In 2012, David and I got married on a sunny (temporarily) day in Scotland. We were married in front of an old stately home with a shining loch in the distance, had our photos taken in a mossy wood and dined on scrumptious local fare at a phenomenal restaurant. Given that half our guests were coming from Canada, I’d call this a destination wedding! While most people opt for warmer climates, Scotland seemed the perfect option for our wedding day. Perhaps not optimal for our budget… but here are some tips I learned along the way for how to have a destination wedding on a budget.
Combine Your Wedding With a Planned Vacation
David proposed at the end of January, 2012. The next time we were going to see each other was in April of that year as my family were already doing a trip to the UK. My parents, my brother, his wife and my niece had already booked flights to the UK. While the timing was tight, the savings we would see by combining it with a family trip were quite the motivator.
Consider the Shoulder Season
High season in any destination will cost you an arm and a leg. The shoulder season either side of high season can reap big savings. The low season would be even better, but that likely comes with poorer weather, so I completely get wanting to avoid that if you’re hoping for outdoor photos. Shoulder season will help you achieve savings on flights, hotels and sometimes even restaurant rentals, etc.
Rent a House
Rather than have everyone pay for individual accommodation or hotel rooms, it can be much more cost effective to rent a house, a lodge, or some sort of larger self-catering accommodation. It allows everyone to mingle before and after the big event, save costs on food and be a bit more cozy.
For the bride and groom… it can be preferable to splash out on the cost of private accommodation at least for the wedding night!
Keep the Guest List Small
I like to say we had twelve and a half guests – my six-month old niece being the half. We could never have had the wedding we’d have liked if we’d had 50+ people in attendance. Keeping it small allowed us to have the venue we wanted, take the kind of photos we preferred and to eat at the restaurant we wanted to. The bonus? By keeping things small, you’re less likely (though you can never entirely get away with it!) of offending people by not inviting so and so, or so and so. Keep it tight and people will (or should) understand. Remember, a wedding is for you and your partner, nobody else.
If you feel you’re missing out on the big party, you can always do one on a budget when you get home, like we did.
Get Married Midweek
While the theory of midweek savings may not apply at hotels in tropical destinations, in other places the costs of hotels/accommodation rises on weekends. We got married on a Tuesday. That made it much easier to book out a room at a restaurant, and had we been staying in a hotel, rates would have been much cheaper.
Do Your Research
If you’re working with a hotel to book all the details of your wedding, do a little digging online first to see if it’s cheaper for you to book certain things (like a photographer) yourself. This may or may not be allowed in your contract. We had to do a bit of digging to find the best deal for a photographer whose work we still loved!
Have a Humanist Ceremony
A Humanist wedding ceremony means that you are legally getting married, but they can also marry you anywhere. We wanted to get married outside of our accommodation overlooking Loch Aline, so a humanist ceremony was the way to go. We literally got married in the sunshine, but as we were signing our paperwork it started to rain. One of my favourite pictures from the wedding is of us running inside with the chairs.
We did our own reception in the house we’d rented. We bought champagne and made kir royales for everyone to toast after the ceremony. We made hors d’oeuvres the night before. We decorated with flowers and paper hearts that my Mum and I had made. We put together our own reception playlist. All in all, it was quiet, cozy, but personal.
Dinner on a Dime
Unless you’re superwoman, you likely don’t want to cook your own wedding meal. We opted for dinner in a local restaurant. Being that it was both shoulder season and midweek, getting a booking was no issue (we took up half the restaurant!) and costs weren’t astronomical.
This applies on all fronts. Get creative with your decor, your reception, your food and… your DESTINATION. So many people think of a tropical island resort when they think destination wedding. You can pretty much go anywhere your heart desires, so why not get married somewhere that you and your partner have always dreamed of traveling to?
Have you ever been to (or had) a destination wedding? What was it like? How would you save on the budget?
Note: We were incredibly lucky to have my parents help out with the wedding, so while we didn’t personally pay for most of the costs, it was on us to keep to budget!
All photos in this post were taken by the incredibly talented Gavin Macqueen Photography.