An increasing number of couples are throwing away the idea of a traditional wedding in favor of marrying away from home, according to a new report from the Destination Weddings Travel Group.
“More people want to do it now,” said Richard Calvert, the president and CEO of the group, “The world is a smaller place, and so [people] want to get away.”
The company, a full-service wedding planning group specializing in international destination weddings, surveyed 20,000 couples it has worked with since its launch. The group has partnerships in more than 42 countries.
Almost a quarter of all couples are opting to have a destination wedding and 45% of those couples want to have them internationally.
The group’s report takes stock of trends and changes in the destination wedding market, including cost, new territories and the effect of the Supreme Court’s LGBT ruling on same sex marriage.
“A lot of new trends are coming into the market, so we thought it was about time to do some research, see what was relevant to the market and recalibrate,” Calvert said.
According to the Destination Weddings Travel Group, the cost of an at-home wedding is now at $30,000 plus, a number that has increased 13% since 2010.
In comparison, the average cost of a destination wedding—including travel, accommodations and the ceremony—is less than $10,000.
While the low cost compared to an at-home wedding can be a selling point for destination wedding specialists, the average cost doesn’t reflect the true range of how much a destination wedding might cost.
“We see everything from the budget-conscious couple to as opulent and luxurious as you can imagine; the actual range is enormous,” Calvert said.
According to the report, the positive news for travel agents is that about 70% of costs that go into planning and executing a destination wedding are commissionable—no matter where the wedding takes place.
Cabins booked for cruise weddings and transportation are always commissionable as is hotel or resort accommodations. With the average length of stay for a destination wedding is four days for guests and seven days for the bride and groom, agents can realize heavy commissions just out of accommodations.
Only the wedding ceremony and reception are not commissionable.
While the traditional spots for destination weddings have remained the standard—Mexico, Hawaii and Jamaica—a host of new territories have entered the market, giving couples more to choose from.
According to the report, many of the emerging destinations are the typical Caribbean or hot weather locations—Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, and Grenada top of that list—but Calvert said that other destinations are also becoming popular.
“There’s some unusual destinations popping up,” said Calvert. “We’ve done some in Iceland this year. Some other people wanted to get married in the mountains in Austria. As [destination weddings] become more popular, the destinations get more diverse.”
Calvert’s group has had many different requests from potential clients, including a couple who wanted to do an underwater vow renewal, so even though there may be a typical catalog of destinations for a wedding, agents should be open and ready to accommodate couples’ requests.
“People want the traditional, sunny destination weddings on a beautiful beach and other people want to do something out of the ordinary,” he said.
Emergence of LGBT
Last month’s decision by the Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right nationwide has also opened the destination weddings niche to a new, thriving market, Calvert said.
The decision requires state and local officials to honor same-sex marriages from other regions, which opens up numerous opportunities for agents selling LGBT weddings.
Calvert’s group launched a website dedicated to same-sex marriage in 2012, but has recently seen a significant spike in interest after the ruling.
And while traditional destination weddings locations aren’t different for LGBT weddings, new destinations have emerged following the ruling.
Inside the U.S., Florida is quickly becoming a popular LGBT marriage destination. Outside the country, St. Thomas, Curacao and the Dominican Republic are all seeing a steady increase interest from same-sex couples, according to the group’s report.