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How to Plan and Protect Your Destination Wedding

Becky Hart | Jan 15, 2024

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When considering wedding options, a destination wedding sounds nice but also daunting. You wonder: Is it too expensive? Will friends and family want to attend? What about hurricane season?

Fortunately, there are good answers to each of those questions. 

Are Destination Weddings Cheaper?

Destination weddings can be as inexpensive or as luxurious as you want them to be. According to the most recent data from The Knot, destination weddings in 2022 averaged $35,600. Destination weddings in the U.S. cost slightly more than ceremonies held internationally.

That might sound counterintuitive, but getting married abroad has a few things that may work in your favor when it comes to cost. The exchange rate might be more favorable, for starters. You’ll also save money when you keep your guest list smaller, something that’s easier for a destination wedding. There’s less pressure to invite your mother’s hairdresser’s cousin when you’re saying “I do” in Greece.

Many venues have package deals that alleviate the nickel-and-diming of some more traditional events and facilities. If you’re renting an all-inclusive resort’s event center, they might offer reduced prices on a block of rooms or bonus amenities for the betrothed couple.

Like any wedding venue, however, pay attention to sneaky fees and keep a close eye on your expenses. You’d be surprised how quickly they can creep up.

You can also think of a destination wedding as a chance to double-dip. It’s almost like a ceremony and honeymoon in one.

Who Pays for Guests at a Destination Wedding?

Guests at a wedding.If you get to combine your wedding and honeymoon into one trip, your guests might also feel like they get a vacation out of the event when they decide to make the most of wedding season travel.

The current trend for destination weddings is to make them grand events lasting several days. There might be group outings to explore the area in the days before the ceremony, a cocktail hour the night before, then a friends brunch the day after.

While these grand parties have major appeal to some guests, others may cringe at the price tag. The popularity of destination weddings has made it more expensive for guests in recent years. According to a survey by Zola, people attended an average of four weddings and seven wedding-related events, such a bridal shower or bachelor party, in 2022.

Those same guests spent an average of $1,300 to attend a wedding that required air travel. It’s worth noting here, though, that other studies have placed the cost of attending a wedding anywhere from $500 to $4,000 dollars, depending on the location and length of the event.

Paying for airfare, transportation at the destination, accommodations (even when the wedding is at an all-inclusive resort), and food and drink is typically the responsibility of the guest.

What Are the Best Locations for a Destination Wedding?

The best place for a destination wedding could be as personal as your vows. Some couples choose to return to a favorite vacation spot or set off for somewhere with sentimental meaning. If you’re still on the search for the right place, though, you just might find the perfect match on our list below.

Most affordable wedding destinations

When you’re looking to save money on a destination wedding, some of your best options are probably fairly close to home. Mexico has long been a popular destination for weddings, and the Riviera Maya and Cozumel are often picked among the most affordable. Partly because of the number of all-inclusive resorts in the region, planning and hosting a destination wedding in Mexico can be both budget-friendly and simple.

For those concerned about safety, Yucatan, where Cozumel is located, is considered one of the safer areas of Mexico. As of December 2023, the U.S. Department of State had placed Yucatan in its “Exercise Normal Precautions” category.

For those couples who want some European flare for their big day, consider Portugal. Easy to get to from the United States and with a relatively low cost of living, especially when compared to many other European countries, Portugal could be the unexpected destination you didn’t even know you’d been dreaming about.

Best beach wedding destinations

Like Mexico, the Caribbean is always in style for a destination wedding. The Dominican Republic and Jamaica are popular for their close proximity to the U.S., abundance of resorts, incredible weather, and beautiful beaches.

One beach destination that might go overlooked is Puerto Rico. This one gets extra points for convenience. Because it’s a U.S. territory, American citizens don’t need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. Flights are relatively inexpensive and easy to book from most major U.S. airports, too.

Best places to get married out of the country

The romance of Italy and France keep these two countries on the list of best international destinations for a wedding. For 2024, we recommend going off the typical tourist path to make the most of your moment.

With Paris hosting the Olympics in 2024, you’re bound to find large crowds, particularly in the summer. And even if you don’t mind the hustle and bustle, it will drive up the cost of hotels and other travel arrangements.

Instead, try the Loire Valley. The food and wine are equally amazing, and we’re sure you won’t regret starting this new chapter of your life with such a stunning backdrop of scenery.

Some European cities like Italy’s Venice are trying to counteract the negative effects of overtourism. That means you may find that you and your guests will be charged an additional tourist fee in these places. Do your part to travel responsibly — and save yourself a bit of money — by getting married somewhere like Chioggia, also known as “Little Venice,” instead.

Best places for a destination wedding in the U.S.

The American West has gained in popularity for destination weddings in recent years. Wyoming is a favorite for rustic weddings, and the Colorado Rockies are ideal if you want to be in the mountains.

It’s also tough to go wrong in California, particularly Napa Valley, which traditionally ranks highly for destination weddings. Beautiful views and fine dining make for a timeless and classy event. Just know that you may pay a premium because of its popularity. Keep costs down by scheduling your ceremony during the shoulder season.

What Are the Best Tips and Hacks for Destination Weddings?

1. Choose a location far in advance.

Picking your destination early gives you the opportunity to visit beforehand. It also allows your guests plenty of time to plan and save.

Also, embrace your location! Lean into themes or tablescapes constructed from local flora. It saves money and makes your wedding uniquely yours.

Destination Wedding photo of bride and groom

2. Dress accordingly.

If your wedding is in a humid climate, choose breathable fabrics. If it’s a mountain wedding at higher altitude, plan for cooler temperatures and perhaps more intense sunlight.

Footwear is key, too. High-heeled shoes and ground that’s soft from the rain or sand don’t mix. Your comfort and ability to walk (gracefully) are paramount.

Remember this if you’re the one planning the wedding and picking out dresses and attire. We know you want a dream dress, but it isn’t cute or glamorous to look like a sunburned lobster or be hunched over covered in goosebumps from the cold. That’s not how you want to remember your magical day when you look back at wedding photos.

3. Pack wisely.

If you’re in the wedding party in any capacity — bride, groom, bridesmaid, mother of one half of the happy couple, ring bearer — pack whatever you’re going to wear to the ceremony in your carry-on. Don’t check it with the airline.

As a guest, packing for a destination wedding can be a bit tricky. It might only be for a few days, so you’ll be tempted to only take a carry-on bag. If you habitually travel for weddings, this might be a good time to invest in premium luggage with enough room for those extra shoes, accessories, and everything else you need for a weekend full of wedding festivities.

If you’re traveling with friends to the wedding, coordinate your packing lists. You’ll pack lighter if you agree to share a hair straightener rather than everyone bringing their own. And to be honest, you might not even need one if the humidity of a beach wedding is just going to make it curl up again right away (if you know, you know).

4. Make lists.

Staying organized should remain a priority throughout the wedding planning process, especially when traveling. Destination Wedding Details has a great, comprehensive checklist ranging from the most important things like passports and wedding rings to things you might not consider like vendor paperwork and safety pins.

We recommend taking lists like these and then paring them down based on your situation. Destination Wedding Details, for example, reminds you to pack the garter. But if you’re forgoing that tradition as many couples are these days, then cross it off your list and move on with life.

The more you can simplify for your destination wedding — or any wedding, for that matter — the less stressed and better off you’ll be. Just because it’s “tradition,” doesn’t mean you have to do it.

5. Mail gifts.

What do you do with gifts for a destination wedding? If you’re the couple, you won’t want to haul them all back home in your luggage, and you probably don’t want to spend a bunch of money to mail them, either. Instead, ask guests to ship their gifts directly to your house so you can enjoy them when you return. Include these instructions in the invitation and on your registry.

6. Have a backup plan.

Foul weather can put a damper on anyone’s day, but when it’s your big day, it’s even worse. If you’re getting married outdoors, it seems obvious to have a tent or alternative indoor location in case of rain. Sometimes, however, Mother Nature has something bigger in mind than a few sprinkles.

Whether you’re concerned about hurricanes disrupting your beach ceremony or an erupting volcano altering your Hawaiian honeymoon plans, it’s best to have a plan for how to handle the unexpected. The more details you can figure out ahead of time, the less stressful the experience will be.

  • Bride and groom photo in public..When will you make the decision to postpone or move the ceremony to another location?
  • Who’s responsible for making those decisions — you, the wedding venue, or a trusted family member you assign the job to?
  • Do you need to change the ceremony, reception, or both? What about other events?
  • Who calls guests to alert them of changes?
  • Do you need to also notify the officiant, caterers, florist, or others you’ve hired?
  • What are the repercussions, such as cancellation or change fees, of changing your wedding details? Can you avoid those fees if you alter your plans before a certain deadline?
  • If you aren’t going to postpone or move the events, are there other steps you can take to make yourself and your guests more comfortable? You might provide blankets for colder-than-normal weather or umbrellas for unexpected rain.

Do You Need Travel Insurance for a Destination Wedding?

Yes. Even though we’re talking dream destinations and fairytale weddings, this is still real life. Plans can change. Buying travel insurance might not be the first, second, or even the tenth thing you consider in your planning process, but it’s a step that shouldn’t be missed. Keeping yourself and your guests safe allows you to focus on what really matters.

Seven Corners Trip Protection provides coverage for prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs if you have to cancel, interrupt, or delay your trip for a covered reason; unexpected medical expenses if you get sick or hurt while traveling; and lost or stolen belongings. If your luggage is lost by the airline, for example, we can reimburse you when you replace essentials like toiletries and a change of clothes.

Remember that travel insurance is what’s called a “named perils policy.” In other words, a covered event listed in your plan document must occur in order for you to be reimbursed. If you want broader trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage, you’ll want to add optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) or Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR) benefits. These allow you to cancel or interrupt your trip for any reason, not just the covered reasons listed in your plan document.

Purchase trip protection for just yourself or get the entire wedding party in on the act. Seven Corners also offers affordable group insurance for groups of 10 or more people.

To get a fast, free quote, visit SevenCorners.com or speak with a licensed agent about which coverage you and your traveling companions need.

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