Summer is in full swing and so is wedding season. It’s wedding age for me now- I’m in my mid-to-late twenties and I’ve been to two weddings this year already (my first one where it was my friend, and not a relative! So exciting!) and they were both here in Vancouver. Another friend is planning to get hitched in Hawaii for a destination wedding next year. My boyfriend and I were discussing what we would like to do in the future, and we were going back and forth between the romantic allure and cheaper destination wedding, or the idea of a traditional wedding where we can invite more of our friends and family to attend.

So I thought I would do what I like doing best here on and do a comparison between the two to help me (and you) decide which one is better for the wallet.  This means a list! Yeeeaaahh!

Destination Wedding:

A destination wedding is where the bride and groom take the wedding party and close family and friends to resort location or even Vegas, and turn it into a mini-vacation for all.  Destination Weddings have increased 400% in recent years- it is getting more and more popular.  Common destination wedding locales are usually exotic such as Mexico, Hawaii (where Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green recently got married), Las Vegas, Italy, and the Caribbean to name a few.  Destination weddings are usually thought to be cheaper (the average cost for a destination wedding is $17,000 for 100 people whereas a traditional wedding costs $25,000 for the same amount of people) and here’s why:

  • You can amalgamate your wedding and honeymoon together (just stay a few extra days! Two birds with one stone)
  • You usually just pay for yourselves as the bride and groom
  • Your guests pay for their own package (flight and hotel) to get there
  • There usually aren’t as many guests (average is around 50 guests) because most people (e.g. colleagues, acquaintances) won’t usually spend $1000+ to see you for a wedding.  Those who really love you will travel for you- you can weed out the people who would just come because they feel guilty if they don’t attend the local wedding
  • You don’t need as elaborate (read: expensive venue and decorations) reception because the location (beaches!!) speaks for itself

The costs you would need to consider for a destination wedding are:

  • Your wedding dress and suits
  • Passports if you don’t have them already; and Visas, if the destination requires it
  • Wedding Insurance (if you want) in the event of extreme weather issues or other unpredictable events (hurricanes! tropical storms! yuck!)
  • Bridesmaid and groomsmen outfits
  • Your flight and hotel package (depending on where you go, this can be cheap or expensive)
  • The reception (should be much cheaper because there are fewer guests)- you can probably strike a deal with the resort to include this in a package
  • Photographer and his or her transport costs
  • Destination Wedding Planner if you are using one to make sure you pick a good location and help you coordinate the shindig (unless it’s a hotel chain you are familiar with from Hawaii, if you pick any ol’ resort in Mexico judging from the pictures online only, you might be sorely disappointed when you arrive for your wedding)
  • Flowers- should be less costly than a traditional wedding, you probably won’t need as much- people won’t be looking at flowers when they have the majestic turquoise blue ocean in the background- trust me.

Although this list seems a bit extensive, the actual costs aren’t that much.  Usually places have packages for the bride and groom, but make sure that the hotel will give your wedding party and guests a package deal as well.  This is where negotiating comes into play.  The costs will be more for your guests, but less for you.  The average number of guests that attend a destination wedding is around 50.  This would mean it could cost well under $10,000 for a destination wedding.

Here are some good websites to help you with your destination wedding planning:

If you’re planning to have your honeymoon with your destination wedding, it might be a good idea to move to a different resort after the wedding if you want some privacy.  Most couples expect their guests to stay for a few days, but guests often turn it into a vacation and you’ll end up bumping into them often, which might not give you the feeling of honeymoon bliss.  The downside is that you won’t get gifts or cash for your wedding (nor should you be expecting any) because the cost of getting to that exotic place just for you two is already expensive enough for the guests.  A good tip to save money for both guests and you is to book your wedding during the mid-week.  You will be able to save on flight costs, hotels, photography, site fees, music etc.

Traditional At Home Wedding:

The costs associated with a Traditonal At Home Wedding are as follows:

  • Your wedding dress and suits
  • Bridesmaid and groomsmen outfits
  • The reception (this can be quite pricey depending on what’s served- can be $75 to $100 a head; or if you do open bar)
  • The venue (this can be more expensive, especially if you live in the city, and you might need to plan well in advance- some venues are booked two years in advance here in Vancouver!)
  • Decorations at the reception and venue
  • Photography
  • Flowers
  • Limo rental (if you’re not using a friend or family’s fancy car)
  • Wedding Favors

A traditional wedding can cost around $25,000 but the flipside is that you do receive gifts.  If you ask for money to be given instead of gifts, that can really help offset the cost of your wedding.  The wedding that I just attended this summer initially cost $20,000 for a wedding with 180 guests but after they tallied the gifts from friends and families (they requested money instead of gifts because they have all the toasters and glassware they need as they were living common law) they came out even!  So the wedding actually cost nothing.

The other good thing about traditional weddings is that more people can come to your wedding.  If you would like to have a chance to celebrate your union with your colleagues, your boss, your friends, your extended family, a traditional wedding at home can be a great chance for everyone to get together and have fun (especially if there is an open bar lol).

There’s a great article on detailing 8 Ways to Reduce the Average Cost of a Wedding.

Punch Debt In the Face (a really funny frugality blog) had his fiance guest post on ways she and Punch Debt saved money with their traditional wedding- her ideas were great!

So in conclusion, a destination wedding is usually cheaper because there are a fewer number of guests. On the other hand, there could be a possibility that the traditional at home wedding is cheaper if you opt for monetary gifts (as un-traditional as this may sound). In the end, it is up to you and your husband or bride-to-be to decide where you want to spend your money.

Related: 10 Financial Tips For Newlyweds

On a side note, I can’t believe it’s “wedding age” already! In my early twenties, I used to watch TLC’s A Wedding Story all the time and analyze and tear over the wedding details.. and now that it is possibly coming up for me in the near future, I’m not sure I want all the hoopla associated with a wedding…I certainly don’t want to spend $25,000 on a wedding, that’s for sure.  That’s enough for a car, or a downpayment (though not in Vancouver)!  Though the idea of asking for monetary gifts instead is quite appealing.  That could hedge you against the possibility if you live in British Columbia like me, a 40% possibility might I add, that the marriage ends in divorce before the age of thirty.

Readers who are engaged or married or even the single folks who read “Bride to Be” magazine every month… which would you prefer to do? Destination Wedding or Traditional Wedding?  Married folks, how much did your wedding cost, and were you within budget?  Please share!

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