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What Is a Destination Wedding in 2022?

The answer may surprise you.

couple mountain wedding

When asked the question “What is a destination wedding?” you can probably come up with an answer pretty quickly. Exotic tropical locale, toes-in-the-sand ceremony, far-off country—that’s a destination wedding, right? You might be surprised to learn that, according to a recent WeddingWire survey, that’s not necessarily what the typical destination wedding looks like. In fact, beach destination weddings are in the minority, and millennial couples very rarely choose to host their wedding day abroad (despite the potential Insta-worthiness). Not what you expected, right? Find out the real answer to the question “what is a destination wedding?” and prepare to change your view of what this type of wedding really entails.

Destination weddings don’t have to be held in a different country.

It turns out that millennial couples have a much broader interpretation when it comes to the question “what is a destination wedding?”. Sure, destination weddings can take place in a foreign country (the Caribbean and Mexico are particularly popular), but far more occur right here in the U.S. According to the WeddingWire survey, nearly 1 in 4 couples consider their wedding to be a type of destination wedding, but only 13 percent said it took place abroad. In fact, 43 percent of those who defined their wedding as a destination wedding got married in a different state, not a different country. And only one-third of couples hosting a destination wedding had to fly to get there.  So truly, a wedding doesn’t require a four-hour flight and a passport to be a destination event (though 80 percent of couples said their guests did have to travel and stay overnight to attend their big day)—in fact, few do. 

Remember, too, that there are certain legal requirements in order to get a marriage license in a foreign country. This may make keeping a destination wedding in the U.S. a bit easier for couples—though you could host your legal wedding in the U.S., followed by a more ceremonial event in another country.

Tropical destination weddings are in the minority.

Okay, so a destination wedding doesn’t require a crazy amount of travel, but most destination weddings take place on the beach, right? Wrong! Only 22 percent of couples host their destination wedding in what’s considered a tropical destination. True, when deciding on a location for their destination wedding, 84 percent of couples cite weather as a top factor, that doesn’t mean that a tropical beach wedding locale is a must. This means that couples are opting for other types of locations for their destination wedding, from vineyards to mountain resorts, national landmarks, urban areas, and more, depending on the time of year. 

Couples pick a location that’s special to them.

The answer to the question “what is a destination wedding?” might be this simple: A destination wedding is hosted in a location that’s special to the couple, that doesn’t include their hometowns or where they currently live. According to the WeddingWire survey, 53 percent of couples chose their wedding destination because it’s meaningful to them. And half of couples in the survey chose to have a destination wedding because it’s a unique experience. Whether it’s a favorite getaway spot, a beloved city, or a college town, millennial couples want every aspect of their big day, from the location to the tiniest of wedding details, to feel personal. 

Couples consider price, activities, and more when choosing their wedding venue.

So if choosing a destination wedding location is step one, step two is choosing a specific wedding venue. According to the study, a lot of factors come into play when choosing a venue, with price being the most important. Couples are also looking for venues that are relatively easy to get to and offer a variety of activities and experiences, as well as wedding packages that fit their style and budget. Wedding packages that include everything from on-site caterer to decor, make planning much easier. Many couples are also specifically looking for all-inclusive resorts to host their destination wedding, as those tend to be more affordable and allow guests to stay on-site for meals and activities. 

Destination wedding planning can take a longer amount of time.

You might think a laid-back destination wedding can be thrown together at the last-minute, but these weddings require quite a bit more planning than a hometown event. In fact, the average couple hosting a destination wedding spends 17 months planning their special day, as opposed to a 13-month planning timeline for couples hosting a traditional wedding in their hometown or current city of residence. This makes sense when you think about it, as couples usually want to give their guests more notice to book travel and accommodations than if they were hosting a hometown wedding. And if couples want to visit their wedding locale a few times to meet with vendors, that will require additional time.

Destination weddings have way fewer guests than hometown weddings.

It probably comes as no surprise that destination weddings have fewer guests than hometown weddings. If you’re asking your guests to take time off of work, travel, and stay overnight, some of your loved ones are bound to have conflicts. According to the WeddingWire survey, the average couple invites 94 guests at a destination wedding, but only 53 actually attend, as compared to 132 guests at a hometown wedding. And as we all know, a bigger guest list equals a more expensive wedding, so this could be why destination weddings are often considered a more budget-friendly endeavor.  

The average destination wedding costs more than a hometown wedding. 

If your dream wedding is a destination event, you're probably wondering "so, how much will this thing cost?" According to a WeddingWire study, a destination wedding costs about 11 percent more than a hometown wedding. The average cost of a destination wedding is about $32,000, as compared with the $28,600 couples typically spend on a hometown wedding. Why do couples spend more? Well, there are the basic matters of airfare and hotel costs, but couples are also spending more on the guest experience. For example, all guests are typically invited to welcome parties, rehearsal dinners, and other extra events, unlike hometown weddings where only close family and wedding party members may be invited to these pre- and post-wedding celebrations. 

Destination weddings are held during the day.

One of the main reasons couples choose a destination wedding location is because of its amazing scenery—and they want their guests to actually see and experience it! This is probably why more destination wedding ceremonies take place during the day. In fact, 62 percent of couples host their destination wedding ceremonies in the daytime, as opposed to 54 percent of couples marrying in their hometowns. A daytime event also allows for a longer wedding celebration, as the vacation-like setting puts couples and their wedding guests in a partying mood. And another interesting fact—couples hosting a destination wedding are less likely to hold their ceremony in a house of worship (only 12 percent do, as opposed to a quarter of those hosting a hometown event), meaning they’re probably opting for outdoor ceremony settings to fully embrace their wedding locale.

Couples who plan a destination wedding are more likely to hire a wedding planner.

Those wedding planning from a distance probably need a little (or a lot of) extra help. Turns out that 36 percent of couples hosting a destination wedding hire a planner, and usually a full-service one at that. Less than a quarter of couples hosting hometown weddings hire a wedding planner, and most often they’re enlisting a day-of coordinator. Clearly, couples hosting destination weddings see the long list of benefits of hiring a planner, whether it be one who is based in their wedding locale (our recommendation) or a pro from their home base.