Out of town? Out of state? You may find yourself out of money by the end of it!

I envy those who have the guts to get married in some far flung dreamscape. Had I opted to tie the knot in, say, Italy or Australia, I probably would have been disowned. Besides the fact that my then step-mother does not fly — like, ever — there would have been no way my father could have afforded to shuttle all of my siblings out of the country and back. The passport fees alone might have broken him!

It was when planning pissed me off most that I dreamt of eating those non-refundable deposits and ditching the whole works, dragging The Beard off to some romantic spot, and garbling some foreign language vows. But alas, that’s one dream that would have come with scads of social penalties. If any relatives of mine are reading this, see what I do for you? Had I reeeaaaally wanted to, I could have hole up (and gotten married) somewhere like this:

Costa Rica was looking pretty good right around then

Luckily, destination weddings aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. Sure, there’s the ease of it all — find yourself an all-inclusive wedding package at some chic resort and you’re all set. And then there’s the evil joy of knowing that all the people you have to invite but don’t really want to invite will probably not attend. On top of everything else, you get to enjoy a mini-vacation or start your honeymoon right out of the gate! Is there even a downside?

Well, yes. There are indeed a few “cons” that balance out all of the “pros.”

  • It’s all about trust. If you’re marrying at a resort, someone you’ve probably never met is going to be handling all the details, from the cake to the flowers. Sure, their online portfolio is beautiful, but consider how many snapshots didn’t make the cut. Get as many references as you can before contracting with someone, and try to angle for a liberal refund policy when you’re working out your contract.
  • The dollar is in the toilet right now. Once upon a time, an American citizen could amble about, let’s say, Greece for pennies a day, but those days will probably never come again. When you’re thinking about how you can save money by walking down the aisle somewhere exotic, don’t forget to take the current rate of currency exchange into account.
  • Planning from afar can be a real pain in the butt. For those not marrying at a resort, finding everything from a functional setting to an official officiant can take ages…particularly if you don’t speak the language of your destination country. If you want to make sure everything unfolds smoothly, hire a coordinator to take care of the details.
  • Can you really see yourself saying your vows without grandma sitting in the front pew? Old Uncle Ernie might not last much longer…could you bear knowing he never saw you in your wedding day finery? A lot of people think that eloping will be all that only to regret later on. Then again, a lot of people who elope would happily elope again if they were shot back in time a la Peggy Sue Got Married.
  • You’ve signed on the dotted line, but may not actually be married! Not all of the marriage ceremonies conducted in your destination country may be recognized as legal in your home country. Overcome this con by double checking the various legal issues BEFORE you embark upon your journey into forever.
  • Relaxation may not be on the agenda. Even though you’re surrounded by the white sand beaches and azure seas you’ve seen in your honeymoon dreams, the pre-wedding duties will probably get in the way of your tanning time. And don’t expect respite once you say “I do” if your family is staying anywhere within a 100-mile radius. They will want…nay, demand your attention!*

With that said, let me present a little poll I created to help us get to the bottom of the destination weddings issue once and for all.

If there’s an option you would have liked to have seen in the poll but it’s just not there, let me know in the comments. I can’t change the poll, but I’d love to hear your opinion!

*This happened to me — don’t let it happen to you!

18 Responses to “Out of town? Out of state? You may find yourself out of money by the end of it!”

  1. Toni June 9, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    I attended a “destination” wedding this past weekend and also did most of the photography. The wedding was in Clearwater, FL, on the beach at sunset (the couple is from Atlanta). The couple did a package dealie for the ceremony, and rented an electronic keyboard so that a friend could play music during the ceremony. Seeing as how they were on the beach, they made sure to ask the coordinator if there would be a way to both plug in the keyboard, and amplify the music. The coordinator assured them that there was.

    Fast forward to 1 hour before the ceremony, and we discover that the “sound system” is simply a karaoke machine containing a CD with “calypso” wedding music. The coordinator had no sort of converter that would allow the keyboard to be plugged in. My husband (an electrical engineer) ended up driving to WalMart and buying a converter and a car battery, and using those to power the keyboard so the bride could have her Bach.

  2. JaneC June 9, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    I know two couples who got married in Rome. They’re Catholics, so Rome had a lot of significance for them. Both couples were older–50s and 60s–and both grooms and one of the brides had been married before, so I guess they didn’t feel the need to have a big wedding with all their family and friends around them (they’d been there and done that already). In cases like that, I think destination weddings could be a good thing.

  3. Anusha June 9, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    A destination-type wedding worked for me because it was in my native country, so many of my family members already lived there, and those that didn’t just flew in, because that’s what they do every year, anyway, to visit the rest of the fam. And pretty much all of my husband’s family members lived there, so it was great for his side!

    This kind of destination wedding can work really well if you and your partner live in a place where weddings are really expensive (like San Francisco or NYC) and either of your family lives in a place where having a wedding is a lot cheaper. But, you still have to consider the fact that some people might not be able to afford coming to the wedding. However, if you have enough family living someplace else and want to have the wedding there, that’s probably the best and easiest kind of destination wedding.

    But, it won’t be all smooth-sailing. If your destination wedding is in a third-world country, like mine was, just getting from point A to point B might be a nightmare (we once had to drive 3 hours to find one of our vendors, who lived waaaay out in the middle of nowhere, and almost ended up backing the car into a rice paddyfield), and you have to have back-up plans for *everything*. Some points to consider that I can think up off the top of my head (and which I experienced):

    1. The flowers/food/music you really want might not be available at your destination
    2. Unexpected weather (esp. rain) can squash your plans easily, so you *must* have a back-up location at a destination wedding
    3. You’re a lot more susceptible to food poisoning in a foreign country
    4. You will have to get a valid, legal English translation of your marriage certificate, if they’re in another language, before you leave the country, or you won’t be able to use it here in the U.S.

    If you’re the kind of person who needs to micromanage everything and insists on a specific look for you wedding, no matter what, then a destination wedding is not for you. If you can be really flexible, let go of a lot of the planning details and accept whatever might come your way, then a destination wedding could be a good choice.

  4. Twistie June 9, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    I think as with so many other potential choices in wedding planning, there are ways and ways of doing destination weddings that determine whether it was or wasn’t a good idea.

    Clearly, it’s important to do your research before booking the venue, as Toni’s tale emphasizes.

    Still, I think if one has a very special reason for wanting a particular location (such as Jane C.’s friends wishing to be married in Rome because of their faith), AND if one is very certain one is willing to live with any consequences in store from offended family members and friends, it’s certainly worth considering.

    But if you’re going to do it, I’d definitely suggest shucking the dreams of a huge, very formal wedding. If you’re heading off to get married on the beach, be sure you plan for a wedding that belongs on the beach. Keep the wardrobe simple, fabrics light, and decorations minimal. Take only who and what you really need.

    After all, what’s the point of getting away from it all if you take it all with you?

  5. Mika June 9, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    We’ve opted for a destination wedding for the fact that I have no family in North America, save for my mother and father. My fiance’s side of the family is considerably larger than mine, but there is a lot of drama within it. Overall, it makes the most sense for us. We want to avoid as much strife as possible, and I have always wanted a small ceremony that differs from the norm.

  6. Jennie June 9, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    My ex hubby’s niece had a destination wedding in South Beach. We drove the 13 hour drive, stayed in the cheapest hotel in SB and really enjoyed the trip. The bride needed to know however that our expenses for the trip really cut into her wedding gift. That has to be factored into a wedding out of town.

  7. daisyj June 9, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    I can’t speak from personal experience, but I do have a friend who is a bridesmaid in a destination wedding and she is definitely not happy about it. She’s a postdoc with limited means and even more limited vacation time, and not someone who would choose a vacation at a resort in Mexico for herself, so I think she is kind of becoming resentful of the whole thing.

  8. Jennie June 9, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    @daisyj That’s when it’s best to just say NO!

  9. class-factotum June 11, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    My friend Leigh and her husband got married in Italy, just by themselves, and had a reception for everyone when they returned. Her mom is not particularly maternal (“Oh honey, if I had it to do over, I would have just had cats”), so wasn’t too bothered about missing the actual wedding, and her dad died when she was 11, so it wasn’t a big deal for her family. Everyone seemed OK with it.

  10. Cecilia June 13, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    This wasn’t really a “destination wedding,” but friends of mine got married in China. (They are American, but were working there for several months.) They had a church ceremony – did not even bother with a legal one – and just got married again in a courthouse when they came back to the US so they’d have a valid marriage license. Their families threw a reception for them when they returned. They had no family there, but they were very happy with it.

  11. Amanda June 14, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    I got back from a destination wedding in Bali a couple of months ago. The couple adore Bali, and hired a co-ordinator and went over several times before the wedding to sort things out. They even had all their wedding clothes made over there. It was sort of a hit and miss – the location and the ceremony were gorgeous, and they paid far less than they would have had to back at home. But the people they were trying to avoid coming to the wedding all came, which the people that they really wanted to come couldn’t due to work and cash issues.

  12. rabrab July 1, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    Heh. The comic strip Bizarro today addressed this question:
    http://cst.rbma.com/content/Bizarro?date=20080701

  13. rabrab July 1, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    Damn. That link doesn’t work, and I can’t find one that will work.

    It’s Bizarro for July 1st, 2005. I know that it’s available on the Houston Chronicle comics page.

  14. FCS July 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    I think destination weddings are great, with a limited guest list. You can always celebrate it with your other family members and friends once you get back… :)

  15. JW July 24, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    I always snarked at the idea of Destination Weddings, but while planning my own wedding and already over budget with just the bare necessities, my Dad mentioned Disney World. This was a great option for us because Disney World has always been a huge part of my childhood and the wedding at Disney is actually HALF the price of a modest wedding here at home! Plus the fact that a wedding at home would have had a guest list of over 200 people, whereas the Disney wedding only allows 20! The only con is that we have to pay for my DF’s Mom and Brother to come because they don’t have the money, I don’t mind though, as I can’t expect people to have a grand or so saved up for a vacation.

    All in all, I think that simple desitination weddings are a good idea. I still don’t understand have a huge wedding overseas, though. That’s just extremely selfish and unecessary.

  16. Jeff B, February 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    Yeah, kind of late. But if want to see the comic rabrab mentioned above, go here:

    http://www.chron.com/apps/comics/showComick.mpl?date=20080701&name=Bizarro

    It’s worth it!

  17. Never teh Bride February 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Thanks, Jeff B.! I laughed :-)

  18. The Wedding Planner June 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Destination wedding is for rich and famous people who can spend money like anything in their wedding.