Having a destination wedding was the best decisions we made for ourselves. During the early days of our relationship, we visited Dubai on our first holiday together. We were so mesmerized that we couldn’t stop talking about the possibility of having a destination wedding there.
We also knew it had to be on a budget.
We eventually had our wedding at a beautiful resort called Anantara the Palm, Dubai
Here is what we learnt along the way in case you are considering having a wedding there as well.
Please consider the people you are inviting. Some people love you but genuinely cannot afford to travel for your wedding. Flights, visa and accommodation are real costs some people cannot afford.
Please assess your situation and decide if a destination wedding is for you. Some guests in order to save themselves the embarrassment will keep stringing you along until the last min. If 70 people have signified attendance, mentally slash that list to 50 because you will be shocked at how people will drop like flies a week before the wedding.
Please note that the term affordable is relative. To some people living in parts of the world like Nigeria this might not be a steal but for anyone living in the UK where average weddings cost £30,000 which is N15,000,000, this is certainly a budget wedding.
Which leads me to the most asked question: Are destination weddings cheaper?
My answer? Not really. You will be paying for the same cost as having a large wedding in Nigeria. Only this time you are paying for your sanity and peace of mind because let’s be real, Nigerian weddings are stressful.
Don’t be naïve about weddings. It is probably the most expensive celebration you will ever have in your life. Before you draw up a budget please be realistic and know the market prices.
I initially thought I could get a dress for 100-150 thousand Naira or even rent one, boy was I wrong!
Decide what is most important to you. Rotimi cared a lot about the actual ceremony experience: venue, DJ and food while I wanted great photography and videography. In that sense, we really balanced each other out.
No one is going to see your shoes. That is something you can really save on. I wore flat shoes in a beige colour, they were also flat and really cheap from Asos. Also, consider buying wedding shoes in other colours so that when you wear it afterwards they don’t look too bridal.
Decide what you want to DIY. I made my own wedding veil, souvenirs, hair and so much more. I have a wedding series below that shows it all.
Save money on invitations and make e-invites. One of our best resources for overall planning and guest management was this website called Wedding Wire
It is basically a free wedding planner holding you by the hand and organising your entire wedding. My best part was the guest list management, you could create mass invites and save the date emails and also get a free wedding website. We paid to have our own domain name but honestly, I don’t think it was worth it.
Please save money and just use all the free features available on these sites.
SO HERE ARE SOME OTHER WAYS YOU CAN SAVE MONEY ON YOUR DESTINATION WEDDING
- Get the food sorted out with the venue. It will save you a lot of stress and might come out cheaper.
- If you have family living in Dubai with a nice compound, consider using the compound space for your ceremony. We initially considered renting a villa and using the garden/beach around it but most Airbnbs said no
- Use your network. Our photographer is not an old friend but Rotimi’s family friend as well. This saved us a lot of money because we negotiated and renegotiated on a lot of things. Our photographer also negotiated a videographer for us who ended up giving us a price way lower than what he typically quotes. You can actually get a good videographer and ask that they send you raw footage to edit yourself. Same for photo
- Our MC was Rotimi’s friend who we only had to pay with hugs and thank yous. He did such an incredible job.
- Alcoholic drinks will take your wedding budget way up. You can consider not including alcohol or asking having an open bar where guests can buy their own alcohol. Anyone coming all the way to your wedding isn’t just coming for food or booze but because they genuinely love you.
- We chose not to have bridesmaids or groomsmen because that equals less drama and stress. I had a maid of honour who wore what she wanted and he had a best man who wore what he had as well and we all looked fabulous.
- Our friend Sylvie did my makeup for free and that was her wedding gift to me.
- Our décor was done by a family member who flew out his entire staff and we paid only 500 USD
- We got a family member to officiate as well (even though he sent someone to represent him). We didn’t have to pay flights or officiating fees for the minister.
- Don’t be cliché. You don’t have to have a smoke machine. Why not buy cheap smoke bombs or have everyone hold sparklers or air lanterns or helium balloons. Be unique. Be you.
- My husband’s bought his suit on a sample sale and most accessories were borrowed.
- Having your wedding on a weekday could potentially slash your cost by half. In Nigeria, our venue literally cost half price because we did it on a Tuesday.
- We both stayed in different accommodations as the wedding resort was rather expensive. I even shared a room with one of the vendors and moved to the venue on the day of the wedding.
- You can get a titanium ring or sterling silver and upgrade once you settle into the marriage.
- If you really don’t want to have to fly a DJ, have a playlist and have someone man the deck.
- We didn’t have a pre-wedding dinner or activity because that would have taken the budget way up.
- Whatever you do, avoid the W word. “I am having a wedding, how much do you charge for…” Say instead “I am planning a party…”
SO HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND ON OUR DUBAI WEDDING
The Anantara Dubai Resort package:
- Beach side ceremony
- Unlimited soft drinks
- 3-course buffet
- Chairs/ Tables/Ceremony arch with fresh flowers
- Free wedding cake
- Free Roomstay
- Free Massage
Basic Anantara: £10,566
- Buffet £57/person
- Drinks £13/person
- Venue and flowers £669
- Videography+travel £1109
- Photography+travel £963
- Planning+travel £1459
- DJ £600
- Flights £850
- Decor $500
Total we paid: £12,748