Free weddings anything but

You’re engaged! You’re high on love and can’t stop looking at your sparkly engagement ring. 

Quickly and inevitably the questions start: 

  • When? 
  • Where?
  • Who? 

Flabbergasted with details and pressure, you look at your love and say,

“Let’s just combine the wedding with the honeymoon. It’ll be so much easier.”

Destination weddings continue to be a strong travel trend. The concept of running away and getting married in a tropical destination just seems so much easier and less expensive. But is there really such a thing as a free wedding?

The ceremony: 

The “free” wedding packages offered by resorts are for symbolic vows. This is not a legal ceremony therefore most couples get married by a Magistrate prior to their arrival in destination. If you do want your ceremony to be a civil one (legal in Canada) you will have to pay for the extra services required. 

In Mexico, this requires in-destination blood tests and notarized proof of eligibility for marriage. Civil and religious ceremonies also require you to be in destination at least three business days prior to your marriage to facilitate paperwork.

The number of guests: 

A bridal bouquet, boutonniere for the groom and a small wedding cake and champagne is the standard inclusion for “complimentary” wedding packages. Maximum 10 guests!  Many bridal parties alone, without the guests exceed that number.

For each guest above the 10-person limit, there is a charge of anywhere from $10-$35US.

The Upsell: 

Upon arrival at the resort, the bridal couple have a meeting with the wedding coordinator. Last-minute details are verified as to location/time of ceremony, colors, flowers, etc. You think car salesmen have a bad rep? 

This is when the “upsell” begins. Better flowers, more decorations, live band vs DJ. The skillful subtleness of the sales pitch to make your wedding “something magical” is very hard to resist. Each upgrade comes at a cost.

After-wedding venue

You’re at an all-inclusive resort. Why would you pay for your meal? Well, the wedding coordinators readily discourage bridal groups from assuming they can reserve a section of one of the a la carte restaurants for their wedding dinner. 

If you want privacy for congratulatory speeches, the first dance and typical family antics, you will have to reserve a separate area for that privilege. 

Audio equipment, lighting, music, even outdoor dance floors come at a cost. Meal service as well is not complimentary as you are taking the required wait staff away from the rest of the guests at the resort to tend to your group’s needs. 

Generally private functions run anywhere from $25-$65US per person. 

Experience has shown that smaller groups of 20 or fewer can be accommodated in the a la carte restaurant of your choice with gentle persuasion. First dance would be at the in-house disco and anything disruptive to the other diners (speeches, etc.) would not be allowed.

Destination weddings are wonderful. They truly do allow for a week-long nuptial celebration with friends and family. 

However in the words of a wise old man, “There is no such thing as free."


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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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