Budgeting for a Wedding in the Caribbean

Planning for your Caribbean dream wedding is a breeze

After you have chosen a country in the Caribbean as your perfect wedding destination, it's time to begin the process of organizing your big event.  Regardless of which Caribbean island you choose, you'll find these tips to be universally helpful.

The earlier you begin planning your destination wedding the better.  When time is on your side, you have a larger window of opportunity to procure the location of your dreams, the decorations you've always imagined, and the food that will make your guests mouth water.  Giving yourself the proper amount of time also gives you leeway should any problems arise, and will also allow you to take advantage of any deals that become available.

Hired Help

Many couples hire an event planner to help pull their big event together because the challenge of planning a wedding overseas is simply too much to handle.  An event planner who is good at his job will be able to coordinate your budget with your ideas, and pull together a memorable day, while at the same time leaving you stress free, and relaxed enough to actually enjoy your wedding.  When hiring an event planner, you have the option of hiring someone local to you, or someone who resides in your destination location.  Another option is simply purchasing a wedding package through a resort.

When selecting your wedding planner, consider his experience and references.  Connections in the area and knowledge of the local language and customs will help to make sure your wedding experience is exactly what you want it to be.  Remember that if you choose a wedding planner local to you and want them to be on site the day of your wedding you will be responsible for his airfare and hotel stay.

An event planner local to your destination has the distinct advantage of having contacts in the area, experience with local businesses, and knowledge of the island.  This person will be able to be your eyes and ears when you can't be there, and analyze venues and vendors in person when you cannot.

Wedding packages offered by local  resorts are most common and often the most reliable. Accommodations, venue, officiant, catering, adornments, and more are usually included in one flat rate. Read our guide to Caribbean Wedding Locations and Venues for more information on resort weddings.

How to Plan a Caribbean Wedding Yourself

Though it may seem stressful to take on the tast of preparing a Caribbean wedding on your own, many find it to be a fun and exciting challenge.  Just ensure you are prepared for anything that may arise by keeping notes, making lists, and keeping copies of receipts and paperwork.

Step One: Structure Your Budget

Developing a sensible budget is essential to any successful wedding. On average, couples in the United States spend between $20,000 and $30,000 on their big day, while a destination wedding in the Caribbean can cost you as little as $2,000.  Numerous major resorts and hotels have wedding planning services that can prepare your big event down to the very last detail, and charge a single set fee for the entire package. If you decide to arrange the entire wedding yourself, consider the expenses you may encounter.

Estimated Caribbean Wedding Costs
Item Expected Cost
Marriage License $30 to $300(USD)
Officiant $50 to $250(USD)
Photography $500 to $3000(USD)
Flowers $300 to $1500(USD)
Decorations $300 to $1500(USD)
Venue $0 to $1000(USD)
Food $25 to $50(USD) per person
Lodging $100+(USD) per night

The chart above merely addresses wedding basics, and estimates are based upon average costs of the individual items. Consider other fundamentals such as the bride's gown, the groom's tuxedo, and the wedding rings. Overall, wedding costs will change drastically depending on which items you decide are the most important.  You need to stay within a reasonable budget that is based upon your financial situation.  List items commonly associated with a wedding from maximum value to lowest value and allocate a price estimate to each item.  Items ranked in order of importance will allow you to see exactly where you may be willing to trim back and where you aren't willing to compromise.

Step Two:  Select a Theme

By this point you will have determined what style of wedding you would like to host, and the type of venue you would like to have it in. These selections will quickly trim down your list of potential vendors. Options include outdoor ceremonies, traditional weddings in a church, dining hall, or historic landmark, and weddings at sea.  Consult our guide to Caribbean Wedding Locations and Venues for for more information about the types of weddings available.

Step Three: Do Your Research

Every location, vendor, resort, decoration, and method of transportation should be evaluated. Contact companies for price estimates, inform them that you are arranging your nuptials from abroad, and that they should expect mainly long distance phone calls and e-mail communications.  When you contract with vendors sight unseen, ask for references from those who have previously used their services.

Also give consideration to the time of year in which you wish to get married, and the type of events that may occur during that time. If you want you and your guests to vacation in a party environment, getting married in the Caribbean during Carnival, for example, may be just what you desire. However, if you would rather host an intimate, discreet event, you should make other arrangements. Additionally, the weather can have a significant impact on your wedding experience, especially if you are looking to host an outdoor celebration.

While you're doing your research, you may want to look into the wedding traditions of Caribbean residents.  You may find a tradition that you want to incorporate into your own wedding, or decide that you want to honor Caribbean by including a symbol of the area in your plans.  Some options include serving local foods at your reception, such as freshly caught seafood or locally distilled rum; or incorporating the national flower into your bouquet or boutonnière.  

Also, look into what is required of you to get married in the country of your choosing.  Some countries ask merely that you present documentation such as birth certificates and passports, while others require blood work and physicals to be done before they will grant you a marriage license.  To learn more, read our guide to Caribbean Wedding Requirements and Traditions.

Step Four: Book Your Vendors

The vendors you select will essentially make or break your wedding event.  When you make your final decisions and book your vendors, explain precisely what you are looking for, and the dates you have chosen. Get all of your price quotes in writing (have them send you a quote through the post office, by e-mail, or by fax). Keep duplicates of everything including invoices of all items that are included in the price. Some businesses require a deposit. Do not send anyone payments until you have received a paper statement so that you are protected from any possible misunderstandings.

Step Five: Take Care of At Home Projects

Many couples wish to bring a bit of personal flair to their Caribbean wedding. If you are creating or purchasing any of your wedding decorations at home, there is no better time than now to start working on these projects. This may also be the time to  purchase the wedding dress and/or make arrangements to rent a tuxedo.  Some countries have very few bridal shops, while others are bursting with them.  Find out which category your country falls under, and plan accordingly.  Make a list of everything you plan on taking care of at home, and the estimated  time it will take you to accomplish it.

Step Six: Follow Up

Although you may think your arrangements are finalized, it is still important to talk to your vendors periodically to review their progress, or to discuss any changes that need to be made. Don't worry about calling too often.  They are working for you, and you are paying them to provide these services.

Listed below are a few additional tips that will assist you in planning your Caribbean wedding.

  • Consider the weather. If you are planning a wedding at an outdoor venue, make alternative arrangements in case of stormy conditions.  Typical weather conditions for that time of year should be considered when choosing your wedding attire. If you plan to marry on the beach in the middle of a hot afternoon, plan accordingly.
  • Send wedding supplies ahead of time. If you are bringing any wedding items with you from home, consider shipping them ahead to your resort or venue so that you can avoid airport hassles and restrictions.  Be sure to arrange for insurance on these items in case they are lost or damaged during shipment.

As your wedding day approaches, you will feel prepared and relaxed, as you have efficiently handled everything surrounding your big event. A wedding in the Caribbean promises to be a memorable event that you will cherish for the rest of your life.



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