be wearing your wedding dress. It’s more casual. We picked the shortest vows, didn’t exchange rings, and had both of our parents there. No one else knew about it. In fact, we both went to work right after!
We treated it more like a formality.
When you have your ceremony at your destination wedding, nothing will beat your significant other laying eyes on you as you’re walking down the aisle in your dress, being surrounded by the people you love.
If you’re still concerned, consider getting legally married once you arrive home.
I’d say 95% of the brides I’ve helped had a symbolic ceremony, and no one has regretted it or felt any differently.
Related: What to Include in Destination Wedding Welcome Bags
Tip 7: You don’t really need a bridal party
If you want to keep things simpler, you can opt to not have a bridal party, or just have a Maid/Matron of Honour and a Best Man! The rules with destination weddings kind of go out the window – you’re free to create your own rules!
By eliminating a bridal party, you can save hundreds on outfits, gifts, flowers/boutonnieres, hair and makeup, etc. The choice is entirely yours (we ended up just having one on either side), and with a smaller group of guests, we didn’t find it necessary to have a large bridal party. This is entirely up to you – there is no right or wrong, here!
Related: Fun Affordable Destination Wedding Favours for all Budgets
Tip 8: Combine your wedding and honeymoon
One of the advantages of having a destination wedding is that you can save on the honeymoon cost by extending your wedding week once your guests depart. We did this and only paid $500 per person for an entire additional week rather than coming home, turning around, and heading somewhere else. It was kind of a no-brainer!
If you’re on a budget but still want some down time after the wedding, this may be a viable option for you.
Of course, I also recommend postponing your honeymoon to combat post-wedding blues, but I strongly believe in taking some time to yourselves after your guests depart to decompress and enjoy your new marriage and honeymoon phase. 🙂
Hopefully these tips shed more insight on how to have an affordable destination wedding! It’s entirely possible and doable if you’re determined. You can have your cake and eat it too, if you’re careful with your planning!
Let me know your inside tips and recommendations in the comments below!
Related: Best Adults-Only Resorts in Mexico (Perfect for Honeymoons!)
Looking for packing lists?
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- Best Tips on How to Travel with your Wedding Dress (Stress-Free!)
- 11 Must-Haves for Destination Wedding Travel
- Fun Affordable Destination Wedding Favours for All Budgets
- What to Include in Destination Wedding Welcome Bags
- Awesome Private Transfer Companies from Cancun Airport
- Best Destination Wedding Tips and Advice from 30+ past brides!
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