Long Haul

The Good, the Bad, and the Destination Wedding

Are destination weddings the best or the worst? We can lay out the facts and the figures, the pros and the cons, but that’s a question you’ll need to answer. And you’re going to get your chance.

The positives of the destination wedding are obvious. According to one study, 23% of couples got married 200 miles or more from their home in 2017, up three percent from 2008. Because, of course, why do anything at home when you could do it, for example, on a beach in the Maldives? But exotic as your chosen locale may be — and we can recommend a lot of exotic hotels to host you — the destination wedding is always a controversial decision. It’s a multi-day commitment, the travel’s an expensive hassle, and many of your invitees simply won’t be able to attend.

Although, maybe that last one doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, that seems to be exactly why many people choose to have a destination wedding in the first place. This culling of the herd, as it were, sets a strange dynamic for such a sacred event, but it’s also entirely understandable. It’s your big day, and it should be exactly as you want it. The music should be perfect. The hors d’oeuvres should be perfect. And the number of surly relatives crammed around a table eating chicken or fish should, also, be perfect.

In this story we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of the destination wedding. We’ll also investigate some recent matrimonial trends which, to no one’s surprise, have been heavily affected by social media. But most importantly, at the end we want to hear your opinion on the question everyone is asking:

Are destination weddings the best or the worst?

Destination Weddings
147 more guests were invited to this wedding

The Numbers

Few would go on record to say their number-one priority in choosing a faraway wedding location was to separate the wheat from the chaff on the guest list, but one study mentioned a third of Americans who’ve “skipped or considered skipping a wedding because they couldn’t afford to go.” Another cites one in five destination wedders who actually hosted a second party — sans actual wedding — in recognition that many couldn’t make it to the more elaborate service.

One Jamaica-married groom explained that he and his spouse wanted their wedding out of the country because “we both wanted something smaller.” In a sad turn of events, he then put it on the internet-record that he “[wished he] would have known” just how many guests would end up skipping it.

Here’s another delightfully petty fact. In one study, 27% said they would contribute less on a gift for a destination wedding. It’s the exact same percentage who said they’d spend less on a gift for a a remarriage. Mathematically speaking, to your guests, that means traveling for your wedding equals approximately one divorce.

Destination Weddings
Most people don’t enjoy sitting out in the cold, but one in five will do it “for the ’Gram”

The Trends

Then again, if you’re just trying to get away, maybe you don’t need to invite anyone. The New York Times has been chronicling the so-called “lavish elopement” trend, wherein the intended fly off somewhere glamorous and spend about the same amount you might spend on a big wedding party, with one difference — there aren’t any guests. Their family and friends then get the pleasure of seeing the highlights (cathedral, Kobe beef, three-piece band) on social media, courtesy the one invited attendee: the photographer. Why bring everyone to your wedding when they can just envy it from their phones?

As usual, when social media changes the tradition, millennials get the blame.

“Millennials, and I mean this in the best way, are a vain bunch,” Maxwell Cooper, editor of the Knot, tells CNN, acknowledging that — sometimes — millennials do in fact bring their friends to their weddings. But they aren’t always traditional about it. “They put their whole lives on social and a wedding is no different. They will continue to put their money toward their wedding as an event for their guests to experience and put on social.”

Destination Weddings
Why have guests when you can have perfectly staged photos?

CNN’s talking about something as important as the demise of the gift bag in favor of more glamorous, photo-worthy wedding features. But the desire to invest in the parts of your wedding that jump off the screen could just as easily indicate the rise of the destination wedding.

After all, what’s more Insta-worthy than travel? And does that mean that a day will come when an Instagram influencer leverages their very wedding day for a free stay from a hotel? Of course it does.

Another trend — destination weddings with a local twist — sees ceremonies that incorporate the matrimonial traditions of the destination itself. One of our hotels, Amankora in Bhutan, is quoted in the New York Times saying they’ve “seen a substantial pickup in the last two years” of Buddhist weddings, in what was once a rarity. Shaman-led ceremonies in Mexico, Hindu ceremonies at temples in India, or traditional Maasai weddings in Tanzania are other cited examples that lure the engaged away from home for an experience outside the traditional.

Destination Weddings
Sometimes you just gotta do you

The Verdict

As trendy as the options have become, the fact remains — a destination wedding is a divisive decision. And all the facts, figures, and filtered photos get us no closer to answering the big question:

Are Destination Weddings the Best or the Worst?

Feel like the answer might not be that simple? Crazy! But let us know why in the comments below.


  1. A disgusting article about vain, megalomaniac, selfish people. “Separate the wheat from the chaff”, indeed. If they don’t have the money to attend your wedding in Fiji then they shouldn’t be at your wedding, anyway ? Because they’re not good enough to be your friends ?

  2. For a close group of friends who already vacation together (or want to) it’s great. But for everyone else, 3 days on pleasure island (or temptation island) is and expensive way to honor what can feel like an obligation. (Destination wedding couples take heed: please tell people their attendance is gift enough)

  3. Carbon footprint, anyone? Why was the environmental impact of destination weddings not even mentioned? Destination weddings are arrogant, self-indulgent affairs for the affluent. If the bride and groom want to pay for their guests’ travel, that’s one thing, but to make guests pay for expensive flights and hotels is the ultimate in rudeness.

  4. We’ve been to two destinations weddings. Both were fabulous. Both were small and quaint. Yes they did cost extra money for us, we also gave a gift as if it were back home. We made a vacation out of it. We can afford it so it didn’t matter. The one comment from Bill on Nov. 16th. is ridiculous. Who would want this pompous asshole as a friend. He might be fortunate to have enough money to do whatever he wants, probably got it from daddy, but everyone isn’t as fortunate. To state they aren’t good enough to be their friends, No Bill you aren’t good enough to be anyone’s friend, you must be a millennial………….

  5. First of all, you’re ultimately under no obligation to go to any weddings. Declining to attend due to not being able to make it to a destination is perfectly understandable by everyone, including bride and groom. Second, if you don’t like destination weddings, that doesn’t mean somebody else won’t think a destination wedding they’re invited to is an amazing travel opportunity and a memory of a lifetime. Third, destination weddings don’t have to be at expensive “vanity” places – and so many aren’t; they can be at places that make for a an amazing local vacation for a close group of friends, and what can be better?

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