Wondering about the breakdown of destination wedding expenses? I’ve got you covered.

Destination wedding expenses typically fall into two main categories: the wedding, and the travel. Let’s break down each of these categories to better understand how to budget for your destination wedding!

Destination Wedding Expenses: The Wedding Itself

First things first, you’re traveling to a beautiful destination to get married, and we all know that weddings can be some of the biggest expenses we take on… ever! (This of course, is dependent on your preferences, style, and choices. You’re not required to have an expensive wedding, and destination weddings can sometimes even help you save money!) Since this is such a big deal, I’m excited to share those things that factor into your destination wedding expenses!

Once you choose a location for your wedding (Grab my free guide to help with this decision if you didn’t download that yet!), and then choose an all-inclusive resort where you and your guests will stay, and possibly also where you’ll host your wedding, then the wedding decisions and expenses will start rolling in.

destination wedding expenses depend on where you have your ceremony

First, you’ll decide if you want to have your wedding ceremony on-site at the resort, or if you want to have an off-site wedding. Most of my couples opt for on-site weddings, just for ease, simplicity, and cost. The rest of these steps are all assuming you’ll do the same, but I’m absolutely happy to help you with an off-site wedding, as well!

Next, assuming you’re having your wedding on-site at the resort, you’ll probably choose one of their wedding packages, and depending on the resort, that package may include any number of the vendors or services that you need for the wedding, such as: decor, florals, food, bartenders, cake, photographer / videographer, DJ, MC, Officiant, entertainment, etc. It also might include a certain venue or venues to choose from for your events. (most resorts have multiple wedding venues, so your package may or may not cover  ALL of them). 

Finally, that package will likely cover up to a certain number of wedding guests. This part is a HUGE factor in your budget, so it deserves its own section, trust me. 

destination wedding expenses are usually based on the number of guests that you have attend your wedding in paradise!

Destination Wedding Guests

As I said, most resorts’ wedding packages will include “up to __ wedding guests” – though that number should not dictate how many guests you invite or bring to your wedding!

You can always add more guests to your wedding package for a per-person fee… assuming that your chosen venue has the physical capacity to hold that number of people. Don’t get too caught up in the guest count numbers at this stage, for a few reasons:

  • You can almost always add more people to the wedding package you choose, the resort just has to start with some number
  • You won’t have a final guest count for a pretty long time.. Like.. not until a couple of months before your wedding. Guessing is never accurate, so don’t waste your time and energy. 
  • The resort won’t ask for your final numbers until a few months prior to your wedding, because they know that numbers change all the time. 
  • Most resorts will even let you swap wedding packages closer to when your final details are due, if necessary based on your guest count. 

As long as you have a GENERAL idea of what your guest count will be (40-50 is a lot different than 80-90, for instance), you’ll be good to go.

Reserving Your Destination Wedding Date

To lock in your wedding date, you’ll probably pay a deposit on your chosen wedding package and lock in your date and time. If your chosen venue incurs an additional deposit, that will probably be due at this point as well.

Again, some wedding packages include the venue cost, while others only include certain venues on property. For any other wedding venue on property, typically those trending, uber-popular, luxury, or in-demand wedding venues, sometimes you’ll have to pay an additional fee, often up-front when you’re reserving your date. (Though this depends entirely on which resort you choose)

This is a great example: at Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres, there are several wedding venues that are included in the cost of your wedding. But, if you want this stunner – the Sky Terrace – you’ll have to pay an additional fee. (and you’d better hurry, because this baby sells out SUPER far in advance!)

One of the extra and optional destination wedding expenses is a premium wedding venue

Deviating From the Package & Customizing Your Destination Wedding

Later on, you’ll get to decide if you wish to deviate from any of those inclusions in your wedding package, swap anything out, drop anything that you don’t want or need, etc. 

  • Want different food than the included menu? 
  • Want to have a band instead of a DJ? 
  • Have more guests attending than the package covers? 
  • Want to upgrade your florals or decor to match your exact wedding vision?
  • Want to privatize an area of the resort that isn’t typically private? 
  • Looking for a unique entertainment package or experience for you and your guests? ** (fire dancers, water drummers, cigar rollers, churro stand guy, fireworks show, etc?)

I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture.. Each of these ‘deviations’ from, or additions to your wedding package will likely incur their own fees. 

Some resorts offer a la carte wedding planning ‘packages’ or menus to make this process a little bit simpler. Honestly, those are my favorite type of all-inclusive destination wedding packages because they’re 100% customizable, without having to ask permission to ‘swap out’ any amenities or inclusions listed in the original package. I really hope that more resorts will follow this trend and move their wedding options in this direction!

While you can absolutely stick 100% to a provided wedding package for ease and simplicity, I strongly encourage most all of my couples to make at least a few tweaks to the existing packages, so that the wedding is truly, uniquely theirs. You’re probably planning a destination wedding for a memorable experience, so you might as well own it! 

If this is starting to stress you out a little bit, and you’re worried about choosing and paying for a location, a resort, a wedding package, and THEN all your wedding details at once.. 

Breathe easy. I’ve got great news for you: you don’t have to do all of that right away! 

Destination wedding planning is quite different from traditional wedding planning, in that you get to make a lot of those decisions, as well as most payments (aside from your wedding date and venue and their accompanying deposits) much, much, much later! Many resorts only start asking you those questions within 60-90 days of your wedding!

Legal Wedding Requirements In-Destination

I won’t go too deep into this topic here, since I’ve got another post all about symbolic wedding ceremonies versus legal wedding ceremonies here. But I will say this: Legal wedding ceremonies in other countries often come with many, many rules, and often several costs. 

Typically, having a symbolic ceremony, rather than a legal ceremony will save you around $1,000 right off the bat – and that’s just for all of the expenses of the actual wedding, paperwork, blood work, translations, notaries, etc. It doesn’t even include any ‘residency’ laws that require you to be in-destination a certain number of days prior to your ceremony.. Which of course will cost money, since you’ll have to pay for your resort stay during that time.

Each country has their own set of rules and regulations regarding legal wedding ceremonies (something I talk about in my free guide: Where To Host Your Destination Wedding), so this varies widely depending on your chosen location for your destination wedding. But this is definitely an entire set of wedding expenses unto itself that you need to keep in mind if you’re considering going this route!

Those are the main expenses to expect from the wedding portion of your destination wedding costs, so now let’s talk about the second category, travel expenses for your destination wedding!

travel expenses for destination weddings are half the battle!

Destination Wedding Travel Expenses

More than likely, you love to travel! You appreciate a luxurious and relaxing vacation, and can’t wait to get married to your true love in a gorgeous destination.. After all, that’s why we’re here and even talking about this! So, let’s get down to the second category of your destination wedding costs – travel expenses.

Once I help you find your perfect resort, I (your certified destination wedding travel expert), jump into action and start negotiating a room block contract for you and your guests. Honestly, this is the linchpin of the whole event, and it’s how you guarantee that everyone who you want to attend your wedding (who wants to attend your wedding! 😉) is able to do so. 

Destination Wedding Room Block Contracts

Your room block contract is massively important to the success (and stress-less-ness) of your wedding. I’ve written other posts specifically about room blocks here, which I encourage you to read after this. But for now, here are the most important things to know about your room block contract:

First, it allows you to reserve enough rooms for all of your guests, so the resort can’t fill up before they have an opportunity to book their room for your wedding. It would be tragic if your grandma, favorite uncle, or chronic-procrastinator of a BFF wasn’t able to attend your wedding because the resort sold out before they booked their room.  With a room block contract and a travel agent who understands attrition dates and deadlines, this is no longer an issue!

Second, a room block contract locks in the rates for those reserved rooms, so your guests don’t have any surprises down the line, or changes in cost over time. Goodbye, days of being a slave to random sales, price increases, etc! 

These unchanging rates are doubly important because most couples start planning their destination weddings way in advance. And ‘prevailing rate’ prices can change a LOT between the time you mail out save the dates, and when your guests actually book their rooms. This eliminates that unnecessary unknown factor.

Finally, the room block contract will likely offer you, the wedding couple amazing perks! Sometimes these come in the form of free events (cocktail reception, semi-private group dinner, or similar), and others (that I prefer!) offer you what is essentially CASH for bringing your group to their property. It’s awesome! Again, I went into the specifics of these perks here, so check that out! 

Paying a Room Block Contract Deposit

You, the wedding couple are considered the ‘group leaders’ (travel industry speak for ‘awesome people who are responsible for bringing all these other awesome people together at our property!). As such, you’re the benefactors of those great perks, and also, you’re responsible for the room block contract.

The main part of this to know for now is that you will be responsible for paying the initial room block contract deposit for your destination wedding group. Usually the deposit is something like $100 or $150 per room that you are reserving for your group. (this depends entirely on the resort’s specific policies). 

This deposit is one of the main concerns of many destination wedding couples, so let me quell your fears:

Your deposit doesn’t go away, and your deposit doesn’t pay for your destination wedding guests’ rooms. It is simply a good faith deposit that lets the resort know ‘hey, we’re cool, we’re going to use these rooms, here’s some money to show that we’re good for it. You should totally have faith in us and let us reserve these rooms for 8-10-12+ months and NOT sell them”. Your deposit is first “applied at the group level” and then gets transferred to YOUR PERSONAL ROOM RESERVATION. 

What do I mean by all of that?  The deposit you pay goes straight toward paying for your room at the resort. You lose no money over this, except your actual travel expenses for your chosen room.

Flights are a required expense when traveling to a destination wedding!

Ground Transportation (Transfers) and Flights

Once we get that contract deposited, then your guests can start booking into those rooms you reserved for them, and I take over from there. Your lives get significantly easier and much less stressful at this point in the destination wedding planning process!

I typically include your transfers (round trip ground transportation between your wedding resort and the airport) in the cost of your room, or else allow you and your guests to book that along with your room deposits, so that’s taken care of very early on!

Then the only travel requirement left for you to pay for is your flight!

Most of my couples, and all of their guests book their own flights – often using credit card points or airline miles, and honestly, that’s the last expense you have to pay for your destination wedding. 

Vacation Extras & Experiences 

But of course, lots of people like to add some extras to their trip to make it ultra-fun and extra-special! 

All-inclusive resorts offer a darn lot of amenities, some even have on-site water parks, or offer off-site park access (hello Hoteles Xcaret, my loves! 😍), but many couples and guests choose to do even more!

You may want to have a facial or massage the day before your wedding, add a round of golf, if the resort offers golf, or has access to a nearby course. Maybe after the wedding’s all over, you want to take a romantic sunset sail on a catamaran, go on a snorkeling trip, have a tequila / rum / wine tasting experience, visit a cenote, go zip lining, or do any number of other activities. 

If so, of course, any of those will incur their own expenses.. But they’re totally optional. (and totally fun!)

bartenders are usually included in wedding package costs

Overall Destination Wedding Costs

That was a lot, I know. So let’s recap quickly what destination wedding expenses you can expect to budget and pay for to make your big day magical!

Wedding Costs – Required

  • Wedding package
  • Per-guest cost if your guest count exceeds the package

Wedding Costs – Optional

  • Wedding venue, if not included in the package
  • Deviations from the wedding package
  • Extras, such as entertainment, upgraded florals, etc
  • Any legal wedding requirements in-country, if you choose to have a legal ceremony*

Travel Costs – Required

  • (Group rate) – resort room cost
  • Transfers between airport and resort
  • Flights

Travel Costs – Optional

  • Vacation extras: massage, spa treatments
  • Excursions and activities that aren’t included in the resort’s amenities 

I hope this comprehensive list of destination wedding expenses has been helpful and allowed you to better budget and plan for your upcoming wedding!!

If this all feels a bit overwhelming (and it probably does.. Chances are, you’re not an expert in all of these fields!) and you’d like someone in your corner who knows the ins and outs of destination wedding planning, i would be honored to help plan your picture-perfect big day. Just click here to schedule a free discovery call and get started!https://tailoredtravelexperiences.com/book-a-call

Learn More or Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Today!

My free destination wedding guide: Where to Host Your Destination Wedding breaks down my top 5 locations for a destination wedding.

It includes the best things to do, who the destination is good (or not so good) for, and legal wedding requirements of each country.

Grab your free copy today!

Ready to skip to the good part and start planning your dream destination wedding?

Book a totally free consultation call today!

In our call, we’ll get to know each other, I’ll share more about my services and find out all your wedding plans and dreams, and you can ask all the burning questions you’ve been saving up!

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