What is a Destination Wedding? Your Guide to the Perfect Destination Wedding

destination wedding beach island

Destination weddings have become fairly popular over the years, however due to Covid-19 most bride and grooms have been moving towards having a local wedding for safety.
In 2016 it’s estimated that 15% of all weddings were destination weddings. While destination weddings are more difficult to have due to travel restrictions there are still many destination weddings occurring throughout the world. In this guide we will cover what a destination is and how to have the best one possible.

What is a Destination Wedding?

A destination wedding is typically an event where the bride and groom plan an away from home wedding, inviting their closest family members and friends to an ideal location and make the event a semi-vacation. Many resorts offer destination wedding packages and on-site wedding planners who can help couples create the wedding of their dreams.

Popular Locations for A Destination Wedding 

The most popular locations is, of course, Las Vegas. Other common destination wedding locations include Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Cruises also provide exciting venues for destination weddings.

In addition to great locations, an advantage of destination weddings is that they are typically less expensive for the couple, since the couple pays for their accommodations, travel costs and the venue charges. Guests are expected to pay for their own accommodations and travel costs. However, couples can elect to pay for the accommodations of their guests and even cover the travel costs. It all depends on their wedding budget.

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In addition to being less expensive, destination weddings can be more relaxed, which further reduces or eliminates the costs associated with bridesmaid gowns and tuxedo rentals. Some weddings, such as beach locations, can be extremely relaxed with a dress code requesting casual attire and sandals.

Destination Wedding Sizes 

Destination weddings are typically smaller than traditional weddings, with the guest count ranging from just the bride and groom plus honor attendants to around 50 or 60 guests. It all depends on the location. The farther guests need to travel, the more expensive and perhaps less likely guests are to attend. The average travel cost for attendees is around $500.

Many couples choose a destination wedding because they view it as more exciting and romantic and than a close to home wedding. They can say “I do” virtually anywhere with as many or as few guests as they choose. Couples also enjoy the lower cost of destination weddings. The average cost is about $23 thousand compared to a close to home wedding averaging about $26 thousand. Of course, the cost can be much lower or higher depending on the wedding elements and number of guests.

Destination Wedding Packages

While couples can plan their destination wedding themselves, venues offer wedding packages with pre-selected components that make the wedding arrangements easier for the couple. Professional wedding planners are also available for hire and can take on the planning for the entire wedding. It is often easier to hire a professional who is located in the area where the wedding will take place rather than attempting to make all of the arrangements long distance.

Some of the resorts that offer destination wedding packages in exciting locations include: Sandals in the Caribbean, Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii. Each one has unique venues and a variety of elements to create the wedding of any couple’s dreams.

Sandals Weddings

Sandals Weddings offers couples the flexibility to either design their own wedding or choose from pre-designed wedding themes that make it easier. Professionals designed the unique wedding themes, which include flowers, décor, reception table and the wedding cake. The pre-designed wedding packages range in price from $2 thousand to $3 thousand. When couples book a certain number of rooms at the resort, Sandals will offer a free wedding package that includes a table set up for four with a centerpiece and wedding cake.

Couples can also take advantage of Sandals’ wedding catalog, which offers a variety of cakes, decoration options, bouquets, table settings and more if they choose to design their own wedding. They also provide couples with a wedding and honeymoon gift registry along with a personal wedding website and a wedding blog.

Sandals also offers packages for families and groups with special rates depending on the number of rooms booked. Visit Sandals.com to learn more about Sandals Weddings.

Treasure Island

Las Vegas is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world. Many resorts offer wedding packages, including the exciting and fun Treasure Island resort. The Wedding Chapel at Treasure Island offers affordable, comprehensive wedding ceremony and reception packages ranging in price from $8 hundred to around $2 thousand.

Treasure Island has three main venues for the wedding ceremony, including the more traditional chapel, the Song Ship or poolside options. They also offer several services to enhance the experience, including photography and video, bridal bouquets, music, hair and makeup for the bride and other options to make the wedding unique and tailored to the couple’s tastes. To learn more about Treasure Island’s Wedding Chapel, visit www.treasureisland.com.

Turtle Bay Resort

Turtle Bay Resort reports that it is ranked among the top ten honeymoon hotels in Hawaii and boasts that more than 350 weddings take place on the lawns and beaches of the resort each year. Turtle Bay offers wedding packages that include the resort room fees, which start at around $11 thousand. The all-inclusive packages include the ceremony, limousine, hair and makeup for the bride, a tropical bouquet, a non-denominational officiate, photography and the resort room for the bride and groom and more.

The wedding venues at Turtle Bay include breathtaking beaches, a glass-walled wedding pavilion, and even a spot on the 18th hole of the Palmer Golf Course on the property. To learn more about what Turtle Bay Resort has to offer or to book your destination wedding, visit www.turtlebayresort.com.

Destination Wedding FAQs

A destination wedding can be a wonderful way for a couple to start their lives together. However, proper preparation can mean the difference between a memorable event and an infamous nightmare. Below are some frequently asked questions about destination weddings that can help you create a magical affair.

Why should we have a destination wedding?

Destination weddings are a great choice for countless couples for a variety of reasons. To some, the financial savings over a traditional wedding is appealing, for others it seems natural since many of their relatives will be traveling to attend the wedding anyway, for others it can be a fabulous option if they do not have a large number of guests who will attend and still others may simply want to buck tradition. Whatever the reason, a destination wedding could be the perfect way to say “I do!”

Where should we go for our destination wedding?

Traditionally, destination weddings were thought of as island or tropical affairs. However, a destination wedding simply means you are traveling away from home to get married. The destination you choose could be a town or city where your family or ancestors were once rooted, a place you have always wanted to visit or somewhere that seems to be ideally suited to your big day. The possibilities are endless.

beach wedding venue

Who pays the cost?

It is customary for the bride’s family to pay for the wedding. However, in modern times, many couples are paying for the event themselves, particularly if it is not the first marriage for the bride or if the family lacks the resources to finance it. Still, no matter who is paying for the wedding, guests are responsible for their own accommodations and expenses.

When should we inform guests?

Because guests will be expected to pay travel and accommodation costs, it is best to give as much notice as possible. Therefore, no less than 6 to 8 months prior to the date, you should send save the dates. These little notices simply let potential guests know what you have in mind so they can plan accordingly. Additionally, you can publish a wedding website that outlines important information about your upcoming day. These types of sites are typically very simple to put together and can be very helpful for notifying guests about updates and changes that may occur.

What should we wear to our destination wedding?

In regard to attire, a destination wedding is no different from any other wedding. While the location may play a small role, it really depends on the taste and budget of the couple. Some choose to maintain a formal dress code, while others opt for casual beach attire. Whether you want black tie and tails, flip flops and board shorts or something in between, the choice is yours; just make sure you tell your wedding guests about the anticipated dress code. They may assume that tropical atmosphere equals casual dress and choose a wardrobe that does not fit the occasion.

Who will plan and coordinate our destination wedding?

Some resorts offer a wedding coordinator as a courtesy to couples who book a wedding at their establishment. Conversely some brides choose to hire someone at home and bring them to the destination or hire a local wedding planner to handle all details. Again, budget and personal preference are key here. If you are not sure what to do, ask the resort if they provide these services or if they have any recommendations when you book your reservation.

destination wedding planner

What preparations should we make in advance?

There are some precautions that you should take regardless of where you intend to go.

When preparing to travel anywhere outside the United States:

  • Bring your passport and leave a photocopy of it with a trusted friend or relative who is not going to the event, in case it gets lost or stolen
  • Check with your physician and insurance to ensure that your vaccinations are current and to inquire about others that may be necessary
  • Bring any medications you routinely take
  • Pack an extra pair of glasses
  • Leave unnecessary valuables and irreplaceable items at home

In addition to routine travel necessities and precautions, some preparation depends on where you are going. Due to the differences in regulations from one location to the next, some couples fear that their destination wedding will require extensive paperwork and other red tape or that they will run the risk of finding out later on that their marriage is not considered legal in the United States. However, there is a
simple way to eliminate much of the paperwork and ensure that the marriage is recognized as a legal union. Since wedding guests will be oblivious to whether you are having a legal or symbolic ceremony, why not opt for a simple union at home, via your local courthouse or notary public and have a symbolic ceremony at the destination you desire.

If you prefer to have a legal ceremony at your destination, check the legal requirements for your destination and be absolutely certain you have everything in order before you arrive. Remember that handling small details early can make your event more fun and less worrisome. Never assume that someone else will automatically take care of something; it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Some of the things you should inquire about include:

  • Waiting periods for the marriage license
  • Blood test requirements
  • Identification and necessary documentation
  • Witnesses

The Pros and Cons of a Destination Wedding

Like anything else in life, destination weddings have both pros and cons. Before a couple makes a decision to plan a long distance wedding, they should consider the following information, which will help them choose the option that is right for them.

Benefits of a Destination Wedding

The three main benefits of a destination wedding can be summarized with these words: simple, affordable and relaxed.


Destination weddings can be so much simpler to plan and execute than close to home weddings. This may seem counterintuitive, since it can be very difficult to orchestrate an event long distance, but it actually is easier to plan a wedding at a distant destination.

The reason it is simpler is that many destinations have pre-designed wedding packages that are created by professional wedding planners. The packages include all of the components a beautiful wedding requires, and the bride and groom need only make a few decisions and the rest is taken care of for them. If the couple wants to create their own wedding design, they can obtain the assistance of professional wedding planners who are located at the desired destination, and they can take care of all the little details that need attention.


Destination weddings are typically less expensive than local weddings. The couple pays for their resort stay and the wedding package or their unique design, and the guests pay their own way to the location and their accommodations. Couples can have a large or small wedding and control their spending. They also may get discounts and deals from the resorts when they extend their stay, book a certain number of rooms and arrange their honeymoon at the same venue.


Wedding planning is stressful and often family and friends can create drama and confusion for the couple. Having a destination wedding eliminates a great deal of stress since the wedding is far away and only a limited number of people can attend. Also, enjoying the convenience of a wedding package that includes everything the couple needs allows them to enjoy the day and relax. They still have a few details to take care of, but overall, the people at the resort do all the heavy lifting when it comes to planning the wedding.

beach destination wedding venue

While destination weddings provide appealing advantages, including making the planning easier on the couple, there are a few cons worth considering. The three main negatives of destination weddings are: size, legal issues and the burden on the guests.

Cons of Destination Wedding


Most destination weddings are small in size and the number of attendees can range from two to around 50 people. Logistically, it would be difficult to hold a large wedding a long distance from home. That means many friends and family members will not be invited. This could cause tension and hurt feelings for those who don’t receive an invitation. Although a small wedding is intimate and personal, it is also a wonderful experience to have all of the couple’s friends, family members and coworkers celebrate the happy day, but that would be very difficult or impossible with a destination wedding.

Legal Issues

There are requirements in every country that need to be met in order for a marriage to be legal. Researching the laws in the U. S. and in the destination country is necessary to ensure that the required documents are obtained and the paperwork is completed properly. Also, the couple needs to understand what personal documents they’ll need to take with them, such as their passport, birth certificate or other items. Many couples have skipped this step only to learn later that their marriage was not legal.

Burden Placed on the Guests

There is no doubt that inviting people to attend a wedding at a distant location places a financial burden on them. No matter how much they want to share in the most important day of the couple’s lives, they will have to pay for travel, accommodations and a wedding gift. In addition, they will need to take time out of work, make arrangements for pet care, obtain travel documents when necessary and myriad other obligations that go along with traveling to a distant location. For these reasons, it’s a good idea for the couple to think carefully about who they will invite and whether or not it will be problematic for them to attend. Many people will go regardless of whether or not it will cause them a hardship, so the couple should consider this when they are planning their destination wedding.

Destination weddings can be fun and exciting for the happy couple, as well as the guests who will be attending. Wedding packages and experienced planners can help the couple create an incredible wedding a long distance from home. However, there are some sacrifices the couple will have to make if they choose a destination wedding, which include the size of the wedding and omitting more than a few family members and friends from the guest list. Regardless, a destination wedding can provide the romance, excitement, fun and memories that the happy couple and the guests in attendance will cherish for a lifetime.

Destination Weddings and Outside Vendors

One common feature of having a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort is that the resort will provide all of the vendors you need, from the florist to the DJ to the photographer. While some couples will enjoy this perk because everything is taken care of for them, other couples may not because they want the flexibility of choosing their own vendors. Many all-inclusive resorts in popular destination wedding locations either do not allow any outside vendors or they allow certain third-party vendors for an additional fee. These fees can range anywhere from $100 to hundreds of dollars, significantly affecting the overall wedding budget you have already set.

To avoid any surprises, make sure you go over the venue contract thoroughly and ask your venue representative or coordinator any questions you may have. Research the vendors that they will provide to see if they are suitable for your wedding. If you are certain that you want to bring in other vendors, you can negotiate with the venue to see if they will waive the fees ahead of time instead of being surprised with fees after the fact. If you’re interested in hiring an outside photographer but the venue insists on charging an additional fee, you can work with your photographer to create a wedding day package that works with your budget and needs.

Destination Wedding Etiquette

Just because you’re having a destination wedding doesn’t mean that the rules of wedding etiquette go out the window. The main considerations for destination wedding etiquette are who pays for what and what kind of attire you may need. Because a destination wedding can run several thousands of dollars, you may even want to ask guests to chip in beyond the ordinary travel expenses. Whatever you decide, just make sure that everyone is on-board with your plans beforehand to avoid any wedding-day unpleasantness.


Destination weddings are often outside the box, so what you wear at one can be too. These types of weddings can be as informal or formal as the couple desires, and the traditional white wedding may even be out of place depending on your location. Before deciding on the theme, research the area where you will have your ceremony performed to get an idea of what couples typically wear there, and be practical. A long train will be out of place on the beach, but it will be perfectly acceptable in a resort’s reception room.

If you’re going the traditional route, you will need formal and evening attire along with your wedding attire. You will also want to bring some casual clothes and beach attire if you plan to do any touring or want to relax. For a casual beach wedding, you may opt for a dressed-down look with casual dresses and khakis. Make sure the guests know what the expected attire is beforehand though so that you don’t have a guest in coattails while everyone else is in polos.

destination wedding questions

While it might be tempting to make wardrobe purchases at your destination, you should have everything planned and paid for before you leave. Use garment bags for your wedding attire, and if possible, bring them as carry-on luggage to prevent any potential disaster like damage from the cargo hold or the airline losing your outfit. If you do want to wear local attire, plan to get to your destination early so that you have time to find something you love rather than whatever fits.

Who Pays For What?

Your guests will be responsible for their hotel rooms, transportation to and from the destination and any activities and meals outside of wedding events. If your guests are part of the wedding party, the bride and her family traditionally pay for the lodging for the bridesmaids while the groom and his family pay for the groomsmen. The wedding party should expect to pay for outside activities and meals as well as formal attire, travel and grooming. The bride’s family should cover the cost of the reception and ceremony while the groom’s family should pay for rehearsal.

The bride is responsible for the groom’s ring, a gift for the groom and her attendants and any beauty treatments. The groom is responsible for the bride’s engagement and wedding rings, any licensing fees, the honeymoon, a gift for the bride, the bouquet, gifts for his attendants and other floral arrangements like corsages and boutonnieres.

With all of the expenses a wedding can rack up, you may not have the funds to pay for it all. While it may be traditional for the bride, groom and their families to cover costs, it may also not be realistic. If you can’t afford to pay the lodging for your bridesmaids and groomsmen, do your best to help them out instead. Look for group rates and discounts, or offer to meet them halfway. These people are your friends and family, and as long as you are honest about your financial situation well in advance, your guests should not feel put upon. Just keep in mind that your guests may have financial difficulties of their own, so do your best to not make them feel obligated to spend money they don’t have.

If you let your guests know ahead of time, you may even receive some monetary help for things like fittings or beauty treatments, but you shouldn’t count on your guests for charity. If funds are tight, be realistic about your situation. Look at your plans, and look at what you can do without. You may not need to invite every person you know or have an open bar to enjoy your dream wedding. With the right planning, your destination wedding can be a place you travel to in your memories all lifelong.

tropical island beach wedding

Destination Wedding: Calendar & Check List

Wedding planning can be rough no matter what kind of wedding you have, but when your wedding is a destination wedding, there is a lot more to consider. Do you and your guests have a valid passport? Can your marriage legally be performed and recognized where you are going? How is everyone going to get there?

To plan your wedding, you’re going to need a list. While you may receive a lot of input from friends and family during this time, try and stick to your established time frames. It’s natural that your friends and family will want to assist you, but try to keep their assistance within the confines of the list. If your bridesmaid or groomsman is eager to help out, refer to your list and assign a task that corresponds to what you need right now rather than letting others determine the course of your wedding plans. To avoid hurt feelings, be gracious and welcoming of any assistance, but be firm of your itinerary.

Before you begin making a list, you’ll need to organize your thoughts into time frames. You don’t need to buy your dress a year in advance; in fact, you may risk it not fitting when the wedding arrives if you buy it too early. Most weddings require about a year to plan, so if you have the luxury of time, organize your thoughts into this time frame. Your initial plans will mostly consist of making contact with the services and vendors you will be using and establishing the framework of your wedding. Don’t worry about the details at this stage. Because many documents can take months to process, you will want to begin applying for things like passports or obtaining legal documents well in advance.

At this early stage, you will want to do the following:

  • Determine the budget and set the date
  • Choose a location
  • Book the service
  • Research any legal requirements in the area to begin any licensing procedures
  • Make sure your own documentation is current, such as passports or insurance
  • Establish contact with any outside services you will be using

This wedding checklist will take you through to the nine to six month mark. While it may be tempting to feverishly plan all of the details of your dream wedding during this time, you should divide your attention into specific tasks to avoid getting burnt out before you get to your wedding day. Your friends and family will no doubt have dozens of questions for you and several other tasks that require your attention, so try to stick to your established time frame for all of the major tasks to prevent an overload.

When you’re within nine to six months of your wedding, you will need to do the following:

  • Make reservations
  • Purchase any additional transportation you will need for your wedding
  • Invite your guests
  • Purchase attire

With the bulk of your requirements booked and paid for, the remaining months can be used to focus on the details like wedding toasts, fittings, beauty treatments, gifts, rings and the vows. This is often the most frenzied period for a couple as everyone’s excitement and anticipation reaches its peak, which is why you want to avoid leaving major tasks to the last minute. Once you’re within a month of your date, you should confirm with all of your guests. You may opt for a reminder a week or two before the departure to re-confirm any travel itinerary.

As the time before the wedding draws to a close, you will need to complete the following:

  • Rehearse events
  • Plan the menu
  • Order wedding favors
  • Purchase the rings
  • Complete all fittings
  • Receive confirmation from your guests
  • Decide on the ceremony and your vows
  • Confirm the itinerary to begin preparing for travel

You may find small things crop up along the way, but as long as you have the major tasks planned and accounted for, those little things shouldn’t throw you off track. Once you’ve completed your checklist and arrived at your location, you only have one more task to complete.

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