Ways to Save a Buck With Destination Weddings

Ah yes, a destination wedding. Who hasn’t seen those beautiful pictures? White-sand beaches, lush coconut trees leaning over emerald waters, the silhouette of the beautiful bride and groom kissing against a gorgeous sunset…you can literally breathe in the love in the air.

Until this week, as a guy who’s never been married, I always thought destination weddings were really expensive. First of all, everyone has to fly to the destination and the newlyweds are probably flipping the bill. Having heard countless complaints about how expensive wedding venues are here in California I can’t even imagine how much more it is at a resort on an island. Then there is the reception, the flowers, the rehearsals…all seems to cost a bundle.

All this changed when I got invited to a destination wedding at a beautiful resort in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic. I realized my understanding of this topic was almost entirely wrong. (For related reading, see: Have a Charming (and Cheap) Wedding.)

How Destination Weddings Can Save You Money

  1. Paying for your guests’ travel is optional: Many of us plan to travel to the tropics sometimes in the future—Mexico, Belize, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, etc. If you plan far enough ahead of time, people will just treat your wedding as their vacation and they will pay for their own travel arrangements, saving you a bundle.
  2. Deals of the season: The Caribbean, South America and many parts of Mexico are vacation destinations for “snow birds.” U.S. and Canadian vacationers who crowd the beaches during winter season are nowhere to be seen during late spring and summer months. When we were there, the beaches and restaurants were nearly empty. Competition among the resorts meant prices were very reasonable. Some of the wedding guests booked their all-inclusive stay for two for about $1600 where the regular price runs about $4200 for the week.   (For related reading, see: Shoulder Season: Your Ticket to the Perfect Vacation.)
  3. Location matters: New resorts in over-developed areas use low prices to attract newlyweds. When they have vacancies you’ll get a deal. Do some research and talk to a travel agent. She’ll know where to go.
  4. Leverage your party: At our resort, a minimum three-night stay will get you a basic wedding package, including a gazebo on the beach, some simple flower arrangements, champagne for everyone, an audio guy who rolls out the speakers and plays anything from your iPod and a full support staff for free. From there you can add fancier options such as a poolside private dinner, excursions, party boats, DJs and photographers. Now remember, you are bringing a party of guests to stay at the resort and that means good business. I bet if you just ask you’ll get more stuff for free.
  5. You don’t have to pay for everyone: The other great thing about being in an all-inclusive resort is that you’ll never have to pay for the food and drinks for your guests. We ran into another wedding party from LA and the young couple told us they had 11 guests. Instead of paying for a reception they simply made a reservation at one of the nicer restaurants, ate for free and had a great time!
  6. Bring American dollars and research currency exchanges: All the resorts will exchange for you but the rates are very different. Call them and your local bank ahead to see who gives you a better rate. Airports are the worst deals. Tipping your service staff and shopping with American dollars will get you very good service and much better deals overall.
  7. Vote with your dollars: The Dominican Republic seems to be a country that has brought the economic benefits of tourism to her people. We saw tax dollars supporting a new airport terminal being built, new four-lane interstates, hospitals, apartment buildings, schools and countless other basic infrastructure projects. Compared to neighboring Haiti, which continues to be marred by natural and governmental disasters, I genuinely believe in the Dominican Republic’s effort to improve their economy. For all you social activists out there, this can be a great option.