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Alrighty, let's start with a rundown of some of the most common costs associated with destination weddings and how they can surprise you.
Obviously, you'll need to factor in the cost of travel for you and your guests. This can include airfare, ground transportation, and even things like passports and visas if your wedding is taking place in a foreign country. This can go from as low as £250 return ticket per person within Europe, but can easily climb to the thousand if you are looking at more exotic places like the Bahamas. For example I am photographing a wedding in Nassau in March 2023, and the return flight on its own is £1350 per head. This can be super daunting for your guests to try and find the right flight at the right price.
This is absolutely top priority if you are planning a wedding with more than 20 guests. You'll need to arrange accommodations for you and your guests well in advance, which can range from booking hotel rooms to renting villas or apartments. Unfortunately most wedding villas will only accommodate the immediate family with numbers up to 30 people max (but usually more around 20), so you have to make sure that your other guests also have some accommodations available in the nearby city/town you are getting married at. You might think it is all fine they can all sort their stuff, but the reality is that accommodations are in high demand around popular destination wedding location and they can quickly become available or the pricing going over the roof.
The cost of the actual wedding venue will vary depending on the location and type of venue you choose, but in general, a seaside symbolic ceremony will likely be cheaper in every country than renting out a castle for the day with sea view. Also getting married in a church can also quickly ramp up the cost as you not only need to pay the ceremony cost, but often you need to pay for extra permit when you do a religious legal service abroad. It is also important to understand when it comes to destination wedding venues, we are not talking about any food or drinks in the venue expenses, just simply the cost of hiring the venue itself with wedding coordinator provided. Venues also present themselves in the best possible light, but just like Rightmove listings can be misleading, so does venues when it comes to value for the money.
Food and drink are always an important part of any wedding, but fair warning, with a destination wedding you may have to pay more for catering than you would at home. This is especially true if you're having a wedding in a remote location away from the main cities or if you have guests with special dietary needs. You might think a £6 beer is expensive in Surrey, but it is not unreal that it can cost your guests 12EUR or more for a cool drink at an exotic location. But will the all-inclusive options sort your problem? Those all-inclusive catering options are not always as good as they seem and you have to be careful before jumping on booking them. I had couples finding out last minute that only prosecco was included for drinks, and all-inclusive was actually limited at 5 drinks per guest. The worst one was when a couple only found out on the day that the all-inclusive drinks ONLY apply to guests who are staying at the venue provided resort.
This is a super tricky one. Your first instinct will say that the venue will have all these suppliers, but other than caterers, just because they are regular at your chosen destination, it doesn't mean they are the best suppliers available. My couples often find that venue recommended suppliers speaks broken English, respond very slowly for questions, and they can be difficult when it comes to cancellations and refunds. Okay so you are now thinking that hiring a planner would make these things simple right? Well, yes and no. Hiring a planner will cost £3-5K easily so you might actually spend more money on the first place, and even then their recommended supplier list does not fit with the style you dreamed of for your day. That said, we still recommend booking some suppliers with your planner or through your venue, but not the creative license ones like photographers or videographers.
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When you are planning your wedding, there are a lot of things to think about. What kind of dress will you wear? Who will be in your bridal party? What kind of cake will you have? But if you are thinking about having a destination wedding, there are some new questions to ask. What is the cost? What is included in that cost? And what will you actually get for your money?
My recommendation:Book a travel agent who can get group discounts for when most of your guests are flying together. There will always be the odd apple who has xyz requirements but dont worry too much, anyone proving difficult can still go an organise their own journey.
My recommendation:Research your local accommodation and check availability before booking your venue. This is certainly a pain tasks to do but it is super easy to run into another wedding that books all local hotel rooms or even just a corporate part or conference happening at your destination wedding location. So step 1 is to check the hotels, step 2 book the venue, step 3 book the hotels for your guest with free cancellations and no deposit options through bookings.com or similar sites so you have at least an option to offer them with a guaranteed room.
My recommendation:Check reviews on tripadvisor.com for venues as guests always upload their own pictures as part of their comments. The reality is that everything that both your wedding planner/coordinator and the venue will show you is going to be perfect, pictures straight out of a brochure and wedding styled shots, but it is also super important to actually check TripAdvisor reviews from actual guests from previously attending weddings in your venue. I always find it amazing how different bedroom sizes or the state of the property can be in these reviews compared to the official pictures. Also interesting fact that more often or not negative reviews are not for the quality of food for example, but for the quality of service and how the venue and their suppliers handled problems during the visit.
My recommendation:Combine Venue and Caterer booking if possible and ALWAYS go for all-inclusive option but you have to carefully check those small prints. Ask how many drinks your guests can have, how long the bar is serving, what if you have extra guests, what drinks included in all-inclusive, is unlimited including bottled water too (this sounds like a trivia but I have done weddings where alcohol was free, but the water did cost 5EUR per bottle after the "complimentary" bottle per person in 40C DEGREES).
My recommendation:Trust your planner when it comes to decor, make-up artist, florist, DJ or band recommendations, but ALWAYS do your own research when it comes wedding photographers and videographer. Destination wedding planners often incentivise their photographer or videographer recommendations and they are almost always the trendy "light and airy" style which is just boring and you will have absolutely no unique images. It doesn't mean they are not good suppliers, but I strongly recommend to do your own search in google and Instagram. Terms like "Spain wedding photographer", or wedding photography + location like "wedding photographer Marbella" are good starting points as they are targeted pages for English brides getting married abroad. Also remember you don't need to choose photographers who have been to your venue, you just need someone who knows what they are doing and have done similar venues. At last make sure your suppliers who you decide to fly out are experienced travellers. Last thing you need is another problem to sort out because their luggage cannot go on the plane.
Most importantly please get a deposit return or cancellation guarantee with anyone you will book. Now this does not have to be in the contract as long as it is in writing from the venue and suppliers. Obviously we know about the COVID risks, but even just bad weather can force you to fly a day later for example which can put things like pre-wedding parties at risk. At the very least all your suppliers should offer you free postponements up to 3 months prior to the wedding and also best practice is to pay the final fee almost the very last minute to avoid dodgy suppliers. I appreciate this is not always possible but having for example a return policy in writing that states you will get your money back (minus deposit) policy or free date move due to problems out of your controls, should be bottom line for suppliers.I think we can agree that planning a destination wedding can be daunting, but with the right advice and planning, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.I hope that my tips have given you some food for thought and that you are well on your way to planning the perfect destination wedding. If you have any questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and if you have some time left why not check out our other articles below?