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Destination weddings: Are they cost-effective as travel becomes pricier? – National

Against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea, Ontario couple Matt Lassaline and Kirsten Whiteley got married in Jamaica last month in a small beach wedding ceremony that was everything they had imagined.

Having bought a house in 2021 and with a mortgage to pay off, the couple didn’t want to put themselves in more financial strain with a big expensive wedding.

“I think we wanted to do something nice, but at the same time cost-effective and we were surprised with how cost-effective doing a destination wedding was,” Whiteley said in an interview with Global News.

“We were really pleased with how it turned out.”

The one-week vacation, including the wedding ceremony in Trelawny, cost them roughly $18,000.

Being at the resort for a week also gave them an opportunity to spend more time with their guests, rather than having to rush through meeting everyone in a single day, Lassaline said.

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Kirsten Whiteley and Matt Lassaline and on their wedding day at the Ocean Coral Springs Resort in Jamaica.


Photo credit: Sirenna Studio

Despite soaring travel costs, Canadian interest in destination weddings appears to be growing.

Some wedding specialists and travel agents told Global News they’ve noticed a spike in the number of couples choosing beach resorts for their big day and at a much lower cost than the price of a traditional wedding in their hometowns.

“The demand for destination weddings has increased tenfold since the pandemic,” said Susan Gill, a wedding specialist at Escapes.ca in Vancouver.

While the pent-up demand to travel is a big motivation for these multi-day wedding celebrations in scenic locations, affordability is top of mind for many.


Click to play video: 'Destination weddings in Travel Tips'


Destination weddings in Travel Tips


Are destination weddings feasible?

Zerlene Mekdeci, a destination wedding specialist at Vacation Travel Group in the Greater Toronto Area, said it feels like more and more people are taking this route because it is very expensive to host a wedding at home.

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“Historically, about 15 per cent of Canadians would do a destination wedding,” she said in an interview with Global News.


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“People are finding that it is now a great option.”

Mekdeci estimates that the cost of a typical destination wedding down south with 100 people attending – which is usually not the case – would be roughly $30,000, versus $60,000 for a wedding with a similar guest count and bells and whistles in Toronto.

Since not everyone can travel, the average size for a destination wedding is about 40 people, which helps cut costs to about $18,000 to $20,000, Mekdeci said.

“The guest count really is one of the biggest determinants of your overall budget because you’re basically paying per person for people,” she said.


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Smiths Falls, Ont., woman’s wedding dress stolen two weeks before wedding


On top of the all-inclusive vacation, a destination wedding package can cover the ceremony, bouquets, food, drinks, wedding cake, music, hairstyling and makeup as well as photography.

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Anything you add in terms of décor, live band or other entertainment will obviously increase the bill.

“The benefit of doing a destination wedding is that you have the backdrop of the palm trees and the ocean and the beautiful weather and scenery that you don’t need to go spend a ton of money then putting in all this décor,” Mekdeci said.

Planning a wedding at home can also be more “time-consuming,” Gill said, as you go through each tiny detail of how the day will unfold.

How to keep destination weddings on a budget

Leslie Rose from Newfoundland and her fiancé are getting married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in October 2025.

The couple are planning week-long festivities, including a rehearsal day, a wedding reception and other resort activities in between.

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Leslie Rose and her fiance’ are planning a destination wedding in Jamaica next year.


Photo credit: Alexandra Hutchison

She said her family loves to travel, which is one of the reasons they decided to go down this route, and the full week allows them to spend more time with their loved ones.

“When thinking about the wedding, we really wanted that quality time with everyone and have a big celebration besides that one day,” Rose said.

The full week will cost the couple between $12,000 and $15,000.

“We are financially going to be able to do our dream wedding for less money than it would be in Canada,” Rose said.


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On top of that, everything related to travel, from flights to hotels, has become more expensive, which is something couples and their guests have to consider, wedding specialists say.

“One of the concerns is the cost to the guests — that’s the one thing I hear from couples all the time,” Mekdeci said.

To cut expenses, couples can explore different options for the destination and the time of the year for their wedding.

Merkdeci said Mexico and the Dominican Republic are popular choices because they are relatively more affordable than places like Aruba or Antigua.

Prices will be lower from the summer months to fall compared with the high season, which is Christmas going into March break.


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Some wedding packages also have promotions, like one guest free for every 10 guests, Mekdeci said.

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People can play around with the duration of their stay to make the trip less expensive, she added.

While Rose and her fiancé will be staying for more than a week in Jamaica, she said they are giving their guests the option to stay for a shorter duration if they want.

Lois Barbour, owner of Travel Time Agency in St. John’s, N.L., said people can use their points or miles to trim the airfare.

Despite the growing lure, destination weddings are not a “good fit” for everyone, especially if they have a Type A personality, Barbour said.

“Somebody who wants all of the details looked after months and months in advance and everything to the very finest, minute detail to be totally under their control are probably not a good fit for a destination wedding,” she said.

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