Planning a destination wedding can be an exciting and memorable experience. However, without proper financial planning, the costs can quickly escalate, leading to unwanted stress and financial strain. That's why it's crucial to create a realistic budget that allows you to celebrate your special day while staying within your means. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the process of creating a budget for your dream destination wedding, ensuring a memorable celebration without breaking the bank. Remember to be honest with yourself about how much you can realistically afford to spend or borrow.
1. Determine your overall wedding budget:
Before diving into the specifics of your destination wedding budget, establish a realistic overall wedding budget. Consider your finances, savings, contributions from family members, and any potential loans or credit options. Set a clear spending limit to help guide your decisions throughout the planning process. When doing this, keep in mind that without fail you will spend more than you think you will. What is the absolute CEILING of what you can afford? Then what can you comfortably afford?
2. Research and select your dream destination:
Explore different destinations that align with your wedding vision and budget. Consider factors such as travel costs, accommodation options, local vendor pricing, and the overall cost of living in your chosen location. This will help you make an informed decision that suits your budgetary needs. Like I mentioned in the CHOOSING THE RIGHT LOCATION post, this step is crucial because it also affects how much the wedding will cost your guests. The farther or harder to reach, the more money things are likely to cost. Pro tip: try to go somewhere with lots of vendors to choose from, this will keep prices competitive. The "wedding tax" is real and people will up-charge you simply because it's a wedding.
3. Identify the key wedding elements:
Break down your wedding into key elements such as venue, travel expenses, accommodation, food and beverages, decorations, attire, photography, entertainment, and any additional activities or experiences for you and your guests. Assign a rough estimate to each element based on your research and preferences. There are a ton of categories to consider for this. Wedding favors cost more than you'd think and plane ticket costs can vary widely based on timing and tourist season for where you're going. This is a good time to start considering what your deal breakers are. I would have LOVED a live band. Live bands can cost up to 6k for two hours of playing. Guest what I didn't have at the wedding? A live band.
4. Venue selection and associated costs:
Research venues in your chosen destination that suit your style and guest count. Compare prices, inclusive packages, and any additional fees. Consider the time of year, as peak seasons can significantly impact pricing. Ensure you understand the payment terms, cancellation policies, and any hidden costs. Our venue allowed us to use it for the wedding without throwing in any extra charges. The trade off was that we had to book out the entire hotel for two nights. It housed around 70 people so as long as friends & family booked all the rooms we were covered. Unfortunately, we had a few empty rooms that we ultimately ended up having to pay for. We realized too late that it would cost less to have the people there and pay for an extra plate at dinner than to cover the room cost for two nights. We still saved money not paying an additional fee.
5. Travel and accommodation costs:
Factor in your travel expenses, including flights, transportation to and from the airport, and local transportation at your destination. Research accommodation options for you and your guests, considering both comfort and affordability. Explore group rates or negotiate discounts with hotels to make it more cost-effective. This step is HUGE. If you're reading this far enough in advance and have the financial know-how (I'm not a financial advisor or expert) use a credit card to build points. We got the Delta Amex and Chase Freedom cards to put wedding expenses and household bills on. We bought our plane tickets to Italy with points and saved almost 2k doing it! Be careful and keep up with your payments. It's kinda silly to go into serious debt for a wedding so remember that you have to pay that money back!
6. Vendor selection and negotiation:
Reach out to local vendors (or have your wedding planner do this), including caterers, photographers, florists, and entertainment services, to obtain quotes and negotiate pricing. Compare multiple options and review their portfolios and reviews to ensure quality while staying within your budget. Consider local vendors who may have a better understanding of the destination and can offer cost-effective solutions. Don't be shy about asking for less expensive options!
7. Food and beverages:
Explore catering options that fit your budget and desired cuisine. Discuss menu choices, service fees, and any additional costs such as corkage fees or cake cutting charges. Consider alternative options like food stations or buffet-style service to help control costs while still offering a memorable dining experience. Honestly, this is where the real wedding costs are lurking. You may have thought "nbd I'll budget 5k for dinner for my 50 guests" and depending on the country you're headed to, you may want to double that. Seriously, double it. You don't want to create this amazing, joy-filled experience and then the food is shitty. Don't do that to yourself or your guests. Our caterer was AMAZING.
8. Decorations and attire:
Decide on the aesthetic and theme for your wedding and identify ways to incorporate local elements or DIY decorations to save costs. Consider renting décor items instead of purchasing them. When it comes to attire, set a budget for your wedding gown, groom's attire, and attire for your bridal party. Explore options like sample sales or rental services to find beautiful outfits within your budget. We DIYed several important items (separate blog post on this) and saved a ton on decorations because the venue was naturally really beautiful. Shout out to Etsy for all the templates and ideas that saved us literally thousands. We made our own favors, welcome bags, and dinner name cards. I got my wedding dress from a sample sale and it, by the grace of God, didn't need alterations. I shed a tear for that luck!
9. Photography and entertainment:
Allocate a portion of your budget for a professional photographer who can capture your special day. Look for local photographers who understand the destination and can provide high-quality services within your budget. For entertainment, consider local bands or DJs who can provide an authentic experience while fitting your financial plan. You flew or drove all the way to a different country/city, don't play yourself. Have someone professional take photos. Our wedding planner helped us find a photographer and DJ. The DJ asked for songs we'd like to hear. Take that song list seriously, many of my favorite moments from the Italian wedding were from the dance floor.
10. Contingency and miscellaneous expenses:
Set aside a portion of your budget as a contingency fund to account for any unforeseen expenses or last-minute changes. Also, remember to include expenses for marriage licenses, legal requirements, and any additional activities or experiences you wish to provide for your guests. With the COVID of it all, don't forget to check on insurance costs for venue and catering. WE've learned in recent history that anything can happen. Be prepared for things to change. Things will not go exactly to plan. They just won't. Be kind to yourself and know that going in.
Creating a budget for your destination wedding is a vital step in ensuring a memorable celebration that doesn't strain your finances. By researching and estimating total costs you'll be giving yourself a framework to work with. Be responsible for as long as you can with where money is going. My wedding mantra: this is the fun part.