The average cost of a modest wedding can be tens of thousands of dollars. Post-COVID, weddings are more expensive than ever. While I think that you can inherently save money by planning a destination wedding, having planned one myself I realized that were a lot more opportunities to save money than I took advantage of. In this post, I am going over how to save money when planning a destination wedding.
For some context, I am now almost done planning my own destination wedding. The cost of my destination wedding in Naxos, Greece with 8 guests and a 3-week honeymoon with all expenses included is roughly $20,000. While this is by no means a “cheap” or “budget wedding” and it could have been done for much less (or more), I save more money in the long run than if I did a 50- 100 guest wedding near where I live. We were getting quoted $15- 20k at outdated venues for an “all-inclusive” situation minus the attire, photographer, and flowers alone.
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How to Save Money When Planning a Destination Wedding
Photo credit: Alecca Synclair Photography
1. Get Married on a Weekday
Local vendors can often be discounted on weekdays, even if you are planning on getting married during the high season. Being flexible with the date you are getting married can help save you money in the long term when it comes to Airbnbs, flights, vendors, and other wedding expenses.
2. Choose the Shoulder Season
Weddings during the peak season are often more expensive and there are often more tourists. By getting married during a shoulder season, there is still great weather, likely to be fewer tourists and cheaper vendors. Since I am getting married in Greece, we choose September 27th which is on the shoulder season. We found that a lot of our vendors were still available, even planning a wedding in a short period of time, and the prices were much cheaper when planning our honeymoon.
3. Downsize Your Guest List
Downsizing a guest list is one of the best ways to save money, even with a destination wedding. Having a destination wedding, it’s likely your guest list is already smaller than it would have been for a local wedding. The guest list can affect your venue cost (more guests = larger venue), food costs, and alcohol/drink costs. Sometimes attire, accommodation, and other expenses can be added to your cost with a larger guest list. If you are trying to save money, being thoughtful about your guest list before sending out invitations can help you save money in the end since the costs can add up.
4. Choose Your Destination Accordingly
If you’re from The United States, domestic destinations or traveling to a nearer country like Mexico is going to be a lot more affordable than flying to Europe or Asia for your destination wedding. Another thing to consider is how your guests (if you have any) are going to arrive at the location.
Planning a wedding on a Greek island ended up being a lot more costly than I expected as certain vendors needed to go to the island, and you couldn’t just take a single plane to the destination. To get married in Naxos, you would have to take a flight from the U.S. to Athens and then a flight or ferry from Athens to Naxos making for a long travel time and greater costs.
5. Use Local Vendors
Paying for vendors to travel to your wedding location if you’re planning a destination wedding is going to spend a lot more than choosing from local vendors. Rather than hiring a destination wedding photographer, for example, find someone local to the area. This can save you hundreds to thousands in wedding fees in the long run.
6. Use Travel Credit Cards and Maximize Points
Using credit cards is one of the best hacks for saving money on your wedding or honeymoon. Don’t spend more money than you have (a good rule is to pay for things you would have already been paying for out of pocket and not use it as a mini-loan). Getting a travel credit card when wedding planning saved me over $1,000. I wrote a complete post on tips to maximize credit card points (and not get into trouble with credit card debt) when planning your wedding that you can read here.
7. Do a Symbolic Wedding
If your destination is abroad, there are different parameters around a legal wedding depending on the country you are in. You may need to stay longer before the wedding or pay fees to get a marriage license. By taking care of the legalities at home and doing a “symbolic wedding” at your destination, you can cut down on expenses. Once you get home or before you leave, just sign your marriage license!
8. Choose a Wedding Package
Some destinations like all-inclusive resorts have wedding packages that can be more cost-effective and easier to plan. It saves you from having to manage different vendors. If you are looking for something that is low maintenance, this can be a great option.
If something really doesn’t matter to you (like in my case the plates), don’t bother splurging on them. Splurge on the things that matter most to you and save within your budget on the things you really couldn’t care less about. When you first start planning your wedding and are budgeting, I think that it is important to think about what is going to matter to you after the wedding. For me, having pictures to look back on that I love was important, so I splurged more on the wedding. Also, getting an Airbnb large enough for most of the guests was important, so we also splurged on that. Don’t let others pressure you into spending more on something that really won’t matter to you in the end.
How to Save Money Planning a Destination Wedding
I hope this post was helpful and gave you ideas on how to save money when planning a destination wedding. Destination weddings and elopements can be done for very inexpensive and can save you money versus having a local wedding. Not to mention, I found it to be less stressful than planning a large local wedding.
If you have planned a destination wedding or are currently and have more ideas on how to save money, let me know in the comments below! I would also love to see where you are planning your wedding.