Destination I Do

Etiquette: Financing Frustrations II

Words by Elaine Hilbelink
Photos courtesy of Gideon Photography

Clear communication early in the wedding planning process about financial responsibilities with all of the stakeholders is the key to preventing stressful relationships later on. The best way to avoid disappointments, misunderstandings and frayed relationships is to clearly define expectations and financial commitments before issues ensue.

Q: My parents graciously offered to help pay for my destination wedding and now I'm not sure how to proceed. Are there questions I should be asking? Should I expect money up-front or after the wedding is over? 

A: The most important question to clarify from the very beginning is your parents’ intended budget for your destination wedding. After you know their contribution, you can then factor in what the groom’s family might want to pay for and what your finances as a couple might be. Awareness of your total budget can help you in decision making as to affordable venues, allocating your budget among the many line items and honeymoon plans. Another question to clarify early on would be the intended guest list for your destination. It is wise to set up a “wedding account” with available funds so that vendors might be paid as the need arises. Setting up funds before expenses crop up would be ideal.

Q: One of my vendors is requiring I pay them in-full up-front. Is this common and acceptable?

A: Payment to vendors can vary. Stationery is paid for when ordered. It is common and acceptable for photographers, videographers, florists and wedding planners to expect at least a partial payment or deposit up-front. The reason they ask for this is to reserve the date for you. Check contracts to verify what their policy is if they are sick or hurt and unable to fulfill your agreement. Destination venues usually require a deposit for part of your package. Hotels and resorts do not usually require payment in-full because the number of guests and bar usage, etc. might not be determined until after the event. It is good to verify with each of the vendors what their policies are.

Q: My fiancé and I have found our dream vendors, but some of them are out of our budget. Can we try to negotiate a lower price or is that rude?

A: Yes, you can attempt to negotiate the price, but you need to be respectful if their answer is “no.” If you receive a negative response, find a vendor who is within your budget. It is also important to clarify with vendors traveling to your destination if their travel expenses are built into the package or if you will
be paying for their travel separately.

Q: I am a bridesmaid traveling to an international destination wedding and the bride is expecting her attendants to throw her a bridal shower and a bachelorette party. Many of us are struggling to pay to attend the wedding. Is there a way to tell her we can’t afford to plan and host these other events?

A: This is a sensitive situation. You need to “draw a line in the sand” about what you can and cannot afford, but you don’t want the bride to feel everyone is discussing it behind her back. Perhaps one of you could talk to the bride in person and carefully explain your financial situation and share that you know at least a few others who are struggling with wedding expenses. You could also suggest some alternative possibilities for celebrations. It might be possible for an aunt or other relative to host a shower for the bride. A meal out with just the bridesmaids at your destination with a group gift of lingerie might also be an option. Get creative and brainstorm with your friends what you can do to make the bride feel special without busting everyone’s budgets. 

Q: My fiancé and I want a honeymoon, but frankly can’t afford one. What are our options?

A: Be creative and focus on what you and your fiancé enjoy doing together that is within your budget. You do not want to begin your married life with debt and financial strain. A few options might be:

• Speak to your destination wedding venue and see if you might get a special rate to extend your stay a night or two for a short honeymoon.

• Think about friends or relatives who might have a vacation home you could use or rent for a reasonable fee.

• Get back to nature and go camping.

• Delay your honeymoon for six months or a year (you will have probably used your vacation for the destination wedding anyway).

• Plan a few special events in your home locale…day trips, special dinners out, a night at the theater or sports event, etc.

Realistic expectations and clear communication with family, friends, vendors and your fiancé can create a harmonious destination event all will remember fondly.

For Part 1 of Financing Frustrations, visit

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