Destination Wedding 101

What You Need to Know BEFORE Booking that Flight!

With the costs and demands of traditional western weddings rising, it is a trend for many couples today to head south (or elsewhere) for destination weddings.   I have had this conversation many times before with friends, family and prospective wedding clients looking to outweigh the option of the destination wedding vs. the traditional western wedding. 

Here are something that you should ask yourself or consider BEFORE making the decision to head south for your special day:

1. It's not necessarily going to be cheaper!

That's absolutely right!  Now bear in mind that there are A LOT of factors that will go into this; however if you are thinking that planning the destination wedding is still not going to cost you upwards of $20,000+ then you are just setting yourself up for failure.  This is a common misconception that many people have!! 

Long are the days when you could book a "cheap all inclusive" for $1000 pp.  The going rate for a decent 4+start resort anywhere south today is upwards of $1500-$2000 pp.   These are the prices you can expect when booking a wedding, even at a group rate.   

It is also a misconception that everyone just pays for themselves and then the wedding is covered by the resort.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  The resort will still charge you a PER HEAD price to have a private meal / dinner in one of their designated meal places. Generally the starting prices for this are $40 pp+ and that is not for a private facility / custom meal.  That is usually at one of the "nicer" restaurants onsite and still with other guests around.  There are options for upgrades, private meals etc. however that's where you start getting into the +++$$$$+++.   The beautiful white tent party on the beach? -- you pay for that! (and just like you would at home).  The DJ - expect to pay for that too (and just like at home).  The pretty beach ceremony site, music, chivari chairs, etc., those are at ++++.

I recently did a destination wedding someplace south for a friend.  I can tell you that there were only about 30-ish people in attendance and they still paid over $20,000 for their special day; at a rate of $666 PER PERSON if you figure that out in that perspective.  That is A LOT of money to spend for such a small number of people.   You mide as well have gone to the best banquet hall you can find if money was not an issue  :)    This is just to give you some perspective.  Less people does not mean less money.  The cost of items to rent are still the same, whether you have 30 people or 300. 

If eating in the regular resort public buffet, no tent party on the beach, no DJ dance party for your guests, no real bells and whistles is something you can live with; then the standard basic beach ceremony packages with none of the upgrades for a few thousand extra bucks might just due you just fine.  But really think about if you can live with those selections.  This is how they get you, AFTER you've already committed!  Look at the package offerings BEFORE committing and get real about your expectations. 

Also keep in mind that after people have shelled out $2000 to get themselves to your wedding, they are likely not going to be giving you a wedding gift (or at least the money they perhaps would have possibly given in a traditional western wedding).   The etiquette for destination weddings is to not bring a substantial gift if you paid you way to get there. 

THEN there are the other realities of destination weddings that you need to think about....

2. Are you going to be ok if some people cannot come?

Although I made the costs realities the #1 on my list (mostly because that's the most common misconception about destination weddings); really the #1 thing you will have to live with is that not everyone you really want to be at your special day will be able to come.  My suggestion is that BEFORE you commit to going this route, you have a REAL conversation with the most important people that you absolutely cannot have the wedding without.  See if they can afford to go (or can you pay for them?).  GET REAL about the cost of the wedding i.e. likely $1500-$2000 pp PLUS the cost of their outfits, spending money, wedding gift, wedding outfit etc.  In addition, see if they are well enough to travel and want to travel. Can they even get the time off of work?  Seniors/grandparents, expecting women, teachers etc. may physically be unable to travel.  How will you feel if they cannot come?     

Adam and I are currently in the process of thinking about our own special day. Since his family is from Trinidad & Tobago, we would have LOVED to be able to get married there and have some of his extended family be in attendance; however the reality is that his parents are too old now to travel and most of my family likely would not be able to go.  My sister is a teacher and would not be able to travel at all during the regular school year.  For this reason; a destination wedding is an absolute NO for us.

3. Can you live with the southern standards of weddings & service?

The way we do weddings here in Canada and the USA is nowhere near how they do things down south.  They way they do things there is very laid back.  Perhaps you are ok with that?  Standards for things like food, quality of tents, quality of DJ, even the type of music played, customer service, speed and overall service levels WILL NOT be the same as what you would expect here. Just bare that in mind.   It is common to show up the week of your wedding and finalize many things onsite once you get there.   Everything is very laid back, cookie cutter, simple options and casual in approach for this reason.  I have seen with my own eyes at destination weddings just a very relaxed approach to overall service, not the same quality and upkeep of equipment etc.  I find that destination weddings are definitely more suited for easy going couples who will not get bothered by these items.  To me, as the type A Event Planner I am :)  I find this very last minute and relaxed approach very stressful personally.   I like things planned, executed and serviced to perfection so that I know my money is being well spent and my guests are taken care of.  Although I appreciated the relaxed "ya man, don't worry about it" attitude on a vacation, its not for me on my special day when i'm shelling out that kind of coin and brought people half way across the world :) Maybe that's just me :) 

4. Can you wait longer (and spend the extra money) to be legally married in Canada?

The reason many are opting for English-speaking places like Jamaica for their destination weddings is because the process of getting your marriage legalized here in Canada can be lengthy.  If you get legally married in a non English speaking place like Cuba for example, there is a lengthy and costly process of having your marriage license translated by a legal translator and filed in our country.  This exercise is costly and timely, so if you are considering having a destination wedding, just keep in mind these added costs and this time OR look at English speaking countries instead.    Another option is to just do a "symbolic" ceremony vs a legal ceremony in the destination country.   That means that your "wedding" is actually more just for show, then it is a legal ceremony.  You will still have to get legally married BEFORE or AFTER your trip back home. 

That's all for now folks!  I will add more details to this post as I think of more.   I don't want to say that i'm not a fan of destination weddings, its just that I don't think personally they are for me.   That's not to say that I'm not down for planning one thought! I write these blog posts (good and bad) to shell out what my clients need to know so that there are no surprises in their journey.   I would rather be real and prepared then paint a picture perfect and have anyone be let done.  Fair enough?

If flying south are your dreams comes true for your special day and the points above do not phase you, plan away!  It's your special day!  (and I am a HUGE FAN of doing what MAKES YOU HAPPY!)\



I hope you enjoyed this candid post about what you need to know about destination weddings.  If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me!  I welcome them!


Connie Butera

Event Manager

Perfectly Planned Parties by Connie Butera

T. 416.885-9709