Caribbean Destination Wedding Basics

Destination weddings are becoming enormously popular.  In fact, according to a study by The Knot, roughly 25% of engaged couples plan to get hitched away. That's a significant number, right?  If you're in this category (or at least giving it some serious consideration) and want to learn more, this episode of the Hitched Away Audio Guide gives you the basics.

What is a Destination Wedding?

By definition, a destination wedding takes place out of town - someplace where neither the couple nor their immediate family resides.  The destination doesn't need to be on an exotic continent or many time zones away, just 'away'.

Why the Caribbean?

Romantic beaches, affordable prices, and relatively short travel times, what's not to love? The Caribbean is still the “it” spot for destination weddings and it's our focus.  It's not the only option for your destination wedding, of course, but we think it's a destination worth adding to your location shortlist.   

What are your options?

You have two (2) ways to host your destination wedding in the Caribbean:

  1. 1
    Wedding Package - You can get hitched at resort or hotel--typically an all-inclusive property--that specializes in hosting destination weddings onsite. You get all the elements for your wedding bundled together as a package for a set price.
  2. 2
    An Offsite/Bespoke Wedding - Have your wedding at an offsite location such as a villa or private venue, perhaps a smaller, boutique hotel where weddings are not a built-in service, but you still have access to local wedding suppliers and professionals who can help create your nuptial vision.

Caribbean Destination Wedding Packages

Because of the popularity of destination weddings, many resorts, hotels and even cruise ships in the Caribbean offer wedding packages.  

Most of these packages offer options for each area of your destination wedding: choosing a ceremony site, picking a wedding reception menu, selecting flowers and, in most instances, the processing of your marriage license. In fact, many all-inclusive resorts also offer a 'free' wedding!

Resort wedding packages are usually a good deal this is the hassle-free way to plan your big day away.  

How it Works: Free Destination Weddings

Many Caribbean hotels and resorts promote "free" weddings.  How is this possible? Hotels make their money when they're full.  If you and your guests stay at a resort for a minimum number of nights, the hotel throws in your wedding ceremony for  'free'.  

Off-Site/Bespoke Caribbean Destination Weddings

If privacy, charm and character are what you're looking for, getting hitched at a hideaway hotel or, perhaps, a private Caribbean villa may be what you're looking for. 

Without a wedding 'package' in place, it's safe to say you will spend more with this option.  Your best bet for planning this type of custom destination celebration is to work with a destination wedding planner or a travel agent who specializes in destination weddings.

Who Pays for What?

Overall, when you compare the associated expenses, most couples spend less on a Caribbean resort destination wedding than the amount they would expect to spend for the same wedding services for a hometown wedding -  i.e. catering, site fees, music, etc.

On average, a Caribbean destination wedding costs about 40% less than a traditional hometown wedding in the U.S.  

While that's a definite plus for your bank account, your attending wedding guests may feel the pinch.

If they decide to go, your wedding guests should expect to pick up the tab for:

  • Their round-trip travel expenses (including ground transportation)
  • Their accommodation (usually 3-5 nights) 
  • Their own meals (with the exception of the wedding reception)
  • Any travel-related incidentals - gratuity/tips, travel insurance, 

As you might expect, members of your hand-picked destination wedding party who need to purchase special dresses and suits or tuxedos will have to pay even more!

Because of these expenses (and other considerations - time off work, for example) most destination wedding guest lists don't exceed 100.   A typical destination wedding in the Caribbean is an intimate affair with 15 - 20 guests.  


You're not expected to pay for guests' travel, lodging and food. If a family member or a friend can't afford or chooses not to spend the money associated with your big day away (or has a fear of flying!), they won't attend. 

As the hosts of a destination wedding, here's what you're financially responsible for:

  • Your round-trip travel expenses (including ground transportation)
  • Your accommodation (usually 5 - 7 nights) 
  • The total cost of your wedding elements - catering, decor, rentals, etc. - either in the form of a resort/hotel wedding package or fees paid to an offsite venue and wedding vendors. 
  • Any destination wedding-related activities and gifts for your guests - group tours, welcome bags, etc.

Even after factoring in the cost of airfare and lodging, your money goes further with a Caribbean destination wedding. (Yess!)

The perks of a destination wedding

Saying 'I do' in the Caribbean has many wonderful benefits.

  • If you're completely 'over' the big, traditional wedding brouhaha, but still want to include family and closest friends in your special day you can.
  • The wedding celebration goes on for days (instead of a few short hours). 
  • Destination weddings are fun! You and your guests get to combine your big day with an unforgettable vacation.
  • Your island wedding is likely to cost less than a traditional wedding in your hometown.

A Few Last Words...

When it comes to your island wedding, be sure to give family and friends enough time to make travel preparations and to request time off work from their employer.  Six months is a good rule of thumb.

Also, when you're thinking of where to get hitched away, consider a location that's accessible physically and financially for your wedding guests...unless you're eloping.

If you're still not sure whether or not a Caribbean destination wedding is for you, get in touch.  I'm happy to answer any questions you have.  

Happy Planning!

Debbie at HitchedAway

Debbie is a destination wedding travel advisor and the face (and voice) of HitchedAway. With a focus on breathtaking destinations and venues in the Caribbean, her goal is to demystify the process of planning your special occasion from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Ready to Start Planning?

Let's talk. Schedule your free consultation to chat with Debbie.