Last updated: 01:50 AM ET, Mon October 29 2012, Debut Second Destination Weddings Study

Features & Advice | Kerry Medina | June 19, 2012, Debut Second Destination Weddings Study and released the results of their second The Knot Market Intelligence Destination Weddings Study, which tracks the industry of more than 350,000 destination weddings annually by capturing detailed information on the destination wedding trends, locations and events of nearly 3,000 U.S. couples who had a destination wedding in 2011 or 2012.

"The 2012 Destination Weddings Study offers unparalleled information and understanding of the industry and the decision-making process of today's couples when it comes to planning the perfect destination wedding,” said Howard Ladd, director of insights at XO Group Inc., parent company for and

The study found that 350,000 destination weddings take place annually, representing 24 percent of all weddings. The average destination bride is 30 years old. Destination weddings have an average of 86 guests.

Seventy percent of destination weddings take place in the continental U.S. Florida, California and Nevada are the top three destination wedding locations in the continental U.S. Thirty percent of destination weddings take place outside the continental U.S. with the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii being the most popular wedding locations outside the continental U.S.

Fifty one percent of destination wedding couples use a wedding planner; 69 percent of destination weddings are held outdoors; and 86 percent of couples still plan to take a honeymoon after their destination wedding. “The idea of having a destination wedding is growing among our brides, and it goes hand in hand with the fact that most people no longer live where they grew up,” said Carley Roney, co-founder of XO Group Inc. “When family is spread all over the country, a destination wedding is the perfect way to bring everyone together.”

According to the study, destination weddings are growing in popularity. In 2011, nearly one in four (24 percent) couples had a destination wedding; this has grown from 20 percent in 2009. Sixty-six percent of international destination wedding brides and 45 percent of domestic destination wedding brides opted for a destination wedding because they wanted a special, fun or exotic locale.

The second most popular reason why brides chose a destination wedding was to host a more intimate affair with fewer guests (65 percent), while domestic brides wanted a destination that was special to them as a couple (44 percent). Domestic destination weddings are more popular than international destination wedding locations.

In 2011, 70 percent of couples chose a continental U.S. destination for their wedding, up from the 60 percent in 2009. Conversely, 30 percent of couples were married in an international destination, down from 40 percent who traveled internationally in 2009. The top five domestic destination wedding locations are Florida (18 percent), California (13 percent), Nevada (9 percent), North Carolina (5 percent) and South Carolina (4 percent). The top five international destination wedding destinations are Caribbean (39 percent), Mexico (24 percent), Hawaii (20 percent), Central/South America (7 percent) and Europe (6 percent).

The number of destination wedding guests also is on the rise. In 2011, destination wedding couples hosted more guests, with an average of 86 guests per wedding. In 2009, there was an average of just 77 guests per destination wedding. Domestic destination weddings are larger, hosting an average of 96 guests (compared with an average of 62 guests for the international group).

Destination wedding events are longer than the average wedding, with most (60 percent) lasting three or more days. International destination weddings are even more likely to span several days and are getting longer. Nearly seven in 10 international weddings last three or more days, and nearly half (47 percent) last four or more days, compared with just 38 percent in 2009.

Destination wedding couples are spending more on a per guest basis than their more traditional wedding counterparts. The median destination wedding spend is $404 per guest internationally, and $225 per guest domestically, compared with the national wedding average of just $137 per guest. The average total destination wedding spend is $20,890 (not including honeymoon, engagement ring or travel expenses).

Aside from the traditional rehearsal dinner, after-party and next-day breakfast, one in three (32 percent) destination wedding couples plan a group activity like a sightseeing tour for their guests. Of the couples who plan a group activity, more than half (53 percent) cover the cost for at least some of their guests. Those couples who contribute to the cost spend an average of $2,598 internationally and $2,280 domestically planning these group events.

Couples are also considering their guests' expenses, with two in five (39 percent) paying for travel/accommodations for at least some of their guests. More than four in five international destination wedding couples and guests stay at the wedding destination beyond the wedding date, while more than half of their domestic counterparts do the same.

Nearly nine in 10 couples still plan to take a honeymoon after the wedding, with seven in 10 of them honeymooning in their wedding locale either for part of the honeymoon or the whole trip. In addition, nearly three in 10 will have another party when they get home.


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