Destination Weddings: Everything You Need to Know

Destination weddings are almost always a good idea – especially if you are looking for something unique or are on a budget. Here’s what to consider when thinking about planning a destination wedding from a travel professional’s perspective.

There’s a couple of reasons why couples choose to fly out for their wedding.

Destination Weddings are Affordable

Did you know the average wedding in 2018 was $44,000 according to Brides.com.  Compare that to the average Destination Wedding at $8k overseas! Cha-Ching!  (Searching for that down payment on your mortgage?  I just found it for you! You’re welcome.)

Those couples who are on a tight budget and considering keeping the celebrations low key to keep costs down should seriously consider a Destination Wedding!  With all the inclusions that come along with a six-night stay or longer at most resorts, it’s really a no brainer.  Couples love how they can totally customize their wedding yet still be budget friendly.

Destination Weddings are Simple

The simplicity of planning a Destination Wedding is rarely spoken about.  I get the feeling it’s some sort of rite of passage – if you didn’t pour your heart & soul into planning every single detail of your big day, you’re really not in love.  I call bullshit.

Imagine having your own personal Pre-Wedding Travel Planner who is working behind the scenes to ensure your day is perfect before you even arrive. Then, once you are in destination you then are introduced to your in house Wedding Concierge.  Did I mention there is no cost for this? That’s right; it’s all included at most resorts, especially here.

I once had a bride who said she felt bad because she didn’t get stressed out about the details like her sister and other friends had before her.  The difference? She had a Destination Wedding and all the details were taken care of for her!

Destination Weddings are Unique

Have you ever looked through the local marriage announcements or even the wedding magazine and seen the same scenery over and over, just a different couple featured?

Not to downplay or insult the gorgeous venues we have locally, but there comes a time where you just may want to go where others have not gone before you. A Destination Wedding accomplishes this! Forgo the unity candle and do a sand ceremony instead. Imagine instead of a dollar dance at the reception you have a fire dancer or even fireworks!

Working closely with your travel agent and PreWedding Travel Planner will ensure your wildest dreams are fulfilled and your style is highlighted throughout your wedding.

Destination Weddings are Crowd Control

There is no better way to ensure crowd control like flying halfway across the country or world to say “I Do”.  Many couples cringe at the idea of having to trim a guest list. Instead, invite them all and let the guests decide to stay or go.  The average group is 40, however, we’ve planned over 100 and we did it seamlessly.

Those who decide to forego the wedding will certainly be at the reception you hold post nuptials and you can always play the video there.  And with today’s technology, we can always live stream it so friends and family back home can watch it in real time.

Destination Weddings are Memorable

Let’s be brutally honest, shall we?  Tell me what you remembered from all the weddings you’ve attended in the past?  Hot stuffy church, bad weather, temperamental flower girl, Uncle Joe sneaking vodka all day; oh wait, that was MY wedding. Just kidding, but we have been to *that wedding, right?  My point is, what was so memorable? And really, are these memories you want YOUR guests to have, let alone you? Let’s remember the fact you rented the entire private island for your guests only or the sail away catamaran cruise the day after!  If you want amazing memories, it starts with an amazing plan.

“My fiance and I were so excited to begin planning an intimate destination wedding, but what we weren’t interested in? Managing travel details, itineraries, etc. for not only ourselves, but for our friends and family. The solution? Jen Maki with Divine Destinations. We were so happy with our decision! We had worked with Jen previously for trips, so we thought: a must for our wedding!

She handled all of the details for our friends and family and we couldn’t be happier! Our wedding travels went off without a hitch and for that, we are so grateful! Thank you for taking so much of the pressure off of us during what can be such a stressful time.”

Abby & Nate, Duluth, MN
The happy couple: Abby and Nate

What to consider when planning a destination wedding

There are many things to consider when planning a wedding. These things are the same whether your wedding is in your parent’s backyard or halfway across the globe.

The main difference though is if you choose a Destination Wedding, you will have a dedicated team of professionals handling all of these details on your behalf.

I liken it to Cinderella – the mice worked hard sewing her dress in the background and all she did was show up and everything was ready for her. Magical, right? Same for a Destination Wedding.

After we help them decide on the destination and venue and get their travel plans secured, our next step is to confirm the wedding date and time and introduce the couple to the pre-wedding coordinator. The pre-wedding coordinator will handle the marriage license paperwork, discuss flowers, cakes, perhaps a signature cocktail and of course go over the venue options for the wedding itself and the reception.

There are so many fabulous ways to tie the knot: under the sea, on a rooftop overlooking the ocean, on the beach, in the gardens, on the pier, in a gazebo…the list goes on!

How long does it take to plan?

Depending on the availability of your big day, we have seen simple celebrations come together inside of 30 days and more elaborate events take in excess of a year.  The planning isn’t really the issue but the budget. Most people look to have the wedding further out (average of 18 months after proposal) in order for their guests to have time to plan for the trip.

How much do you spend on a destination wedding?

I bet you are wondering, are destination weddings more expensive?

No, repeat: Did you know the average wedding in 2018 was $44,000 according to Brides.com.  Compare that to the average Destination Wedding at $8k overseas! Cha-Ching!  (Searching for that down payment on your mortgage?  I just found it for you! You’re welcome.) Those couples who are on a tight budget and considering keeping the celebrations low key to keep costs down should seriously consider a Destination Wedding!  With all the inclusions that come along with a six-night stay or longer at most resorts, it’s really a no brainer.  Couples love how they can totally customize their wedding yet still be budget friendly.

Who pays for what at a destination wedding?

This all sounds great, but who actually pays for this? Times are changing! Up until 2017 the industry average showed couples footed the bill on their own wedding. 2018 showed a huge shift where the parents were paying for more than 50%. Each couple is different and there is not any written rules on who pays for what. The beautiful thing about a destination wedding is that it tends to be almost a quarter of the cost of an at home “traditional” wedding so couples who go this direction find they get more for their money and with the money they save are able to do some extra fun things such as hiring a fire dancer for their reception or even treating their guests to a group activity like a sunset catamaran cruise. As far as the guest list goes, guests are expected to pay their own way and I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone. Guests don’t look at this as spending money to go to a wedding, instead, they get to go to a wedding and happen to get a vacation as well!

The least amount a couple could expect is the cost of the travel package (air+ hotel) for three nights as many resorts offer a free wedding with three paid nights at their resort.  The average cost is about $8,000 for a well rounded event that includes more than the basic “free wedding” meaning they added a welcome reception with signature cocktail, upgraded their decor and had at least one group event planned such as a spa day for the girls, golfing for the guys, or a group activity like a sunset catamaran cruise to say thank you to their guests for coming.

What to expect for your destination wedding ceremony

Truthfully, in today’s world anything goes.  Same applies for the wedding ceremony. Couples can write their vows or they can have the minister do all the talking.  They can be married in a chapel in the garden or over the water. We like to say, it’s your wedding, your style.

What are some of the more popular spots couples tend to pick?

Mexico Destination Weddings

Where to stay in Mexico?

The Riviera Maya is still the leader in most Destination Weddings performed annually throughout Mexico.  With the myriad of resorts to choose from, seemingly endless beaches and unique cultural infusions not to mention an easily accessible destination from anywhere in the US!  

Which hotel is ideal?

There is not a one size fits all hotel.  We have our favorites for varying reasons.  IF we had to choose, our top pick would definitely be Hard Rock Riviera Maya

Why that hotel?

There is something for everyone here – from the sun lover to the adventure seeker, spa lovers and music lovers unite here!  If you have an adult only group, there is an adult only side of the resort that allows you some respite from the under 17 crowd.  If however, you have a child accompanying you to the wedding, you’ll appreciate the fun things they have to offer for the littles: Camp Woodward, Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine and even Kidz Bop!

What are some interesting features of the Hard Rock Riviera Maya?

Hands down the biggest value has to be the LIMITLESS resort credit.  Simply said, do what you want (golf, spa, tours) and only pay 25% service fee.  For example, if you were to swim with the dolphins, that’s about $125/pp except at the Hard Rock – you pay only 25%, or $31.25!

Who is Mexico a good choice for?

Couples looking for a destination where the prices are affordable, there is a variety of food choices and many people feel safe since they probably visited here once before already.

Caribbean Destinations

Which Caribbean island is ideal for weddings?

The Caribbean is a smattering of charming island chains but my personal favorite is in the West Indies, “mi sweet sweet Jamaica”! By far the easiest island to get to and to get married on!  The island’s main language is English and the water is safe to drink. The organic array of food, especially fruit is plentiful and the people, oh man, the people are simply beautiful humans!  They love to share their culture, their island, their food, and even their arm to help cross the road! You can always find a smile, a reggae beat and a Red Stripe readily available on this tiny island.

Which hotel in the Caribbean?

Jamaica started the All Inclusive concept, so most of the island is all inclusive which makes vacationing that much simpler!

When you purchase your package, you pay one price that includes your resort, food, drinks (including organic smoothies and alcoholic beverages) entertainment and in most cases, water sports too!  No need to bring hundreds of dollars along for “extras” since essentially your entire package is included.

If you like a larger chain with tons of options of restaurants, pools, bars, beaches and lively entertainment, then a Sandals may be a good fit for you.  In Montego Bay alone, there are over 15 restaurants, just as many bars and multiple beaches including a private island to get away from it all or be in the midst of the party. At only 10 minutes from the airport, you spend more time ON vacation vs getting there.

For those who prefer something more quaint or boutique style, I recommend getting away from it all and heading west to the capital of casual, Negril.  Here you can unplug and recharge in a treehouse, on a cliff or even in a B&B type guest house. With 7 miles of beach to walk and the most spectacular sunsets on the island, most people find Negril is the side they prefer if they are getting away from the hustle and bustle.

Who is a Caribbean wedding a good choice for?

The Caribbean is a good choice for couples who want a getaway that is close enough to jetset for a long weekend but exotic enough to feel like they’ve gotten away from the commonalities of home.  It’s a great option for those who are concerned about language barriers since English is the main language in almost all of the Caribbean islands. It should be noted that the Caribbean is not LGBT friendly, but this next island chain is……

Hawaii Destination Weddings

Which island in Hawaii?

Why limit it to just one island?  With so many to choose from and each offering a different unique experience a cruise to all of the islands is a great way to sample them all. Couples can extend their trip into a honeymoon by staying longer after everyone has departed for home or even hop to another island altogether – Bora Bora anyone?

Which Hawaiian hotel is ideal for weddings?

I highly recommend NCL’s Pride of America cruise ship.  It’s the youngest ship at sea currently in Hawaii and new promotions have made this a great way to see Hawaii without breaking the bank.  As of this printing, you can get unlimited open bar (Mai Tai’s anyone? It’s on me!) specialty dining, wifi, $50 per port to spend on excursions and reduced airfare from $99/pp!

What are some interesting features of the hotel?

Simply something for everyone onboard and in port.  See all of Hawaii in as little as 7 days. Now the most all-inclusive option at sea with unlimited open bar, specialty dining and wifi included!

Who is Hawaii a good choice for?

Bucket list checker off-ers!  Hawaii is the ULTIMATE bucket list destination for many people and 67% of those in the Midwest will return again and again; even more than our friends on the west coast!  There are many islands all offering different experiences so there is something for everyone and it’s LGBT friendly.

How to book

Why work with a travel agent for your wedding?

Divine Destinations Our Story
L: Jen Maki, Owner of Divine Destinations, R: Natasha Perkerwicz, Travel Advisor

Although there are many reasons to hire a travel advisor for your destination wedding, in my opinion, the most important reason would be because it’s your big day!

Why chance it to the internet, to a resort you’ve never been to, to a wedding planner you’ve never met, oh yeah and your friends and family – you’re going to chance it that they all will get there efficiently too?  It could happen but think of the stress you’d go through leading up to the big day!

Our brides trust us to coordinate their travel plans along with all of their family’s. In addition, since we’ve been there and can speak to our personal experience at that destination or resort we can give advice not found on a google search. We also have boots on the ground connections that we can reach out to at any time with a simple email or call and get answers to questions, a test with a photo or even a video call if necessary! Expedia can’t do that!

Something our couples love is the opportunity to test drive their own wedding by going to the property for 2 or 3 nights to experience it as a guest but also meet the wedding planners and see a wedding or two during their stay.  If they feel it’s a good fit, the cost of their trip is refunded in credit towards their wedding. If it’s not a good fit, that’s a relief to know now so they can pivot; and they got a mini vacation too!

Destination Wedding Packages from Divine Destinations

All Inclusive packages – with most of our preferred All Inclusive partners if a couple should stay for 3 nights or longer the simple wedding is free.  A free wedding generally speaking will include a minister, flowers for the couple, music, sparkling wine for celebratory toast, small cutting cake and a keepsake photo.  Of course couples can (and do!) upgrade or customize their wedding.


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