Weddings Destination Weddings That Marry Adventure with Affordable

by Stacy Suaya | July 09, 2018

You’re engaged — hooray! Just as you’re catching your breath from the thrill of the proposal, there’s another surprise in store: the sticker shock of throwing a wedding bash.

According to The Knot, the national average cost of a wedding is $33,391. A figure which has some couples running for the hills — or a Central American beach or perhaps a colonial Mexican city — for a potentially more affordable destination wedding away from home.

Depending on where and how you say “I do,” you can slash costs in half or even by a third. You just need to be clever. For instance, many destination weddings mean fewer guests, and if you stay for a honeymoon you won’t need to pay for additional flights. Here are some enticing locations where you can host an outstanding destination wedding — for less money.

san miguel de allende aerial view

1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Average cost per guest: $275

This colonial UNESCO World Heritage Site is bursting with color, music and callejoneadas (traditional wedding parades). You, too, can stroll the streets in full wedding regalia with your guests in tow, sipping tequila while being serenaded by a local mariachi band. And, to get fully in the spirit, invite some giant mojigangas (10-foot-tall papier-mâché puppets) to march with you. Boutique hotels and chef-driven restaurants line the cobbled streets, keeping guests cozy and well-fed.

Best time to go: November to April; avoid Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and New Year’s Eve when locals are on holiday

guanacaste costa rica sunset

2. Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

Average cost per guest: $200-$400

Liberia Airport hosts reasonable flights from most major U.S. cities, and once you land it’s a short drive away to white sand beaches and jungle paradise. Set in the northwestern corner of the county along the Pacific Ocean, this stretch known as the “Gold Coast” is home to myriad hotel options: think five-star resorts, eco-friendly lodges and untucked surf hotels. And guests will stay busy with activities like spotting wildlife at Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, hot springs excursions, and jungle or beach horseback riding.

Best time to go: May to June or September to November

Hudson valley orchard

3. Hudson Valley, NY

Average wedding cost: $55,357

Why pay an average of $76,944 for a wedding in bustling Manhattan, when you can slow down the pace (but not the fun) in the laid-back Hudson Valley? Just two hours north of the city by car, with its scenic beauty, wealth of hiking trails, retro lodging and a burgeoning local food scene (helmed by ex-urbanites) there’s plenty for guests to do. Currently trending: Sunday brunch-receptions and exchanging vows inside rustic barns.

Best time to go: September and October for fall foliage; summer for warm days and nights

US state park

4. U.S. state and national parks

Average cost per guest: varies

Couples who have been married in Yellowstone (spanning Wyoming, Montana and Idaho), Montana’s Glacier and Wyoming’s Grand Tetons say these national parks have a similar look to New Zealand – but you’re getting more jaw-dropping backdrop beauty for your travel buck. (Case in point: Olympic National Park, pictured above.) Most parks just charge a small admission fee for access. Some even have lodging onsite – like the 81-year-old Bascom Lodge on the Mount Greylock State Reservation in the Berkshires of Massachusetts with its serene views of the Taconic and Catskill Mountains.

Lydia Jones Hall, 28, of Connecticut, loves to travel and wanted unique photos on her wedding day. And she got both when she tied the knot at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. She spent $288 per guest for her fifteen-person wedding. Guests hit the jackpot too, staying at a Vegas casino hotel and enjoying the stunning canyons and mesa vistas at Zion National Park.

Best time to go: Varies depending on the season of individual parks

Honduras bay with boat

5. Roatan, Honduras

Average cost per guest: $90

This 33-mile island is lesser-known than those in the Caribbean – meaning it’s big on authenticity but attracts fewer tourists. With its white sand beaches and warm water, activities like zip lining and scuba diving (it’s surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world), guests can easily make your occasion their own tropical vacation, too.

Best time to go: February to September (May and September for low-season rates)

savannah spanish moss

6. Savannah, GA

Average cost per guest: $253

Majestic southern live oak trees flourish across Savannah, draping the streets of “The Hostess City” with Spanish moss and setting the scene for a dramatic wedding reception. This coastal city is Georgia’s oldest and features picturesque venue options including a historic gingerbread-style mansion in the Victorian District, a railroad museum, or nearby Tybee Island with a quaint chapel and Atlantic Ocean views.

Best time to go: Mid-September to late November

lake atitlan guatemala

7. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Average cost per guest: $275

Author Aldous Huxley once described Atitlan as “the most beautiful lake in the world,” for its deep blue color, surrounding volcanoes and tropical foliage. Its eco-hotel collection is just as abundant, exhibiting the community’s deep respect for nature. When it comes to your vows, opt for a traditional Mayan fire ceremony; a shaman blesses your new union and builds you a mandala made of earth and flowers.

Best time to go: November through May

red mountains texas

8. West Texas

Average cost per guest: $99

Who needs fussy decor when the natural west Texas backdrop of distant mountains and wide skies is this stunning? Ranch weddings are growing in popularity as is the modern art mecca of Marfa where Brandon Fried, 30, and Jeff Frelack, 33, from Austin, TX, got hitched in 2016, among 75 guests. They hired a food truck for the catering and guests stayed at Thunderbird Marfa, a minimalist-chic 24-room boutique hotel.

“To keep costs low, we had our reception at a vacation rental with a large courtyard and the ceremony was held on public land,” says Fried. For something more “country,” there plenty of ranches like Cibolo Creek, where your guests can stay in historic adobe forts.

Best time to go: March and April; September and October

Stacy Suaya

digs the idea of saying "I do" in a state park. The Los Angeles-based writer’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, C Magazine and Robb Report.