The case for a destination wedding

The number 1 argument for taking your wedding to an exotic location is money: you’ll save so much by not hiring a venue, decorator, cake designer, planner, band, and caterer, you could fly to a beach-side ceremony in St. Lucia, linger for a week-long honeymoon and still have wedding-budget money in the bank.

The Lunsfords and their 30 closest, traveling supporters.

To help you put your wedding budget into perspective:

Of the more than 2 million weddings planned for next year, the average spend will be around $26,000. That includes everything from invitations to the limo at the end. But an average just means half will spend more and half less.

The top 1% — that’s 20,000 weddings — will spend $100,000 or more. So if your wedding is in the top 50%, you’ll be right to have a budget of between $26,000 and something over $100,000.

So let’s compare that to a wedding week in St Lucia for a party of 22, including you and your SO. If you paid for everyone’s travel and two nights’ accommodations, you could do that wedding for $40,000.

  • Dress, veil & shoes: $2,500
  • Tux & shoes: $1,500
  • Airfare for 22: $16,500
  • Two all-inclusive nights for 10 guest couples: $13,000
  • Seven all-inclusive nights for you love-birds: $4,500.
  • Typical resort fee for hosting a wedding: $2,000
Yes, there’s cornhole in Cancun 🙂

If, as is typical with destination weddings, you left air travel up to your guests, and you simply secured a great room rate for attendees, then you could do that destination wedding surrounded by your closest humans for $12,000.

Attending couples would each pony up around $2,500 to cheer your vows and hang with you for a couple of days.

Okay, so now for the number 1 reason for keeping a wedding local. And that is that the bride or groom has a large, tight-knit family with matriarchs and patriarchs who retired their passports and Skymiles memberships long ago, and the wedding absolutely must happen with everyone present.

Andrew with his brother and son on the way to the altar at Finest Playa Mujeres, near Cancun.

Ahh, but take the case of Andrew and Autumn Hewitt in Atlanta. They had their civil wedding cake at the Decatur courthouse — and dinner afterward — with the extended clan and friends, and ate it in Cancun after a beachside ceremony with 30 of their closest, able-to-travel friends and family.

About the photography

So yes. You’re going to want pictures of everything you loved about that amazing blue-water resort. Well, there’s three ways to get them.

  1. Use the resort’s photographer. We’re biased in the other direction, but the facts are that resort photographers typically are resort employees with resort-supplied cameras doing snaps at scenic spots on the property, or they’re local contractors paid a flat rate to do the same. A typical resort photography package includes an hour or two of photo coverage and a disc of unedited images mailed to you. Pricing varies wildly across the Caribbean. What’s consistent is the small amount of skill and effort invested in shooting and delivering your photos. Your family could do as well with cell phones.
  2. Crowd-source. Have your guests shoot away with their phones and message you their pics. This is a grab-bag approach, but you’ll occasionally get that priceless photo — like the one of Aunt Edna with the hoola-hoop and that turned-up bottle of champagne.
  3. Do #2, but back-stop with a professional. Jill and I travel as much as we shoot weddings locally. Our destination prices aren’t much different than what we charge for local weddings, because we love getting those exotic scenes, so we absorb much of our travel costs. And since we’re going to be on the island with nothing to do besides relax and be wedding photographers, you’ll get a lot more time in front of the camera and tons more pictures. Pictures that have been edited. Pictures that were shot by pros who live in the same country as you, and maybe in the same city.