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Destination Wedding Vs Traditional Wedding | Which One is Right For You?

Wondering if a destination wedding is a good idea for you?

I’m here to help you find out. 

You’ll get the inside info about vital factors like cost, planning and that all-important guest list

I’ll give you completely honest and unbiased advice. 

So, you can clearly see whether “destination” or “traditional” is the way to go. 

And turn the day you say “I do” into the perfect romantic and unforgettable experience it should be. 

Ready to be inspired?

Let’s go…

Destination Wedding Vs. Traditional Wedding

1. What Are the Key Differences?

Is this what you imagine a wedding to look like?

Destination Wedding

It’s certainly the view at many traditional weddings. 

There’s a church or civil ceremony, followed by a reception where you get to celebrate your love with your guests. 

Yes, every wedding is different in size and style, but the basic premise is the same. 

Now, take a look at this destination wedding location

weddings at secrets maroma

It’s a very different scene. 

Choosing a destination wedding takes you away from home to a stunning location

You can exchange vows right next to the ocean if you choose. 

There’s a more casual feel and often fewer guests. 

These are the basic differences between traditional and destination weddings.  

But, that’s only the start…

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2. Breakdown of Costs

Wondering about the cost differences of a destination wedding vs traditional wedding?

I’ll give you the lowdown on how far your dollars will go, both at home and away.  

Are Destination Weddings Cheaper than Traditional Weddings?

The short answer to this question is yes, by a long way. 

According to research by The Knot in 2019, the average cost of a traditional wedding is $33,900

Compare that to an average cost of $8,237 for a destination wedding, which includes airfare, accommodation, and a comprehensive wedding package. 

Bear in mind, these are average costs and every wedding is different. 

But, overall, destination weddings are cheaper

Looking at Mexico as a possible destination?

cost of a destination wedding

There’s even better news…

Our team at can get you the best bang for your buck. 

We’re local experts in arranging destination weddings in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. 

On average, you’ll pay around $5,000 for a 4.5 ★ resort wedding package. 

Do You Pay for Guests at a Destination Wedding?

Normally, your guests will pay for their own flights and accommodation

Although, some couples cover these costs for members of the bridal party and immediate family. 

Depending on how many guests you have, you might be able to get a free wedding package for booking a large amount of rooms at once. 

You may want to pass some or all of these savings onto your guests with some help towards accommodation costs.  

The balls in your court on that one. 

cost of a destination wedding

Overall, destination weddings cost less than having a wedding at home.

But how does this break down?

It’s time to dig a bit deeper…

The Venue 

Thinking a wedding at home is your best option?

Well, you’ll need to pay for a venue. 

On average, couples spend around 1/3 of their wedding budget on this expense. 

In contrast, most destination wedding packages include beautiful ceremony venues at a reasonable cost. 

Depending on the package, you may even get the venue FREE!

That has to be good news. 

For lower venue costs, going away to get married just makes sense. 

destination wedding beachfront gazebo

Food & Drinks 

Did you know that the average couple spends $70 per person on catering at a wedding?

That’s before you even think about cake and dessert… which can add up to an eye-watering $500

Honestly, food costs can be similar whether you marry at home or away. 

It depends on what type of destination wedding package you choose, and whether you opt for any costly extras. 

The big difference in cost comes with the drinks. 

Traditionally, home-based weddings often have an open bar

wedding drinks open bar cheers

This expense can rocket very quickly. 

Have a wedding at an all-inclusive resort and your guests have as many drinks in the bar as they want when they want them. 

Plus, you get sparkling wine and champagne for the reception included with many packages. 

So, for food, I’m on the fence, but drink costs are definitely less with a destination wedding. 

Travel & Accommodation 

Concerned about the cost of flights and a hotel for a destination wedding?

You’ll spend around $1,000 on flights and anything from around $250-1,000 per night for accommodation. 

It’s true that you don’t have these costs if you marry at home. 

But, that’s not the full story…

mexico beach resort

We can get you deals and packages that reduce these costs. 

This includes the possibility to get extra nights for a honeymoon in Mexico at no extra charge. 

Travel and accommodation are more expensive if you opt for a destination wedding, but we’ll minimize these cost as much as possible.  

Flowers & Decor 

Florals and decorations add sparkle and color to a wedding. 

They cost around $2,000 for a traditional wedding. 

That’s a pretty big slice out of any budget…

But bridal flowers are included in many destination wedding packages. 

bridal flowers red and white roses

You often get additional flowers as well, depending on which package you choose. 

There are also numerous decor options and add-ons. 

That’s if the pristine beaches and sparkling blue Caribbean waters are not pretty enough… 

For this particular cost, destination weddings are definitely the winner. 

The Extras & Add-Ons

Extra wedding-related costs add up quickly. 

You can expect to pay $3,000 upwards for a wedding planner in the US. 

Then, there’s upwards of $1,200 for a photographer, around $1,000 for a DJ, and around $500 each for musicians. 

Fly off to get married in Mexico and the services of a planner are included. 

But, you may still have to pay extra for entertainment and photography services. 

wedding checklist in notebook with flowers

Aside from the cost of a planner, expenses can be similar at home and away when it comes to extras. 

Looking at costs overall, it seems like a destination wedding is the winner.

But there’s more to think about…

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3. Planning Your Wedding

Thinking of saving on costs by having a DIY wedding at home?

You may find that you end up creating more stress for yourself with all the planning. 

What’s the Most Stressful Part of Planning a Wedding?

Where do I start?

Guest list, venue, flowers, photographer, catering… the list can seem endless. 

If everything doesn’t go exactly to plan, it doesn’t take long to reach emotional overload

You can hire a wedding planner to do the heavy lifting, but you’re going to have to part with a few thousand dollars to do so. 

Destination wedding packages come with a planner, so you get help with achieving your dream occasion. 

I have to be honest though…

wedding planning list

There’s still some planning to be done, such as making sure you have visas and any legal documents required for the wedding itself. 

At we’ll give you advice about what you need to do. 

I love to be as helpful as possible, so just let me know in the comments if you’d like me to cover anything specific.

In my opinion, planning is way easier when you have a destination wedding package in place. 

But, if you’re set on marrying close to home, a great wedding planner is a worthwhile investment.  

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4. Wedding Guests

Guests are often the most tricky part of the convo about destination weddings vs traditional weddings. 

Most destination weddings have around 60 guests

So, if you’ve got a huge family or hundreds of close friends, it’s probably easier to accommodate everyone with a ceremony and reception close to home. 

But remember…

guests a destination wedding

There are no hard and fast rules here. 

If you have your heart set on heading to sunshine to get married, you can still invite everyone…

But the organization may get a little more complicated. 

Then, there’s the big question that wedding couples often ask themselves…

Are Destination Weddings Selfish?

Surely, it’s not selfish to want your dream wedding

If people are really happy for you, they should understand and support you. 

Which brings me to another burning question…

Do Guests Hate Destination Weddings?

I’m keeping it real by saying the answer to this is sometimes “yes.”

The travel, accommodation, and other costs for your guests add up to an average of around $2,500. 

They also have to organize time off work, book their trip, and arrange any necessary documentation

You can help with this by:

  • Avoiding peak season for your wedding. 
  • Choosing resorts carefully paying attention to factors such as cost, facilities, and family friendly features if guests are traveling with children. 
  • Being honest about your intentions right from the start so that everyone has plenty of time to plan and get affordable rates on flights and accommodation. 
  • Booking for the group to save on hassle for your guests. 

guests a destination wedding

We’re happy to assist with group bookings and help you get the best rates for guests. 

Just give us a call at 877-737-0177.

We’ll do all that we can to get your guests on board with your plans if you want a destination wedding.

But at the end of the day, it’s your call. 

If people you really want to share your day with simply can’t travel, stay close to home for the ceremony and leave the sun and sand for your honeymoon. 

How Long Do Guests Stay at a Destination Wedding?

Usually people stick around for 3-4 nights

This is often the minimum stay for room block bookings. 

So, think carefully about whether this is what you really want. 

Or if a traditional wedding where you only have to deal with people for a few hours be a better call. 

The decision is always going to be a personal one

family on beach holding hands

But, I do have a tip if you want to convince guests with kids about a destination wedding. 

Sell it as an amazing opportunity for a family luxury break, as well as the chance to share the magic of your wedding. 

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5. Dress Code

Do you want to be the center of attention on your wedding day, in a stunning white dress?

Does the wedding of your dreams involve tuxedos and formal wear? 

This type of dress code is better suited to a traditional wedding at home. 

On the other hand, you can rock amazing casual styles with a beach backdrop in Mexico. 

Your guests get to embrace the relaxed dress code as well. 

Heads up though…

dress code at destination wedding

Some restaurants at resorts have super strict dress codes, so make sure you do your research.  

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6. Gifts

It may seem a bit wrong for gifts to be part of the decision between destination and traditional weddings. 

But gifts are a big part of most weddings, so there are important questions to be asked and answered. 

Do You Have to Give a Gift at a Destination Wedding?

This is a question your guests may be asking if you choose to marry away from home. 

The answer is usually yes. 

wedding gifts

But, as this advice from Martha Stewart says, you shouldn’t expect people to spend a fortune on attending and give you an expensive gift as well. 

If you already have your home and life set up, you may even ditch the wedding list in favor of just making sure that everyone can attend. 

To be honest, this can apply even if you choose to say “I do” at home. 

I always think that people sharing your day and showing you love is more important than the material stuff. 

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7. Honeymoon

Spending alone time together after exchanging vows is what a honeymoon is all about. 

We all know at least 1 movie wedding scene where the happy couple make their escape from the reception and head to paradise together. 

Things are a little different these days, with some couples choosing to delay their honeymoon a few weeks or even months. 

Marry close to home and you can pretty much do your own thing when it comes to a honeymoon. 

With a destination wedding, it often makes more sense to stay on for a honeymoon afterwards. 

Especially if you get a deal that gives you free nights!

destination wedding honeymoon

Here are some words of wisdom though…

Be prepared for guests still being around. 

You may need to be creative to make sure you get some time for just the 2 of you. 

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8. Pros & Cons

Was all of that a lot to take in? 

Don’t stress. 

Here’s a quick summary to get things clear in your head about a Destination Wedding Vs Traditional Wedding

Traditional Weddings Pros

  • There are no travel or accommodation costs. 
  • It’s easier for everyone you want to attend to be there. 
  • You get to be over the top, formal, and grandiose if that’s your thing. 

Traditional Wedding Cons

  • Costs add up to an average of over $30,000.
  • Planning can be hugely stressful

Destination Wedding Pros 

  • Sunshine, sand and fabulous scenery. 
  • Affordable and great deals available. 
  • Wedding packages usually include bridal flowers and a venue. 
  • There’s less planning to stress you out. 

Destination Wedding Cons

  • Some friends and family may not be able to attend. 
  • There is some red tape and paperwork to navigate. 

Got any questions about this post?

Want to share your experiences of traditional or destination weddings?

I’d love to hear from you! 

Just pop something in the comments. 

And don’t forget to let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover

I’ll get right on it. 

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9. Need Help Planning?

Have we inspired you to have your dream destination wedding in Mexico?

That’s amazing news!

If you need help sorting out the details, give us a call at 877-737-0177 or contact us here.

We’ll put our local knowledge and destination wedding expertise to use so you get the wedding of your dreams.

Happy planning!

Hi, I'm Sarah! Need help deciding which resort is right for your wedding? I've been reviewing wedding resorts for 5+ years with the help of our team here at Have questions? Get honest answers in the comments, or contact our award-winning agency for help today!

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