Is Our Destination Wedding Actually a Bad Idea?

It’s not too late to back out...


Q:I bought both of Meg’s books and have been reading this site (especially love all the How To articles and the archives!), but I promptly freaked out when I read, “In recent years, people have slowly started to treat weddings as impositions. This may be a result of receiving one too many ‘only wear gray and fuchsia’ to the reception, or one too many invites mandating that they spend their family vacation for the year on a weeklong wedding trip to Costa Rica” (A Practical Wedding, page 156). HOLY CRAP, we are planning a wedding in Costa Rica! And then I read Meg’s article “Your wedding is not an imposition.” So I’m honestly asking the question: Is my wedding an imposition, and what do I do to fix it?

Here’s how we ended up with an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica:

Our families are quite large (more than two hundred people) and spread over fifteen states and three countries, and since we are both in the Navy, our friends are spread even further (Hawaii, Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, and Bahrain). We live in Virginia, my parents live in Washington, and his parents live in Florida, so even the immediate families are spread. We knew that no matter where we held the wedding, about ninety percent of people would have to fly in, so we figured we would pick a location that was worth flying to, while also being convenient and inexpensive. We quickly ruled out Washington and Florida because the cost for the rest of the family was very high; and we ruled out Virginia because the average cost of weddings in our area is $45,000, which we can’t afford. The next best was Las Vegas, which was not the kind of wedding we want.

At this point, we made a huge spreadsheet and spent several hours on Expedia looking up the cost of flying to international airports from Washington, Florida, and Virginia for every weekend in a six month window, then factored in the average costs of nearby hotels, rental cars, and “daily average traveler spending” (for food, drinks, activities, etc.). And we ended up with this resort in Costa Rica: twenty minutes from an international airport, all food and drink included, shuttle service from airport (so no rental car), free activities at resort or paid activities nearby, no wristbands, and a wedding package within our budget, all for about $200 per person per night. Also, I have a distant uncle that lives in Costa Rica, and we both have family and friends that visited Costa Rica and loved it. My fiancé’s brother stayed at this resort and recommended it. Finally, just as a sanity check, we looked up how much staying in Virginia or D.C. would be, and it was roughly $180 per person per night, so we felt pretty comfortable with our choice.

Now that we’ve sent out save the dates, I’m freaking out. What if we made a huge mistake and everyone is upset? Some people have called me to say they are so excited, but my mom said that others have called her to ask “Why the heck are they doing this?” Nearly everyone in our families already has passports and most of them love to travel (thus why people are so spread out), but the money upfront is scary. Are we being unreasonable? We totally understand that people are coming from all corners of the globe, and we tried very hard to make it clear that while we would love to celebrate with everyone and hope they can come, we aren’t holding anyone to it.

Here’s the rub: we have two months to totally cancel the wedding, get our deposit back in full, and start over. I called my mom in tears asking what to do, and she said, “Honey, everyone that loves you will go anywhere.” She admitted that my closest aunts were surprised that we didn’t just elope (my fiancé would love to elope, but I think that sounds lonely). In the same conversation, she also admitted that Grandma was disappointed that we aren’t doing the wedding in Bahrain, since she’s never been to the Middle East and it would be so special to get married where my fiancé and I met. (Ummm, no. Intense legal restrictions + expensive alcohol + SAND, although the food would probably be amazing).

I feel like we are still early enough that we could cancel and re-plan the entire wedding, but I’m honestly not even sure what/where we would do it. So I’m reaching out: Is our Costa Rican wedding an imposition, and if so, what is the better alternative?


Don’t let the negative feedback drag you down (yet).

Your people might be responding to the fact that Costa Rica just SOUNDS more expensive than some of those other places. Realize that most folks consider things from their own little finite perspective as the nexus of their own universe. They don’t know what other factors you weighed, how much time you spent on Expedia, how many calculators and spreadsheets were involved. Most are thinking of it as “Costa Rica versus near me” and don’t realize that all of your options involved expensive travel.

Also, in the very nicest, most well-meaning way possible, you made a whole ton of decisions for your guests. You figured out approximates and averages, sure, but some folks are really good at traveling cheap. Maybe they could’ve found a friend to stay with in Florida, but don’t have that option in Costa Rica. Maybe they’ve got some hotel points saved up. You accounted for the cost to eat out, but there was a stretch where I’d pack bagels, cream cheese, rolls, and deli meat every time we traveled, and we’d just eat out of a cooler to save cash. An all-inclusive removes a few of those money-saving opportunities.

But, all of that is really beside the point. When you’re talking about these kinds of logistics (more than two hundred people! scattered all over!), you have to face the fact that not everyone is coming to your wedding. That doesn’t mean your wedding is an imposition (we’ll get back to that), and it doesn’t mean you need to cancel and re-plan. It just means that it’s unlikely all two hundred of your nearest and dearest have the time, money, and inclination to hop a plane for your wedding. Your mom is lovely, but in this way, she’s (a little bit) wrong. I’m sure all of these two hundred folks love you. But not everyone can come to a destination wedding, and even with all of their love for you, not all of them will. The folks who love you may want to go anywhere! But some of them may not be able to, you know?

So don’t start canceling things just yet, but maybe make a couple calls. Who are the people you absolutely need to come to this wedding? Check in with them and see if Costa Rica is feasible. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into making your wedding as guest friendly as possible. You tried to think of everything for your loved ones! You’re not in the wrong here. There are just some situations that have no perfect solutions. This might be one of them.

Destination weddings aren’t an imposition. You aren’t obligating someone to come. You aren’t forcing them to use up vacation days and spend cash and hours on air travel. But not being an imposition doesn’t mean it’s not an inconvenience. We’ve all sunk in mud in our fanciest heels, or stood in unexpected weather, or ate dinner far later than we’d hoped. There are some lovely weddings that are really inconvenient. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, some folks are just going to be inconvenienced anyway. I know that’s not what you want to hear. After all of this effort and energy, it’s pretty clear that the last thing you want to do is inconvenience anyone. This is where your mom’s advice rings true. Folks who want to be there (and can) will be happy to make it happen, even if it means a plane ride and some sunscreen.


Featured Sponsored Content

Please read our comment policy before you comment.

The APW Store is Here

APW Wedding e-shop

go find all our favorites from around the internet, and our free planning tools

Shop Now
APW Wedding e-shop

Planning a wedding?

We have all the planning tools you need right now.

Budget spreadsheets, checklists, and more...

Get Your Free Planning Tools