When my fiancé, Mike, and I got engaged after 15 years together, we spent three tiring months searching for the perfect venue. We wanted our wedding to reflect our love story and provide our friends and family with an unforgettable experience, all without breaking the bank.

Budgeting for the Big Day

When Mike proposed, we had $30,000 saved in a special account for a wedding. (I had setup my “Wedding” savings goal on Mint back in 2011; some might call it wishful thinking, but I call it smart planning 😉.)

We researched average wedding costs to see if our $30,000 would be enough. At the time, the average U.S. wedding cost $35,329 (not including the honeymoon)! This lined up with what I had heard from my married friends and family.

Over $35,000… Are you kidding me?

It took some serious soul-searching to realize that we weren’t excited about a traditional or “normal” wedding. (Especially one that costs $35,329!) So, we let our imaginations drift wildly outside-the-box until we landed at the home of our ginger-haired ancestors:

Irish mountains and lush fields


We knew it was a pipe dream. We’re not rich. Just an average couple with above-average budgeting skills. But we slammed the door on that little voice of doubt and decided to explore the idea of an Irish wedding.

The reality of a destination wedding in Ireland

The following weeks were a whirlwind of research, phone calls, and emails abroad.

I secured pricing for a stately manor in the Ring of Kerry for the last week of summer, received tentative confirmations from 30 guests, and 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. This left us with a healthy budget for an Irish honeymoon after the guests left.

We booked it.

Fast-forward 8 hectic months, and we experienced three of the most beautiful weeks of my life. (And splurged a little along the way, 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, plus our photographer friend and his wife:  $800

IRELAND:  $11,374

  • 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.

Friends and family cheer on the newlyweds.

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