I just want a simple, pretty wedding, goddamit.
May 21, 2008 1:13 AM   Subscribe

Destination weddings for those of modest means?

So my fiancé are trying to plan a wedding. We have less than 7K to spend on everything, including the honeymoon and it is quickly becoming clear to us that there is just no way we're going to be able to pull off the kind of wedding we'd like to have in Chicago. And most of our guests would have to travel anyway, so destination wedding it is.

I found this place and it looks ideal but unfortunately, you can only have 14 guests and we need to be able to invite a few more than that. Not a whole bunch more, just a few.

Does anyone know of any other all-inclusive wedding spots that are more charming than cheesy? We're not really into Vegas or Sandals or anything like that. It can be anywhere as long as its affordable.

Also is there any comprehensive online source for places like this? I've searched and searched and have come up with many bed and breakfasts that do weddings but you still have to do most of the planning yourself, which I would rather avoid.
posted by Jess the Mess to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, heres a question: do you want a lot of guests at your wedding or not?

Having a dest wed will DEFINITELY cut down on your list of guests. If you're thinking of a 200+ wedding, think again. I'd asterisk that with a "unless everyone you want at the wedding is really RICH", but you do have a modest budget.

Is eloping a possibility? If it is...you can TOTALLY have an awesome (and small...ahem "intimate") wedding, honeymoon, and some spending cash for $7k. Oh...and you can totally go farther than Tennessee (apply for passports NOW if you don't already have some).

Congratulations, and good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:24 AM on May 21, 2008

This place looks like a nice option, although they don't list their fees on the website.
posted by arianell at 2:26 AM on May 21, 2008

Coast of Ga, Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Absolutely beautiful!
posted by pearlybob at 5:12 AM on May 21, 2008

Come to my hometown and get married here. All your friends and family could stay in Ponce Inlet or Daytona Beach Shores, which are quieter, less touristy, and beautiful. You can do it with 7K. Probably less.

It would depend on when you want to get married. If it's a summer wedding that would be fabulous for your guests at the beach, but you might be sweating in your dress. Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:12 AM on May 21, 2008

Best answer: The husband and I went to a small town in our state for our destination wedding. It had a beautiful old courthouse ($200 to get married in that cute room at the top!), a nice hotel and a great place to eat together after the event. After dinner we had champagne and cake in a park under the stars with our guests.

Do you have a town in your state or a nearby one that's charming? Go there. It was not horrifically expensive and very fun. I love that I can always go back to that part of the state and visit. Congratulations!
posted by dog food sugar at 6:15 AM on May 21, 2008

This might not be what you are thinking of, but my friends rented a jewish girls summer camp, in September, after all the campers had gone home. It was crazy cheap, I think they spent $2k for the whole thing, food included. Which doesn't make any sense but that's what I remember. This was 2004.

It was a pretty awesome time. They had the whole place for a weekend. The camp mattresses were truly awful but the older guests stayed in B&Bs around town, and the rest of us sucked it up and made like campers.

This was in NH.

Just a thought.
posted by sully75 at 6:16 AM on May 21, 2008

We went to Maho Bay on St. John, USVI. Our whole shebang (including dress, travel, party when we got back, food, whatever) was about five grand. If you go off season, the rates are great. Mind you, it's definitely NOT the Ritz, but it's a tremendous experience. Airfare may be prohibitive.

Seconding, though, the small town courthouse quaintness. A friend got married at the historic courthouse in Decatur, GA and it was beautiful.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 6:56 AM on May 21, 2008

Best answer: Agree on looking at local "destinations". Get a map, draw a 50 or 100 mile radius circle and see what falls into it. I bet there are tons of things.

Maybe you rent a gazebo thing at a local park? Maybe rent a nice vacation house down at the lake? Maybe a nice restaurant out in the country?

In Chicago, you've got TONS of options. Lake Geneva, Starved Rock pop to mind. The forest preserves have facilities that can make for a nice yet inexpensive destination. Danada house in Wheaton. Maybe the old courthouse in Geneva? Tons of places up in WI or over in IN. I don't know for sure, but I bet there are a lot of places along the north shore that would be awesome. I've heard that Ft. Sheridan has some really excellent facilities, but I don't know if they offer them to the public.

One way to extend your budget is to consider non-traditional catering. Instead of the $50 a plate catering crap, bring in pizzas or do some kind of buffet. The fried chicken/mostaccoli/beef sandwiches is no fun, but if you bring in fun food from different vendors, it might be a real hit. Get pizzas from a great local place. Get McNuggets or Popeyes chicken strips for the kids and kids at heart. A shitload of pies from Bakers Square. Sliders as a late evening snack.
posted by gjc at 7:37 AM on May 21, 2008

On the budget catering front, a friend hired a local BBQ restaurant to do catering. They towed in a giant smoker and provided a complete patio setup. All the food was awesome, there was plenty for everyone, and the cost per person was ridiculously low by wedding catering standards.
posted by junesix at 8:35 AM on May 21, 2008

I'd look around Door County; it's not a bad drive from Chicago, and it's beautiful (unless you're having a winter wedding, then disregard this post). Washington Island is kind of out of the way and there are a few resorts that probably are not that expensive (the mainland seems to be where all the rich folks go). There's also camping, biking, golfing and a few romantic beaches (well, for Wisconsin).

A cursory search brought up this place, where you can rent a house for $1200/week. Here's another, with a private beach. This place has catering and pics of a wedding setup. I've been to this place for dinner and the view is gorgeous.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2008

Door County Wedding Planners - dunno how expensive this is.

damn, I kind of wish I thought about this before we booked a place (The American Club)
posted by desjardins at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2008

>you still have to do most of the planning yourself, which I would rather avoid.

Any place that does the planning for your is going to charge a fairly large fee for this. Likewise an with a professional independent wedding planner. However you might find you know somebody who would love to do some planning for you both as a wedding present.

The best low cost wedding I have been to recently was held at a school hall during holiday time. At least here in Scotland there are many schools which are adept at running evening classes, courses and other community events - including potentially weddings. Rather than bring presents guests were asked to take food, etc - the planning of this worked like a wedding list in that somebody had decided "we need X and Y and X" and then guests would volunteer to provide a particular element.
posted by rongorongo at 9:12 AM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the new ideas, everyone. I'll have to explore these a bit further. The "Club Wedding Package" at the Jekyll Island Club is exactly what I'm talking about but just on a smaller scale (as it is, it's a bit out of our budget).

hal_c_on, I think we would need to have a minimum of 20 guests at the wedding to make both of us happy. I don't think we're expecting anyone to come but our immediate families and one best friend each. If the place could accommodate more and we could afford it that would be fine too. I WISH we could elope. It seems there are so many cool, non-stressful options for elopers.

junesix, a picnic type reception with bbq catering was our original plan but we couldn't find anywhere in Chicago that would let us do it. I also love the idea of a "lakehouse"-type reception but the more I researched it, the more impossible it seemed.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and just to clarify, I'm looking more for a place with a "wedding package" or choice of packages than a personalized wedding planner. Okay, I'll be quiet now...
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2008

My wife and I did wedding and 6 week honeymoon for about 3.5/4k for 30 guests. We booked the church early and comparison shopped it- One place wanted 700, another 400, one was 350. It was a beautiful old church.

Our other big cost was food- Catering is abominably expensive and not at all good. Instead we called a few restaurants and said, "We can give you a 30 head, what can you give us?". We found a beautiful place that printed custom menus, gave us a private room and generally slaved away for us. The total bill was 1800$ for appetizers, dinner and an ice cream menu, along with a $3 plating fee for the cake. We had her mother bake the cake- Unless you want one of those Colette Peters whimsical cakes, you can get by pretty well with buttercream and a little frosting know-how.

For housing we reserved a couple rooms in area B+Bs and just had guests pay us. We also booked a vacation house for a weekend for the two of us and 6 of our friends.

It was a beautiful time, we spent every dime we had and I wouldn't do it differently. A little bit of creative thinking and some calling around can save you some big bucks.
posted by GilloD at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2008

Oh- Flowers? Walmart that stuff. They subcontract through FTD. The flowers were beautiful and inexpensive.
posted by GilloD at 10:55 AM on May 21, 2008

Why not go somewhere fun like the beach? Lots of places will give you free airfare or hotel depending on the size of the party you plan to bring. And if you go somewhere cheap like Jamaica or the the Carribean and give people enough warning to buy their tickets and make their room reservations (and make a bit of a vacation out of it), they may be able to come along. Check out this site, for example, for a few ideas. Places like this will plan the whole wedding, and do enough of them that it's no big deal to them. Some of these places may have too much "cheeze," but I bet you could pick and choose from amongst them and come up with something pretty special. However, whether or not this would work would depend on the likelihood of the folks that you'd like to have attend actually coming; you may want to check with them first.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:34 AM on May 21, 2008

For example, this place in Jamaica looks nice, could handle a wedding for 2-20 attendees, and could provide a dinner ($45/person) and bar ($25/person) for less than $1500. There are some other wedding costs and the cost of your room (stay at least 4 days at about $130/night) and other wedding options. But as long as you're not paying for your guest rooms or airfare, I'd be surprised if you couldn't fit it under $5K.

Anyway, best of luck, and congratulations!
posted by onlyconnect at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2008

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