The Debate: Are Destination Weddings An Excuse For A Getaway Or Nuptial Nuisance?
Photograph by Getty Images
Have you been invited to a destination wedding (or five) this summer? Do you have mixed feelings about it? Yes, you want to go to sunny Turks and Caicos, but no, you do not want to stay in that particular resort. Yes, you’d like drop everything and head to gorgeous Lake Como, but what are you supposed to do with your kids while you’re there? Overseas weddings are expensive, but they’re an experience. They’re an adventure, but they require time off work. So, destinations weddings. Are they good? Or are they bad? It’s time to decide on which side of the aisle you sit.
01. Ms Joanna Booth
The case for
For a long time, I thought I wasn’t the marrying kind. I didn’t have a problem with the idea of a partner for life. It was the whole palaver of the wedding that put me off. A day dedicated to endless speeches, sugar almond favours and a room full of distant cousins we hardly knew sounded like a waste of time. And money. The average cost of a wedding in the UK comes in at about £20,000. Living in sin would buy us a lot of holidays.
After seven years together, however, we decided to bite the bullet and tie the knot. Hesitantly, I began to look at what was on offer and the juggernaut that is the UK wedding industry hit me. Set menus seemed uninspiring, seating plans tortuous and why on earth did I have to choose a colour theme? The whole thing was making me want to run away.
Then I realised we could. We wouldn’t need to make a midnight flit to Gretna Green in a horse-drawn carriage, but we could shake off the shackles of tradition by leaving the country. We thought of it less as a destination wedding and more as a modern-day elopement.
Choosing to get married abroad gives you an immediate sense of emancipation. Don’t want to invite half your family? You don’t need to. An intimate, overseas ceremony is the perfect excuse. Don’t like formality? Get hitched barefoot on a beach, underwater in a diving mask or, like another couple of my acquaintance, overlooking icebergs on the deck of an expedition cruise in Antarctica. Export the elements of a traditional wedding you enjoy and leave the rest in your rear-view mirror.
“Instead of a day focused on the two of us, we ended up with a weekend celebrating all the special people in our lives”
We wanted the freedom of a wedding abroad, but we didn’t want to leave our friends and family behind. Our solution was short haul – a sprawling villa in a Tuscan vineyard with a lawn wide enough to hold a brief ceremony and a rustic barn where we could loiter over a long lunch provided by a local nonna, lubricated by wine from its cellars.
Your average wedding is over in a matter of hours. Plant the ceremony in the middle of a longer trip and you get not just time, but quality time with your guests to bond, reminisce and make new memories. We roared with laughter over first-night dinner in a local trattoria, splashed in the pool with our friends’ kids the morning before the ceremony and stayed up so late drinking on our wedding night that a lavender dawn had broken before we went to bed. Instead of a day focused on the two of us, we ended up with a weekend break celebrating all the special people in our lives.
Weddings often come at a point in our lives when free time grows scarce. Small children, ageing parents, climbing the career ladder – they all lead to cancelled plans and long silences. Even the flakiest friend will make the effort to show up to your wedding, so why not reward them with a holiday?
02. Ms Suzannah Ramsdale
The case against
Having a destination wedding is the ultimate diva move. We all know it. I write this as someone who planned her own wedding in Seville and invited 200 people to spend their hard-earned cash and precious annual leave on a long weekend in the Andalusian capital. As if that weren’t enough, I also expected gifts and set up one of those “the greatest present is your presence, but also here are my bank details” websites. Yeah, I hate me, too.
Happily for the guests I was expecting to schlep over to Spain on one of those ghastly beer-fuelled Friday-afternoon budget flights from Gatwick, in May 2020, Covid-19 drove its snotty, wheezing, dagger through my overseas nuptials. In the end, we said “I do” many months later at the local register office in front of eight friends followed by a pub lunch so low-key that, at times, I forgot why we were there.
After a significant period of mourning for the wedding that I had planned (and the dress I couldn’t wear), I have come to realise that my enforced local wedding was a blessing. In fact, it was an absolute blast. Easy, fun and filled with so much love.
Most importantly, I know my friends thank me for it. The most they had to do was hop in an Uber and remember to tell me how beautiful I looked (some wedding rules are sacrosanct). They woke up the next day in their own beds having spent the grand total of about £40.
“Do a quick tot up of the money you’ve spent on destination weddings over the years. It’s staggering”
The problem with destination weddings is that they are extremely selfish. OK, you want to glow against the backdrop of a domed white clifftop church on a still-under-the-radar Greek island, but what of your burnt-out friends and family? Your loved ones who have demanding jobs, feral children, expensive ongoing home renovations and absolutely nothing to wear. Spare a thought.
Take a few seconds and do a quick tot up of the money you’ve spent on destination weddings over the years. It’s staggering. Flights, car rental, hotels, multiple outfits, gifts, babysitters, dog sitters, sun cream… And on it goes. According to my basic GCSE level (at best) maths, I have spent about £10,000 on other people’s overseas weddings.
Then there is annual leave, which, we can all agree, is sacred. And yet, for a destination wedding, you’re forced to give up two days minimum – and that’s if it’s in Europe. Farther afield and you’re looking at five blessed days. That’s not all. Everyone seems to want destination stag and hen dos now, too. So, before you’ve even thought about the wedding, you’ve dropped £2,000 on a four-day sesh in Ibiza.
If you really love your friends, book the chicest register office you can find and put your card behind the bar at a cosy local pub. People let their hair down in pubs, fun happens in pubs, love happens in pubs, life happens in pubs. It’s a winning formula for a wedding.
Just please don’t send me a link to this article when I end up renewing my vows in Seville next year. We’re all a little bit selfish sometimes.