I never thought that I would have or want a destination wedding. However sometimes in our younger, naïve years, we have lofty dreams before reality sets in. My husband and I married on July 4, 2015. I planned the wedding in under 6 months and I did all of it myself for under $5,000. How?! That’s crazy?! Yes, it is. But it happened and part of how we made it happen was by choosing a destination wedding. But not all destination weddings are created equal. Nor does it always make sense to host a destination wedding. So when does a destination wedding make sense?
The quick version of my relationship, my husband, Chris, proposed after we had been dating for 2 years. We were engaged in August 2014. I had figured we would have a long engagement. But if you have ever been engaged before, people start asking immediately when the date is? Over and over. Which then leads you to think about it. Over and over. So finally in January, I started to consider a date.
At 30 years old, two working individuals, living together for two years, our families didn’t just offer up a huge budget that we could have and spend at our leisure. Now I’m sure if they had the money they may have. And don’t get me wrong, our families helped A LOT. But we still knew we would be paying for the wedding primarily out of our own pockets.
So when we started to think about dates, I wanted to wait a long time so we could save money. The last thing I wanted was more debt just to plan our wedding. Keep in mind too, I’m an event planner so I have a ton of vendor connections, industry friends, and favors owed that I cashed in to save money. More on that at a later date. The point here is I was considering dates in the following year or further. Then an idea came to me. What about the 4th of July? I had always wanted to get married on the 4th of July. Having been in the wedding industry for the beginning part of my career, the 4th of July had fallen on a Saturday years earlier. As naturally as there are only a few Saturdays a month during the wedding season, July 4th was a popular date. I worked a few weddings and I loved the barbecue atmosphere, the casual fan, the fireworks, and something about the significance of the date. It’s also my second favorite holiday to Halloween. Weird fact.
My hubby and I had spent our first 4th of July together in Long Beach Washington, nicknamed the longest beach in the world, with something like 32 miles of the coast.
Chris has friends with property in Long Beach and they have spent summers there growing up his entire life. I loved my first experience there. Sitting on the beach all day by the fire, eating great food, enjoying the ocean, and then when dusk hits, fireworks as far as the eye can see. So when I asked Chris, what about the 4th of July? It wasn’t a far fetched idea that would cost everyone we love thousands of dollars to attend. Long Beach is about a 2-hour drive from Portland. I looked up the date and it fell on a Saturday in 2015. It was fate. So it was decided then, we were going to plan a destination wedding. Why? Because it made sense for us as a couple and how we wanted to tell our love story.
Something to know when you plan a destination wedding. People will hate it. Something else to know when you plan a wedding over a holiday weekend. People will hate it. Part of my strategic planning for budget purposes was also to consider an out of town, or destination wedding, that some people wouldn’t attend purely out of the fact that they wouldn’t travel. I know it sounds cruel but frequently wedding guest lists end up in 200+ with people the bride and groom don’t know. Plus, it’s expensive to invite someone to your wedding. Standard catering costs are $25/plate in minimum. When you consider alcohol, favors, additional programs, invitations and mailings, and anything else you want to add, actual costs per person are usually $50-60 or more! My dad and stepmom would ask how many people they could invite and I would ask them how many they were going to pay for. Harsh? Maybe. I wanted to celebrate with our friends and family, but I didn’t want to just pay for people to come that we never see or don’t know.
Bottom line, the people you love and want there the most will come regardless of where it is at. Some people won’t come and it may surprise you who. My feelings were hurt by some of the families that chose not to come to our wedding. It shouldn’t matter though when it comes to doing what you want and what makes sense for you as a couple. Our final guest list still ended up around 72 people! I had originally thought 30-40. We ended up with more friends than family at our wedding and we were fine with that. (On the beach reception pic)
Having a destination wedding cut our guest list and our budget so we could afford more of what we wanted. When managing a small budget, focusing on what you want is essential. Spend some time with your fiancé coming up with a list of what you care most about at your wedding. For me and Chris, this was food and beverage (Chris & I worked in catering for years, we didn’t want banquet food), Photographer (Obviously), DJ/MC (It’s just easier), this is just to name a few of our top priorities. We wanted to include our family and friends who hadn’t experience a Long Beach 4th of July on our favorite day of the year and also throw at a wedding.
Focus on what YOU want as a couple. If it makes sense to go to Hawaii with 20 people or 200 people, do it! If it makes sense to drive to the beach with only witnesses, do it! Don’t be scared to do what you want. Sometimes it does make sense for you as a couple to host a destination wedding. Make it happen. If it helps tell your story, include something you love as a couple, a special destination, holiday, or just to help cut costs and downsize your guest list. It’s your day and if it makes sense to have a destination wedding, do it. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you.