The main reason destination weddings tend to cost less than traditional weddings? Fewer guests. When you’re treating 30 people to a day (or even a weekend) of merriment, instead of paying for drinks, dinner, dancing, and valet parking for 300, you’re naturally going to save some bucks. Here are five other ways to keep costs in check:
1. Aim for the shoulder season
Most destinations have both a high season, when it’s most attractive to travelers and prices are at their peak (Jamaica in January) and a low season, when it’s not as attractive and prices are at their most affordable (Jamaica in August). You want to target a date somewhere in between, when the weather is fine but the prices haven’t climbed to their apex. In the Caribbean, for example, November through mid-December and April through mid-May are ideal travel windows.
2. Consider airports
The more travel segments it takes to get to a destination, the pricier the journey—not just for you, but for your friends and family as well. So instead of focusing on a remote retreat that requires a cross-country flight, a puddle-jumper, and a long van ride to reach, start by researching locations near airports that the bulk of your guests can fly to without a hassle. If you’re imaging a mountaintop wedding out west, Denver and Salt Lake City would be great places to start.
3. Avoid holiday weekends
Three-day holiday weekends seem like a great time for a destination wedding—school kids and office workers generally have an extra day off—but you’ll be competing with the rest of the world for flights and hotel rooms.
4. Pay attention to freebies
A hotel’s offer of complimentary breakfast, happy hour, or shuttle service may seem like small potatoes. But when you start doing the math, the savings can be significant. For example, if you’re doing a buy-out of a small hotel that organizes nightly wine and cheese for its guests, you can turn it into a welcome cocktail party at pretty much zero cost to you.
5. Look for resort clusters
It’s unlikely that a single hotel or resort will be able to accommodate all of your guests’ budgets or tastes. So steer clear of isolated, stand-alone resorts, and focus on areas where there’s a range of accommodations–perhaps a romantic hotel for the wedding itself, condo-suites for families, and basic lodges for your college friends. You’ll be able to host events at a variety of price points, and your guests will be able to help you celebrate without taking out a loan.