How to Honeymoon in Style, Not Debt

Couples spend an average of $28,000 on a wedding and another $4,000 on a honeymoon, according to a 2017 study by WeddingWire. These back-to-back expenses test some newlyweds’ “for richer or poorer” vows as wedding guests still nurse their hangovers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just as you can cut costs on your wedding, you can plan a honeymoon that’s both special and affordable.

Consider a mini-moon

A mini-moon is a scaled-down honeymoon that’s often closer to home and shorter — and thus, cheaper.

For example, after Jashua White and Alba Blandino White married in Philadelphia in July, they spent three days in Cape May, New Jersey. They’ve vacationed before in the beachside city about a 90-mile drive from Philadelphia. Jashua says they opted out of a large honeymoon because, “we didn’t want to go into marriage spending extravagantly right off the bat.” But they did indulge. By vacationing somewhere affordable, they had extra money to enjoy fine dining, Jashua says.

A low-key honeymoon can also feel like an indulgence after you’ve spent months planning a wedding. “There’s this idea of [the honeymoon] being some epic fantasy trip,” says Keriann Kohler, advertising manager at A Practical Wedding, a website that supports what it calls “laid-back, feminist weddings.” But, she asks, “Is that going to be fun for you, or is it going to add another level of pressure?”

Jashua says he and Alba used similar logic when planning their trip. They knew they’d want to relax in a familiar, nearby spot after working hard on a DIY wedding. No need to board planes or research attractions.

» MORE: How to know to start married life on strong financial footing

Stretch your dollar

No matter the scale of your honeymoon, you can always afford to save with these tips.

Consider paying for wedding expenses with a single travel-rewards credit card. With each purchase, you’ll earn points toward flights and hotels for your honeymoon. “You don’t have to be a crazy travel hacker to pull that off,” Kohler says. “You’re already spending the money.”

There’s one major caveat to this advice: Don’t use the credit card to take on more debt than you can pay off.

A little research goes a long way toward finding affordable lodging and dining options. A Practical Wedding suggests using the website Chowhound to find restaurants at your destination. Look for places in neighborhoods with fewer tourists and more affordable eats.

The site also recommends renting a home on a site like Airbnb. If you have kitchen access, you can save money by buying groceries and cooking a few meals at the rental. What’s more romantic than a private dinner for two?

After Kohler and her husband booked their hotel in Italy for their honeymoon, she read that a few rooms had stunning views. So she emailed the hotel and politely requested one of those rooms, mentioning that they were on their honeymoon. The Kohlers received one of the special rooms, along with free bubbly and chocolate-covered strawberries. “It was the perfect start to the trip,” she says.

Michelle and Art Saumenig of Maryland got their airline to waive their baggage fees when they went to Hawaii, and received free drinks on their flight — all for mentioning their honeymoon.

These perks cost only the couple of seconds it takes to mention your honeymoon to whoever will listen. You might not get that free cocktail every time, but as Kohler points out, “it can never hurt to mention.”

» MORE: Everything you need to plan for and fund your next trip

Think analytically, not emotionally

Say you have every intention of taking our financial advice. But factor in the stress of planning such important events, and even the best-laid plans of brides and grooms often go awry.

“It’s very easy to go overboard,” says Jeff Motske, financial planner and author of “The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility.” “Take a deep breath and communicate with each other when you’re not upset or stressed out.”

Motske suggests planning date nights specifically for discussing the finances of the wedding and honeymoon. While out for coffee or a drink, determine which parts of the honeymoon are important enough to splurge on and which parts aren’t. If you don’t care about location, so long as you can sunbathe and drink margaritas, consider a mini-moon in Florida instead of Fiji. Or if you do go to Fiji, but plan to spend most of the trip out and about, you probably don’t need a $400-per-night hotel room.

It may turn out that the two of you have different priorities for the honeymoon. In that case, consider this task practice for marriage. “Be able to compromise,” Motske says.

More wedding and travel tips from NerdWallet

The article How to Honeymoon in Style, Not Debt originally appeared on NerdWallet.