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According to a new survey conducted by Digital Third Coast, couples who opt to have a destination wedding are generally happier than those who get married closer to home. But that doesn’t mean the wedding guests are always happier to attend a wedding that’s farther away, due mainly to the astronomical costs involved. But if you have your heart set on having (or going to) a destination wedding, there are some ways to make it more affordable.
Approximately 88% of Americans marry at least once during their lifetimes — and they pay a pretty penny for the privilege. The Knot found that the average cost of an American wedding in 2017 totaled $33,391, but costs can be even higher for those who marry more than 200 miles away from home. In 2017, about 25% of weddings were considered destination weddings. And although international destination weddings have been declining over the past few years, U.S.-based destination weddings are actually on the rise. According to The Knot, around 60% of all destination weddings last year were domestic, which represents about a 5% increase from 2013. And according to one recent survey, couples who opted for destination weddings had fewer regrets about their weddings and were better able to enjoy their big day, compared to those who married close to home.
That said, there are downsides to embracing the destination wedding option. The words for “money” and “silver” may be the same in at least 14 different languages — but no matter which country you’ve chosen for your destination wedding, you’ll end up paying a lot. And it’s not just the happy couple and their families who have to face this financial hardship: your guests will have a big bill to take care of, too.
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A destination wedding in the U.S. costs the typical guest approximately $1,421 on average, a figure that includes gifts, clothing, personal items, and — of course — travel. Members of the wedding party have it even worse, paying more than $1,500 to be part of a couple’s special day. And if you’re traveling outside of the country, you should start saving now: international destination weddings cost guests an average of $2,514. In 2016, commercial airlines generated a global revenue of $501 billion; depending on the destination and time of year, the cost of airfare alone could convince some guests that attending your nuptials simply isn’t financially feasible.
In fact, more than half of those invited to a destination wedding actually decide not to go, according to a survey by CompareCards.com. Approximately 55% said having a wedding far from home is inconsiderate to guests, while 70% correctly identified that attending would be more expensive than were they to go to a wedding closer to home. Around 41% complained attending would require them to take time off from work and 34% simply said that attending would require too much time in general. Considering that going to a destination wedding typically means taking time away from work and home responsibilities for five days on average, it’s no wonder that many people say they can’t afford to attend.
For those who do decide to attend, their choice could wreak havoc on their finances. Many guests end up spending more than they should, with 34% reporting their decision to go to a destination wedding resulted in a credit card balance that took 15 months on average to pay off. A separate Credit Karma study found that attending a wedding — domestic or destination — is a huge economic decision for millennials in particular, 20% of whom have said they’ve spent more than $1,000 attending someone else’s wedding. Around 30% cited FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when they’ve had to miss one; in some cases, their FOMO has actually motivated them to spend money they don’t have just so they can attend.
But if you’ve already decided on getting married far away, there are a few points to consider. The destination itself could make a big difference in terms of who can attend. While the Caribbean and Hawaii remain popular places to get hitched, some couples might want to consider saying their vows somewhere a bit more affordable in terms of travel costs. Even getting married during a slow season or in the middle of the week could make a huge difference for guests. If you’re able to offer transportation from the airport or reduced rates on hotel rooms to guest, they might be more likely to RSVP in the affirmative. Keeping the guest list small can also ensure that you’ll save money and you’ll invite only those who are the most important to you. You could always have a separate celebration for local friends after the fact, if you want your wedding guests to be comprised of just family.
Keep in mind that any wedding will have its share of declined invites, but destination weddings simply may not be doable for many guests. For those who cannot afford to attend, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a note regretting your absence, along with a gift. Most couples go in to a destination wedding knowing that it’s an expense not every guest can take on — so don’t feel pressured to go into debt just to see your friends say “I do.”