The Truth About “Free” Resort Weddings

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Updated: Aug 2nd, 2018

Whenever you see something offered for ‘free’, there’s usually a catch, right?

In the case of free weddings at all-inclusive resorts, the answer is yes…..and no.

Most All Inclusive Resorts offer a variety of Wedding Packages, including a basic “free” level, to help you start your wedded life together.

The ‘catch’ is that the free package has limits (natch, they would prefer to sell you an upgraded package) AND that there’s always one or more requirements, often as simple as a required minimum number of nights booked……but that just makes sense if you’re going to stay at the resort anyway, so it’s not much of a ‘catch’.

The Truth:

The commonly accepted truth is this: For brides on a budget, having the resort where you plan to spend your honeymoon throw in the wedding ceremony for free can save many thousands of dollars. Yep you read that right, many thousands of dollars.

If you’re planning a very small, simple wedding, the free package will likely be just fine, but keep in mind that because the ‘free’ wedding package often has limitations you’ll want to read the fine print and be sure you’re clear on what is, and what is not, included.

The hidden truth:

While the basic-level ceremony can be free, you’ll still need to pay the fees for obtaining the various licenses and documentation required, and occasionally you must pay to have those documents translated into English. Some destinations have government-imposed fees as well.

Those fees can vary depending on whether you’re going into town to visit the appropriate office (taking a taxi at your own expense) or they’re bringing the paperwork to you at the resort (generally more expensive). Also, if you’re having a civil (aka “symbolic”) ceremony instead of a legally binding one, then there’s usually a fee for the minister or justice of the peace, but even when there’s no fee for the officiant, it’s still customary to tip the person who conducts your ceremony.

Tip: be aware that if your documentation isn’t filed on time (and “on time” can vary based on your destination and resort – in some cases as much as 45 days or more before the ceremony), there is often a ‘late’ fee assessed – be sure to check with your chosen resort’s wedding coordinator to learn the requirements for both the resort and the locale.

Another often overlooked truth:

If your guests are shelling out a couple of thousand dollars to attend your wedding in paradise, don’t count on seeing a pricey gift from them as well…..some may not be able to afford both a trip and that top-of-the-line Vitamix you have on your Gift Registry. This may be perfectly fine if you’re a little older and/or already have a well-stocked household, but for young couples just starting out in life, it’s a consideration.

Free Wedding versus buying a Package?

It’s likely that you’ll want to spend money on a few ‘upgrades’, such as additional photos and/or a professional video of your ceremony, as the free packages rarely include more than just a handful of posed photos. Be sure to ask the resort’s wedding coordinator about all the fees you might incur with the free package, and what upgrades you can order ‘a la carte’ without having to upgrade the whole wedding package.

The bottom line is that a destination wedding — even when you pay for an upgraded wedding ceremony package — can still be much less expensive than a wedding at home, and you can even save money on your honeymoon if you can commit to a minimum number of rooms booked, as many resorts will comp the price of the room for the bride and groom once the rest of the minimum required rooms are paid for.

So don’t be afraid of the “free resort wedding”, just be sure you know what it will cost you.

Did you have a free resort wedding? Share your experience in our comments!

About Trisha Miller 41 Articles
Trisha is the Editor-in-Chief at Travel Writers Exchange, a community for travel writers & bloggers. She's also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, and a former member of the IFWTWA, serving on their Board of Directors from 2009 through 2015. When not traveling the world, Trisha occasionally guest-blogs for a number of websites, writing mainly about travel and technology, sometimes both at the same time.

2 Comments

  1. My daughter is considering an Island Wedding. We have been told that it is less expensive to have an all-inclusive resort handle the planning than for us to do so out side of the resort. The problem is: her grandparents left this island in the 50’s and we still have relatives living there. They would like to attend for the day. Does this present a problem for the resort? I can be specific if you need.

    • Hi Janey,

      Many resorts DO accommodate wedding guests who are NOT staying at the resort (for a variety of reasons), but it’s generally not free – they’ll charge each non-resort guest for a ‘day pass’ that covers their expense for food and any other resort amenities that the non-resort-guests may use……your daughter should definitely ask her travel agent – or the resort directly – if they have a day-pass program and what the cost is per person BEFORE she books her wedding there!

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