I’d like to spend less than that, especially since the wedding is only one state over from where I live. So I asked some experts to help me maximize my trip.
If you’re a guest at a destination wedding but need to pinch pennies to afford the trip, here are seven tips for saving money and getting the most out of a loved one’s big day:
1. Get a roommate
“Most resort pricing is based on double occupancy,” said Courtnie Nichols, the founder of TravelBash, a boutique website specializing in destination weddings and honeymoon planning.
Many destination weddings take place at resorts, where most of the festivities surrounding the big day can be easily managed, she said. “Bunk up with someone and share a room,” Nichols advised. “Single rates are often much higher.”
You don’t have to stick with a resort, though. Janessa White, the owner of Simply Eloped, a company that specializes in elopement planning and small destination weddings, suggested Airbnb as an alternative to staying at the wedding hotel.
“Rent a big Airbnb with a handful of other guests,” White said. “Split the cost and save over booking a hotel room.”
White pointed out that you might be able to get a whole house for the same nightly rate as a hotel.
For example, I’m planning to attend a wedding in Salida, Colorado. When I called to book a room through the wedding’s hotel block, I was quoted a rate of $185 per night, before taxes and fees. For two nights, that’s a total of more than $370. Compare that with a four-person Airbnb stay that totals $406, all fees included.
Now, divide that $406 by four people and your lodging cost is $101.50. Even if you split the cost of a double-occupancy hotel room, you’d still pay $185 for the two-night stay. Because lodging can be expensive, saving money on travel by sharing quarters can be a smart money move when attending a destination wedding.
2. Cook your meals
One of the best ways to save money when you travel, whether it’s for a destination wedding or a vacation, is to cook your own meals, according to Mikala Wilson, an event planner and the founder of wedding specialist company A Golden Affair.
“Find a place with a kitchen,” said Wilson. “Buy food from the local grocery store and prepare it yourself. You’ll save tons.”
This method works especially well when combined with staying at an Airbnb spot with other guests. Not only can you split the cost of lodging, but also the cost of your groceries, as well as share cooking duties.
It sure beats spending $15 to $25 per meal at restaurants when you aren’t eating at wedding events.
3. Redeem travel rewards
I have a lot of airline miles because I use my credit card for everything and earn rewards points. As a result, I’ll be able to attend my friends’ destination wedding without worrying about the cost of airfare.
“You can also use a companion pass for another guest,” said Nichols, pointing out that many airline-branded credit card programs offer companion passes. “Split the cost of the regular ticket, so you both pay less in the long run.”
You also can redeem travel rewards points for hotels. Find a hotel in your loyalty rewards program near the wedding venue to stay during the event.
“Be careful to choose a place close to the wedding,” said White. “You don’t want to be stuck with pricey transportation costs to and from the venue if you inadvertently book a room on the other side of a large city.”
4. Participate in group activities
Many couples plan various activities for wedding guests, Wilson said. This makes it possible to turn wedding attendance into a minivacation — and could even save you money.
“A lot [of] companies in big vacation towns give groups of 10 or more discounts,” Wilson said. “Check the couple’s website for a chance to RSVP as part of the group for these activities at a lower cost.”
My destination wedding experience will feature discounts on a river float, brunch, stargazing at a hot spring, and a spa treatment.
5. Turn it into a vacation
When you go the wedding, you already are in a new place, so make the destination this year’s low-cost vacation, suggested Nichols.
“Getting there is one of the biggest expenses, and you’re already there,” Nichols said. “Take advantage of that. Stay an extra day or two either before or after the wedding.”
You can save even more if you convince other wedding guests to stick around and share the vacation with you. However, even if no one is willing to party with you outside of the wedding, you still will save money overall, Nichols pointed out.
“Kill two birds with one stone, and enjoy the fact that you’ve saved money on part of your vacation by doing it as part of the wedding,” said Nichols.
6. Use mobile apps to coordinate with other guests
“Many couples planning destination weddings use WhatsApp or GroupMe for guests,” said Wilson. “You can use these communications tools to find roommates, plan activities you can cost-share, and coordinate Lyft rides or car rentals.”
Whether it’s a wedding-dedicated Facebook or Slack group or some other method, sign up to participate. It’s a perfect way to share cost-saving tips and find people looking to chip in so that everyone has a chance to reduce costs.
7. Create a payment plan for yourself
Finally, you should plan ahead with a payment plan for yourself, Nichols recommended.
“You’ll probably have at least a few months’ notice ahead of a destination wedding,” Nichols said. “The bigger and more expensive the wedding, the more time you have to plan. Sometimes you get more than a year.”
Set aside money each month so that you’re prepared when the time arrives. It will save you the trouble of trying to come up with the entire amount at once.
Nichols suggested planning to use a rewards credit card to pay for the trip so you can collect points. However, once the trip is over, use the money you saved to pay off the credit card balance and avoid interest costs.
Don’t let a destination wedding break the bank
In the end, my costs probably will be in only the $300-to-$400 range, thanks to airline miles, cost-sharing tips, and group discounts. I’ve been able to prepare for this trip by setting aside an extra $25 a week for the last three months.
You can do the same. Look for creative ways to save money, and you’ll be able to show your love for the happy couple by joining them on their big day — without breaking the bank.
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