Here's How Much You Should Expect To Pay When Attending A Destination Wedding

Seeing your best friends or family members tie the knot on a dreamy white sand beach or at a centuries-old Italian villa is nothing short of heartwarming. Destination weddings are a great way to get married while offering both the wedding party and guests the opportunity to experience new, beautiful places around the world. But it's no secret that these special weddings come with a big price tag, for all involved. 

As such, it's crucial for guests to consider the various expenses that come with attending such an amazing — but admittedly costly — event. From airfare and accommodations to food, gifts, and even the indirect costs of taking time off work, we'll break down all of the potential expenses of attending a destination wedding. This way, you can better plan your budget and make the most of your time at the wedding without worrying about the price tag.

All in all, we estimate that for a five-day stay, you can expect to spend between $2,000 to $4,000. However, this range depends on a variety of factors including the destination, the time of year, whether or not you have flexible PTO, and if you have kids or pets.

Getting to the wedding

It probably goes without saying, but one of the biggest expenses you'll incur when attending a destination wedding is the air travel. You can expect to pay anywhere between $500 to $2,000 for your trip depending on the distance to the destination, the location of the wedding, the season, and of course how comfortably you want to fly. For most people, this will likely take up the majority of their budget for attending the wedding.

If the couple has given you a save-the-date well ahead of time, consider booking your flights as far in advance as possible. This will ensure you get the best deals. If you're trying to save a bit of money, consider flying with one of the many popular budget airlines.

Additionally, you'll need to factor in the transportation costs at your destination. These could be taxis, ride-shares, rental cars, or private transfer services. If the information is not included in the invitation, ask if there will be a shuttle service from guests' hotels or accommodations if you're not staying on property at the wedding venue.

Think about where you'll sleep

Accommodation expenses for guests can vary significantly. It all depends on the destination and what arrangements the couple has made for guests (if any), or the type of lodging you choose if accommodations are not arranged. If you're booking yourself, aim to set aside at least $1,000 to $2,000 for a four-to-seven-day stay. Again, this depends on the destination and the season.

In general though, destination weddings will often take place at a venue with accommodations available for guests such as resorts or hotels. These can be more expensive than regular accommodations or privately hosted vacation rentals but they are more convenient for guests since they won't need to get themselves to and from the wedding venue.

The couple will likely let you know if staying on the property at the venue is an option. If not, it's entirely appropriate to ask the couple if arrangements have been made for guests either in the form of group rates or discounted packages for guests at the venue or nearby hotels. Ask for recommendations if the couple is familiar with the destination.

If making your own arrangements for lodging, you can explore other options like Airbnb or Vrbo. Consider sharing accommodations with other guests to reduce costs while still enjoying a nice, comfortable stay. Who knows? You may even make new friends!

What you can expect to spend on food

A rumbling stomach in the middle of the couple saying their vows is not a great look. Neither are the consequences of drinking on said empty stomach! Don't miss or skip meals to save a buck and make sure to carve out a portion of your budget for food in advance.

Unfortunately, food can also be a substantial part of the costs of attending a destination wedding. If you're staying on property at the venue, meals might be covered if it's all-inclusive or you may be able to purchase meal and/or beverage packages. If not, and there is no way to easily leave the property to eat somewhere nearby, you may be a bit of a captive audience.

If you can easily go to a nearby town or city, consider eating there as prices will likely be cheaper. Alternatively, go to a grocery store to grab some snacks or ingredients to make sandwiches. If you have specific dietary needs, definitely consider bringing some of your own pre-packaged food and snacks. Ultimately, in countries with a low cost of living, seasoned travelers spend around $20 to $30 per day on food; and for countries where the cost of living is higher, it's about $50 to $70 per person.

Yes, you still need to bring gifts

Even though you may be incurring significant expenses to attend a destination wedding, it's still expected and customary to give a gift to the couple, though it doesn't have to be quite as expensive. However, it's essential to factor it into your overall budget — you should expect to spend between $50 to $100 on a gift.

Consider selecting a thoughtful and meaningful gift that reflects your relationship with the couple, is something useful for their new life together, or will last for many years serving as a happy reminder of their wedding. Check out websites like Etsy where you can find artisans who can hand-make creative items. Sometimes these can even be customized to add a special touch or meaning to your gift.

Alternatively, if you know a few people from the guest list, gather together and contribute to a larger group gift for, let's say, the couple's honeymoon. This will have more impact on the couple and minimize the individual costs while still providing a nice, thoughtful gift.

Indirect costs of going to a destination wedding

Apart from the direct expenses related to travel, accommodation, food, and gifts, there are additional costs you (and maybe your guest) need to consider when attending a destination wedding. If you have children or pets, you may need to arrange for childcare or pet-sitting services, which can incur additional expenses. For pet sitting, you can expect a sitter to charge around $30 a day and more for overnight stays. For a weeklong vacation, you'll probably spend $250 to $375. For childcare, costs are around $100-$200 a night. Try to find a friend or relative you trust (and who is willing) to watch your kiddos while you're away, but do offer them some cash to buy food, pay for entertainment, or anything else they might need while you're away.

Taking time off work may also result in lost wages if you work on an hourly basis or you may need to use precious PTO or vacation days. So, plan ahead and also account for these less tangible costs when deciding whether to attend a destination wedding.

You may even want to compare the costs of attending a destination wedding with your relationship to the couple. If you're close friends or family, you should probably make the effort to attend. If you're not all that close or you clearly can't afford to go, it may not be worth it. The couple should be understanding if you decline their invitation.