Destination wedding couples are more satisfied with their nuptials than those brides and grooms who marry close to home. They also have fewer regrets about how much they spent and what they spent it on.
When asked if there were things about their wedding that “you flat out regret,” 64.5 percent of destination wedding respondents said no, versus 56 percent of respondents who held their weddings close to home, according to a recent survey by Dana Rebecca Designs.
Similarly, when asked if they were able to enjoy their wedding day, 88.6 percent of destination wedding respondents said yes, compared with 82.6 percent of those who held non-destination weddings.
And despite the logistical challenges of jetting off with family and friends for their ceremony, 58.4 percent of those who didn’t travel for their nuptials were stressed, while only 52.7 percent of destination wedding respondents said they were.
Destination wedding experts said they weren’t surprised by the results.
“So much of the stress is alleviated because the couple isn’t worried about every little detail, especially if they have a travel agent or on-site coordinator, or both, to take care of them,” said Lisa Sheldon, travel agent and executive director of the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA) in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said the data backs up her experience. “Having a wedding at home, it’s a whirlwind that happens in a few hours, versus a destination wedding, where your experience is over a few days. You also tend to invite the people truly closest to you, so that generates satisfaction.”
“Most of the time, when you go on vacation, you’re happy, so partnering that with your wedding day, it’s that much better,” said Beth Eibler Johnston, a destination wedding specialist who owns Beth’s Beautiful Getaways in Pinckney, Michigan.
It’s not all about the money
Money doesn’t appear to be the key factor in the couples’ wedding day bliss. Digital Third Coast, which surveyed 2,041 Americans (with about two out of three being women), said about the same share (78 percent) of both stay-at-home couples and destination couples spent less than $25,000 on their weddings.
Approximately 18 percent of stay-at-home couples spent $25,000-$50,000 on their weddings, versus 15 percent of destination couples. About 4 percent of stay-at-home couples spent more than $50,000 on their weddings, while nearly 7 percent of destination wedding couples did.
“I often tell our clients how much they will save when holding a destination wedding,” said Doncsecz. “So, wouldn’t it be better to be less stressed, and spend less?”
Surprisingly, 29 percent of couples who planned weddings at home said they spent more than they had budgeted, versus 22 percent of destination wedding couples; while nearly 28 percent of destination wedding couples said they spent less than budgeted, versus 18.4 percent of close-to-home brides and grooms.
“A great destination wedding is not always about the cost,” Sheldon said. “It’s mostly about the experience, standing on a beach, surrounded by your closest family and friends, in a picturesque setting.”
Sheldon said that her daughter recently successfully completed her first destination wedding, “and the couple called her to say that the group had such a great time, they want to travel together again in two years, and there will be even more of them going next time.”
How big, how small?
Not so surprisingly, the survey showed that wedding guest sizes were dramatically different. One out of three non-destination weddings hosted between 50-100 guests, and 23 percent hosted 100-200 guests. Destination weddings favored guest lists of fewer than 50 (63 percent), with 22 percent having 50-100 guests, and only 9.5 percent having 100-200 guests.
Eibler Johnson said that the smaller groups mean the bridge and groom have fewer people to get around to, thanking them for their attendance, leading to less stress.
Destination wedding respondents were more likely to regret not having invited more guests to their wedding. According to Digital Third Coast, 27.1 percent of them wish they had had more loved ones around them, versus 21.6 percent of their counterparts. In fact, those holding non-destination weddings were much more likely to say they wish they had invited fewer guests, 23.4 percent, versus nearly 17 percent of destination wedding couples.
There also were slight differences in the times of year that the two sets of couples held their weddings. Summer was the most popular for both groups, with destination wedding couples choosing that season 40 percent of the time, while those staying close to home chose summer 34 percent of the time.
Close-to-home brides and grooms chose fall 28 percent of the time for their weddings, while that season was popular for only one out of five destination wedding couples.
What travel agents should focus on
Destination wedding couples clearly are the key influencers for the ultimate decisions on their weddings, versus their peer group.
For example, nearly 94 percent of destination wedding respondents said they and their partner made the decisions for their wedding, compared with 89 percent of stay-at-home couples. Conversely, nearly 24 percent of stay-at-home couples said family members influenced their decisions, versus 13.2 percent of destination wedding couples. The survey revealed no statistically significant differences in who paid for either type of wedding.
“For the ‘encore wedding,’ often the clients are older, and they don’t want the wedding their parents and families threw for them when they were younger,” Sheldon said. “This time around, they say, ‘This is about us. We just want our closest friends, children, family, and we want to do what we want to do.’”
“A destination wedding is a great way to celebrate after you have done it the first time, the way you were expected to,” Doncsecz said.
About 40 percent of destination wedding respondents said they used the services of a wedding planner, versus only 26.6 percent of their close-to-home peers.
Also, live music or a DJ are dramatically less important for destination wedding couples, according to the survey. For those respondents who jetted off for their nuptials, 43.6 percent said they didn’t hire anyone to get people out on the dance floor, compared with 28 percent of their counterparts.
In other findings, destination wedding couples appear to be less likely to have a wedding party accompany them down the aisle. According to the survey, 28.6 percent of respondents said they didn’t, compared with 13 percent of stay-at-home respondents.
The survey was fielded online by Dana Rebecca Designs at the end of January 2018 using Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform.