Near or far? What to consider when choosing between a local or destination wedding

August 10 2015 | Guest post by Stacey Dyer
Dress
Photographer: Morgan at Move Photography

Our initial assumptions were to keep the wedding on the smaller side, and consider the pros and cons of partying somewhere local versus somewhere adventurous.

So how does one simply “go shopping” for a wedding venue? We took a look at who we are, who our friends and family really are, and what makes us “us.” These are some of the things we considered when choosing what was right for us between a local or destination wedding.

Local wedding, local talent

We instantly wanted a full "plug and play" rig ready for our local music friends to play for each other as well as everyone else. But, since they're all musicians, they’ve all played weddings, and we thought they wouldn't want to "work" at their friend’s wedding. We know that creatives tend to get tricked into doing favors that turn out to be more like occupational obligations and less like a lighthearted set of intentions.

Local faces

Let’s invite everyone! Even the friends of the family that might be polite political maneuvers. Also, everyone can and probably will attend. "Everyone" may also add up to more than 200 people. One day has now become 200 x $100/plate = sad-faced wallet.

Local places

We’ve lived in the northeast our entire life and encountered a few gem-like celebration locations. We made a short list of three places that truly fit our style and inquired, “What do your Saturday weddings usually run?” The towering site fees of "floor space only" crushed our local dreams. All tables, chairs, linens, silverware, food, and beverage would have to be brought in a la carte. The inexpensiveness of eloping was beginning to tip the scales.

Eloping

We went on vacation once to Las Vegas with some friends, and, not one but BOTH mothers called each of us to say, “If you get married out there, we want to be there! Don’t you DARE do it without us.” Clearly eloping was going to upset some people.

International destination wedding

I was gunning for invitations that said, “Belize it or not, Stacey’s getting married!” (When you spend ten years telling people you’re never getting married, they really start to believe you.) A handful of friends had been to weddings in Belize and had reported all aspects of tropical, sand, and tiny umbrellas. However, lots of our potential attendees were without a passport. This would certainly help to keep the numbers down, but we didn’t want a wedding that small.

Domestic destination wedding:

“What if we kept it in the US but found a spot that felt like a tropical paradise?” This was a brilliant idea (*tips hat to the fiancé*). We brainstormed a bit and started to hone in on the Florida Keys as an "in the US but doesn’t really feel like it" option. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Location scouting (if possible):

After researching online, talking to resident wedding planners, and emailing back and forth with the hotel staff, we picked three wedding venue choices in the Florida Keys. But, you don’t know until you get there. So we planned a trip to visit the first two, and thought if neither was a great fit, we’d hit up the third choice. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and stayed overnight to enjoy breakfast on the beach. Then hopped down Route 1 to Holiday Isle, on to Duck Key, and finally landed in Key West for the remainder of the week. It was a lot to book, but it was worth all the hours spent discussing details and pricing.

After moving out of state a few years back and spending plenty of time alone with each other, tying the knot with our closest friends and family for a week-long destination wedding is absolutely the icing on our cake.

What are your tips for deciding between a local or destination wedding venue? What tipped the scales for you in either direction?

  1. For us it was a simple case of. Keep it cheap, and keep it family orientated.

    We chose local in a sense. We picked a different district to the one we live in, but it's only 20 minutes by train from our town centre so close by for guests. We didn't like our two local choices of registry offices. The local manor houses were out of our budget. However the next city has a stunning registry office, and we found the perfect restaurant for our reception just across from it. Win win. It's also different enough for us, than every other Wedding family have been to. It's more us, and not overdone. The food is fun, and not the traditional wedding chicken in white wine sauce. And hopefully will be enjoyed by all as the menu is varied.

    Eloping would of caused a lot of upset. A destination wedding just wasn't on the cards either. (My sister decided on a destination wedding and has upset a lot of family over it, and she's booked so close to our wedding I can't even afford to go which isn't good)

    Our guest list is 40, which by wedding standards isn't huge but it's just right for us. We decided against inviting every person we know in favour of family and close friends.

    • Lottipop– that sounds so intimate and truly YOU! That was one of the hardest things for us, just trying to remember this was OUR day and to do it OUR way. The guest list for our wedding topped out around 60. It was just enough where you could see everyone at the reception without running out of time or worrying about not making it to table 37! To your point about the food – SO IMPORTANT. Your style is reflected everywhere, including the dinner options. Cheers & well wishes!

  2. So it seems like the basic options are:
    1. Where you live now
    2. Partner #1's hometown
    3. Partner #2's hometown
    4. Somewhere else
    (where 1, 2, and 3 might have some overlap)

    We have no affection or inspiration about #1, the closest people we know are FH's grandparents 90 minutes away, and it'd be a huge pain in the ass for anyone to travel to.

    We also don't really care about #2 or #3, and even if we did, everyone would still have to travel (only my brother and 1 friend still live in my hometown, only 3 of his friends still live in his hometown; the rest of our families have moved away to other places).

    So that left #4, which was WAY more interesting to us than any of the other choices! We both wanted a small wedding and a hedonist bacchanal — I love Vegas, FH has always wanted to go — it was a really quick and easy choice once we realized we didn't "have" to do #1, #2, or #3 🙂
    (although I think our parents were all hoping we'd decide to have it where THEY live now, heh.)

    • This was exactly how we thought about our wedding options! We really didn't care for #1, my hometown is hard to get to, so if we didn't have it in mine we didn't want to have it in his, which left us at option #4. We got married on the beach where we got engaged, in California. It was fun and beautiful and we loved it.

  3. This is kind of what I am thinking too. We are both from North Texas and now live in New York, but the majority of my family still lives there. We were underwhelmed by the affordable venues in the area and blown away by the price tags at the places we did like. So we started looking in Austin, a place that we have always loved more than our home town and found several beautiful, affordable venues. There has been some backlash over the 3 hour drive, but I think that people will honestly get over it or they won't come. Seeing as how none of his family live there it's only about a quarter of the guests that would be local anyway, so it'd be a destination wedding no matter where we chose. Besides, I think if you pick a destination that is vibrant and interesting, you can provide people with an excuse to take a vacation if they want to and those guests that don't can go home and sleep in their beds.

  4. When my wife and I got married, we were getting pressured by my parents to have the wedding in Houston, which is where we both live, my parents live, my hometown, where my wife has lived since middle school. We were also getting pressured by my wife's mother to have the wedding in Fort Worth.

    My mother said "but if you have it in Fort Worth, most of your father and my friends won't come!" I thought that was a rather lame thing to say. First, I had seen how my parents had taken over my older brother's wedding with friends of theirs who my brother and his wife did not know. Anything that might deter those people from crowding my wife and my wedding sounded like a good thing. Second, if someone doesn't care enough about my wife or me, or even my parents, to make either the 4.5 hour drive or 50 minute flight between Houston and Fort Worth to come to our wedding, then they didn't need to be at our wedding anyway. Ultimately we decided not to have the wedding in Fort Worth because it was a place my MIL had moved to after my wife was grown, so the city meant nothing to my wife of me. Plus, since my wife and I don't live there, we would have had to rely on her mother for the wedding planning, and she has different taste than either of us, and which she tries to impose on both of us, and frankly bad taste (she wanted to have the reception at a restaurant in a strip mall by her house).

    But we didn't want to get married in Houston, either. Don't get me wrong, we love our city, but it isn't the most historic or picturesque city in the world. Weddings there tend to all run together in my mind, a wedding in a fairly modern church, a reception in a fairly modern country club or hotel ballroom. If we had gotten married there, we would have married at my childhood church (neither my wife nor I are religious) and the Junior League Tearoom, which my mother was pushing. It would have been the exact same formal wedding my older brother had (and ended up being the exact same wedding my younger brother had 8 years after me).

    Instead, my wife and I got married in Galveston, which has a lot of meaning for us because its where I spent all my summers growing up, and where we had spent many memorable weekends when we were dating. It's an island with a beachy vibe and an historic Victorian downtown. We got married in a 150 year old gothic style church, and had our reception on the second floor and balcony of a 150 year old building overlooking the Strand, the main street in the historic downtown area, that has a Charleston-like vibe. Plus we were able to incorporate a tropical feel to the event. Instead of a tux, my groomsmen and I wore light tan poplin suits, and we had a steel drum band. And it was only an hour to hour and a half drive for guests who live in Houston. Plus several guests told us our wedding had the feel of a destination wedding without all the extra expense for everyone. I think most major cities have an area that's only an hour or two drive away that's popular for weekend getaways, that can give a destination wedding feel without the downsides of a destination wedding.

    Since most of my wife's and my friends and family lived in Texas, a wedding in Texas made the most sense, was easiest for the most people, so a true destination wedding would have been kind of self indulgent. But say you're a bride from San Francisco and a groom from New York who both live in Chicago. You've got friends in Chicago and family and childhood friends on both coasts. No matter where you have your wedding, at least 2/3rds of your guests are going to have to take a fairly long plane ride no matter what. That's when a destination wedding is really not much more inconvenient for guests than a hometown wedding. There are a few things a couple should take into consideration, though. They should really try to stay in the same hemisphere as most of their guests. The aforementioned couple shouldn't plan a destination wedding in Tuscany (unless they really just want it to be them and immediate family, then go ahead). Next, the destination should be close enough to a major airport that most people living near a major US airport can take a direct flight there and have no more than about a 2 hour drive from the airport to the destination. Especially, they shouldn't have to change planes and take a puddle jumper to the final destination. That doesn't necessarily always favor US destinations over international ones. For instance, most people can get a direct flight to Montego Bay or Cancun/Cozumel pretty easily, and be at a resort within an hour by taxi. But getting to Key West is much more of an ordeal, most people will have to fly into Miami and then either take an expensive (and unnerving for nervous fliers) small prop plane to Key West, or else rent a car and take that LONG three and a half hour MINIMUM drive down.

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