How Much Does It Cost to Go to a Destination Wedding?

It's something to keep in mind when you receive your next invitation.

Find out what to expect if you were invited to a friend or family member's upcoming destination wedding celebration.

Photo: Rebecca Walker for Ira Lippke Studios

Destination weddings are a beautiful way to celebrate your love with your nearest and dearest. It’s often a way to turn your nuptials into a giant group vacation with your closest family and friends. However, there’s no denying that the choice can make things more difficult for your prospective attendees. After all, couples planning a destination celebration are often told to expect a higher decline rate on their invitations. 

CompareCards, a website that allows users to view different credit card offers in one place, surveyed 1,000 Americans to learn about the financial impact destination weddings have on both guests and the hosting couples. The key findings are below.

A destination-wedding guest spends $1,421 on average, including travel, gifts, and spending on personal items, the survey found. That number jumps to $2,514 for destination weddings outside of the U.S. 

Travel Costs:
- Travel to a destination wedding in the U.S. costs an average of $640.
- Travel to a destination wedding outside of the U.S. costs an average of $1,595.
- The average time spent away was about five days.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they used a credit card to pay for travel.
- 41% said they applied for a new travel rewards card to take advantage of traveling to the destination.

Couple’s Budget:
- The survey found while most couples who had a destination wedding (83%) set a budget, over half (64%) went over their budget by an average of $2,071.
- Most couples (86%) used a credit card to pay for at least part of the wedding.
- Survey respondents expect to pay off wedding-related balances in 15 months.

The Guest List:
- Destination wedding guests typically received an average 5.4 months of notice that a wedding was in the works.
- About half (51%) turned down a destination invite.
- Over half (55%) think destination weddings can be inconsiderate to guests, with 70% saying they are more expensive, 41% saying they require taking time off, and 34% responding that it takes too much time.

- Nearly a third (31%) of guests were asked to donate to a honeymoon fund – those who did gave an average $322 gift to a honeymoon fund.
- Guests spent an average $288 on wedding gifts.
- Wedding party members gave gifts averaging $344.
- Domestic destination wedding guests presented gifts worth an average $254.
- Foreign destination wedding guests gave the most, with an average of $450.

budget tips for attending a destination wedding

Photo by Carrie King Photographer

If you’ve been invited to a destination wedding and are worried about how it will impact your finances, CompareCards’ editor Kira Brecht has tips to make sure you don’t go broke celebrating someone else’s big day. 

- Don’t be afraid to send regrets. Be choosy about which weddings you attend. Your budget or schedule may not allow you to attend every wedding – and that’s okay. You can always send a meaningful gift in your place: a bottle of champagne for when the bride is getting ready, call the hotel and arrange to pay for the couple’s first breakfast as a married couple with a note... small touches that will be appreciated by the bride and groom.

- Be honest. If you are in the wedding party and face a financial strain, it’s okay to share your concerns with the bride or groom. They may be able to defray your costs.

- Personal items. You may not need a new outfit for every wedding. Consider appropriate clothing you already own or borrow something from a friend.

- Travel costs. Set up a flight alert to track airline prices. Purchase your ticket when the price dips.

- Gifts. Give what you can afford. Pitch in for a group gift. Don’t feel pressure to overspend. With destination weddings, part of your gift is your attendance on the day.

- Explore hotel options. If you buddy up with friends, an Airbnb or HomeAway residence with several bedrooms could be a less expensive option, and always use the resources given to you like discounted hotel room blocks.

- Make a vacation out of it. Just because you didn’t choose the location doesn’t mean you can’t find things to do to make it feel like a real vacation, with the wedding as an instigator. Sometimes hotels will even extend the room block rate beyond the celebration.

- Take advantage of 0% introductory interest on credit cards. There are credit cards that offer more than a year of 0% intro interest. That means no interest will pile up during the promotional period, which gives you time to pay down your balance interest-free. 

For more tips and advice, discover the pros and cons of having a destination wedding, find out what to consider when you're invited to a destination fête, and read an expert's tips on planning the perfect destination wedding.