The words 'free' and 'wedding' don't normally belong in the same sentence, but one bride has opened up about how she saved thousands of pounds by combining her nuptials and her honeymoon in Jamaica – and you can too.
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Hannah and Lewis were one of the many couples who were set to get married in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic scuppered their plans. After rearranging their big day twice, they finally exchanged vows in front of 13 guests in an oceanside ceremony at the five-star Sandals, South Coast resort in Jamaica in November 2021.
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The average UK wedding costs around £24,000, but the pair managed to get most aspects of their dream day for free, including their wedding planner, venue, food and decorations. Find out how…
The free Jamaican wedding
The couple got married in the over-the-water chapel
You'd think that a free destination wedding would be hugely popular with brides, but Hannah actually stumbled across it while attending a family celebration.
"I think we always that we wanted to get married abroad. And then we found the Sandals Resort because my dad got married at Sandals, Royal Bahamian in 2018.
"My husband and I flew out to surprise him and his now-wife for their wedding. I think that was what just sold it for us. It was actually quite funny because as we were walking from their wedding to where they were having their reception, we walked past the wedding office and their photographer obviously was with them.
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"I said to them, 'Is that just one of your stock photos?' And he was like, 'No, that's our over-the-water chapel in Jamaica.' We looked at each other and we were like, 'Sold!'" the bride explained.
Hannah and Lewis chose to have their wedding reception in the private gardens
Hannah and Lewis got engaged in October 2018 and initially booked their wedding for November 2020. They eventually got married the following year with the help of Travel Counsellor Kelly Smith, who booked the Serenity wedding chapel at Sandals South Coast which they had seen during their Bahamas trip!
The pair chose to move their planned evening reception from the beach to the gardens which offered their guests shade during their meal – not to mention a beautiful backdrop for their photos.
"Being on the beach you are just fully exposed to that heat and it is so hot," Hannah said. "Whereas in the private garden, we had these two big trees that gave us quite a large area of coverage so that people were then more comfortable. And there was like a little grassy area which we unofficially called the dance floor."
They were assigned a wedding planner, Talia, who helped organise (and rearrange) their wedding and fine-tine the details for a stress-free day. After communicating via phone and email from the UK, they met with her on their first day in Jamaica, and she showed them the ceremony and reception locations. She also organised cake tastings, welcome bags for guests, hair appointments and more.
"I couldn't believe you only had to stay for three nights to get the wedding free. I was shocked. It's the things that you get included in the free wedding - it must cost them a fortune to do it for people because obviously, you get your flowers, your cake, your ceremony," she said.
The £7,000 money-saving costs
That leads us to the matter of money. According to Sandals, couples simply have to book a three-night all-inclusive stay to be eligible for the wedding. So how much did Hannah save? "Oh God, thousands," she laughed.
The wedding package includes a cake of your choosing
"We actually did like a split stay, so we spent our first week in one room. And then we changed rooms the day after the wedding into a slightly different room because we thought that we could treat that as our honeymoon.
"I think it cost about £14,000-15,000. But we did fly business class, so we did upgrade a few bits. Obviously, we knew that we were saving so much money compared to getting married here. Plus, we were getting like two weeks of complete sunshine."
She went on to explain that their initial budget was around £20,000, so they saved at least £7,000 with their destination wedding. And that's including all the extras they chose as a result of booking additional accommodation for their guests – such as a game night in a private area which she described as "so much fun."
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Her budget also included everything the couple bought outside of the Sandals holiday package, such as her wedding dress.
For those on a budget, Hannah said: "You could have gone for a lot cheaper. When my dad went for two weeks to the Bahamas, I think it was about £1,000."
The anniversary perks
Sandals South Coast in Jamaica
If you didn't already need an excuse to return to the white beaches and clear waters of the Caribbean, Hannah revealed you get perks for booking another stay around your anniversary.
"We've had such a good experience at Sandals that we've booked to go back for our first year anniversary this year," she told us. As long as you go near the date of your wedding, you end up getting a night for free." Bargain!
Hannah explained that doesn't just apply to the Sandals resort where you chose to get married, but all other locations too. "We got married at South Coast and we're going to Barbados this year and my dad got married at the Bahamas and they're going to St. Lucia," she added.
How can other couples get a free destination wedding?
It turns out a destination wedding with Sandals Resorts could actually work out to be cheaper than a UK wedding!
Couples simply need to book an all-inclusive stay for three nights or longer to make use of the wedding package, which offers: professional wedding planners; a wedding ceremony with a bouquet for the bride and buttonhole for the groom; a wedding reception including the cake, cocktail reception and hors d'oeuvres; a romantic turndown service; and a honeymoon dinner on one night.
If you book extra accommodation for your guests, you can also choose a sweetheart table, an additional sangria bar for the wedding reception and a rum and games night.
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