Puerto Vallarta Destination Wedding Guide: Budget (Chapter 2)

Bride and groom walking on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Understand the costs of a destination wedding in Mexico and start building your budget using our spreadsheets and calculators.

 

In this article:

I. The average cost of a destination wedding in Mexico
II. What influences the cost of a destination wedding
III. How to create a realistic wedding budget
IV. A 3-step system to save for your wedding
V. Top 7 ways to cut wedding costs

 

This is chapter 2 of The 2024 Guide To Planning a Destination Wedding In Puerto Vallarta. Dreaming of a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, surrounded by white sand beaches and vibrant culture? As you envision exchanging vows in a beachfront villa, it’s essential to understand the costs associated with planning your big day. In this article, we’ll discuss the average cost of a destination wedding in Mexico, how to create a realistic wedding budget, provide a 3-step system for saving for your big day, and 7 ways to cut costs. Let’s get started.

 

The average cost of a destination wedding in Mexico

So, how much do weddings cost in Mexico? Based on our experience of working with clients and planning our own Puerto Vallarta wedding, you can expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 USD. In contrast, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $35,000 USD, while weddings in major cities like San Francisco, New York, and Chicago range from $47,000 to $60,000. Needless to say, couples can save big by planning a destination wedding in Mexico. Mexico not only offers significant savings on vendors, but destination weddings usually result in a smaller guest list. As you will see in section two, the size of the guest list is the biggest determinant of your wedding costs. The second largest factor affecting your wedding expenses is the number of vendors hired. A study by The Knot found that, on average, couples hire 14 wedding vendors. And of course, how much wedding vendors charge varies—a lot.

 

What influences the cost of a destination wedding

The top three factors that influence the cost of a wedding are the size of your guest list, the number of wedding vendors hired, and how much your wedding vendors charge. Secondary factors include additional wedding events and travel and accommodation. Let’s take a deeper look:

  • Guest Count: The number of guests has the largest impact on the cost of your wedding, as it influences your variable costs (food, alcohol, rentals, centerpieces, invitations). Carefully consider your guest list to manage costs effectively. Destination weddings in Mexico often have smaller guest lists, which can help lower the overall cost; however, this also means that you will need to be more selective in your invitations. Focus on inviting close family and friends who are most important to you and your partner.
  • Wedding Venue: Choosing your wedding venue and its location within Mexico can significantly impact the cost of your destination wedding. Some of the most popular wedding locations in Mexico include Cancun, Tulum, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, each with its unique appeal and price range. When choosing a venue, consider factors such as accessibility for guests, available amenities, and the surrounding environment and climate.
  • Wedding Vendors: Weddings are expensive because there are so many moving parts and vendors involved, such as wedding planners, caterers, photographers and videographers, florists and designers, and musicians and DJs. All of these things cost money which makes the price tag add up quickly. Consider researching and comparing multiple local vendors to find the best fit for your style and budget.
  • Additional Events: Pre- and post-wedding events, like welcome dinners or farewell brunches, will also add to the overall cost of your destination wedding. While these events can enhance the experience for your guests, it’s essential to factor them into your budget and plan accordingly. The average cost of a welcome dinner and farewell brunch can vary depending on the venue, menu, and number of guests. However, a rough estimate might be, Welcome dinner: $50 – $100 per person, Farewell brunch: $30 – $60 per person.
  • Travel & Accommodations: When planning a destination wedding in Mexico, it’s essential to factor in the cost of travel and accommodations for you and your partner, as well as any members of the wedding party whose expenses you may be covering. It’s generally not expected that the bride and groom cover the expenses for their guests. However, if your budget allows and you feel inclined, it can be a generous gesture to cover the costs for close family members like parents or siblings. Flights, hotel stays, and transportation can add up quickly, so be sure to research and compare prices to find the best deals. To secure the best rates for your destination wedding in Mexico, it’s advisable to book at least 9-12 months in advance.

 

How to create a realistic wedding budget

In this section, we’ll provide a guest list calculator to see how many guests you can realistically invite, explore wedding expenses by category, and uncover hidden wedding costs. Bonus item: Download our Wedding Budget Spreadsheet to track your expenses and stay on budget.

 

Guest List Calculator

A major determinant of your wedding budget is the size of your guest list. Naturally, the more guests you have, the higher your expenses will be. This is why many people save money when they opt for a destination wedding — normally about 20% will not be able to attend as opposed to 10% for local weddings. So, trimming your guest list is the number one factor in cutting down on wedding expenses as this will reduce your variable costs. However, it’s important to note that not all wedding expenses are variable. Some expenses are fixed — meaning they will cost the same whether you have a 50-person wedding or a 200-person wedding. For example, the photographer’s costs will remain the same no matter the guest size, as opposed to a chef, who will charge based on headcount.

Follow this equation to estimate your guest list costs:
Total budget – Fixed costs / Cost-per-head estimate = Guests you can realistically invite

Steps:

  1. Write down your total projected budget.
  2. Add up your fixed costs (ie: that which won’t change with the number of guests): venue, music, photo/video, suit/dress, officiant.
  3. Add costs that will fluctuate with the number of guests — food, alcohol, rentals, centerpieces, invitations — and come up with a cost-per-head estimate.
  4. Subtract your fixed costs from your total budget and see what’s left.
  5. Divide that figure by the cost per head and voila! This is how many guests you can afford to invite.

 

Wedding Budget Breakdown

Here are the largest wedding expenses you can plan to encounter. When you plan, you can determine which of these expenses you’d like to splurge on (ie: high-end photographer) versus the expenses you can cut (ie: you don’t care about the cake). We recommend adding a 10% cushion for when you want to splurge on items. As you can see, your largest expense will be the venue, catering, and rentals at 43%. While the venue is a fixed cost, the food, drinks, and furniture rentals will vary greatly depending on the guest list (and the vendor fees).

A pie chart showing wedding expenses by category.

Here are some of the main expenses you may incur (all prices in USD):

  • Venue: The cost of the venue can vary widely depending on factors such as location, size, and services provided. Wedding packages at popular venues in Puerto Vallarta typically include a variety of services and amenities, such as catering, bar service, and furniture and tableware, and normally range from $5,000 to $20,000. For example, when we were venue shopping for our Puerto Vallarta wedding, we were quoted between $5,000 and $20,000 for the venue, catering, and furniture and tableware for a 40-guest wedding.
  • Catering: Depending on the number of guests and menu options, catering can cost anywhere from $50 to $250 per person.
  • Rentals: Furniture and tableware rentals can vary greatly depending on the package and items you’d like to splurge on (for example, a bride and groom table), however, average costs range from $1,500 to $2,000 for 40 guests.
  • Photography: Professional photography can range from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the number of hours of coverage.
  • Flowers: The cost of flowers can vary depending on the size of the wedding and specific requirements, but you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000.
  • Music: The cost of entertainment and music can vary depending on the type of performance and number of performers required. A DJ can cost $800 for 8 hours while a live band can cost around $1,500.

 

Budget Spreadsheet

We created a downloadable Wedding Budget Spreadsheet to track your expenses so you can stay on budget. It is organized by categories, with the most common expenses already filled in within that category, making it easy to create your budget. As you’ll see in the next section, planning your budget is the number one way to cut costs. Why? Because when you plan your expenses, you can see which costs are worth spending on, and which you can cut altogether. In other words, if you have the costs on paper, you’ll know exactly which trade-offs you can make to keep within your budget. If you haven’t decided on what you want to spend though, it’ll look like there are no trade-offs necessary. THAT’S how people get into wedding debt. Avoid wedding debt and download our Wedding Budget Spreadsheet

 

Hidden Costs of Weddings: Tipping

Tipping is one of the hidden costs of weddings that might surprise brides and grooms. Tipping traditions can vary from country to country, making it difficult for couples to know how much to give and when. In this article, we will only be talking about tipping in Mexico. In Mexico, tipping is not mandatory, but it may be expected as it represents a great part of the income of the employees. While all-inclusive resorts state tips are already included, you may feel inclined to tip based on someone going out of their way to ensure your wedding is special.

When it comes to tipping wedding vendors, it is generally accepted to give them a percentage of the total cost of their services. The most common rate is 10%-20% of the total cost. For example, if a catering service costs $1,000, you should give between $100-$200. When it comes time to hand out tips on the day of the wedding, have someone from your group take care of this for you so you can focus on enjoying your special day. It’s best to have cash ready for each vendor in an envelope to make it simple.

If you hired a wedding planner or coordinator, they probably deserve a larger tip than someone who served drinks at the reception. The best way to show your appreciation is with cash or a gift card. Any additional gifts should be given in private and in person as a surprise after the wedding is complete. For all-inclusive hotels, tips to wedding coordinators generally start at $100 USD per event day.

Here are standard gratuity expectations in Mexico:

  • Wedding planner $100 USD per event per day
  • Hotel staff 10-15% of total bill
  • Waitstaff and bartenders 10% of the total bill to be split among them
  • Hairstylist/makeup artist 15-20% of total cost
  • Photographer/videographer 15-20%
  • Musicians and DJs 15-20%
  • Florist & Decor 15-20%
  • Transportation 10-15% of the total fare

 

Make sure to include tipping in your overall budget to stay on track and avoid overspending. It might be helpful to make a list of vendors and staff involved and bring envelopes for each vendor, to make things simple and efficient. For the wedding night, some couples prefer to leave individual tips, while others prefer to leave envelopes with the event manager or wedding coordinator at the end of the night. Feel free to be creative and express your gratitude in other ways, such as thank-you notes or gifting local goods from your hometown.

 

A 3-step system to save for your wedding

In this section, we’ll provide insights on how to save for a wedding with the help of financial guru Ramit Sethi and wedding planner Sarah Glick. Any of you who regularly read my articles will know that I am a personal finance nerd and frequently reference Ramit Sethi. After all, he is the one who taught me everything I know about saving, spending, and investing! According to Ramit and Sarah, whether you want to save for a wedding of $35,329 or $1 million, all you need to do is follow a system of three steps:

  1. Set a realistic budget. Here’s a great wedding cost calculator you can use to give you a rough estimate of how much you should save based on what you want for your big day.
  2. Prioritize the important things so you can know where to splurge and where to cut costs. If you have the costs on paper, you’ll know exactly which trade-offs you can make to keep within your budget. If you haven’t decided on what you want to spend though, it’ll look like there are no trade-offs necessary. THAT’S how people get into debt for their wedding (people overspend by 20% studies show).
  3. Use sub-savings accounts to help you save. Let’s assume you’re 25 years old, and plan to spend $20,000 on your wedding, to have your wedding at 30 years old. If you want to pay for the whole wedding yourself (an achievable goal), you’ll have to save about $4,000 a year or $333 a month. The best way to save this amount is to create a sub-savings account (which is in addition to your regular savings account). Another cool thing about sub-savings accounts is that you can name them, and then track your progress toward your goal, which does wonders for you psychologically.

 

For the full article, read 3 Steps to Save For Your Dream Wedding.

 

Top 7 ways to cut wedding costs

The part you have all been waiting for! In this part, we’ll tell you 7 simple ways to cut wedding costs.

1. The guest list is the biggest predictor of your overall wedding cost. Since food and drink are some of the biggest costs of any wedding, you’ll be able to significantly reduce costs by simply paying to feed fewer people. Of course, there are other variable costs (costs that vary depending on the number of guests), but catering is one of the biggest ones. See section two, “Setting your wedding budget” to use our guest list calculator.

2. Plan an on-site wedding. If you plan an on-site wedding, meaning if your wedding is at the same location as your accommodation, you’ll save on transportation and rental costs. On-site wedding venues, such as hotels and resorts, already have furniture rentals included, which saves you the time and money of a rental company transporting your tables, chairs, and tableware to your wedding site. And you’ll save on transporting guests to and from their hotel.

3. Choose a naturally beautiful location for your wedding to save on decor. If planning a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, for example, this shouldn’t be hard as many hotels are beachfront or set in the middle of the jungle.

4. Scale down from a full dinner to an elegant brunch reception. Since catering is one of the biggest expenses of a wedding, offering a smaller dining experience can save you money without sacrificing elegance or quality.

5. Reserve your wedding for the “shoulder season” which is the end of high-season and the start of low-season. For example, high-season in Puerto Vallarta is November – April when the weather is cool, so you could consider booking in May or June. We don’t recommend booking your wedding between July-October as temperatures rise to 95 with excessive humidity, potentially making your wedding day a miserably hot one. Note: October may also be considered “shoulder season” however we’ve noticed soaring temperatures until about the first week of November in the last two years! Garza Blanca wrote a good article on Puerto Vallarta weather by month.

6. Plan a weekday wedding. Opting for a weekday wedding may result in lower venue and vendor fees, as these days are generally in lower demand. Additionally, accommodations and flights may also be more affordable during the week, making it easier for your guests to attend.

7. Prioritize Your Must-Haves: Determine what elements of your wedding are most important to you and allocate your budget accordingly. This will help you make informed decisions about where to splurge and where to save. For example, if having a live band is a priority, you may choose to allocate a larger portion of your budget towards entertainment and cut back on other areas, such as decorations or favors.

 

Conclusion

Understanding the costs associated with planning a destination wedding in Mexico is essential in bringing your dream wedding to life without breaking the bank. By carefully considering the factors that influence the cost, managing your guest list, and employing savvy budget tips, you can create a stunning and unforgettable event that celebrates your love story. Remember that clear communication, thoughtful planning, and a focus on what matters most to you and your partner are the keys to a successful and memorable destination wedding.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a good budget for a wedding?
This is completely up to you. The most important thing is that you set a realistic and achievable budget.

2. How much is a typical wedding in the United States?
The cost of the average wedding in the US is $35,329

3. How much does a typical wedding cost in Mexico?
The prices in Mexico are normally more than half. For example, the average cost for a wedding in Puerto Vallarta is around $15,000.

4. Why are weddings so expensive?
Weddings involve so many moving parts: caterers, reception, pictures, videography, makeup, etc. All of these things cost money, which makes the price tag add up quickly.

5. Are destination weddings more expensive or cheaper?
Destination weddings are typically cheaper because you’ll have a small guest list (about 20% will send their regrets for destination weddings).

6. Should I tip vendors in USD or local currency?
Most tourist destinations, including Mexico, accept USD as payment form and it’s perfectly acceptable to leave a tip in USD.

7. What are the best ways to cut wedding costs?
The number one way to cut wedding costs is to have a smaller guest list, as you’ll significantly reduce your variable costs, such as food, alcohol, rentals, centerpieces, and invitations.

8. How can I save money for a wedding?
According to Ramit Sethi, the best way to save for a wedding is to set a realistic budget, prioritize the important things so you can know where to splurge and where to cut costs and use sub-savings accounts.

Taylor Wade headshot

Author:

Hi, I'm Taylor, the Creative Director at Chas Studios. I co-founded a matchmaking company at the age of 16 and have since amassed two decades of experience in the dating and relationship industry. My deep understanding spans critical areas, from the spiritual growth potential within relationships to navigating finances with your partner. In 2017, just two weeks after relocating to Mexico City, I met and fell head over heels for Diego, who was working in the fashion and editorial world at the time. We subsequently moved to Puerto Vallarta and launched Chas Studios, a photography and film house specializing in weddings and events. We also married in Puerto Vallarta in 2023 allowing us to offer our local knowledge and experience to our readers. 

Are you looking for a wedding photographer for your destination wedding in Mexico?

Chas Studios has an instantly recognizable aesthetic, defined by the soft, organic, and classic qualities that film provides. As a bespoke photography service, we apply a highly personalized and hand-crafted approach to every wedding. Our team goes above and beyond for our clients to stay true to our mission: to provide a one-of-a-kind wedding experience! Submit an application to receive a custom quote.

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