Inexpensive Destination Wedding Planning

Tips to cut the cost of your destination wedding

destination weddingWhen it comes to a little fun in the sun, there is nothing hotter than a destination wedding.  And for the frugal-minded couple-to-be, destination weddings are quickly becoming the budget-friendly alternative to the more traditional church and banquet hall soirées.

Destination weddings are becoming so popular that there is now an entire industry dedicated to planning the perfect far-away vows, and major publishers are all coming up with annual Top 10 Wedding Destination lists.

According to the recent list from Reader’s Digest, the top places for a tropical “I Do” include:

  • Aruba;
  • Maarten;
  • Riviera Maya;
  • The Bahamas; and
  • Jamaica

Tying the knot in paradise can eliminate much of the stress associated with planning a wedding (both financial and emotional).  However, unless money is no object for you, you’re still going to have to take some steps to stay within budget, advises Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling of Canada.

“Many brides and grooms are led to believe that it is more cost-effective to have a destination wedding,” says Schwartz.  “While that may be true, couples still need to take the time to plan ahead and set a realistic budget for their dream day.  Otherwise their happily-ever-after can quickly turn into a debt disaster.”

For those looking to exchange vows with the sand between their toes, Schwartz and the team at Consolidated Credit offer these tips to keep the wedding budget small:

  • Book early – According to, proper destination wedding etiquette dictates that you plan a minimum of 12-18 months in advance. By booking early you can secure the best deal possible, as most travel agents will guarantee or price match up to three months before your wedding date.  Booking early also allows your guests to budget for not only a wedding, but also a vacation.
  • Avoid peak season – Late fall to early spring is typically the most popular (and expensive) time to visit a tropical destination. Booking your wedding outside of peak season can offer brides and grooms the opportunity to find the location of their dreams at a reduced rate – leaving more room in your budget to save for the future.
  • Shop around – Don’t just agree to the first location offered to you by the first travel agent you speak with. Talk to several different destination wedding planners (most travel agencies have at least one agent who specializes in tropical vows). Find out who is offering the best bang for your buck, and don’t be afraid to comparison shop online for a better deal.
  • Negotiate – This goes for all brides and grooms, regardless of where you are getting married. There is nothing wrong with negotiating the price of your wedding. Many all-inclusive wedding resorts base their pricing on the “complete” wedding package – but this may include services you don’t need or want to pay for.  Read your contract carefully, and negotiate price based on what you are willing to spend.
  • Think outside the vase – When it comes to a destination wedding, one of the biggest budget blunders a couple can make is having an “at home” style wedding in paradise. If you are planning to decorate the way you would at a banquet hall you better beef up you budget.  Not only is all that décor expensive, but the extra baggage cost associated with flying it to the beach will quickly send your finances into a tailspin. You chose a tropical setting for a reason; save yourselves a small fortune and use the natural beauty of paradise as your décor. 
  • Toast locally – Whether you chose an all-inclusive resort or a pay-as-you-go hotel as your wedding destination, you need to be careful of the extra fees that come along with a destination wedding. In most cases, you will incur corkage fees along with premium liquor charges if you toast your marriage with champagne.  Brides and grooms can save a significant amount by toasting their vows with local liquor.  If you are in Mexico consider tequila, or rum in The Bahamas. 
  • Tap into your guests – Hiring a photographer or DJ whom you have never met can be a risky endeavor – and a costly one for those marrying in a different country. Instead of taking a financial risk on a vendor you have never met, consider tapping into the talent of your guests.  Having an amateur photog friend take your pictures, or a family member spin some tunes can significantly reduce the bottom line of your big day. 
  • Shop during the winter – While there is a good chance you won’t find a wedding dress on sale at any time of year, shopping in the winter for your destination wedding can seriously cut down on your expenditures. Everything from bridesmaid dresses, summer suits, beachwear and sunscreen can all be found at a deep discount in the fall and winter months. 
  • Use your iPod – If keeping your wedding budget on track means cutting the cost of a DJ at your wedding reception, consider filling your own MP3 player with your favorite beats. No one knows your guest’s taste in music better than you.  So instead of hiring an expensive resort DJ for the evening, just plug in your iPod and get ready to dance the night away. 
  • Make it official before you fly – For many destination couples, one of the largest expenses comes in the form of a marriage licence and wedding officiant. In some tropical countries these fees can reach into the thousands, compared to the $100 or less of license costs at home. If you are trying to keep within a budget, consider getting married in a civil ceremony at home, then have a more formal (but less official) ceremony and reception on the beach.


Tying the knot is an important and exciting time in any couple’s life. Planning ahead and making a budget for your destination vows is essential if you want to stay out of debt.  But if you are facing financial pitfalls on your way to the alter, or you wedding has left you in in a credit catastrophe, we can help!  Call  today to speak to a trained credit counsellor and find out how you can get your budget under control.  You can also try our Free Debt Analysis online and a counsellor will reach out to you.

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