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Do you dream of a tropical getaway to Maui’s white-sand beaches? How about a national park ceremony with the Tetons as your backdrop? Different destinations entail different costs, so the average cost of a destination wedding isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s also crucial to understand the difference between the average price and the median, which is a much better representation of what people actually spend.
The Average Cost of a Destination Wedding
According to data from The Knot, the average cost of a destination wedding in 2022 was $35,600, a full 9% increase compared to the year prior. But this doesn’t paint the full picture.
Remember that this is a mean average — it factors in outliers like extremely lavish, million-dollar weddings that significantly bring the average up. Most couples spend much, much less than $35,600 on their wedding, so don’t feel pressured to mortgage your house!
What Do People Actually Spend?
If nine couples spend $5,000 on their destination wedding and one spends $100,000, the mean average cost of a destination wedding would be $14,500. Notice how the $100,000 outlier skewed the results?
So, don’t be fooled by the fact that the average cost of a destination wedding is $35,600. In fact, the median cost of any wedding — the number right in the middle of what most people spent — was a much lower $16,739 in 2021. Because that amount is in the middle of the data set, it means half the people in the survey spent even less than that.
Most wedding statistics come from The Knot, which conducts an annual wedding survey. It’s crucial to point out that The Knot earns money by advertising wedding venues and selling party accessories.
In other words, The Knot benefits when people feel compelled to pay more for a wedding venue, so it’s a pretty biased source for data about the average cost of weddings. The data it collects comes from couples who provide their email addresses, and most of those couples are shopping for wedding venues because they’re hosting big events.
One thing is clear — no matter how much you spend, destination weddings have become extremely popular, with the market size growing by nearly $5 billion annually.
Who Pays for What?
Now that you have some idea of the average destination wedding costs, it’s helpful to take a closer look at which expenses you’re expected to cover — and which ones you aren’t.
Guest and Vendor Transportation
Typically, guests pay for their own transportation expenses such as plane tickets and gas. They usually also pay for their own hotel rooms and any meals they purchase along the way. However, if you’re flying in vendors, you should pay for their travel, meals, and lodging.
If you want to foot the bill for your guests’ travel expenses, it’s a very considerate move. You’re definitely not obligated to do this because it’s very expensive, but people will appreciate it. More people are likely to attend your wedding if you make it more affordable.
You can even cover certain guests’ expenses — such as people who earn less money or just made major purchases — and let everyone else pay for themselves. If you do this, make sure to keep it private rather than revealing that you paid for some guests and not others.
Another way to make your wedding more affordable is to secure group discounts for hotels and airfare. Call ahead and ask if there are any group rates available.
Your Own Travel Costs
You and your fiance are expected to cover your own travel expenses. Family members will sometimes pitch in, and that’s very nice of them! However, it isn’t something you should request or expect.
Travel costs are the number one difference — in your budget, that is — between a hometown wedding and a destination experience. Consider these expenses:
- Gas for driving to and from the airport
- Round-trip plane tickets
- Airport car parking fees
- Car rental
- Parking garage fees
- Meals along the way
- Time off of work
Calculate these expenses to get a better idea of what your wedding will cost overall.
Many people enjoy participating in activities during a destination wedding. After all, the trip is basically a vacation! It’s customary for you and your fiance to cover any activities you organize, such as group wine tastings or horseback rides. However, guests are also more than welcome to go on their own excursions, which they should pay for.
Whether they’re spending $2,000 on airfare or attending your ceremony right down the road from their house, guests traditionally bring gifts to a wedding. However, people typically spend less on gifts for destination weddings because they’re already paying so much more to get there. Don’t expect to recoup much of your wedding expenses through gifts or cash donations.
How Many People Are You Inviting?
One of the biggest determining factors for how much your wedding will cost is how many people you invite. For destination weddings, in particular, it’s common for only a fraction of your invited guests to attend. Generally, the farther away your wedding destination is — and, thus, the more expensive it is to get there — the fewer people will attend.
There’s no magic formula to calculate the number of attendees in advance. Instead, your best bet is to send your wedding invitations out very early, such as six months to a year ahead, to give people time to prepare. Have people RSVP by six weeks before the big day. That will give you time to decide how much food to order and how much seating you’ll need.
Combining Your Wedding and Honeymoon
One benefit of having a destination wedding is that you’re already paying for plane tickets and a vacation. Why not combine it with your honeymoon rather than paying for two trips? You can schedule your official honeymoon to start after the wedding is over and guests have gone home. It’s a sweet, romantic way to unwind after a fun but hectic party.
Budgeting for Your Big Day
Although destination weddings are more expensive than local celebrations, they more than make up for it by helping you create memories that will last a lifetime. The easiest way to budget for one is to calculate your travel expenses and add that to the total price. Whether you want to be wedded in a forest or an ancient temple, the beautiful scenery and excitement of travel make the experience worth it no matter the cost.
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