Why elopements and destination weddings cost less

Unpack the real costs of destination weddings and elopement packages.

Maybe you’ve dreamed of reciting your vows in a breathtaking, no-filter-necessary location. It turns out, hosting a destination wedding1 or eloping2 in a gorgeous locale can be surprisingly affordable. The total cost is usually less than what you’d pay for a traditional wedding.3 And it seems many couples are taking advantage, with around 350,000 each year1 taking the leap in a destination wedding.

Whether you want to say “I do” on the cliff of a Greek island or atop a snowy mountain in Vermont, funding a wedding in a unique place can be cheaper than you’d expect.

Want to travel for your special day? Understanding destination wedding costs or the true prices of wedding elopement packages can help you decide.

Destination weddings can be affordable—and cheaper

According to The Knot’s 2016 Real Wedding Survey, the national average cost for a typical wedding is $35,000, while the cost of a destination wedding is approximately $28,000.1 That means having your wedding in a dream location may actually save you money.

Decoding your destination wedding costs

Wondering how those destination wedding dollars stack up? That $28,000 includes the price of the event, plus airfare and accommodations for the couple (though not for the guests).1

One reason destination wedding expenses are more manageable is because your guest list is likely to be smaller. Often only the couple’s nearest and dearest attend. Because so few guests will be coming, some couples decide to put part of their wedding fund toward their guests’ airfare and accommodations. In fact, in 2016, 40% of couples contributed toward their guests’ expenses.1 Most who did so invited no more than 10 people.

Do we need to cover the costs for our guests?

To be kind to your wallet, it may be helpful to keep a close eye on your budget before offering: Even though the guest list is much smaller, you wind up paying more per guest than you would for the usual wedding in a reception hall.

For a destination wedding, the average cost per guest is more than $2,000. At a traditional wedding, it’s approximately $250.3 So what’s the bottom line when you’re inviting fewer guests but paying more per guest? Paying for 10 guests (a typical number for destination weddings) at $2,000 each comes to $20,000. On the other hand, 141 guests (the average number of guests for U.S. weddings in 20163) at $245 per plate brings the grand total near $35,000. Plus, other expenses such as favors, music and cake aren’t even included in that per-plate amount.

As you’re doing the math, keep in mind that while you can consider covering the costs for your guests, you aren’t obligated to. It’s typical for guests to pay for their own travel and hotel stay. Consider this: To attend your wedding, guests get a vacation. They usually understand that they will have to pay more than they would to attend a wedding in your hometown. Wedding planners suggest that couples be clear and transparent about costs upfront. To avoid any confusion, you may want to consider including information on your invitation or wedding website about how guests can get the best travel rates.

Destination weddings can also end up being a budget-friendly option because they can double as the honeymoon. The average honeymoon often adds more than $3,000 to the wedding expenses, so this option can help you save money.

Host a party for two: Use an elopements package to cut costs

When many people think of eloping, they think of a simple ceremony at City Hall. However, the newest spin on the tradition is an “elopement package.” Instead of having your family and friends join in the fun, just the couple sets off on the adventure. It’s like a traditional honeymoon, with a wedding ceremony to kick it off!

So, how much does it cost to elope? It depends. Some couples keep their elopement ceremony simple, while others go all out (think a tiered wedding cake, 3-hour photo shoot and fancy attire). What you choose is up to you. The cost of eloping varies, but it tends to be less expensive. Think of it this way: A celebration for 2 will likely cost less than a party for 200.

Save for the celebration

Even though costs for both destination weddings and elopement packages are small in comparison to the cost of an average wedding, you’ll still likely want to have a plan.

Set a savings goal: Putting money aside each month in an online savings account can help prevent you from accidentally spending the money that you’re saving for your wedding or elopement. Some accounts have tools that can help you figure out how long you’ll need to save for and will even automate the process by transferring a certain amount from your checking account each month.

Take advantage of travel rewards: Is a destination wedding, elopement package or a traditional honeymoon in your future? Consider opening up a credit card that helps you earn travel rewards or miles that you can put toward your trip. Just be careful about paying off your balance each month so you don’t have to pay high fees.

Get a group rate: For destination weddings, many airlines will give a group discount if 10 or more people are traveling together.4 Hotels will often give special prices if you secure a block of rooms in advance. Coordinating these details can help you and your guests cut costs.

Throw a party afterward: Since these types of travel destination weddings either have a small (or no) guest list, some couples have a party afterward to celebrate with friends and family. If you decide to have a party, a low-key, informal affair (like a backyard barbecue or brunch) can help keep costs down.

No matter where you tie the knot, with a reasonable destination wedding or wedding elopement package, you may have the means for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

  1. What is the average destination wedding cost? (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from: https://www.theknot.com/content/average-destination-wedding-cost

  2. Foster, B. L. (2017, July 12). Want a fabulous wedding? Consider eloping. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/fashion/weddings/fabulous-wedding-eloping.html?_r=0

  3. Source: US WEDDINGS. (2017, May 15). Retrieved June 19, 2017, from: http://xogroupinc.com/press-releases/theknot2016realweddings_costofweddingsus

  4. B. (2016, October 24). How to help your wedding guests save money on travel costs. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from: http://www.brides.com/story/wedding-guest-travel-cost-saving-tips

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