No one wants to be accused of skimping out on their wedding, but sometimes cheap destination weddings are the way to go.
When my husband and I got engaged last year, I was excited to have found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I couldn’t wait to actually marry him. But was I excited about the actual wedding itself and the planning that comes with it? Honestly, not so much.
I’d never been one to fantasize about my wedding day. If you asked me three years ago to describe my dream wedding, I’d have told you “a quick civil ceremony followed by an amazing honeymoon.”
Why I Wanted a Cheap Wedding
My mom passed away when I was 11 years old, so I didn’t grow up with any dreaming and scheming about a wedding. Instead, my dad loved to boast that any and all savings went toward my and my twin sister’s private college education in New York City. There certainly wasn’t anything left for a wedding fund.
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This upbringing also turned me off of extravagant celebrations. The fact that my father put my education first (and wasn’t going to pick up my wedding tab) encouraged me to prioritize more worthwhile things, too. Traveling and eventually owning a home were at the top of my list.
I’ve always prided myself on being financially responsible and living well within my means.
I certainly had no desire to throw an expensive party costing upward of $10,000 and end up with wedding debt just because of societal pressure.
While my husband didn’t believe in going into wedding debt either, he had his own dreams and must-haves for our special day. It was important to him to get married in a Catholic church and to have all the members of his immediate family present. Being raised Catholic myself, I understood that sentiment.
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Ultimately, we decided to have the wedding in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. The fact that a good number of my family members also speak Spanish made this choice an easy one for us.
Our Destination Wedding: Why Mexico?
My husband and I live in my hometown of Houston. Other than my immediate family members — from age 11 on, it has been just my dad and sister — I’ve never lived in the same state as any of my relatives. My dad currently lives in Oregon, my sister is in Chicago, and my mom and dad’s extended families live in Peru and Arizona, respectively.
This meant that no matter where we held the wedding, absolutely everyone on my side of the family would have to travel. If the wedding was in the United States or Peru, my husband’s family members would have had to obtain visas to attend. We didn’t want someone missing our wedding because of visa problems.
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After doing some research, we also realized that flights to Mexico would cost my Peruvian family members roughly the same amount as travel to Houston would. The best part was that accommodations at a top-rated hotel in Monterrey cost significantly less. From a financial standpoint, having the wedding there made the most sense for virtually everyone involved.
Since you’ll likely be planning a destination wedding well in advance, shop around for airfare and hotels early. Doing so, and ensuring your guests do so as well, can help save a lot in travel costs.
Cheap Wedding Ideas: Limit It to Just Family
We kept our guest list at just under 100 people by inviting only our immediate and extended families. We knew they would support our decision and enjoy our celebration no matter how simple it was. Family members are also more likely to be reliable with their RSVPs and commit to attending well in advance.
Lower Expenses: When a Destination Wedding Is Cheaper
Our venue in Mexico gave us a package deal that included a three-course meal, beverages, cake, decor, photography, and a DJ. Best of all? It cost us approximately $3,500 — well below what a similar package would have cost us in most major U.S. cities.
Many all-inclusive resorts offer destination wedding packages as specials on their websites. For example, the Playa Hotels and Resorts Chain offers wedding packages throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. Alternatively, you may choose to forego the packages in favor of something off-resort, and utilize the remainder of an all-inclusive package for your guests stay.
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If you include the photographer, flowers, dress, tuxedo, accessories, and so on, we spent approximately $5,000 total on our destination wedding. This allowed us to splurge a bit on a honeymoon in Belize.
In many Latin American cultures, family members step up and offer to cover the cost of certain aspects of the wedding in lieu of traditional wedding gifts like household items. My husband’s brothers and sisters generously took care of church charges, our custom wedding rings, a decorated car to drive us to and from the venue, and traditional items for the ceremony, including the pillows we knelt on and the arras, or Mexican coins we exchanged for good luck and goodwill.
My aunt and madrina (or godmother) from Peru covered the cost of hair and makeup for me and my sister, who was my maid of honor.
Destination weddings take careful planning. We were fortunate that my husband’s family pitched in to help us find reliable and financially reasonable options. It definitely put us at ease to know we had planners we could trust to keep us well within our wedding budget.
More Cheap Wedding Ideas: Buck Tradition!
Instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner, my husband’s siblings threw an informal barbecue in a rented space, serving traditional Mexican dishes specific to Monterrey.
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The informal atmosphere allowed family members from three different countries to mingle and get to know one another. It was also the very first time I had so many relatives from both sides of my family together in one place. That made our wedding location choice priceless.