Destination weddings, once unaffordable, are now in demand.

Seasonal changes dictate shifts across consumer spending, and one category which taps into formalwear, catering, venues and tradition centers around two words, “I do.” Yet many don’t foresee destination weddings as being in budget.

According to survey research by The Knot, the average cost of an international or destination wedding came in at $25,800 while a domestic wedding averaged $27,840. More frequently, consumers are adopting services such as TransferWise, which is a free, multicountry bank account allowing access to 40 different currencies, to make international spending — and destination weddings — feasible and more cost-effective. As reported in WWD in April,TransferWise survey data affirmed that “two-in-five respondents confirmed spending between $1 and $25 on hidden fees every month, or up to $300 a year.

Here, Kimberly Richmond, founder of Runaway Bride Destination Weddings, explains how consumers can budget for their dream destination wedding.

Kimberly Richmond, founder of Runaway Bride Destination Weddings.  Courtesy Image

WWD: What is the consumer rationality behind the dream wedding? Is a destination wedding achievable and affordable?

Kimberly Richmond: Most couples don’t realize how affordable a destination wedding can be, opening up a door to endless possibilities. If a couple is leaning toward having international nuptials and looking for ways to save, there are a few ways to help cut down on costs.

WWD: What’s the first step in planning for a destination wedding?

K.R.: Planning ahead ensures the extra hours it takes to research all of the options while factoring in language barriers, foreign currencies and even cultural differences. I suggest giving 12 to 18 months to plan so that they can make the most informed and stress-free decisions. Advance planning allows greater pricing between vendors as well. 

While a destination setting may save the soon-to-be bride and groom some cash, it can be quite an expense for their guests. If not rush-planning, giving guests six months to one year of advance notice by sending out “Save the Date” invitations will allow them to start planning and saving.

WWD: How do engaged couples choose a date? What is off-season or shoulder-season?

K.R.: As romantic as a summer wedding in Paris sounds, chances are they’ll be hit with steep airfare and hotel prices and end up sharing their big day with thousands of tourists. Additionally, many businesses in Europe shut down during the summer making many vendors unavailable. The best bet is to choose a date during the off-season which, in Europe, is typically November through March. Shoulder-season, meaning the period between peak and off-seasons, is another great option to save on costs. Shoulder-season varies depending on location but common months are from April to June and September to October.

WWD: What’s the best way to budget for international bank fees?

K.R.: The coveted destination wedding will likely involve paying in a foreign currency, which means unexpected bank fees. A tried-and-true option that has worked for me and my clients is to set up a borderless account through TransferWise. It’s a free, multicountry account that allows you to manage your money in more than 40 currencies. TransferWise makes every transaction at the real exchange rate (as seen on Google) and charges a low fee of around 0.6 percent each time you convert money.

Essentially, after costs are negotiated with vendors abroad, send the funds to a borderless account and convert it all in one go. Consumers will avoid paying multiple international wire fees and make their budget last longer than using PayPal or a bank, which may cost you 2 to 5 percent more than anticipated.

WWD: What other options exist for international venues or price-bundling?

K.R.: Consider an all-inclusive resort. The main benefit of going the all-inclusive route is that there are little to no hidden fees. These resorts offer affordable wedding packages, giving the total upfront cost. The biggest expense at weddings is typically food and beverage so having that already included in the price can save a lot of money.

WWD: How can guest lists be streamlined?

Putting together a guest list is one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding. Having a destination wedding automatically cuts down on this number. Not everyone will be able to attend, which is both a pro and a con. A destination wedding is perfect for small, intimate ceremonies, but the most important thing to remember is to work within the realms of their budget and ensure communication on any decision-making. 

A destination wedding is more than just a four-hour event; it’s typically a three-day celebration surrounded by cherished friends and family members. In my opinion, destination weddings offer a greater return for couples, ensuring the spotlight is on the first dance and not their bank accounts.

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