It’s easy to see the appeal of a destination wedding—it’s like a vacation with all your favorite people! But vacations, and weddings, are expensive, so many couples think destination weddings are cost prohibitive.
But not so fast. There are affordable destination wedding locations, even if you’re looking to get more stamps in your passport. “Mexico and the Dominican Republic are going to be the easiest and most budget-friendly,” says Andrea Wolter, co-founder of Intoxicating Travel Group.
Jamaica is another affordable destination, and, like Mexico and the Dominican Republic, it’s filled with properties that are very experienced in hosting weddings—and that even offer freebies and discounts to attract them. Many hotels, both all-inclusive and not, offer extras to their marrying couples, like discounted room rates, complimentary welcome cocktail receptions or bonfire parties, and even free weddings.
When you factor in the discounts and incentives (the hotels make a killing on all the rooms your guests book, so they’re willing to cut costs on the party itself), it can actually be cheaper to host a destination wedding versus one at home. Plus, the cost of living can be lower abroad than in the U.S., bringing down the costs of things like flowers, food, and entertainment.
One thing to be mindful of if you choose a destination wedding is to plan ahead. Wolter advises couples to start planning a year in advance to secure their date and to give guests time to plan the trip. Depending on the property you pick for the big day, you may even need to book further out.
To help with costs even further, many couples are opting for a honeymoon registry rather than traditional gifts. “Another item that budget brides are doing is the honeymoon registry, which is giving people additional money for their honeymoon,” Wolter says. Especially if you already have a blender and sheets, receiving an unforgettable honeymoon experience can be the best gift ever.
Here, three international destination wedding locales where you can host your vows and reception without going broke.
There’s a reason Mexico is so popular for destination weddings. It’s close to the U.S., it’s affordable, and the country knows how to throw a great party. Not to mention the incredible food, the lively culture, and, let’s just be real here, the margaritas. (And of course the white sand beaches aren’t bad, either.)
The first step in planning a destination wedding in Mexico is to narrow it down to where. On the west coast, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta are big; on the Caribbean side, many couples get hitched in Cancun, Tulum, or Riviera Maya; and Mexico City is an increasingly popular choice for its stunning architecture, food, and culture. To make travel a breeze, you may want to pick a locale with a major airport (like Cancun and Mexico City).
You’ll also want to think about where you and your guests will stay. The beach cities especially have a slew of all-inclusive resorts ready to meet you and your guests’ every need, and many of these properties will offer room discounts to your friends and family.
While getting to and enjoying Mexico is pretty easy, legally marrying there isn’t as simple. The country requires a blood test, a tourist/visitor’s permit, birth certificates, and marriage application forms. You also need at least four witnesses and to arrive in the country three business days ahead of the ceremony. That’s why many couples choose to get married legally at home, and then have the symbolic ceremony and party in Mexico.
One of the most affordable destination wedding locales is the Dominican Republic, where the average wedding rings in around $5,000. But the views are anything but cheap—with killer Caribbean beaches and lush jungle, the Dominican Republic is truly an island paradise.
By far the most popular spot to wed is Punta Cana, where you’ll find the most beautiful stretches of white sand beaches and loads of resorts. All-inclusives are popular here, and most of them offer wedding packages and special rates.
Resort wedding specialists are experienced at both planning your dream wedding and guiding you through the legal process of marrying in the Dominican Republic. You’ll need a passport, tourist card, translated birth certificate, and a notarized in the DR declaration of your single status. There are also extra fees you’ll need to pay, and your wedding certificate will be in Spanish, which will need to be translated into English in order for it to be recognized in the U.S.
Jamaica is perfect for couples looking for a banging beach party. And with so many great ways to incorporate local culture—a steel drum band playing your song as you walk down the aisle, a jerk chicken feast for the rehearsal dinner, Appleton Estate rum all around!—it’s easy to see why the Caribbean island is so popular.
Most couples choose to wed in Negril, Montego Bay, or Ocho Rios, and for good reason. All three have amazing beaches and plenty of all-inclusives and boutique hotels to choose from. Like in other locales, many properties offer bonuses like discounted rooms and free weddings for booking a certain number of rooms/nights.
To get legally married in Jamaica, you’ll need a birth certificate, passport, and to provide info on your occupation and to pay extra fees. Because it’s no fun to be stressed about all this stuff during the happiest week of your life, many couples either hire a planner to help them navigate all the legalities or opt for a legal marriage at home and a symbolic ceremony in Jamaica.