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People usually associate destination weddings with newlywed celebrities frolicking on private islands for millions of dollars. In short, not for normal people.
But surprise, surprise—destination weddings can actually be comparable to or even cheaper than getting married in Singapore.
There are three reasons for this:
The first is that many of the people you invite are going to turn white at the thought of having to spend so much money on top of the ang bao and will turn down your invitation, meaning you’ll have to cater for fewer guests.
The second is that Singapore is just so darned expensive that taking things to a more inexpensive neighbouring country can help to save on costs.
And finally, an exotic location encourages people to consider more unconventional options, such as a Thai-style buffet, instead of throwing another of those “wait, where have I seen that prawn before?” shindigs you get in Singapore.
Tips for a destination wedding
Wedding packages: Many hotels and resorts provide wedding packages that include a ceremony and seating for guests, as well as other frills like live music and wedding bouquets.
If you book through a hotel or resort, you often also get a one night stay on their premises—I mean, you and your new spouse, that is, not your entire party.
Consider buffet-style catering: The cost of feeding and putting up your guests is not included in a basic wedding package.
Some hotels and resorts let you order catering for your guests, and buffet-style meals tend to be cheaper than sit-down dinners.
Consider eating out: Even if you’re exchanging vows at a fancy resort, it’s completely okay to take your wedding dinner or lunch somewhere cheaper.
Book a restaurant overlooking the rice fields in Bali and you will almost certainly end up paying less than you would for a yawn-inducing hotel banquet in Singapore.
Accommodation for your guests: How much you intend to subsidise your guests’ trip is of course up to you, but it is nice to at least arrange for accommodation for them. Just because your wedding is the most romantic day of your life, blah blah, doesn’t mean everybody has to drop everything for you.
This doesn’t necessarily have to cost millions; just putting your guests up in a simple, clean hotel might cost you no more than S$50 per couple but will be much appreciated.
Destination weddings at Bali, Indonesia
Bali is by far one of Singaporeans’ favourite wedding destinations. Most of the five star resorts look like palaces, but even if you opt for something cheaper at least you know the beach will be better than Sentosa’s.
Cost of flights: $150 per person
Wedding ceremony: At the extremely fancy Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, wedding packages cost about S$4,159 to as high as S$39,600 including taxes and service charge. All packages include floral decorations and bridal bouquet, a musical performance during the ceremony and one night’s stay in a one bedroom villa.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind forgoing the fancy resorts, you can organise a beach wedding at a relatively affordable price.
Legong Keraton Beach Hotel conducts ceremonies for as low as US$250 (S$343) for 2 to 10 pax. You can also get married on Benoa Beach for S$4,387 without going through a hotel, which includes basic decoration, venue rental, celebrant, hand bouquet and Boutonniere and a 3-hour photoshoot.
Dinner: Can be as cheap as S$23 per head for buffet catering at a restaurant or as expensive as S$191 for a sit-down dinner at a 5-star hotel.
Destination weddings at Da Nang, Vietnam
While most people get married in Da Nang only if their prospective spouse is a Vietnamese, Da Nang is home to stunning beaches and usually offers cheaper wedding packages than Bali.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about your guests getting smashed at Bali’s Potato Head and forgetting to show up at the wedding.
Cost of flights: $280 per person
Wedding ceremony: Hyatt Regency Danang Resport and Spa charges US$3,680 (S$5,045) for a ceremony including bouquets, background music and a wedding celebrant.
This includes a one night stay in a room with an ocean view, a wedding cake and a standard set or buffet menu, so you can skip the wedding banquet in favour of a beach rave for your guests. Well, if you want to.
Pullman Danang Beach Resort charges the equivalent of S$2,780 for a 10-guest wedding package including service, bouquet and champagne, but no accommodation. Additional guests are charged at S$71.50 each.
Dinner: Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa’s standard package costs S$7,979 for 30 guests, including taxes and service charge.
Destination wedding at Phuket, Thailand
Maybe you met your fiancee when one of you picked the other up in a seedy bar in Phuket. Or maybe you’ve actually visited the pristine beaches miles from the dodgy party area on Bangla Road.
Whatever your ties to the place, Phuket is a fairly affordable and very scenic option for weddings.
Cost of flights: S$100 per person
Wedding Ceremony: Many packages in Phuket don’t include accommodation for the bride and groom, although you might be entitled to discounts or upgrades.
Wedding packages at the modern-looking Twinpalms Phuket start from 110,000++ baht (S$4,604) and include a bridal bouquet, professional wedding photographer, wedding cake and ceremony.
At Rocky’s Boutique Resort, a wedding package costing 83,000++ baht (S$3,474++) also includes wedding celebrant, makeup, hair styling, bouquet for the bride, as well as sparkling wine and canapes for bride and groom.
If you’re on a budget, don’t despair, as there are simple weddingpackages at wallet-friendlier prices like 37,000 baht (S$1,452).
Dinner: Arranging for a Thai buffet at the Regent Phuket Cape Panwa costs 2,000 baht (S$78) per person, while the Thai set menu is an affordable 1,500 baht (S$59) per person. A 3 course international dinner costs 1,600 baht (S$63) per person.
Can you afford a destination wedding?
With wedding costs in Singapore often escalating to prices of between $30,000 to $80,000, a destination wedding looks cheap in comparison.
To have a fairly lavish wedding in Bali, you can anticipate the following:
- Flights for the couple and close families: $150 x 10 = S$1,500
- Two-night accommodation for other relatives and friends in Bali: $30 x 40 x 2 = $2,400
- Wedding reception and ceremony including one night’s accommodation: S$4,159
- Wedding banquet for 50: S$191 x 50 = $9,550
- 2 extra nights’ accommodation: $9,809
On the other hand, a budget wedding in Phuket would cost the following:
- Flights for the couple and their families: $100 x 10 = $1,000
- Wedding reception and ceremony: $3,474
- Wedding buffet for 30: $2,000
- 3 extra nights’ accommodation: $300
- One night’s accommodation for 20 guests: $500
Because the cost of weddings is just so insane in Singapore and having a wedding at home usually means inviting the entire country, from the kopi aunty to the couple’s primary school teachers, destination weddings don’t look so bad in comparison.
If you’re one of that special breed of people who can take an otherwise overpriced event and turn it into a bargain, this is definitely something you can pull off.
This article was first published in MoneySmart Singapore.