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Can’t afford a Canadian wedding? Try Antigua — or Italy

Some regions of Italy, like Umbria, pictured above, offer surprisingly affordable wedding venues to budget-savvy couples. Massimo Pizzotti/Getty Images

Find your soulmate, hold hands and walk together into the world of “happily ever after,” right?

Unless, that is, you find yourself constantly postponing your wedding because you can’t afford it.

If you’re anywhere between your mid twenties and mid thirties, chances are your first reality check on married life came before you’ve even had a chance to tie the knot.

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The average cost of a wedding in Toronto or Vancouver ranges from $350 to $600 per person, wedding planners in both cities told Global News. For a 150-people ceremony, you’re easily looking at $70,000, which is roughly equivalent to the annual gross household income of Canadians born between 1981 and 2000.

And relying on mom and dad is hardly an option when a growing share of Canada’s young urbanites are already tapping the parental wallet for help with a down payment on a house.

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So what gives?

Surprisingly, one solution to keep costs in check might be to do a destination wedding.

“Couples are realizing that they can have an amazing wedding for about half of what it would cost to have a local wedding,” Tara Thorp of Vancouver-based Forever True, which organizes events both locally and around the world, said via email.

A wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.
A wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver. Daniel Ha/D'Soleil Photography

Her estimate for the average cost of a Vancouver wedding with 150 people is $60,000. A destination wedding with the same number of guests, on the other hand, comes in at $24,000 on average.

For her own clients, the average cost per person was $450 in Vancouver and just $150 for clients who got hitched abroad.

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Unsurprisingly, she said her business in destination weddings has increased by 60 per cent over the past four to five years.

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“In the last few years we have done Antigua, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Costa Rica.  And more and more we are looking at expanding to Panama and other new destinations,” she said.

An even cheaper option is a cruise wedding, says Lisa Light of Chatham, N.Y.-based Destination Bride.

“For couples who are looking at a budget of $5,000 to $10,000, that’s a great option,” said Light, who recommended Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Of course, part of the savings for a destination wedding come from offloading some of the costs onto your guests. Friends and family are generally expected to pay for airfare and at least some of the accommodation costs.

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But that’s not so different from asking guests to help pay for themselves through large cash donations, an increasingly common feature of traditional weddings.

And budget-savvy couples who want to get married outside Canada have many options that will keep costs in check for their guests too, says Light.

One of her favourite such spots is Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which features all-inclusive options for as little as $150 to $250 per night for two people. Jamaica offers comparably priced options, she added.

In fact, with a bit of research, you might even be able to afford a dream wedding in places like Italy. Just steer off the beaten track of popular destinations like Tuscany, Rome and Venice and you’ll find some hidden gems like Umbria, with its rolling green hills, medieval castles and eminently affordable prices.

Take Castello di Petroia, for example, a fifteenth-century fortress turned resort where weddings starting at $120 per person. The residence, nestled atop the hills surrounding the medieval township of Gubbio, can host up to 30 guests for $250 per room per night.

Agriturismi, or farmhouse resorts, are an even cheaper, and still irresistibly charming, option. In Umbria, Agriturismo La Collina will set up a sumptuous wedding buffet for as little as $70 per person. Rooms are $110 a night, breakfast included.

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With files from Monique Scotti and Tania Kohut.

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