It was January 2012 and I was in San Diego with a group of friends doing a bit of sightseeing before the long drive back to Wisconsin. One of the afternoons we decided to stroll along the beach with the iconic Hotel del Coronado background, and I remember this being the first moment that having a destination wedding crossed my mind. I couldn’t help but be entranced by crashing waves, warm temperatures, and walking alongside the guy I was fairly certain I would end up with. I was hooked, and I knew that one day I would get married on a beach.
It definitely took some convincing and was not a decision we made lightly. Destination weddings can be just as expensive (if not more) than a traditional wedding and no matter how you approach it, you’re immediately putting a lot of pressure on your guests. Traveling is as natural as breathing in both of our families, so luckily both sets of parents were immediately on board. There were many others to consider though – grandparents who could not travel easily, and friends who didn’t have a ton of disposable income to drop on a big trip. In the end, we decided to still do the destination and ended up with about 25 people in Mexico, but also had a full-blown normal reception at home, so we were able to celebrate with everyone that we loved.
There are hundreds of other “destinations” out there besides the beach. My cousin is getting married this year on a cruise through the Bahamas. My colleagues have clients getting married at castles in Ireland. And hey, Vegas is just as popular as it ever was. My point is, if you’re not sure about the traditional wedding setting, you’ve got options!
Some ways to help control the costs for your guests is to research travel deals, offer various activities they can say yes and no to, and make a no gifts policy. And know in the end that the people that matter will be there. You will (hopefully) only have one wedding in your life, and you have the right to do it how you want.
If this something you are considering, I would recommend putting thought into the following areas before booking:
- Why do you want a destination wedding? Are you just not happy with your available options, or are you truly excited about this one? For all the reasons listed above and more, you want to make sure you’re choosing this for the right reasons. No matter how you go about it, there are bound to be some hurt feelings from those who either cannot partake or are not invited, so make sure you are prepared to have conversations with them as needed.
- How do you feel about wedding planning? Destination weddings attract many people at first because they think it will be much easier to plan, but unless it’s just the two of you leaving to elope, that’s probably not the case. There are just as many, if not more, logistics to coordinate and the potential for higher stress levels. I would highly recommend considering hiring a wedding planner that works specifically in the destination wedding market, or discussing with your chosen venue their available staffing and options.
- How meaningful is the actual ceremony to you? Depending on your destination, you might have to jump through a lot of hopes to obtain a legitimate marriage license. Many locations outside of the USA actually recommend that couples even get legally married at a courthouse before traveling, leaving the on-site ceremony to be purely symbolic.
I wouldn’t change anything about our wedding and will always recommend considering destination weddings to those with whom it could be a good fit. At the end of the day, no matter where you get married and no matter who is there, it will be the best day of your life. Make sure it is the best reflection of YOU that it can be!