The Destination Wedding Expenses to Avoid

The destination wedding budget: it seems like it would be an easy one to keep on target: resort and airfare. Done. But unfortunately, destination wedding expenses don’t just end at resort and airfare. Many of us have opted for a destination wedding for a few reasons. First, getting married in paradise. Need I say more?

For many, it’s the ease of hopping on a plane and then showing up on a sandy beach to exchange vows. And for many, it’s about the budget. They see it as a way to avoid the heartbreaking wedding expenses that come with planning a traditional wedding at home…and they get a honeymoon out of it, too!

So for those of you focused on the budget, you’re asking if it’s possible to have a destination budget that comes in under budget.

The answer: It’s possible, but it doesn’t always happen. It’s up to you to work very hard at seeing to it that it does.

The Destination Wedding Expenses You Can Avoid

As a former destination bride and as a guest at destination weddings, I can tell you I’ve seen it both ways — budget-friendly weddings and lavish ones.

For me, it was definitely a money saver. We got married at Sandals Negril, stayed for a week, and still managed to keep the total wedding costs under $7K (that included my dress!). I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep it that cheap if we had married at home.

The Wedding Extras

Basically, you have two options: take the basic package (which, depending on the resort, may be “free”) and say no to all the added extras and upgrades (like fancier receptions, bouquet upgrades, gazebo decor, etc.), or you can say yes to the fancy upgrades and find yourself racking up the same debt you would for a traditional wedding at home.

Most people start out saying they just want simple, that they’ll take the basic package and not opt for anything else. But then, they become sold on the idea of a bigger, better, and fancier all-out wedding.

Many resorts will provide the couple with a wedding planner to take care of everything leading up to the trip, and then when the couple arrives on the resort, they’ll usually be assigned to an on-resort planner, different from the first one.

Both planners take care of the couple’s every need, but their job is also to upsell.  So the first time your wedding planner calls or emails you, s/he will try to sell you on all the added amenities and luxuries that come with a pretty hefty price tag. I told my planner I was interested in only the basic package and nothing more. When I got to the resort, the on-resort wedding planner also tried to sell us upgrade after upgrade. We declined everything. The only extra we took was the photography.

Once you start saying yes to these sales pitches, even if it’s just one small addition here and there, the next thing you know you’re paying for a whole premium package with all the wonderful extras and upgrades. Ouch. Beautiful, but ouch.  It’s a far cry from ‘we’ll keep it simple and basic.’

In addition to the wedding upgrades I discussed above, there are two major added expenses I can think of off the top of my head, and you can avoid both easily (and you should if you’re really trying to keep the destination wedding expenses as low as possible).

Extra Nights

The logic for adding extra nights: you invited a ton of friends and family but you don’t necessarily want them hanging around when the wedding is over. You don’t want to feel like you’re on your honeymoon with a crowd of people, so you alleviate that by spending a few extra nights at the resort once everyone leaves. That way you get the true honeymoon experience.

In the end, those extra nights could tack on hundreds of dollars, maybe up to a couple thousand, depending on the resort and the room category. Yep. Just like that.

If you want your privacy for the days following the wedding, I suggest you simply request a room away from your group’s rooms and find cozy corners throughout the resort to be alone. If you’re at a resort that caters to couples and honeymooners, you’ll find those spots. I’m sure your group will understand if you go ‘missing’ for a few days.

Room Upgrade

The logic for upgrading to a ritzy room: well, it’s your wedding and you want everything to be perfect and what can be more perfect than the ritzy honeymoon suite that comes with all the amenities you could ever need, including a full-service butler. Again, this could tack on thousands to your bill.

I get that you may not want the bottom of the barrel room. You’ll want some room to move around, especially when you’re getting ready on the big day, and maybe you’ll want a balcony to sit on and watch the sun set or you want to wake up to the beautiful sound of the ocean. All perfectly understandable. Just consider if you need to go all the way to the top room category. Maybe you just need a few category bumps to get you exactly what you want. Still more money but not break-the-bank more.

I seriously do get the justification for both of these expenses, but all I’m saying is if you’re worried about expenses and starting to look at ways you can cut back, I dare say these are two obvious ways.

The Destination Wedding Expenses You Can Expect

So let’s talk about the destination wedding expenses you can expect, and you decide if they fit into your budget.

Well, there’s the obvious: the resort and the airfare. But that’s not what you’re worried about, huh? You’re wondering about the ‘not so obvious’ – the expenses that will pop up along the way, making you rethink a few decisions (hopefully not the decision to get married!).

Having been through a destination wedding and having witnessed my friends go through them, here’s a list of typical destination wedding expenses that comes to mind:

Her wedding dress…and all the alterations that come with it.
Her jewelery
Her shoes
His attire
Wedding bands
Bridesmaid dresses and shoes (if you’re paying)
Groomsmen attire (again, if you’re paying)
Thank-you gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen
Engagement photos
Bachelor/ette parties (which often includes travel nowadays)
Government fees for marriage
Translation and legal fees (if getting married in a non-English speaking country)
Hair and makeup for her (which may include a trial session at an additional cost)
The wedding package, unless it’s complimentary
Wedding photography and/or videography
Post-wedding day romantic excursions
Wedding add-ons (can include anything from larger flower bouquet to nicer dinner reception)
Resort add-ons (premium wine, private candlelight dinner, etc.)

This may not be an exhaustive list,since every wedding is different, but you get the picture – by no means does the wedding expense end at resort and airfare! You have to budget for a lot more, even if you are keeping it simple.


So, again, to answer your question “Is it possible to stay under budget and have the wedding of your dreams in paradise?”, yes, it is. But you BOTH need to resist the temptations and consider if those add-ons will really make a difference at the end of the day. After all, you’re still getting married in paradise. How much more luxurious and idyllic can it get?!

Any destination wedding questions? Ask away!

And if you liked this post, please subscribe to me and I’ll email you when I post something new (I promise not to spam!).

Email *

One Love.
Jody, The Tropical Tourist


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *