8 Destination Wedding Budgeting Tips For Guests, According To Experts

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The moment you get a wedding invitation in the mail is usually pretty exciting because someone you love wants you with them on their big day. When the invite is for a destination wedding, that ramps the excitement up even more. Unfortunately, that usually also ramps the cost as well. If you're still desperate to attend your BFF's ceremony on the coast of Italy or your cousin's wedding on a tropical island, you'll want to think about how to budget to attend a destination wedding, so that the occasion won't leave your bank account reeling.

"Elopements and destination weddings are becoming increasingly popular for couples as they can be more economical than marrying in a city like New York or Sydney," Aleisha McCormack, founder and host of wedding planning podcast Bridechilla, tells Bustle. "[They're] also a great way to cull the old guest list as they are often smaller events, especially when you are asking guests to travel." While it can be pretty thrilling to be invited to a faraway beach or a European city for a wedding, it can be very tricky to pay for such a hefty investment, not to mention the time off you will probably have to use to travel. But with some careful saving, it might be more manageable than you think.

Here are some expert-recommended tips for budgeting for a destination wedding.

1. Plan Early

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From the moment that you check "chicken or fish" on the RSVP card and drop it in the mail, start planning, wedding and event planner, Brett Galley, tells Bustle. Don't wait until prices start climbing to put down any deposits or make reservations. "Book your transportation early to save money and research some activities to attend so you can pack accordingly," she says.

2. Do Your Research

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Before you commit to anything though, take an honest look at your budget and make decisions accordingly. "Usually a destination wedding is intimate, 20 to 40 guests on average," Greg Palomino, a certified wedding and event planner, tells Bustle. "This means the couple may elect to have a short courtship and get married within months, so if you know your friends well enough, it never hurts to ask them what their plans are." Once you know exactly how long you have to save, only book flights or rooms that fall into that budget, so that you don't end up spending much more than you're able to.

3. Extend Your Trip

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It might seem counterintuitive that traveling for longer could be better for your budget, but think about it like this: By tacking on a little personal time, you'll be able to take full advantage of the flight you've purchased. "Stay a few days longer or go island hopping or visit somewhere else nearby," Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events, tells Bustle. "That way the budget you're spending isn't just for the wedding, but for your own personal travel fun as well."

4. Be Realistic

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"Everything you'd need to pay for when you travel, you'll need to pay for a destination wedding. So, flights, accommodations, transportation, meals, and any entertainment," Chang says. "Some of these items may be taken care of by the couple, but don't expect that." Be honest with yourself about each thing you're going to have to pay for (no matter how tiny it may seem). For example, if you're planning on getting your nails or hair done once you arrive, be sure to budget for that. If you'll be on your own for a couple of meals, plan for that too.

5. Bring Everything You'll Need

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It can be so tempting to just say "I'll grab everything once I get there" while you're packing, especially if you're hoping to carry your bag onto the plane. But this can potentially be a major expense. "If you’re headed to a destination wedding, one small but effective tip is to bring your own toiletries," Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group, tells Bustle. "Many travelers wait to buy samples at the hotel to avoid taking up space in their suitcase," she says, "but they are often way overpriced and won’t always carry the brands you want." Go ahead and stock up on travel sized versions of sunscreen, shampoo, and whatever else you anticipate needing so that you don't end up paying an arm and a leg for it later.

6. Make A Plan For Your Phone Usage

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If the destination for your friend or family member's wedding is somewhere in the U.S., you probably won't have to worry too much about your data usage. But if you're going somewhere international, roaming fees can really add up. "Avoid paying for an international data plan if you’re attending a destination wedding by instead utilizing free apps on your phone," Avey says. "Apps like WhatsApp and Vibe are easy to use and work with WiFi (which your resort will almost surely have)."

7. Consider All Of Your Transportation Options

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Exploring your options really is key when it comes to cutting down your travelling costs. "Track your flights on Google Flights and be ready to pounce when they dip in price," Jessica Bishop, founder of Budget Savvy Bride and author of The Budget Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer, tells Bustle. "Split costs with other guests or members of the wedding party. Rideshare, bunk up in a hotel for the night, or split an Airbnb with other guests to reduce your costs," she says. If you have a credit card that offers travel reward points, make sure to utilize those. Some airlines, such as Delta, offer a mileage bonus for being approved for a new card.

8. Don't Feel Pressured To Bring A Gift

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You may feel like arriving at a wedding empty handed is tacky, but when it comes to a destination wedding, it really isn't. "I will be the first to say in today’s 'acceptable’ wedding etiquette, your presence is ‘the gift’ at a destination wedding," wedding planner Edward Perotti, tells Bustle. "Most destination weddings will be at a resort, often during a high season. The room is a significant expense," he says, "so the fact that you are committed to attending is a fantastic gift unto itself."

After months of saving and budgeting, don't forget to enjoy every minute of your travel and your time in another place. Even though you're there to attend a wedding, you're getting to experience somewhere you may have never been before.