Whether it's exchanging vows on a tropical island or saying "I do" in Las Vegas, about a quarter of all engaged couples say they want a destination wedding. But the fairytale appeal of getting married somewhere exotic starts to dim when you consider some of the drawbacks, like the added time and cost of travel to a wedding hot spot like Florida or Mexico, as well as other potential complications. Here are 13 of the most common reasons people pass on planning a destination wedding.
13 Reasons Why Destination Weddings Are a Bad Idea
Weddings aren't cheap for the hosts — or the guests. The average cost of attending a destination wedding is about $1,400, for domestic destinations; get married overseas and the average guest cost rises to $2,500. That's considerably more than the $374 the average guest spends to attend a local wedding. (Those estimates include the cost of travel, as well as personal expenses and the wedding gift). Little wonder that the average number of guests at a destination wedding is about two-thirds smaller. Another consideration: Guests with health or mobility issues may find long-distance travel too taxing to attend.
Traveling to foreign countries can increase your likelihood of getting sick and encountering other hazards. While seaside oysters and local artisanal foods sound fun and are likely delicious at the time, it would be a shame if you and your spouse or guests got taken out by traveler's sickness on or around the big day. Other risks include norovirus on cruises, unsafe drinking water in some countries, and in recent years, travel warnings from the CDC about Zika virus and other health concerns have forced some couples to rethink their plans. Also, vaccinations may be recommended for travel to some areas. Ouch.
Being close to home is familiar and feels safe, minimizing the impact of any last-minute disasters like chipped nails, broken heels, or finding replacement shirt. If you are closer to your parents' or a friend's home rather than your own, there is a sense of being able to navigate situations calmly and efficiently. In an unknown place, however beautiful, it will be harder to track down last-minute needs, if possible at all. If you're someplace where you don't speak the language, it will only be harder.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, least of all travel schedules. Between weather, increased security, and just bad luck, it's not uncommon to come up against major delays. There's nothing less romantic than sitting in an airport when you should be sipping tropical drinks on a beach. June, July, August, and September are popular months for weddings in tropical places like Mexico and Jamaica, but those months are also during hurricane season.
A wedding is expensive enough without the added costs of travel. Add to that more overnight stays, meals out, and local transportation costs and the budgets for destination weddings skyrocket for you and your guests. While most couples who plan a destination wedding set a budget that they aim to stick to, more than half exceeded their limit by an average of $2,071, according to a recent survey. Little things like getting to a pharmacy, last minute purchases for the big event or even enjoying a late night snack all add up when you are away from home. For popular destinations, local vendors may also have steep prices since they know they're in high-demand and often limited supply — which also means you're options for finding a better deal will be limited.
With traveling, packing, and organizing a lot of moving parts comes stress. A wedding is already stressful for most couples, trying to juggle family, friends, and each other's expectations. Trying to do this in an unknown place could send stress levels even higher, which is the opposite of what you want surrounding any wedding.
Between getting the lay of the land, ensuring everything is in order and ready to go, and managing the flow of the events for guests, the couple will likely have a full schedule. While guests who are able to attend can enjoy a mini-vacation before the wedding, it's more of a job than a retreat for the couple, which means minimal or no time to explore and enjoy.
Weddings are obviously not about gifts, but it is a nice tradition that can be financially helpful and meaningful. Since it's likely few people will come, it will mean fewer gifts, even though some invitees who cannot attend will still give something. For those who do come, their presence itself may be their gift, or they will spend less money on a gift because of the added expense of the trip involved.
Every family has its own unique dynamic, which can get very … interesting around big events, especially while mixing with another family, maybe for the first time. In a resort or destination that everyone is sharing, it can be hard to sneak away and get away from it all. Does anyone really want to run into their future mother-in-law at the spa prenuptial festivities?
Since the wedding is supposed to be a luxurious trip in itself, many couples may forgo the honeymoon or do a shorter honeymoon after a destination wedding. Some couples are even turning to crowd-sourcing to fund honeymoon travel. A honeymoon is an opportunity to enjoy your spouse for a time before real life kicks back in and has a very different tone than a wedding. Save the money and the trip for when the focus is on each other.
Planning a wedding in your hometown with venues, caterers, and bakeries you've known for years is difficult, so imagine trying to plan a wedding without actually being on-site to check everything well in advance. Simple things that can be taken for granted in familiar locales may be unavailable at certain destinations, like a waiting room for the bride, or picturesque background for photo opportunities. While wedding experts recommend visiting the destination before booking the venue, and again three to four months prior to the wedding to meet with vendors in person and finalize details, the cost of multiple trips may be prohibitive for most couples, not to mention time-consuming.
Because destination weddings typically require booking travel and hotels — not to mention taking time off from work — you'd need to give your guests and wedding party plenty of advance warning to plan accordingly, likely more so than for a local wedding. Wedding experts recommend sending sending save-the-date notices anywhere from six to 18 months ahead of time, depending on the location, while invitations should be in the mail anywhere from four months to a year in advance. Given all of the other logistics required for planning a wedding, regardless of location, planning so far in advance might be a challenge for some couples.
There are a lot of factors that can influence the legality of marriage, especially if the couple has different nationalities between them. This can be an overlooked aspect of getting married on foreign land that should be taken seriously and addressed in advance to avoid later complications. Associated fees might also apply depending on the destination itself. The U.S. State Department advises couples to contact the attorney general in their home state to find out if their marriage will be recognized. Regarding same-sex marriages, some 26 countries currently recognize such unions. Many countries do not, however, and planning a same-sex wedding abroad will mean ensuring that it is legal in the destination of choice.
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