This Is How Much a Destination Wedding Costs on Average

According to real data.
Average Destination Wedding Cost
Joey Reger
maddy sims the knot associate editor
by
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Associate Editor
  • Maddy writes for The Knot, with a specialty in beauty, sustainability, mental health and inclusivity.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Maddy wrote for several different publications, including Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School ...
Updated Feb 24, 2022

You could be dreaming about exchanging vows in a castle or celebrating alongside your loved ones at a far-flung locale. A destination wedding is certainly a special way to celebrate your love, but budgetary questions could restrict you from achieving your dream big day. We surveyed over 15,000 couples who got married last year to find the average destination wedding cost.

While many elements might go into determining whether you should have a destination wedding, the most important one is probably the price tag. According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, the average destination wedding cost is $32,700 (excluding the cost of the engagement ring). As these numbers are averages, use them for baseline knowledge as you begin planning your own destination wedding.

And it's important to remember that this number is a national average, meaning we took numbers from couples all over the country with varying destinations, styles and guests counts and divided it by the total number of respondents.

How Popular Are Destination Weddings?

While the COVID pandemic put most destination weddings on pause, travel is back in a big way. Our findings indicate that more and more couples are opting out of hometown weddings. According to our study, in 2021, 19% of couples got married under what they consider a destination wedding—this is comparable to pre-COVID levels (in 2019, 21% of couples hosted a destination wedding). As this travel boom continues, we expect even more destination weddings to take place in 2022.

It's important to note that destination weddings aren't only beachside events in faraway tropical locations. In fact, most destination weddings take place in the continental U.S. Yes, these may be beach locations, but they can also be in the mountains, near a lake or in a favorite vacation spot. A smaller number of weddings were held in international destinations. According to our study 46% of international destination weddings took place in Mexico, while 30% were held in the Caribbean. In terms of cost, the average cost of a domestic destination wedding in 2021 was $33,400, while it was $30,400 for an event that took place outside of the U.S.

What Are Some Destination Wedding Expenses to Consider?

Destination weddings tend to cost more than hometown weddings. According to our study, the average cost of a destination wedding in 2021 was $32,700, as compared to the average cost of a hometown wedding, which was $28,000. There are a few factors that come into play when explaining the difference in cost.

Obviously, travel expenses such as airfare and accommodations come into play when planning a destination wedding. Many couples choose an all-inclusive resort as their wedding venue to help save money since the hotel room, meals and group activities are often included in their wedding packages. The time of year when you choose to host your big day may also come into play here—hosting your wedding during peak season may mean higher travel costs than planning an event during the off season.

Couples were more likely to hire a wedding planner when planning a destination event. According to our study, 37% of couples who planned a domestic destination wedding in the U.S. and 57% of those who hosted an international destination wedding hired a wedding planner, as compared with 27% of those who married in their hometown. While a wedding coordinator is an added expense, if you're getting married in a location that's far from home, having someone to help book local vendors and handle all the details during the destination wedding planning process is crucial.

But the biggest factor that will determine how much you'll spend on your destination wedding? The number of guests you're inviting. Destination weddings typically have a lower guest count than a local wedding. According to our study, domestic destination weddings have an average of 72 guests, while international events have an average of 54 wedding guests. Compare that to the average guest count for a local wedding: 110. However, couples tend to spend more money per guest at a destination wedding for a few reasons. One, destination weddings tend to be multi-day affairs with lots of events (welcome parties, rehearsal dinners, group activities, etc.) that everyone's invited to. And second, couples want to create a personalized, curated experience for their loved ones. So the best way to save money on a destination wedding? Trim your guest list!

What Are the Most Expensive Wedding Destinations?

If you're wondering what the most expensive wedding destinations are, the answer is it varies. International markets oscillate when it comes to destination wedding prices. However, our study found the average cost of weddings in 2021 (excluding the cost of the engagement ring) across different U.S. states. See the top 11 most expensive wedding destinations in the United States, below:

  1. New Jersey: $47,000
  2. District of Columbia: $44,000
  3. Rhode Island: $43,000*
  4. New York: $42,000
  5. Connecticut: $38,500
  6. Massachusetts: $36,000
  7. California: $33,000
  8. Vermont: $32,700
  9. Illinois: $32,000
  10. Pennsylvania: $32,000
  11. Virginia: $32,000

*2019 data

The takeaway is simply that the average cost of a destination wedding is case-by-case, so it's best to do your own research. Call local planners, venues, caterers and other vendors in your preferred destination wedding location to see what their prices look like—and then compare that to the wedding budget you've set. Don't have a budget yet? Take a look at The Knot Budget Tool. It will help you stay on track while planning your dream wedding.

How Do Couples Choose Their Destinations?

When it comes to wedding planning, the world is your oyster—literally. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all of the options out there, consider stealing strategies from the couples we surveyed. Nearly six in ten couples said that they chose their location because it was interesting, meaning it was unique or it offered great sightseeing. If you're looking for a way to personalize your wedding day, choosing a meaningful location is a great way to do so. Just over half of couples who wed in 2021 said they decided on their spot because it was special to them and their partner. Consider going back to the place where you first said "I love you" or the spot where you got engaged.

No matter where you decide to exchange vows, The Knot is here to help. Use our wedding website templates to keep your guests informed about destination wedding details, and start an online registry (complete with a cash fund, so you can plan the honeymoon of your dreams).

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