Who pays for What at a Destination Wedding?
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
Marrying the love of your life on a tropical island may sound like a dream. But try to consider the amount of money, time, and planning that actually goes into a destination wedding.
One of the most stressful and important things to think about when planning a destination wedding is the cost. With all the things that go into the wedding, things can start to quickly add up. But, just because your destination wedding may be overseas, does not mean wedding etiquette rules do not apply.
If you are having a destination wedding it can be a little bit confusing to understand the proper etiquette when it comes to costs. Do the bride and groom pay for guests to travel to the wedding? Who pays for the room? What about any meals and activities that guests enjoy while at the destination? Since there are many different expenses involved in a destination wedding that aren’t included in a usual wedding, this can get confusing.
There are certain etiquette rules for more traditional events, but it’s hard to know how these translate into unconventional weddings that are held in far-away locations. Let’s delve into this topic and figure out what the right thing to do is when it comes to paying for a destination wedding.
Bride and Groom
The bride and groom are expected to pay for the wedding reception, the rehearsal dinner, the welcome party and the morning-after brunch. In some cases the parents of the bride or groom might offer to pay for some of this, but that depends on your particular family dynamic.
If possible, it would be well received if the bride and groom can also cover some selected activities for the wedding guests to enjoy such as a tour or a group trip. This can be a wonderful way for wedding guests to bond and to enjoy the beautiful of the destination. Also, a shuttle to pick up guests from the airport is a very nice gesture.
Traditionally, the hosts offer to pay for the accommodations for the bridesmaids and the groomsmen. However, if this will be out of your budget you can let your wedding party know and tell them that they are not obligated to give you any gifts on top of this - just being there on your special day is a gift.
You may also have a bridal luncheon, which is an optional pre-wedding party for your attendants. This can be a great way to show appreciation for your bridesmaids and treat them to a lovely meal.
The Wedding Guests
Usually, the couple is already paying for most of the expenses, so they are not usually expected to pick up the bill for their guests. It’s important for your guests to know that up-front, so they can plan their own airfare, lodging, activities, attire, and whatever else they might need for your destination wedding.
It’s generally held that the guests pay for their flights to the destination wedding, and then home afterwards. The reason for this is that if you’re having a large wedding, it would be next to impossible for you to pay for everybody’s travel. You might be having a hundred or more guests at your wedding, so there’s likely no way you could pay for all of them.
Guests usually cover their own hotel room stay. If possible, you could also block-book hotel rooms at a range of local hotels of different price points. By booking 10 or more rooms, you can usually secure a discount on the room rate (sometimes up to 50%). That way, you can help make the rooms more affordable for your guests, even if you can’t pay for them outright. This could help guests that don’t have very large budgets.
There may be some cases when someone you really want to be at your wedding just doesn’t have the means to pay their own way there. On a case by case basis, the bride and groom might offer to pay for transportation and accommodation expenses for these guests.
This should be done discreetly and it is a good idea not to tell anyone else that you have decided to do this. Not only could others be jealous that you didn’t assist them, the receiver of your help may be embarrassed.
Food and Drinks
As with any normal wedding, the bride and groom are expected to pay for their guests’ food. This applies to all big events that you’ve organised for the weekend: the rehearsal dinner, the wedding breakfast, reception buffet, and so on. It’s also customary to hold some kind of welcome event and farewell party, which you’ll have to pay for.
However, guests will pay for their own food and drink during downtimes – their breakfasts, lunches and dinners on days where there are no wedding-related events.
As for drinks, it really depends on what you can afford. Many couples like to offer their guests a welcome drink and provide bottles of wine on the tables during the wedding itself. Alternatively, you could provide each guest with one or two wedding drink tokens – that way, you can pay for the first couple of rounds, but guests pay for any further drinks.
The answer is contingent on the type of activities you intend to undertake. If you’re organizing an activity for all of your guests or the wedding party, they could expect you to pay for it. However, resorts provide a variety of daily activities, and your guests may prefer to participate in them on their own, such as scuba diving or hiking. If they do, they will be able to pay for them.
However, there is no tradition in this place. You are free to make up your own rules and follow them as long as you are clear about them before your visitors arrive. You can pay for everyone’s activities if you want to, but be prepared for a large bill at the end. You could even charge visitors to attend group gatherings – however you shouldn’t make the event essential if you do. Keep in mind that your visitors will all have various budgets.
A destination wedding presents significant expenses that your guests may not be able to afford. The flights and hotel rooms alone may cost thousands of dolars, and that’s before you throw in activities and refreshments. This may mean that there are guests who can’t afford to pay their own way.
In fact, research suggests that destination weddings have a 50-80% attendance rate on average. In other words, 20-50% of the guests you invite won’t be able to make it – usually because it’s not in their budget. It is also important that you be conscientious and understand that not all of your guests will be able to attend.
These are the generally accepted etiquette guidelines for who pays for what when it comes to destination weddings. Of course, each wedding is unique and it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you, your partner and your guests.
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By Veronica Rodriguez