Groom Duties

Hell or Paradise: Destination Weddings

Imagine two different bars. The first one’s packed with ugly waitresses, long lines, blaring music, $12 drinks, and beer that tastes like a bucket of warm piss. Also…you’re paying everyone’s bar tab. Oh, and it took you months to plan the party. There’s only one saving grace—the bar is filled with all of your friends and family…so you actually have a pretty good time. Everyone’s happy.

And the second bar? Scorching-hot bartenders that look like Adriana Lima, your favorite music, and premium liquor for only $1 a glass. It’s the best bar ever. You’re shocked you’ve never heard of it. There’s only one catch: the cover charge is steep, so a few of your buddies couldn’t make it.

If you play your cards right, the second bar is your destination wedding. When most people think about exotic, tropical weddings in Maui they think, “I can’t afford that.” Actually, you can. It can be cheaper—much cheaper—than a ceremony down the block.

You just have to make a few tradeoffs. The pros and cons of a Destination Wedding:

Pro: You slash the guest list

Think of this as a ruthless “filtering mechanism” to determine who should make the cut. In one dramatic stroke you solve every guest list problem: no co-workers, no cousins you haven’t seen since puberty, no college buddies you only speak with on Facebook. At its core, a destination wedding ensures that you only invite people you actually like (plus your family). Your costs will plummet. Suddenly an exotic, spare-no-expense gala on the gleaming beaches of Greece is within your grasp.

Con: You slash the guest list

Some friends—good friends—simply won’t be able to make it. And your 93-year-old great grandmother isn’t boarding that flight to Honolulu. But as Tyler Durden said, if you wanna make an omelet you gotta break some eggs. Sorry Grams.

Pro: It’s a psychological game-changer

When you get a crowd of people on the beach in Honolulu, it shakes up their expectations of what the wedding should feel like. You have newfound freedom. In the typical ho-hum reception hall, the vendors make a killing by peddling what’s supposed to be included—table decorations, flowers, yada yada. You’re trapped by convention. But when you transport the reception to Liechtenstein? All bets are off. No one has any frickin’ clue. You could serve the guests a bowl of sunflower seeds and say it’s “Liechtenstein tradition.” Suddenly you’re in control.

Con: Resentful guests

Look. There’s no getting around it. If your best man is getting his masters degree in Ancient Hindu Philosophy and has $27 bucks in his checking account, don’t worry, he’s a good friend so he’ll hit his plastic and make it happen…but he’ll have a tinge of resentment. Yes, you can offer to cushion the blow (subsidizing airfare and hotel) but that gets awkward and gets expensive. Do you help pay for just him? Just the wedding party? Everyone? It gets weird. When you choose a destination wedding, you’re invisibly shifting some of the wedding costs to your guests. So don’t do it if all your guests are poor.

Pro: Less wedding planning

Shhhh. This is almost a secret. When you book a resort somewhere tropical, the venue will have an all-in-one package that bundles your lodging, reception, catering, and even the officiant. You have fewer options and fewer ways to customize. It’s the difference between building a computer from scratch—assembling a motherboard, hard drive, circuitry—and just buying a damn laptop. Bad news for your fiancée, good news for you.

Con: It might not count.

Careful for the red tape. Every country has their own special rule on marriage licenses. Click here for info.

Pro: Proper allocation of resources

Think about it. Let’s say you have $30,000 to spend on your wedding. If you go the traditional route and invite 200 guests to a local reception, you’re showering $150/person on a handful of losers you barely know. If you spend this same $30,000 in Hawaii, you spend $600 on each of the 50 guests you actually care about. Same goes for your time. At a destination wedding you’ll have a few days to chill with your family and close friends—an impossibility in the normal wedding pressure-cooker.

Con: Babysitting Uncle Henry

Most of your guests will entertain themselves snorkeling, parasailing, and lounging at the pool with coconut margaritas. And then there’s Uncle Henry. He’s grumpy and bitter. You’ll need to smooth his ruffled feathers, make him comfortable, and suggest cheaper lodging. So while the overall wedding planning is smoother, you’ll have to whip up some “contingency activities” for different types of guests.

Pro: Less trips to vendors

In a normal engagement, on Tuesday afternoon you’ll get this voicemail from your fiancée: “Hey honey, let’s meet at 4pm to chat with the caterer, and then we’ll still have time to hit the florist by 8. Sound good?” Sounds like your nuts are in a blender. But you’ll never get this voicemail if the caterer lives in Puerto Vallarta. Out of sight, out of mind.

Con: The costs can still add up

But only if you let ‘em. Be wary of any attempts your fiancée makes to over-think this. Let’s look at what the wedding-porn has to say. The Knot helpfully suggests, “Bring your own pros. Don’t hesitate to fly in talent you trust from home for critical aspects such as photography, hair and makeup, and decor design (lighting, flowers). These vendors can work with local vendors in a supervisory capacity to avoid any communication mishaps.” Good ‘ol Knot. You gotta love it. “Don’t hesitate” to fly in vendors you trust. “Supervisory capacity?” Is that like when the military flies in experts to train guerilla warfare in Vietnam or Iraq? HESITATE before doing this. Keep things simple and let the local vendors do their thing.

Pro: No turf wars

Especially helpful in a Capulet/Montague situation. When she’s from Chicago and you’re from Boston, the perfect compromise just might be Jamaica.

Con: It’s not the dream wedding that you’ve always envisioned since you were a little boy

Oh. Wait. That’s her problem, not yours. And here we get to the guts of the issue… the main objection to a destination wedding—outside of the exclusionary element—is that it doesn’t conform to every little princesses’ fantasy. You’re not a princess. So let’s add it up: it’s cheaper, more fun, and you only invite the people you like.

Pro: Even the awful stuff isn’t that awful.

You’ll still deal with the drudgery of invitations, photographers, reception quandaries and the like. Somehow, though, everything is less painful when the party’s in Hawaii. And despite what we say about formalwear, the fickle gods of weddings will let you dress down; on the beach you can get married in shorts and a navy blazer without anyone raising an eyebrow. It feels more like a vacation and less like a chore. Morale is higher. Trips to the vendors are actually fun—you’re in Hawaii for God’s sake.

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

Any other questions about destination weddings? Hit us at [email protected].

All right, back to reality. Here’s what you need to know about buying the wedding bands.

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