Figuring out how to plan a destination wedding on a budget can be stressful and frustrating, but it doesn't have to be! We have lots of great little tips we learned from experience as well as tons of stalking of wedding groups on Facebook (we can't be the only ones addicted to these groups, right?) and we are happy to share them with you to help your destination wedding be as stress-free as possible.
Are you planning and paying for the wedding and honeymoon yourselves? Nowadays people are on their second or even third marriage (*raising our hands*) and are footing the bill for everything (*hands raised again*). Yes, you can stay within your budget and get the most for your money while getting the best locations and making this day the best day of your lives. But how?
Planning A Destination Wedding on a Budget
Just because you're planning a destination wedding on a budget doesn't mean it has to look like you're on a budget. The little details are important and will make your wedding stand out to all of your guests. When you attend other weddings or are scouring Pinterest for ideas, start your own pin board or notepad full of ideas. There is always a way you can use another wedding for inspiration – maybe one that cost way more – but use some imagination to make it fit your budget.
A destination wedding means you can start your honeymoon right away with no more travel fees. It is also a vacation for your guests, and a chance to see somewhere they may never have traveled to otherwise.
Set A Budget
Set a firm budget for your destination wedding, then work to stay within it. One thing we see a LOT in wedding groups is that brides are going over their budgets every single day. There's no reason to blow your budget. Be realistic and factor in everything you can before you begin the planning phase. Your budget has to include airfare, hotel stay, transportation, meals, and entertainment. This is the minimum that should be included when planning a destination wedding. With any wedding, you should count on 50% of your entire budget for the cost of the venue.
Don't go into debt over your wedding. I know it is a significant day, but in the larger scheme of things, there are better ways to use the money. Investing, saving for a new house or car, the beginning of college for one of the kids, or even starting a new business venture, these are all very important also, and more sound investments. I am not saying don't splurge a little but keep it within the budget you set. Couples who are just starting out or those who are on their second or third marriage need to be more conscious of the money they are spending and where the money is going. Let's start on the right foot and not by going into debt.
The Planning Stages
Planning a wedding is stressful enough but a destination wedding as the added difficulty of getting everyone there, and planning from afar. Trusting someone else with the details is a scary prospect especially when it comes to one of the most important days of your life. Start as early as possible. We cannot stress this enough, the earlier you start the better the results and the more time you have to fix mistakes that will happen. We have created a spreadsheet to help you get from the planning stages to the wedding day without forgetting something. (Get the spreadsheet here for free.)
Find a destination that is serviced from an airport near you. Destinations that require connecting flights tend to cost more. Make sure it is convenient for everyone to get from the airport to the wedding site. Some of your guests may arrive the day of and have to come straight to the location. Some venues have airport shuttles most hotels in popular vacation spots also have this service available. As we stated before 50% of your budget will be spent here so make sure you are getting the most for your dollar. Look for all-inclusive deals at hotels as well. Some places have lodging and will give you a discount or even free rooms if you have your wedding with them. I have seen one in Martinique that gives you 3 day stay to begin your honeymoon as part of the package. If you choose to go with an all-inclusive resort, you could end up paying significantly less overall than with a traditional venue because alcohol and food are included in the price.
This is truly a no-brainer the farther out you book the less expensive the flight. Check out websites like tripadvisor, Kayak, Cheapoair, as well as specific airline sites themselves to find the cheapest flight to your destination.
Marriage licenses and other such fees are required and every county and state is different. So make sure you get this covered and allot between $50 and $150 for blood tests, the license itself, translation fees, notarized documents and filing fees. These are fees that we usually don't think about but are incurred in the process. Leaving room for these will help you to stay within your budget. Make sure all of this is taken care of ahead of time so you don't arrive at your destination without all of the proper paperwork. Going out of the country? Make sure to get your passports in order; it takes time to get these so don't procrastinate.
We have seen in the marriage groups on Facebook and other social media sites that the day of coordinator is a must for the day of your wedding. When planning a destination wedding a wedding planner is priceless. The amount of work a wedding planner puts in to make the day perfect for you, and the coordination the day of, so you don't have to worry about anything is worth spending the little extra it will cost to hire them. Factor into your budget about $1500 for a destination wedding planner. This will be money well spent.
Smaller Guest List
One of the benefits to a destination wedding is the smaller guest list. So instead of paying $75-100 or more per person for 250 of your closest strangers, you enjoy a few days in paradise with your true closest friends and family. You don't have to invite your second and third cousins or your co-workers. If you do invite them, they probably won't make the trip anyway.
Pick a spot to get married where you want to have your honeymoon and voila you are already there. This saves a ton on the cost of a marriage ceremony and then flying to a honeymoon destination. The best idea we have for you is to pick an all inclusive resort and have your wedding and honeymoon all in the same place.