In Trends

“Will you love, honor and cherish…?” is the most momentous question brides and grooms ask themselves when they marry, but it’s far from the only one. As my new husband and I learned firsthand, slightly more than a million tiny to monumental decisions and demands comprise the entire wedding planning process.

Recently, I shared a personal account of when my husband and I got hitched on Our Whimsical Destination Wedding Adventure in Walt Disney World. Our experience reinforced long-held beliefs I was taught here at Dana, especially about how to speak to spouses-to-be, in general. But it also provided me with priceless insight into what destination wedding couples, in particular, want—and stoked a need to learn even more about 2013 destination wedding trends.
I discovered that in 2012, 25% of US weddings qualified as destination weddings. That’s 332,500 weddings—and $18 billion in spending—in one year! So with that blissful figure floating out there, please join hands and repeat after me: “For better or for worse, before marketing destination weddings to couples any further, we vow to ponder all of the important questions.”

Who are they?
According to Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, couples tying the knot at least 200 miles from where they live are planning the very definition of a destination wedding.

With an average age of 32, let’s say they’re, well, more mature than the average marrying couple. The stats show 19% of them are celebrating their second wedding, so we’ll call them wiser too. Moreover, they hold two-income households with higher income.

They “strive to plan a one-of-a-kind celebration that results in a truly unforgettable travel experience for themselves and their guests. This desirable market plans ahead, rarely cancels and travels in groups.”

For you, let’s cut to the best part: “Your ROI is easily achieved.”

Where do they come from?
Everywhere! Destination wedding couples are typically a jetsetting bunch (91% own valid passports). Unlike hometown sweethearts arranging native nuptials, they tend to meet, marry and dwell around the globe, and their invitees are also far-flung.

Carley Roney, cofounder of XO Group Inc. (whose flagship brand, The Knot, is a leading wedding resource for every bride), says the growing destination wedding trend “goes hand in hand with the fact that most people no longer live where they grew up. When family is spread all over the country, a destination wedding is the perfect way to bring everyone together.”

Where do they go?
Around 70% of destination weddings take place in the continental US. Since 69% of destination weddings are held outdoors, it’s no surprise that warm weather seems to win out. Florida is the #1 domestic wedding location, and other popular destinations include more Southeast states as well as Hawaii, California and Nevada. Also, big-city folks are seeking authentic, meaningful destinations, in their hometowns or elsewhere in the Heartland.

Top international destination wedding locations include the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, spots that tend to be beachy and/or balmy, and where travel is relatively easy.

Why do they do it?
XO Group Inc. notes that 66% of international destination wedding brides and 45% of domestic destination wedding brides cite wanting a “special, fun or exotic locale” as the main factor behind choosing a destination wedding. Other reasons include wishes to host fewer guests at a more intimate occasion (though numbers indicate guest counts are rising) and to celebrate at a location special to the couple.

Quality time in a fabulous place, with their closest loved ones, triumphs over a high-quantity guest count. The vast majority of couples pay for their destination wedding entirely, or they share the cost with parents. That means they’re less likely to list invitees numbering in the hundreds, just to honor an obligation to feed surf ‘n’ turf to the mother-in-law’s ex-boss’ second cousin twice removed and her next-door neighbor’s dogwalker, who she’s bringing as her guest.

Despite popular belief, “for richer, for poorer” does not mean typical couples are squandering the entire cost of their mortgages on over-the-top Fantasy Platinum Destination Weddings. The first thing many (nosey) people say when they hear about our Walt Disney World wedding is, “Wow, I bet that cost a FORTUNE.” Hardly. Like the average destination wedding couple, our overall costs were less than they’d be for that larger wedding we’d feel required to throw in our hometown.

XO Group Inc.’s figures confirm that the average cost of a traditional wedding is higher than (but close to) the average cost of a destination wedding. Destination wedding couples simply spend that money differently. They invite fewer guests and spend more on each individual guest than their traditional wedding counterparts, in order to lavish them with unique activities and experiences, bonus group events and, sometimes, partial expenses.

So what do they want?
Now that we know who they are, let’s explore what these couples want from you. In Part 2, we’ll learn more about where you can find them, what you can do for them and how you should tell them all about it. Until then, email Tracy Stottler at for Dana’s destination wedding marketing expertise.

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