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Destination weddings can be ever so special and ever so expensive! That’s not to say that you can set a budget and stick to it. If you’re paying for it yourselves then you may need a little help.

Key Factors:

  • Americans spend an average of $30,000 on their weddings
  • Nearly half of couples go into debt over their weddings
  • 75% need help to finance their wedding


Picture Your Destination Wedding

If you’re thinking English countryside, listen to this description…

Rolling landscapes are unmistakably English, set amongst 8,000 rural acres. Adjoining estates: ‘Chapel Barn Estate’, a 15th century thatched long barn and Georgian mansion. Private parklands, beautifully appointed barns, spa farmhouses and cottages…

Sounds idyllic, right? Well, you may decide to have a wedding in an amazing place like Wilderness Reserve or some exotic beach location. Whatever amazing destination you desire there are some key things to think about as you plan.

A Destination Wedding Checklist

This is kind of a big list but it can help make your big day just the way you want it. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise of over-the-top expenses you hadn’t accounted for. This list helps you think about most aspects of the event that have a price attached.

The principal idea is pretty basic. If you don’t know how much it’s going to cost you don’t know if you can afford it!

Beside each item on this list jot down your estimated/real costs for that item then total them all at the bottom.

  • Get a great wedding planner guide
  • Set your date – Will you want to schedule around another event or special day? Do you picture your wedding at a certain time of year? If it’s an outdoor wedding what’s the weather going to be like?
  • Send save-the-date cards – You want all the special people in your life to be available for the big day so make sure they get it on the calendar early.
  • If you’re definitely going for a destination wedding, make sure your passports are up to date and that they will have at least 6 months or more left on them when you travel. Include that in your save-the-date cards to remind those that plan on coming to check their passports too. Depending on your destination, you may need vaccinations too!
  • Set a vendor budget that includes every single cost you can think of and then some. Talk to your vendors and your venue organizers and see if they have a list of expenses you may not have thought of. Also, include any other gatherings in and around your wedding like a rehearsal dinner, lunches, spa, or golf outings.
  • Research venues and visit the ones that fit the bill. Do you want beaches, mountains, desert, countryside, etc.?
  • Get your flights and hope for specials!
  • Set a maximum attendee number. If you’re on a budget figure out how many people you can afford to invite then whittle down your guest list (where possible!)
  • Decide on wedding invites
  • Buy the wedding gown!
  • Decide who will officiate your ceremony
  • Which wedding coordinator will you use? Obviously, plenty of people handle their own weddings and you can too. But if there are lots of moving parts and it’s a destination wedding having a good coordinator can make all the difference. You want to enjoy your day and not be worried about details.
  • Send your invitations. Mailed or electronic versions work. Many couples are doing both to make sure their guests get all the pertinent info and can find it online nearer the date.
  • Along with your wedding invites give hotel possibilities. List hotels at varying prices for your guests and perhaps reserve blocks of rooms for better rates.
  • Buy the rings
  • Arrange your marriage licenses. If you’re heading out of the country for your wedding, check local marriage laws. You may want to get a US marriage certificate and have a civil ceremony prior to your departure.
  • Think about what you’d like as wedding gifts. Here’s your chance to stock your new home or replace some of the tired things you’ve been using forever. Or, have a fund that folks can contribute to for a paddle board or your honeymoon. Although, if your guests are making the effort to travel to your chosen destination then perhaps let them know that their presence is your present! But, for those that want to give a gift anyway like, Grandma, make sure that gifts are sent to your home now your wedding destination. Even suggest virtual gifts like gift cards or donations to your favorite charity.
  • Book your florist
  • Collect items for your goodie bags to welcome guests. Goodie bags for guests who have traveled to reach your wedding are a really great way to welcome them. They don’t need to be jam-packed but think about including some things from the area, a sustainable water bottle, a map of the area, Tylenol, and a little something to nibble.  Perhaps some sunscreen for beach destinations and mittens for mountain ones!
  • Reserve wedding party attire. If you’re getting married during a busy wedding season book your tuxedos etc early on.
  • Consider wedding insurance. A lot of brides and grooms learned the hard way when COVID hit and they weren’t covered by insurance. Policies aren’t too expensive and particularly when you’re talking about all the wedding costs.
  • Confirm your food and music suppliers. Keep a file of back-ups too. You never know when disaster may strike and your chosen caterer or band simply isn’t able to feed or entertain your hoards!
  • Decide if you’re having a wedding cake, cupcakes or other treats for your guests, and get it ordered.
  • Organize makeup and hair people for the big day if necessary. Instruct them ahead of time what look you want My mother-in-law still shudders at the metallic eye shadow put on by the makeup artist for her daughter’s wedding that glowed in the photos!
  • Where & when for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • Set milestone goals for 6 months, 4 months, 2 months, and 1 month to confirm the most vital moving parts i.e. vendors, venue, hotels, etc.
  • Alert your credit card company that you’ll be traveling and spending money
  • Do that thing! Get married.

Your Destination Wedding Budget

Each of the items in the list above comes with a price. Be brutally honest and shop around so your idea of what it’s going to cost can be realistic. Your budget should be as accurate as possible with an added 10-15% cushion. Once you know how much all that could cost you may need to do a bit of adjusting. There may be certain things you do and don’t have on the day.

After using this list, you’ll see pretty quickly if your ideal destination wedding fits within your budget, whatever its size.

How to Pay For Your Destination Wedding

If you’re like a lot of couples, you’ve been saving up for quite a while. But if your savings aren’t going to pay for all of your wedding then you’ll need to look elsewhere. Often friends & family help out and often couples take out a short-term loan to book the venue or buy the dress.

Budgeting for a loan, as in how and when you’ll pay it back, is just as important as budgeting for the whole wedding. Defaulting on a loan, no matter what the size can really hurt your credit score. A bad credit score can mean major difficulties in getting future loans.

Bottom Line:

It’s your big day and should be what you want it to be but not at the expense of going into debt. That’s not a great way to begin a marriage. Savings is best, getting help from friends and family can be great but not at the risk of that relationship. If you go for a short-term loan make sure you have a plan to pay it back.

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