Wedding couple on beach

The Real Cost of Destination Weddings & How to Finance Them

If you’re already planning a destination wedding, or just starting to daydream about tying the knot under the stars on a beach in Bali, you’re not alone. Destination weddings are on the rise as couples look to make their big day an unforgettable experience, not only for each other but for family and guests. In fact, more couples than ever are choosing unique weddings over traditional black tie affairs, and a whopping 25% of couples chose destination weddings last year.

Destination weddings, which are technically any wedding held more than 100 miles or so from your home, are increasing in popularity for a few reasons. On one hand, more and more families are spread out, which means that you might pick a wedding venue that is an equidistant trip for most guests out of convenience.

On the other hand, many couples see destinations weddings as a chance to create the ultimate wedding experience for them and their guests, whether that means coming from California for a blow-out wedding at the New York Public Library, or meeting your friends for a weekend on the Riviera Maya for an oceanside ceremony.

One surprising benefit of destination weddings? The cost. According to The Knot’s annual Real Weddings survey, couples spend an average of $33,391 on their weddings , not including the honeymoon. The average cost of a destination wedding? According to Destination Weddings Travel Group, their clients pay an average of $7,622 for far-flung celebrations—total.

One reason destination weddings tend to be cheaper is that they tend to have fewer guests. Another reason is that many resorts are happy to provide low-cost wedding packages to couples who plan to spend significant amounts of time (and cash!) at the resort.

The dual benefits of cost-savings and amazing experiences offered by destination weddings can be a win-win for couples. But, there are still important considerations before deciding where to have your big day. This includes the cost of your chosen locale, who pays for a destination wedding, and how to make sure that the wedding is as stress-free as possible.

Top-Dollar Destination Wedding Locations

Some of the biggest and most famous destination wedding locations can set you back a pretty penny. These top-of-the-line wedding destinations are among the most expensive and guarantee luxury service for your special day.

New York, New York

If you’re not from the Big Apple, you might dream of having your wedding among the bustling streets and undeniable metropolitan charm of Manhattan. The cost for a New York wedding is steep, however, with the average Manhattan-based wedding costing $76,944 .

Dreaming of a destination among the shelves of books at the New York Public Library? Renting the space for a wedding will set you back $60,000 , and that doesn’t include any of the other costs of the wedding ceremony. One bright side? Weddings at the library fund library programs for the community.

Paris, France

Paris is often celebrated as the most romantic city on earth, so a destination wedding in the City of Lights will cost you. At the Four Seasons Hotel George V , you can indulge in the ultimate luxury for your dream wedding getaway.

Enjoy a champagne open bar, a gourmet dinner from a Michelin-starred chef, and a Parisian wedding cake for $462 per person . Some aspects of these luxury weddings are only available for parties of more than 100 people, which means that you may be shelling out far more than $46,000 to make your Parisian wedding dreams come true.

Hamilton Island, Australia

Looking to relax on white sand beaches surrounded by the unique natural beauty of Australia before jaunting off on an outback honeymoon? A wedding on the private Hamilton Island can easily set you back more than $30,000 once you account for the venue, reception, food, and accommodation costs. In return, you get the opportunity to celebrate your big day with up to 200 of your closest friends in ultimate beach luxury, enjoying the legendary Australian waves and sun.

Budget-Friendly Destination Wedding Locations

Not all destination wedding locations require shelling out big bucks, and many are often more affordable than hosting a large local wedding. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, there are plenty of beautiful wedding venues around the world where you can celebrate in style for a great price.

Cozumel, Mexico

For less than $7,000 , you and 30 guests can party the night away with an all-inclusive wedding package at the Presidente Intercontinental resort of Cozumel. Enjoy crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, and even a classical guitar player while you say “I Do.” Then dance the night away with the help of a DJ and open bar before watching the sun rise over the water.

Lahaina, Hawaii

Hawaii more your style? The notoriously expensive islands are surprisingly budget-friendly when it comes to weddings. For example, a wedding with up to 50 guests at a luxury hotel in Lahaina only costs $5,500 , and includes leis, a musician, and a wedding cake. Even when you factor in the cost of hotel rooms and airfare, the relatively inexpensive wedding ceremony makes Hawaii a great budget option.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, look no further than beautiful Belize. This Central American country has gorgeous beaches, amazing jungles, and price-perfect wedding venues. Small, beachside wedding ceremonies in this resort town can be as little as $1,500 , which will leave you plenty of spending money for your honeymoon.

Who Pays for a Destination Wedding?

Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for the wedding venue and many of the ceremony costs. That generally rings true today as well, with the bride’s family contributing an average of 45% of the total wedding cost and the groom’s parents contributing only 13% .

While that may work for some couples, times have changed and modern weddings also reflect the modern changes in how we manage our finances. Many couples are choosing to foot the bill for the wedding themselves , whether because their families are financially unable to contribute, or because they don’t want to be beholden to anyone else’s expectations on their special day.

Many couples also combine tradition with modernity by taking a blended approach and accepting help from family on both sides for certain aspects of the wedding, but covering the rest of the costs themselves.

This approach allows families to contribute and feel involved without having to take on a significant expense. Whether picking up part of the bill, or paying for the whole wedding, some couples who want a destination wedding take out a personal loan to help cover the remaining cost of their big day.

In general, guests are expected to pay for the cost of any plane tickets and hotel accommodations for destination weddings. Many couples can book bulk blocks of rooms at a resort in order to help cut the cost of hotel stays.

While destination weddings may be cheaper for couples, they can often be more expensive for guests. Some couples choose to pay for or secure discounts for hotel rooms, meals, or other benefits for guests to help minimize the cost of attendance.

Using Personal Loans for Weddings

Many couples choose to take out a wedding loan to cover part of their nuptial expenses. If you have budgeted for your wedding, but don’t have the cash up front to fund the entire thing, a personal loan can help you bridge the gap and help pay for the celebration over time. Taking out a personal loan for a destination wedding can be especially helpful as many foreign vendors may require payments in cash.

Like all personal loans, a loan for your wedding is an unsecured installment loan that you borrow from a lender and pay back over a specific period of time. Taking out a loan for your wedding can help you meet upfront costs, but it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a firm budget and financial planning. Instead, a personal loan for weddings can be a smart way to stay on budget while minimizing the financial stress of wedding planning.

Ready to start packing? Learn more about how SoFi Personal Loans may be able to help fund your dream destination wedding.

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