When my fiance, Mike, and I got engaged in October 2016 after 15 years of dating, we spent 3 tiring months searching for the perfect venue. We wanted our wedding to tell the story of our relationship, while giving our friends and family an experience of a lifetime.
All without breaking the bank.
When Mike proposed, we had $30,000 saved in a special account for a wedding. (I setup my “Wedding” savings goal on Mint back in 2011; you might call it wishful thinking but I call it smart planning!)
We looked up average wedding costs as a benchmark to know whether our 30k would be enough. The average U.S. wedding cost in 2016 was $35,329 (not including the honeymoon), and this lined up with what I had heard from my married friends and family.
$35,329… Are you kidding me?
It took some serious soul-searching to realize that we weren’t excited about a traditional, or even “normal” wedding. (Especially one that costs $35,329!) So, we let our minds drift wildly outside-the-box until we landed at the home of our ginger-haired ancestors:
We knew it was a pipe dream. We’re not rich. We’re just an average couple with above-average budgeting skills. But we slammed the door on that little voice of doubt and decided to spec out an Irish wedding anyway.
The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of research, phone calls, and emails abroad.
I secured pricing for a stately manor of the Ring of Kerry for the last week of summer, got tentative confirmations from 30 guests; priced out flights, vendors, wedding dress, car rentals, and more.
I also factored in the costs of a City Hall ceremony and intimate dinner in my hometown, after learning that the marriage process in Ireland is a bit complicated for foreigners.
The result? $25,000. Leaving healthy room for an Irish honeymoon after the guests leave.
We booked it.
Fast-forward 8 hectic months, and 3 of the most beautiful weeks of my life. (Plus a little splurging here and there, thanks to my wonderful Mum and Dad.)
The total cost of our weeklong Irish retreat for 31 guests, plus wedding, 2-week honeymoon, and official marriage and dinner party stateside: $35,321
Minus $7,300 in gift money.
Net: $28,021 USD
We stretched it.
Though a hefty sum, this money went a long way in Ireland.
The majority was spent on expenses that lessened the financial burden on our friends and family, including:
- The property rental for the week
- Rented vans
- Breakfast & snack foods
- Some airfare
The transportation alone cost $18,348.
However, you are not expected to cover transportation costs of your guests in a destination wedding, nor their hotel fees. We only decided to cover these costs because some core family members wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise.
The complete breakdown (prices, that is)
For those who aren’t required to be this charitable, here’s how much we spent for just the wedding day(s) itself:
CITY HALL: $1,175
- Ceremony & license: $115 (varies by city)
- Simple white dress & shoes: $220
- Flowers: $40
- Dinner for immediate family and our photographer friend and his wife: $800
- Wedding food & drink: $2,800
- Bride’s dress, tailoring & accessories: $1,185
- Property rental (24 hours): $1,101
- Photographer: $1,050
- Airfare (our share): $1,000
- Groom’s suit & accessories: $715
- Celebrant (Officiant): $600
- Wedding rings: $600
- Musicians: $513
- Rental Car & Gas (our share): $453
- Wedding photo book: $292
- Flowers: $200
- Makeup supplies: $200
- Thank Yous: $65
- Additional tips & incidentals: $600
Grand total for 2 weddings: $12,549
Compared to the average wedding cost in the States of $35,329, we actually saved $22,780 by getting married in Ireland!
And it was OH so worth it
Sure, there are lots of considerations when planning a wedding abroad. Will my elderly relatives be able to travel? Will the trip be a financial burden on friends and family? Am I okay with not inviting all our friends and relatives?
Everyone’s situation will be different and you’ll have to consider the financial and emotional costs of your particular situation.
For us, the wedding week in Ireland, the fairytale seaside wedding, the honeymoon, the week spent with friends and family… it was worth every penny.