Aside from the romantic allure, destination weddings are often marketed in the wedding industry as a cost-effective alternative to marrying on home turf.
By the time the year is out, I will have been to not one, but two destination weddings, so I wanted to explore this a little more from the other side of the coin.
It definitely is more affordable for couples to have a destination wedding. The average wedding in the US is around $31,213 and that doesn’t include the honeymoon! Sandals Wedding Moons
Photography: Bandele Zuberi
For couples, destination weddings at face value are definitely cheaper, some companies such as Sandals even offer couples a free wedding with some packages. So yes they are for couples, but if you look a little deeper for guests, definitely not. The amount to attend a destination wedding can be debt inducing.
Now before I go on, I must add a little caveat – of course as a guest, it is 100% up to you whether or not you choose to make the investment or not. Both destination weddings this year have been an honour (one coming up in a couple of weeks! Yippee!) Both weddings have offered Mr Nu Bride and I pivotal roles, him best man all the way in sunny Barbados and the second, big brother Nu Bride’s wedding in Europe. How could we not go?! 🙂 But when we first said ‘yes’ we knew very little about the true cost of attending.
Guests can enjoy a holiday stemmed off of a destination wedding while enjoying a group rate discount. Less than booking separate. Sandals Wedding Moons
Photography: Nikos Gogas
Destination weddings are often toted as a cheaper alternative to getting married in your home country, but it’s a big ask of guests who probably have things they would rather spend that money on. Chantal Mallett
The Average Cost of Attending a UK Wedding
In 2013 The Daily Mail reported that the average amount a UK guest spent on a wedding on home turf, was a huge £440. That was two years ago, in the middle of a recession…. This more recent survey from Nationwide shows a slight decrease to £377, still a generous amount. Another survey from American Express reports that the cost guests fork out to attend, also puts pressure on couples to provide their guests with extra amenities to make it all worthwhile. I wonder if that pressure is magnified for couples who choose to marry abroad?
We were very conscious of friends and families purse strings when we chose to marry abroad. We have family in NYC and London and decided to have a twin location wedding. So we had 20 NYC guests in their home town and 60 UK guests in London. No one travelled other than us. We figured two locations gave us the opportunity to share our day with everyone we loved without them needing to shell out. Plus our Grand parents don’t travel well and it was important for us to have them there. Denise
On doing research for this post, destination weddings really do have mixed reviews. Some feel that guests should seize the opportunity and use it as an excuse to go on holiday. Others feel that couples who choose to marry abroad at the expense of their guests, as being selfish.
I was approached innocently by someone recently who was shocked to hear that each of the destination weddings we are attending this year are at our own expense. There was clearly an expectation that if couples wish for you to attend their wedding abroad, that they should foot the bill. Ouch!
I think most people are happy to attend a destination wedding in the summer as it gives an excuse to go on holiday! Heart A Flutter Bridal
The True Cost of Attending a Destination Wedding
Photography: Nikos Gogas
So I decided to tally up the cost of attending one of the destination weddings we’ve attended this year in the Caribbean. For standard wedding related travel costs for two people, it rounded up to approx £2.8k to attend. Bare in mind, this did not include our accommodation, gifts, wedding outfits or pre hen/ stag celebrations). If you take this as a basic amount for travel expenses and multiply this cost by the amount of guests in attendance (50 in total: 25 pairs)….. Drum roll….Even I was shocked. It came to a whopping £70,000!!! That’s over seven times the cost of attending on home turf.
Pssst…That £70,000 figure is obviously not including any wedding ceremony and reception fees the couple will have paid to host guests or pre and post wedding activities.
When you consider the average cost of a UK wedding, is currently around £23K, then are destination weddings really cheaper? Well, clearly not at all.
Now I am not suggesting that couples pay for all of their guests expenses to attend a destination wedding, but when you look a little deeper the guest travel expenses blow that average cost of a wedding out of the water!
The cost of weddings is always considered from the perspective of the couple, but just how much does it cost the guests and where do they see the need to spend money to ensure they are the very best wedding guest….The Daily Mail
I covered the guest dilemma of attending multiple destination weddings in one year, when a reader contacted me completely stressed out about feeling obligated to attend them all and was overwhelmed by the prospect of spiralling into debt as a key member of the bridal party.
In an age where society encourages us to desire and want more, if we opt to hop on a plane to wed, are we putting our guests into an awkward and compromising financial position?
These new trends of requesting meal payment from guests, making expensive demands on wedding party members and extending the celebration beyond the wedding day, are making wedding dreams come true for the couple, but putting a serious strain on many friendships. Huffington Post
My experience this year has come to realise that destination weddings may be more cost-effective for the couple, but definitely not for guests.
Couples – before you send out your invites, give guests as much notice as possible via a save the date or even an email.
Provide accurate information about the expected costs involved with attending, from travel costs to the cost of living whilst there and if you are asking them to play an important role in their day, what other expenses will this incur? Are they expected to buy their own wedding day outfits etc?
I spent more time stressing about our guests than the actual wedding… Because so many people took time off and spent money I was very conscious about people having a great time. This is why I wanted to do the extra little bits like the goodie bags, picking people up from the airport, taking people on days out and about.. Etc. I wanted it to also be a great holiday for the guests and for them to feel it was worth the time and money they put into it. Emma, recent destination wedding bride
Make sure you consider how you host your guests, especially if they are travelling long haul, destination weddings should require more attention to detail, organising meet and greets, educating about any cultures / etiquettes or language barriers can all help to reduce the anxiety or travelling to unknown territory.
Guests: Before you commit – do a tally of predicted costs and work out if you can budget accordingly.
Also consider the time you will have to dedicate to attend. Can you invest in the ‘time’ off work.
Wedding Party: If you have been asked to play a key role, work out if you can afford to attend first and also decide if you want to attend and take on that role.
There is no point saying yes to attend a destination wedding and then forking out hundreds or thousands of pounds to attend, only to feel aggrieved and begrudge the couple for putting you in financial hardship. Sometimes, as much as you want to attend, saying no whilst disappointing, is ok too.
Photography: Bandele Zuberi
Ultimately it’s the guests choice to decide to incur the expense of a destination wedding or not. I also think it’s unreasonable to expect a couple to pay for their guests travel expenses, but I do think couples should be mindful of the costs their guests may incur when thinking of marrying abroad and to allow ample time for guests to plan and more importantly, to save.
It’s worth asking, are we misinforming couples and their guests by marketing destination weddings as a cheaper alternative?