In order to begin this series of blog posts about destination weddings, I must explain that I have ALWAYS wanted to be married somewhere…. else. I used to work in the wedding industry prior to starting at Sustain Creativity, so I know that weddings are NOT cheap. You are likely thinking, “And a destination wedding is considered affordable?” My answer to that is complicated… yes and no.
To help make sense of this, I will start by discussing a very important category when planning any wedding, but more important for destination weddings: The Guest List.
- By choosing to celebrate your marriage somewhere different than where a majority of your family and friends reside, chances are much higher that your guest list will shrink significantly. As much as your great aunt Liz would love to attend… traveling is not possible due to her health. Your cousin Sam wishes she could make it, but she is not able to take a break from her summer classes. Your college friend Ally is getting married in December? She probably doesn’t have the budget for a wedding in Cancun. I think you get the point here. Your guest list may start at 150, but that will drop when you bring up the idea of a destination wedding.
- Given that we are on the topic of guest lists, let’s talk about it in more detail. Before deciding to have a destination wedding, I strongly urge you to talk with your closest family members and friends (bridal party, especially). I say this because you need to determine if having a destination wedding is even possible if 90% of your top guests aren’t on board. If you want the wedding to be a giant party, my suggestion is for you to reconsider the idea of a destination wedding.
- Having trouble choosing who should be on your guest list? I found this great infographic on Pinterest that will help you when deciding who should attend your special day. Click here to start “managing” your guest list, haha!
Now, let’s discuss your motives and your budget.
- Consider this: Why do you want a destination wedding, aside from potentially saving money? I could sit here and list you all of my reasons excluding budgets, but I don’t think my reasons should be your reasons, too. After all I have been through, one thing I knew for sure was that we would celebrate our love where we felt most free and happy. Simple as that. I will say that many signs pointed David and me to Hawaii.
- Before finalizing our decision, we knew we needed to confirm that a wedding in Hawaii was fiscally responsible for us. Shortly following discussions with our family members and friends, David and I chose to create two budget sheets. We needed to compare prices for wedding vendors, transportation, etc., locally and in Hawaii. In order for us to do this, we had to do A LOT of research. I spent hours researching vendors, asking for quotes, and reading blogs about how to save when planning a wedding locally. While choosing a budget for our categories, we made each dollar amount our “worst case scenario” budget. For example, if we fell in love with a photographer, our “worst case scenario” budget was $2,000. However, ideally, we would look to find a photographer for less money. The objective was to keep the budgets even on each side, but see which wedding would cost the most despite our budget in the end. It was important for David and me to remember that if we had a local wedding, our guest list would be much larger than if we had a wedding in Honolulu. With that in the back of our minds, we priced out (approximately) what we would pay for each wedding. It turned out that a wedding in Hawaii was about half the cost of a wedding around the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.
- I am sure that if we cut out some of our “must haves,” we could have lowered the cost of our wedding locally, but it seemed unfair that we would have to cut a must have and substitute it for something that did not speak to us as a couple. One great example of this is the wedding venue:
- David and I agreed that we wanted a venue that truly depicted who we are as a couple. An aspect to our relationship we cherish is our love of nature and the outdoors. When searching for a wedding venue around our hometown, we found so many great options… priced far beyond our budget. I will not name specific venues because it is a moot point at this stage, but the one venue we loved was rated as “affordable” on several wedding websites. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Any venue priced over $3,000 was WAY too much for us. Not to mention, 98% of the time, the cost did not include tables, chairs, tents, and worst of all, catering. In order to get the venue we couldn’t part ways with, we needed to cut from our budgets in other categories like photography and food. Bummer. We then moved on to the destination wedding budget. Wedding venues in Hawaii aren’t cheap either, though. However, if you research and look hard enough, you will find a place that is, both, affordable and perfect for you and your soon-to-be wife or husband. Our wedding planner (read more about that down below) sent us several venues to consider. Once David and I chose the venue we adored in Honolulu, we compared the prices. A mere $750 (tables, chairs, and other wedding necessities included). There is no beating that price! 😉
- The budget sheets made it clear to us that our dream to have a destination wedding could certainly become a reality. Do you have a location in mind? Remember, a destination wedding does not have to be in another country, the Caribbean, or some other exotic location. I, and many wedding forums I have perused over the past month or so, believe that you can consider your event a destination wedding if your guests are traveling far enough to need a hotel for the weekend. I live in Washington, D.C. and my cousin chose to be married in Charlottesville, Virginia. Depending on the time of day you drove, the trip was approximately 2.5-3 hours long. We needed a hotel so we considered it a weekend getaway. His wedding, in my opinion, could have been considered a destination wedding.
You chose your special spot, now what?
- If you determine that a destination wedding is in your future, choose a date at least 10-12 months away. Allow your potential guests time to plan for a trip. Keep in mind what time of year you choose. If you want to be married in Hawaii, rainy season (winter) begins in November and ends in March. Thinking about a different location? Check out this awesome list of locations to consider that corresponds with each month by The Knot! This list contributed to our decision of having our Hawaii wedding in April.
- Last, but certainly not least, consider hiring a wedding planner. Unless you are able to make frequent trips to your destination wedding location, a wedding planner will be your wedding’s saving grace. Our wedding planner happens to be David’s big sister, Michelle, and we are SO grateful to have her help. However, if David wasn’t related to Michelle, I would choose her Hawaii wedding planning business for sure. Living on the east coast makes it nearly impossible for me to take frequent trips to Hawaii for wedding planning purposes. Wedding planners across the globe utilize social media, video conferencing, and other technology in order to coordinate with brides and husbands everywhere. Utilize wedding websites such as The Knot and Wedding Wire to assist you when choosing which wedding planner is right for your special day. If you plan to be married in Oahu, Hawaii, I sincerely recommend Bella Amour Events. Check them out!
Okay, so those are the basics when starting out with your destination wedding. Obviously this is only the beginning for me, too! I imagine things will get far more stressful as the wedding date approaches. For now, I am enjoying all the beautiful emotions that accompany being engaged to the love of my life and planning a wedding to celebrate that love.
Any questions? Comment below or send me an email. I’d love to help in anyway that I can. If I can’t find an answer for you, I will refer you to someone who can! 🙂