Destination wedding travel doesn’t have to break your budget this summer

Wedding travel doesn’t have to break your budget this summer

Ah, #weddingseason.

A celebration of love, perfectly positioned fairy lights, awkwardly portmanteau’d hashtags, signature cocktails in Mason jars, and the bride’s great aunt breaking it down to “The Cha-Cha Slide.”

But there’s another side of the season that you won’t capture in your Instagram story. The part where you’re scrolling through the registry, trying to figure out which set of mixing bowls fits your budget, calculating if that bridesmaid’s dress rental will mean two weeks of rice and beans for dinner, and scrambling to catch your connecting flight to the regional airport where you’ll catch the bus to the ferry to the picturesque island where your friends just had to get married.

Is wedding travel worth the expense? If you’re paralyzed by the social consequences of RSVP’ing “no,” it might be time to do a little cold, hard number-crunching. And if you can’t swing the airfare, hotels, and time off work, there are alternative ways to toast the couple.

“It is very rare that a couple has planned a destination wedding where they didn’t anticipate that some of the guests might not be able to attend—or might need help getting there.”

“I’ve missed two far-flung weddings: one in the South of France and one in Nome, Alaska,” says Ted, a graphic designer in New York. “I regret both but just couldn’t afford it.” Sending thoughtful gifts to the couples smoothed over any hard feelings, at a fraction of the cost of being there. Plus, mindful absenteeism pays itself back. When the time came, Ted says, “My friend in Nome didn’t make our wedding in New York, either, but she gave us a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant we’d never have been able to afford.”

Your far-flung friends might not be counting on you to make it, either. Anne Lanier, who runs a firm specializing in Ireland-based destination weddings, says most of her clients are conscious of the money factor—and that those who can afford to often cover or pitch in on travel costs for family and friends. “It is very rare that a couple has planned a destination wedding where they didn’t anticipate that some of the guests might not be able to attend—or might need help getting there,” Lanier says. “My etiquette: If there are people who should be at your wedding and otherwise not afford to, add their travel to your budget.”

Grandma and the maid of honor might make that travel-assistance shortlist. If, like most of us, you fall into the old-college-roommate or office-cubicle-buddy category, don’t take offense at not getting the all-expenses-paid weekend on the Cliffs of Moher—and don’t drain your emergency fund trying to pay out of pocket. (Whatever you do, don’t charge it!) If you just can’t afford to travel, come up with a great gift and a polite excuse, and make plans to toast the newlyweds when you’re all in the same place.

Of course, if it’s a wedding you wouldn’t miss for the world, you’ll figure out a way to get there. Go in on a car rental with friends, explore cheaper accommodations, and take advantage of the spatula or the semi-fancy cheese grater on the gift registry. (A guest with a heftier bank balance can take care of the crystal tableware.)

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