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Destination Weddings Part I: What You Should Know

Updated on December 22, 2014
Wedding In Bora Bora
Wedding In Bora Bora | Source

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Are you getting married for the first time? Is this your second or third time to the altar? Are you celebrating a milestone Anniversary? Regardless of the special event you're planning the fact is that many couples today are opting to forgo the traditional wedding or anniversary celebrations. In fact, there seems to be a trend towards couples choosing to say their vows, or renew them, in a foreign location as opposed to having their nuptials locally. The romantic images of an intimate setting in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) is certainly something most would have a difficult time passing up. Perhaps, you have always envisioned a beautiful ceremony in the San Gimignano area in Italy where the setting would be in the courtyard of a medieval castle. Maybe it is a botanical garden in Spain's Costa del Sol that has weaved its visual beauty in your dreams. The possibilities are most certainly endless and tantalizing.

In my new series on Destination Weddings we will travel the world in search of the perfect wedding and vow renewal spots. With each location comes unique considerations that couples will have to bear in mind so we will find out what they are to better prepare you for your adventure of a lifetime.

Wedding In Front Of Cathedral, Italy
Wedding In Front Of Cathedral, Italy | Source
Wedding At The Foot Of The Eiffel Tower
Wedding At The Foot Of The Eiffel Tower | Source

Food For Thought

Before deciding on a location, there are a few things you may want to ponder. Here is some food for thought:

-Just like any traditional wedding, it is paramount to decide on a budget and stick with. We will discuss why it is especially important with Destination Weddings later on.

-In my previous articles I have always offered tips and ideas on how to plan the perfect wedding without having to hire a Certified Wedding and Event Planner. However, when planning a special event outside of your country, I strongly recommend hiring a Professional Planner with experience in your destination selection. Ideally hiring an expert that resides in the locale will be better equipped to handle your needs. On the upside, if you are getting married at a resort or hotel, there are consultants employed there to assist you and the fee is generally included in whatever wedding package you choose.

- If you are planning on inviting family members and friends, you will have to send out Save-The-Date cards well in advance. Your guests will need enough time to make arrangements such as, passport renewals; arranging sitters for children; arranging time off work; buying appropriate outfits to pack; depending on the location they may need inoculations; finally, they may have to save money for the trip.

-If you have family members and friends that decide to attend, you need to be mindful that in most cases they are footing a very expensive bill to get there, (unless you are fabulously wealthy and are paying for everything, of course), so there are a few things that you can provide that I am sure will be appreciated. There are two very important things you need to do some research on which must be passed on to your guests and that is transportation and accommodations. It is highly unlikely but if all or some of your guests fly in at the same time, hiring transportation to get them from the airport to the hotel or resort would be very well appreciated. If they are all arriving at different times then you should provide them with a list of the means of transportation that are available at the airport, i.e. car rentals, cabs, buses, etc. With regards to accommodations, most resorts especially in the Caribbean or Mexico, have all-inclusive packages, however, if your destination is not being held in this type of environment, you will have to provide your guests with a list of accommodations and the various prices.

-Your guests will be coming a long way and making many arrangements in order to share this special event with you. It would be a wonderful idea to show your gratitude to each and every one of your guests for attending by throwing a pre-wedding thank you and welcome dinner.

-Be very selective of the date that you choose. As we all may or may not know, just because it is summertime in your hometown does not mean that destination choice is experiencing the same season. For example, summer in North America is winter in Southern Australia which means that from approximately May to September it is hot, humid and rainy. However, in Northern Australia it is best to plan between June and September. As you can see, there are variances even in the same country. So, when planning take into consideration issues such as opposite seasons or hurricane or typhoon seasons.

-Just because you have always dreamed about getting married or renewing your vows at a certain destination, it is prudent to take a trip before the wedding and scout out locations. What you read in books and magazines or see on the Internet is not the same as visualizing it in person for yourself. Avoid disappointment or potential regret by doing some legwork first.

-It is a good idea to learn a bit of the native language before arriving as you will, in most cases, have to spend some time there. Simple courtesy phrases such as "thank you", "please", "good morning" or "good evening" will go a long way, trust me on this one.

-As with any wedding, vendors must be booked and deposits must be made. As I mentioned in previous articles, it is important to do your research and find reputable vendors. It is even more important to do your homework when planning a Destination Wedding. Also, I strongly recommend that you get references from caterers, florists, etc. and DO NOT book anyone that does not supply you with a list. Finally, when you arrive to your destination make sure that you meet all of your vendors in person. However, your Wedding and Event Planner or resort Consultant should be able to steer you in the right direction.

-Remember that you are in a different country and therefore getting married has very different legal ramifications. We will get into that later but be forewarned that many destinations require that you reside in their country for a period of time before you can get married. As an example, in France, there is a mandatory 40 day stay before you can get married there. Generally, most locations are much less than that but you will need to know. Also, make sure that you have all the proper documentation that the country requires i.e. marriage license applications, blood tests, etc.

-Select wedding attire that is reflective of the location you have booked. For example, you would not buy a heavy, detailed, overly expensive gown if you are getting married on the beach. Keep this in mind as well for the groom and attendant's attire.

Choosing to get married in far off locations to celebrate your special event has many advantages but there can be just as many disadvantages as well. We are going to take a look at some of the pros and cons so that you will be better informed prior to making any plans.

Save The Date Cards For Destination Wedding
Save The Date Cards For Destination Wedding | Source
"Thank You" goes a long way in any language!
"Thank You" goes a long way in any language! | Source


-First and foremost a destination wedding can be far more cost effective than than planning a wedding at home. The cost of an average wedding today is about $28,000 plus. Depending on what you decide, an all-inclusive resort is the way to go because your airfare, accommodations and food are included. Also, you can have your wedding celebration plus your honeymoon at a fraction of the cost of a traditional affair. Remember that many all-inclusive resorts offer free wedding ceremonies as well as complimentary upgrades such as spa visits for the bride and groom.

-This is an opportunity to make your dreams come true by selecting the perfect destination. Perhaps you have always envisioned a wedding ceremony in the Zermatt Mountains in Switzerland. It would certainly be a breathtaking affair indeed. On the other hand, you may want to revel in the views of Switzerland's countryside, lakes or stunning Alps as a backdrop for your nuptials. The possibilities are endless.

-A destination wedding will not involve the amount of work associated in planning a traditional affair. In most cases you will have a qualified coordinator handling all of the important details for you. For some, not having to deal with the stress of planning a large, traditional wedding is worth it.

-You can get deals by booking group wedding destination packages where you and your guests can enjoy great savings and incentives such as discounted room rates.

-In most cases, guests that attend a destination wedding or vow renewal are the people closest to you. What a wonderful opportunity to spend an enjoyable and relaxing few days with each other.

-Destination weddings allow couples to be as casual or formal as they want to be. From barefoot nuptials on a beach in Hawaii or an elegant ceremony at Aldourie Castle in Lochness, Scotland, this is the time to make it your own.

-Destination weddings offer incredible and unique backdrops for your wedding photos. Imagine the spectacular scenery offered by a safari wedding in South Africa. Imagine exchanging your vows in a bush clearing with beautiful animals in the background.

-There is no need to pack for your honeymoon because you will already be on it as soon as you say "I Do". That is the beauty of a destination wedding because you get the best of both worlds in one shot.

-There is no need to toil with guest lists and venue seating plan logistics. Also destination weddings allow you to invite guests that you really want to participate in your special day.

Wedding In The Alps-Stunning Photo Backdrop
Wedding In The Alps-Stunning Photo Backdrop | Source
Bali Elephant Safari Wedding
Bali Elephant Safari Wedding | Source


-As amazing as the concept is of having a destination wedding in Bora Bora with your closest family members and friends, the reality is that many individuals cannot come for a variety of reasons. There are sometimes financial constraints; physical inability to attend, i.e. elderly; can't leave small children; time off work is not possible; fear of flying, etc.

-Be prepared for disapproval from some family members and friends. Some may think you are self-indulgent for wanting to get married in another country.Many people in your life especially certain traditional family members will prefer the nuptials take place at home as per status quo. To eliminate any potential animosity, if it is within your budget, you can host a post wedding dinner celebration for family and friends when you arrive home from your destination wedding.

-When planning your destination wedding, it will be necessary for you to give up all of your wedding planning to a professional wedding and event coordinator. For some, not being in control can be stressful and frightening because when planning a traditional wedding you get to meet all of your vendors but this may not be the case if you are getting married outside of your country. You are pretty much leaving your arrangements in the capable hands of a stranger.

-There are several legal issues to consider when you get married in a foreign country. For example, as I mentioned previously, many countries require you to stay there for a while before they will grant you a wedding license. For some couples this may be an issue owing to obligations at home. Also, you will need to find out what legal documents are required, i.e. notarized documentation, birth certificates, passports, blood tests, etc.

-Although this may sound like a contradiction of what I mentioned before as an advantage, destination weddings, depending on where you go, may be expensive. The reason being is the exchange. For example, if you have to convert funds to Pounds or Euros from American or Canadian dollars it may end up costing you an arm and a leg. Take this into consideration before you embark on your dream nuptial adventure.

Passport | Source
Euros | Source
British Pound
British Pound | Source

Statistics From XO Group Inc.

"XO Group Inc., a global media and technology leader and creator of the top two wedding websites, and, released the results of its 2nd The Knot Market Intelligence Destination Weddings Study in 2012, ( It revealed that destination weddings are on the rise. The study tracks 350,000 destination weddings annually by capturing detailed information on the destination wedding trends, locations and events of nearly 3,000 US couples who had a destination wedding in 2011 or 2012." (XO Group Inc., 2012)

Top 10 Statistics

Here are their top 10 statistics:

1. 350,000 destination weddings take place annually, representing 24% of all weddings

2. The average destination bride is 30 years old

3. Destination weddings have an average of 86 guests

4. 70% of destination weddings take place in the continental US

5. Florida, California and Nevada are the top three destination wedding locations in the continental US

6. 30% of destination weddings take place outside the continental US

7. The Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii are the most popular wedding locations outside the continental US

8. 51% of destination wedding couples use a wedding planner

9. 69% of destination weddings are held outdoors

10. 86% of couples still plan to take a honeymoon after their destination wedding.

Wedding At The Riviera Maya, Mexico
Wedding At The Riviera Maya, Mexico | Source

Key Trends

Here are their Key Trends

(Destination weddings are growing in popularity.)

-In 2011, nearly 1 in 4 (24%) couples had a destination wedding; this has grown from 20% in 2009.

-66% of international destination wedding brides and 45% of domestic destination wedding brides opted for a destination wedding because they wanted a special, fun or exotic locale.

-The second most popular reason why international brides chose a destination wedding was to host a more intimate affair with fewer guests (65%), while domestic brides wanted a destination that was special to them as a couple (44%).

-Domestic destination weddings are more popular than international destination wedding locations.

-In 2011, 70% of couples chose a continental US destination for their wedding, up from the 60% who opted for Stateside nuptials in 2009.Conversely, 30% of couples married in an international destination, down from 40% who traveled internationally in 2009.

-The top five domestic destination wedding locations include: Florida (18%), California (13%), Nevada (9%), North Carolina (5%) and South Carolina (4%).

-The top five international destination wedding destinations include: Caribbean (39%), Mexico (24%), Hawaii (20%), Central/South America (7%) and Europe (6%).

Wedding In Hawaii
Wedding In Hawaii | Source


(The number of destination wedding guests is on the rise.)

-In 2011, destination wedding couples hosted more guests, with an average of 86 guests per wedding. In 2009, there was an average of just 77 guests per destination wedding.

-Domestic destination weddings are larger, hosting an average of 96 guests (compared with an average of 62 guests for the international group).Most destination weddings last three or more days.

-Destination wedding events are longer than the average wedding, with most (60%) lasting three or more days.

-International destination weddings are even more likely to span several days…and they’re getting longer. Nearly 7 in 10 international weddings last three or more days, and nearly half (47%) last four or more days, compared with just 38% in 2009.

Guests At Outdoor Mansion Wedding
Guests At Outdoor Mansion Wedding | Source

More Being Spent On Guests

Destination wedding couples keep guests in mind.

-Destination wedding couples are spending more on a per guest basis than their more traditional wedding counterparts. The median destination wedding spend is $404 per guest internationally, and $225 per guest domestically, compared with the national wedding average of just $137 per guest.

-The average total destination wedding spend is $20,890 (not including honeymoon, engagement ring or travel expenses).

-Aside from the traditional rehearsal dinner, after-party and next-day breakfast, 1 in 3 (32%) destination wedding couples plan a group activity like a sightseeing tour for their guests.

-Of the couples who plan a group activity, more than half (53%) cover the cost for at least some of their guests.

-For those couples who contribute to the cost, they spend an average of $2,598 internationally and $2,280 domestically planning these group events.

-Couples are also considering their guests’ expenses, with 2 in 5 (39%) paying for travel/accommodations for at least some of their guests.

Money | Source

The Party Continues

(The party continues even after the wedding.)

-More than 4 in 5 international destination wedding couples and guests stay at the wedding destination beyond the wedding date, while more than half of their domestic counterparts do the same.

-Nearly 9 in 10 couples still plan to take a honeymoon after the wedding, with 7 in 10 of them honeymooning in their wedding locale – either for part of the honeymoon or the whole trip.

-In addition, nearly 3 in 10 will have another party when they get home.

The Party Continues At A Destination Wedding
The Party Continues At A Destination Wedding | Source


As you can see, destination weddings and vowel renewals are most definitely gaining in popularity. With some advance planning and by following some worthwhile tips and suggestions, your dream destination wedding will become a reality. I hope you have enjoyed this segment on destination weddings. Over the next while we will continue the series by looking at some popular wedding spots as well as some that are off the beaten track. Hopefully I can help you make that all important decision as to where you and your sweetheart will tie the knot and begin your lives together.


XO Group Inc., (June 18, 2012). 2012 Destination Weddings Study retrieved June 30 2013,


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