Destination Weddings Spread the Economic Love
Summer is here. And with it, comes a wave of wedding invitations. Your wedding season may even include a trip or two to far-off locations, whether domestically to a Napa Valley winery, or internationally to places like Cancun or Italy. Destination weddings are becoming very popular; according to an annual survey conducted by The Knot (a wedding planning website), one fifth of American couples who married in 2017 eschewed their hometowns and opted for a destination wedding.
Weddings are a $300 billion a year global industry. (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle skewed the curve with a reported $45 million royal wedding, so we don’t expect that figure to decrease this year.) On average, 2.4 million weddings are conducted in the United States every year, generating $72 billion in revenues in 2016 for the U.S. wedding industry, which includes reception venues, bridal dress makers, caterers, photographers, and more.
Destination weddings offer the happy couple and their guests an opportunity to explore new places and experience a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. Holding your wedding in an exotic foreign locale might be cheaper for the bride and groom, but it often requires guests to cover travel and lodging expenses. It also offers local vendors, from the receptionist in a tourist eco-lodge, to the caterer, local guide services, bands, and the travel agencies that booked transportation for the wedding party, the opportunity to become services exporters in global trade.
Amiee and Adam’s First Dance in Costa Rica
The top destinations for Americans wedding abroad are the Caribbean and Mexico, but Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are also popular. Amiee and Adam are an American couple living in Washington, D.C. They tied the knot in May 2014 in Los Altos in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, having vacationed there early in their romance. They engaged a local wedding planner to select other local vendors for everything from food to flowers. The bride’s dress was made of a fabric that could withstand the jungle humidity, and after the rain cleared, the forty-eight-person party was hopping.
Many of their guests stayed past the wedding to explore the “pura vida” of Costa Rica. In fact, wedding festivities at foreign destinations last six days on average. While the local economy gains from services exports that ensure the wedding goes off without a hitch, destination weddings also boost traditional tourism services as guests turn the opportunity into a vacation for themselves.
Federica and Clint’s Return to a Spanish Island
Federica is an Italian citizen. Her husband Clint is an American. They wed in September 2016 in Formentera, a beautiful Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea. Federica had lived and worked on the island for several summers and was enchanted by the relaxed lifestyle and dazzling seascapes.
Weddings in Europe are far cheaper than weddings in the United States; it’s not uncommon to spend about $5,500 for a modest wedding in Europe, versus American weddings that cost $35,239 on average. Federica and Clint’s wedding was affordable by European standards as Federica used her island connections to save costs and achieve a unique wedding by using local vendors – other than several cases of sparkling wine imported from the bride’s Italian home. Of the seventy-five guests in attendance, about half arrived from the United States and Italy, who extended the wedding trip to see other parts of the country. With no residency requirement in many European countries for couples wishing to marry, Europe is a wedding planner’s playground, where international couples can say “I do” in an historic castle, a chateau in wine country, or a villa by the sea.
Photo credit: Federica and Clint by Franco Giomi
Noa and Matan’s New York Impulse
Matan proposed to Noa on the day they boarded a flight to the United States. The couple ended up marrying in New York that very week. The bride purchased a white dress at Banana Republic, asked a friend living locally to serve as their witness, and the couple capped the day off at a local steakhouse. This type of wedding in New York can cost as little as $60: $35 for the license and another $25 for a ceremony following a 24-hour waiting period.
The spontaneous wedding was romantic, but also helped the couple address a religious challenge. The couple is from Israel, which does not offer civil wedding ceremonies if both you and your spouse are Jewish. However, if you are married overseas, you can register as a married couple in Israel upon your return. And across the United States, anyone can be issued a marriage license regardless of their residency status. While Noa and Matan did end up planning a wedding party for their friends and family back home, their U.S. destination wedding helped the couple avoid some sensitive religious issues in their home country.
International Tourism Generates $4 Billion a Day
Weddings are as unique as each couple, and as destination weddings are becoming ever more popular, they have become a terrific driver of international tourism. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.8 billion each year by 2030, generating income from passenger transport (visitor exports from the home country) and, more significantly, from tourism receipts (services exports by the destination country).
The World Travel & Tourism Council says that the sector directly employs over 100 million people and supports 1 in every 10 jobs in the world. They are expecting a honeymoon of their own over the next decade, adding some 74.5 million new jobs through growth in this sector. International tourism is one of the fastest growing commercial sectors in the world. Apparently, it’s a form of global trade to which more people are saying, “I do.”
Ayelet Haran is a contributor to TradeVistas. She is a government affairs and policy executive in the life sciences industry. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree in International Economic Policy from Columbia University.