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Wedding photographer in Dallas, travel lover, mama to one sweet boy and five fur kids, and a full-fledged Gemini. 

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Congratulations! You’re engaged! With all of the things happening in the world, destination weddings are pretty tempting, but they can be overwhelming to plan. I’m here to break down destination wedding average cost so you can make the best decision for your wedding!

According to The Knot, “the average cost of a destination wedding in 2021 was $32,700, as compared to the average cost of a hometown wedding, which was $28,000.” That seems like A LOT, but I think that it can be done for far less depending on what you want. As with any wedding, you’ll need to decide what budget area you want to be in. In my opinion, destination weddings can be really inexpensive or they can be just as expensive as a traditional wedding, if not more. It all depends on what you want to spend and how frugal you’re willing to get! Let’s break this down a little more.

Domestic Destination Elopement – Destination Wedding Average Cost

We can break this into two more categories: a destination within driving distance and a destination within the country that requires air travel.

For a destination wedding that is within driving distance, you’d be looking at:

  1. Fuel
  2. Meals during travel time
  3. Lodging
  4. Photography
  5. Wedding attire (dress, suit)
  6. Rings
  7. Officiant (unless you’re in a state where you can marry yourselves like Colorado!)
  8. Floral
  9. Cake

Altogether, that destination wedding average cost is going to be the most frugal. Depending on your wishes for quality of photography, wedding attire, and lodging, you’d be looking at about $30,000 on the high end, but could probably get away with about $5,000 if you’re really diligent! Of course, I recommend prioritizing photography as a good photographer can make a budget wedding look pretty amazing!

For a destination wedding that would require air travel, add these to the above list and take away fuel costs:

  1. Airline tickets
  2. Travel from the airport to destination

Depending on the season and day of the week you want to get married, your airline ticket could vary by hundreds. Use Google Tracker to track airline tickets to get the best deal if you’re flexible on a date. Also, consider flying into major airports rather than airports closer to your destination.

For our wedding, we found an Airbnb on the Gulf of Mexico beach in February. It cost us very little to lodge our 17 guests and have a place to get married. Get creative! I found our place by browsing the Unique Finds on Airbnb. Use resources like vacation rental websites, blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram. If you can find a place in the off-season for that area, you’ll likely save a good chunk of change.

You’ll also need to consider whether you want a wedding planner. Many couples planning a destination wedding will hire a planner to manage the details from afar. It can be really challenging to plan things in another city, especially if you’re unfamiliar with it. A planner in the area will have the inside scoop on vendors, weather, and more that could be really beneficial to alleviating stress!

There are also all-inclusive resorts to consider. While they can be relatively pricey in the US, they can save you a lot of the trouble of planning as these resorts typically include everything you need.

Don’t forget that travel agents exist and can help you find a perfect location for your budget! And they are FREE to us! I had no idea until I started planning my own wedding and contacted a travel agent. They get paid from destinations, not the travelers.

Guests or No Guests?

If you want an elopement with no more than four guests, you’ll cut down costs by a lot! However, you can politely ask that your guests pick up the tab on their own travel costs, lodging, and meals. If you’re close enough to them to have them invited to a 4-guest-wedding, they’ll likely understand and be happy to cover their own expenses.

If you want more guests at your destination wedding, consider costs of invitations, catering, chairs, drinks, lodging, and entertainment.

International Destination Wedding – Destination Wedding Average Cost

I would almost always recommend a wedding planner and/or an all-inclusive venue for an international destination wedding, unless you have family or friend there that can help with the footwork. Even then, it can be a big undertaking for a destination wedding outside of the country. It’s important to consider the following for an international destination wedding:

  1. Passports – Consider the time and cost it takes to get a passport and ensure all of your guests are eligible for a passport!
  2. Vaccinations – Some countries require travelers to have certain vaccinations
  3. Health problems – Some of your guests may not be physically able to travel by air for extended periods of time
  4. Children – Will children be invited to your wedding or will parents need to find childcare?
  5. Transportation – Will you arrange transportation for all of your guests from the airport to the destination?
  6. Language barriers – If you’re going to a place where destination weddings are a regular thing, this likely won’t be a huge issue. However, if you’re going to the road less traveled, you may have some trouble communicating if there’s a difference in language.
  7. Travel restrictions – In recent years, we’ve seen Covid, international tensions, and more. Make sure your destination is allowing foreign travelers in and has no sign of changing that anytime soon.

With passports, airfare, lodging, and meals, you’re likely looking at a minimum of $4000 for yourselves. When you factor in guest meals, lodging, and entertainment, you can expect an average of $250 to $500 per person. Add in invitations, wedding attire, photography, videography, and alcohol, you’ll be well in the $10,000s.

Destination Wedding Photographers

My husband, Garrott, and I love traveling for destination weddings! Garrott offers video and I offer photography. If you’re looking for a destination wedding photographer or videographer, be sure to check out our work here. Contact us for your free consultation and custom quote!

Client Praise

- Whitney + Michael, 7.8.22

"Choosing Kensey to be our photographer for our wedding and engagement photos, was the best wedding decision we made! When planning for our wedding, we made a decision that photos were going to be our top priority since they last a lifetime and beyond.My family was blown away by how good Kensey was and kept asking me how I found her. It was definitely a blessing that I will be thankful for for a lifetime!"

"Kensey’s passion and dedication for making your wedding vision come to life is absolutely incredible."

- Kailey + Jared, 7.23.22

"Kensey was amazing from day one! I hired her to be the photographer for my daughter's engagement photos. We were so impressed that we booked her immediately for the wedding. She went above and beyond to make us happy and that is saying a lot considering we have such a big family! She went with the flow and anything we threw her direction she did with a smile on her face. She helped make my daughter's day the most perfect day and now we have the memories to prove it. Don't hesitate to book Kensey! Book her now!!"

"She went above and beyond to make us happy..."

- Kirsty + Collin, 12.3.21

My husband and I were so happy with Kensey. She is very professional, yet personable and fun! She’s invested in her couples and does everything she can to meet every need. She even had a sewing kit when my husbands button popped off of his jacket and held onto my shawl just in case I needed it during the wedding since it was a little chilly out! She is so easy to communicate with and captured so many amazing moments. We’re so happy with our photos and will cherish them for a lifetime.

"She’s invested in her couples and does everything she can to meet every need."

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