Just a few months after meeting Ran, we both knew we wanted to marry each other. But it was 100% love and romance and 0% logistics and plans, as we had no clue where, or how, or when.
(I especially wouldn’t have guessed that we’d end up having a teeny tiny destination wedding on a small island in the Gulf of Thailand. Not at all.)
To be completely honest, the idea of a small destination wedding had always been the furthest from my mind, and almost even abhorrent. Younger Me always planned on having a big, fancy, traditional wedding (minus the whole church bit, not religious in the slightest), and somehow coughing up the vast expense that goes with it.
But along with my mindset, my goals, my priorities, and my lifestyle, my idea of a dream wedding changed as well (though I hadn’t really realized it yet)…
right after the proposal in Rome, a bit teary eyed but really really happy
After Ran had designed a ring and proposed in Rome in April 2015, it was time to start looking at wedding locations. We both knew we wanted something romantic, preferably outdoor and near the beach. We started looking at locations that fit into the ideal wedding of Younger Me, and decided to get married in my home state of Michigan, as most of my relatives and friends wouldn’t be likely to travel to Israel, where Ran is from.
To say we were underwhelmed would be an understatement. The three words I would use to describe Western Michigan wedding venues would be overpriced, overbooked, and uninteresting.
Can’t we just get married HERE? Oh, its not allowed? Permits and regulations and blahblahblah til my ears bleed
When we received the first couple venue cost estimates for a few locations that we were okay with – we were shocked and horrified. It costs $5000 to rent a little building on the beach or a plain wedding reception hall for 8 hours? With that kind of money, we could spend 5 months traveling to all of our favorite places for just that one cost!
While the projected wedding costs were making us numb and apprehensive, we continued plunging into planning. The fact that we’d be spending around $30,000 on just a day (with 200 of our “closest” friends and family) in a spot that didn’t thrill us made me feel literally sick. That’s more income than I made in a year, and more than most people make in several years in any of the locations where I’ve lived (Thailand, Brazil). But what options did I have?
While talking to my dad about making an overpriced deposit for the venue we had halfheartedly decided on, he casually asked why we wouldn’t just get married in Thailand. It’d have to be cheaper than the wedding insanity going down in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, and would also be more “us”.
I agreed 100%, but with shock and apprehension. If you know my dad, you’d be knocked over by this suggestion. At that point, he’d only ever left the country for mandatory work trips, and had only recently even [luke]warmed up to the idea of me not wanting to live in the US.
I double checked that he was serious (he was), and right away called Ran. We were on for Thailand!
A few days later, I’d found my dream venue in Koh Tao, an absolutely stunning luxury eco-resort Ran and I visited on our very first island vacation together.
Younger Ran, little did he know we’d be getting married at this very resort – almost 3 years later!
Maybe even better news? For the venue rental, officiant, ceremony, decorations, reception, food, booze, band, a wedding planner (!!!), and even a bridal suite with a private pool the total cost comes to around $10,000. In simple terms, about a third of the cost of a wedding in Michigan at a location we weren’t too excited about.
Adding in the additional cost of hotels for the bridal party, immediate family, and ourselves, along with plane tickets and transportation expenses (it takes a domestic flight and a ferry to get to the island), plus our outfits (gown for me, suit for Ran) and our honeymoon which we would have had to buy whether in Michigan or not… our total costs for a wedding, honeymoon, and 3 weeks in Thailand come in around $25,000.
our ceremony will look like this
we’ll spend the wedding night in a Villa like this
That’s still a hefty chunk of change, and we aren’t underestimating it. I cringe when talking about money, but I think it’s important here and I haven’t seen many others do it. It took us two years to save up (and we’re on the last stretch now), but we think it is absolutely worth it.
Our families and friends live on the other side of the world from each other, and we owe all of them for helping us grow into the people we are today – the man and woman who found each other, fell in love, and are getting married. What better way to think them than with an epic week long wedding extravaganza in our favorite, most beautiful place in the world?
Of course, there are drawbacks. Many people aren’t able to make it, due to the long travel hours and also the cost. Which is regrettable, and I’m especially sad that one of my best friends and a few of my favorite family members won’t be coming. But to be clear, we would have the same situation if we got married in the US, for Ran’s friends and family (plus adding in the difficulty of obtaining a US visa), or in Israel for my friends and family (plus adding in that Israel doesn’t recognize interfaith marriages).
Life is short, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll ever have (almost) everyone together like this again, or even that our families will have the opportunity to meet again. For us, these extremely special days are worth the investment.
my little immediate family
Why I’m Having a Destination Wedding
old photo of the resort we’ll be getting married at. This pic was taken when we were newly dating, on our first big trip, with a camera phone. Before I was a blogger, before we were engaged, before we moved from Thailand to Brazil to Mexico and picked up 2 dogs along the way and became a family.
We’ll be celebrating with about 20 of our closest friends and family, as compared to 200 people, some of whom we’d we barely know.
We’ll be getting married in a location that is significant and meaningful to us, as compared to just getting married in the state I was born.
We’ll be spending more money on things that matter to us and we spend on anyways (plane tickets, hotels), as compared to things that don’t matter to us and are vastly inflated (venue rental for upwards of $5000 a day).
We’ll be spending about a week with the people we love most (plus 2 more weeks in Thailand), as compared to just one day (plus a little honeymoon).
We’ll be supporting the local economy of Thailand (a place that really needs it lately), as compared to lining the pockets of the overly materialistic and inflated American wedding industry.
We’ll be having a wedding in a third country where EVERYONE has to travel, as compared to choosing Ran’s home country or my home country and making all of the other side (and us) travel.
We’ll be having a wedding that fits our lifestyle and our love of travel, as compared to having a traditional wedding that doesn’t really reflect us or our values.
Younger Me and Ran in Koh Tao
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I felt like I was reading my thoughts here! I am having a DW for the exact same reasons. My fiancé’s family do not all live in CO, and neither does mine. (Most of mine love overseas). To be fair, we wanted to make a vacation out of it for our family and close friends – plus everyone gets a group discount rate. It also expresses our love for travel – and we are paying less for a whole week than we would have stateside for merely hours! Kudos to you both
Thanks Victoria! Where did you decide to do your DW?
We decided on Punta Cana, Dominican Republic ! We went there last year and LOVED it. It’s all-inclusive and we’re expecting about 25-30 guests. I actually like having a smaller, intimate wedding with a week of spending quality time with family and friends that we miss very much.
Congratulations! I am SO happy we had a small wedding – it was an absolute dream to be able to spend so much time with everyone we love so much (and see so little), and I will cherish those memories forever.
An all-inclusive is going to be so nice and stress-free!! Awesome choice!
Wow! Have you gotten married yet 🙂 I am actually from Israel and my fiance is originally from South Africa. When we first got engaged in April we started looking to get married in Israel but realized that we wanted something small with our friends and family around the world coming and not 200 of my closest as you say whom looking back 10 years from now I many not recall. So we are also planning a destination wedding…. BUT having the hardest time ever deciding where. Thailand is one of the too many options… how did you narrow it down? Best regards !
Hi! Yes we got married on January 7 🙂 I’ll have some posts about advice (including my biggest mistakes!) coming up in the next few weeks.
We had ourselves plus 21 guests and it was just perfect. I know its cliche, but literally the best day of my life. And it was SO much more special being surrounded by people who love us so much, my favorite people in the world… and being able to concentrate on time with them rather than schmoozing with almost-strangers.
The biggest thing I’d recommend if you’re having 10 or more people would be to have a really really really great wedding planner on-site at the location you choose. We went with View Point Resort in Koh Tao, mostly because Jacky the amazing wedding planner was included in the package (which was INCREDIBLY affordable, by the way) and I am SO glad for that. If you’re having a super small and even more chill wedding (like less than 10 guests), the wedding planner aspect is probably less important, you could kinda arrange things as you go.
We chose Thailand because of its meaning to us (we were both living there when we met and started dating) AND ease of visa for both Americans and Israelis, and narrowed it down by desired wedding style (we wanted something beachy), and chose the exact resort based on the package they offered and the wedding planner. Having someone really detail-oriented is so important if you’re planning a wedding from far away. I had found a few other resorts on Koh Tao that seemed beautiful – but the wedding planner was slow, or sloppy, or didn’t answer questions clearly.
Best of luck and congratulations!! Let me know if you have any questions!
We did the same 🙂 the one thing I would add is that I felt like it shifted the stress from somewhat meaningless details (because it’s awfully hard to make your destination MORE beautiful) to some stress surrounding how We could possibly show enough gratitude for our guests making the trip to celebrate with us. But ultimately, that’s a way more meaningful thing to stress about! And it made it even more special and focused truly about being there, present, and so grateful for the celebration my friends and family made for us.
YES! I will agree with that, and also totally second that showing gratitude is a WAY more meaningful thing to stress about than the exact shade of a ribbon or which flowers will go where.
I really felt that stress because we’d promised beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, beautiful tropics (and that was supposed to happen – it was high season) that would justify a 24 hour plane ride + a domestic plane ride + a 4 hour ferry (eek, even saying it now sounds insane)….
and then were whacked with the worst storm of 3 decades for the ENTIRE 5 nights, and everyone was stranded on this eco-resort whose main emphasis was the beautiful outdoors spaces (that we couldn’t enjoy because of the rain), kinda in the middle of nowhere, on a teeny tiny little island which we chose because of the natural beauty (and again couldn’t enjoy it because of the rain). I felt SO terrible, but I can’t control the weather, and everyone was an absolute sweetheart about it, and made the best of it (with the help of a LOT of booze).