So when we see an ad for a free wedding at a resort like Sandals, we automatically question how free it really is. Internally, we wonder “Yeah, I wonder how much free is going to cost?”
So the question is, are free weddings at all inclusive resorts really free?
And the answer to this is that it depends.
Why? Let us explain.
If you are looking for a simple wedding with the absolute basics, then the free wedding will work for you. Most all inclusive resorts have a free wedding package so long as you stay a certain number of nights at the resort (which is why it’s free).
As an example, let’s look at the free beautiful beginnings wedding package by Sandals resorts. If you stay 6 nights or more at the resort, you will be entitled to the following as part of their free wedding package:
- Fuchsia Dendrobium Orchid Bouquet and Boutonniere
- Beautiful Beginnings Table with White Linen and Fuchsia Dendrobium Centerpiece
- Beautiful Beginnings White Fondant Cake
- Personal pre Wedding Planner
- Personal resort Wedding Planner and dedicated resort wedding team
- Preparation of marriage documents
- Pre-recorded musical accompaniment
- Sparkling wine & chilled hors d’oeuvres cocktail reception for bride, groom and up to six guests
- Wedding gift from Sandals Resorts
- Personal Wedding Website
- Sandals Wedding and Honeymoon Gift Registry
- Honeymoon dinner for bride and groom at a resort specialty restaurant with white-glove service and a Complimentary bottle of sparkling wine
- One (1) 5×7 honeymoon photograph
- Decorated honeymoon room
- Mimosa breakfast-in-bed any morning of your choice
So for up to six guests, you can have a nice ceremony that does not include any kind of reception. And if that works for you, then the free wedding package is right for you. Remember though, that a free wedding, in most cases, involves you or your guests staying a certain number of nights at the all inclusive resort.
How many nights do most resorts require you to stay for a free wedding?
That depends on the resort itself. To see what each resort has to offer, look at the wedding packages here. As a general rule, the nicer the free wedding package, the longer you will have to stay at the resort for them to be able to justify it. The standard number is usually between six and ten nights with the more higher end resorts requiring up to two weeks.
But what if I have a lot of wedding guests? Do I still get a free wedding?
As a general rule, the more guests attending your destination wedding, the more leverage you have with the resort. Many will offer you a free upgrade, a free wedding, free massages, and more depending on how many rooms are being booked by your wedding guests.
As an example, let’s look at the Occidental Grand Aruba resort. Here is what is included in their basic wedding package called I’ll Stand By You.
Service for up to 20 guests includes:
- On-site wedding consultant
- Grand ceremony decor & crisp, classic table setting
- Fresh, elegant floral arrangements or displays
- Bride & Groom’s bouquet & boutonniere
- CD Music system
- Delicate wedding cake
- Celebratory champagne toast
- Newlywed’s In-room Services
- Romantic breakfast in bed, once per stay
The package above is free so long either of these two conditions are met:
- Couple books 1 Royal Club Master Suite for 7 nights or
- Wedding guests book 10 Deluxe rooms for 3 nights.
If the conditions are not met, then the package will cost $3,000.
As you can see from above, the free wedding packages sound great, but is there something missing?
What about the dinner? Photos? Makeup? Etc.
Free does not mean free everything, as you very well know. What these free wedding packages are missing are basic wedding essentials like a photographer, a videographer, a florist, hair stylist, makeup artist, and the reception dinner.
While your wedding may be free, you are still going to be paying for the above and they can get expensive. For example, a basic wedding photography wedding package at Sandals will cost you $1400. And you still have not even fed your wedding guests dinner (Minimum cost is $50/head at most resorts with no liquor).
So How Much Will The Wedding Cost?
If you are willing to go with the no-frills free wedding option, then the only expense you will have will be the minimum nights that you have to stay at the resort. If however, your wedding is like other destination weddings where the average attendance is over fifty people then your costs are going to be significantly higher.
As an example, a small wedding that has less than 20 people attending will cost between $7,000 and $10,000. This will include a nice dinner, photos, flowers, cake, ceremony, makeup and hair. As you can imagine, the more guests there are, the higher the cost.
While this number may be higher than you were expecting, remember that the average at home wedding is about $30,000, which is significantly higher than a destination wedding.
As you have learned, a free wedding is a great option if you are looking for a simple wedding with very few guests. But you can expect to pay more if you plan on adding extras or will have wedding guests.
What should you read next?
Take a look at our list of all inclusive resorts that offer wedding packages.