When you imagine your perfect wedding ceremony, do you picture white sand, calm ocean waters, and maybe a beautiful sunset? Many couples mistakenly believe destination weddings are reserved for celebrities or the very wealthy, but the truth is that weddings abroad are notoriously cheaper than a traditional ceremonies. A study by Brides Magazine showed that around 15 percent of their readership had a destination wedding, and low costs were the number one reason why. The reason for the savings? Travel and wedding packages offered to couples, usually by all-inclusive island resorts where you and your guests can enjoy free food and affordable options for getting married on the beach or another suitable venue. If you’ve never thought about the idea of an island wedding before, you might be wondering how exactly they get planned. What’s the right etiquette? What are the real costs? It’s easy to get a picture of what these weddings actually look like when you break it down.
1. Guests: Who attends and what do they pay for?
The first thing you should know about an island wedding is that it’s small. No matter how appealing the golden Jamaican sands or magic Maldives shores are to most people, not everyone will be able to afford the airfare, or they won’t be free on the weekend you choose to take a trip to another country. That’s why destination weddings are reserved for family and close friends – those people who wouldn’t miss it for the world. Even then, you need to send out your invitations at least six months in advance so they have plenty of time to make arrangements. The more details you can provide them, including itinerary and prices, the more likely your friends are to be able to attend. You should research group discounts before you send out invitations, if at all possible. If you can get discounted airfare or resort rooms for your guests, it will be a great gesture. According to the New York Times, the average cost of attending a destination wedding is $1,500, so most couples do not ask for wedding gifts. Of course, your guests will probably want to get you something anyway.
2. Religion, Culture, and Law
It’s become very popular for couples who plan an island wedding in a foreign locale to get married in a civil ceremony beforehand, simply because the rules and requirements to get married legally can be complicated and difficult. If your wedding is in Hawaii, this isn’t a big concern, but otherwise it’s important to look into the nation’s laws. It’s also a good idea to have a ceremony at home if you have specific religious requirements and you’re going to a country that may be predominantly made up of another religion. You might have a hard time finding a rabbi or a Catholic priest in Fiji or the Bahamas. Typically, destination weddings try to incorporate the local culture as much as possible. Decorations, food, flowers, and wedding favors can and should reflect the location of the wedding. You’ll show the resort workers involved in your special day how much you value and respect their country, and you’ll give your guests a great experience.
3. Honeymooning and Vacationing
Island weddings usually last three days. During this time, you or your family members might be involved in activities for your guests like a welcome dinner, rehearsal, and Sunday brunch. They should have extra time to explore the island on their own and stay at the resort as long as they want to. Remember to specify in your invitations what to bring. Most idyllic island destinations have moderate temperatures all year long, but you’ll need to consider humidity and the chance of rain when choosing the wedding attire for your bride and groom’s parties, and you’ll want to let your guests know how casual the ceremony will be. If there are other activities on the island that you or your guests want to partake in like diving, sailing, and hiking, they’ll need the right clothes and shoes, and it’s a good idea to even give them an idea of the costs. Some of these activities you might wish to partake in after guests have gone home. Resorts usually offer couples a discounted honeymoon package with tons of amenities, so sticking around the same location can be a smart idea. After all, you probably didn’t get to see much of it when you were busy organizing the wedding.
Destination weddings can seem a little intimidating at first, which is why it’s always okay to ask for help. A wedding planner or coordinator can tackle some of the big issues with you, and your friends or even your parents can get involved in securing a possible guest list. Island weddings are great if you have friends and family scattered across many different cities. You might be surprised how eager they are to take a vacation and how your wedding can be the perfect reason for families to reunite in paradise.
Author Karen Boyarsky is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @Boyarsky_kareni.