The Myth of the Semi-Private Destination Wedding Reception


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The Myth of the Semi-Private Destination Wedding Reception

March 11, 2023

I am just going to be brutally honest with you – I’m not a fan of semi-private reception packages. If your guests are staying at an all-inclusive resort for your destination wedding, shouldn’t the food be free? I hear this question on the regular, and I totally see where you are all coming from! I do catch myself thinking that sometimes it can seem outrageous to basically pay $100/person to have a private reception – when food is essentially already included!

This post was originally published in 2019 but has been updated in 2023.

PS: We love to share #AllTheThings on our blog here, but if you really want to dive in deep, we created a guide just for you (including a lot more on budgeting and deciding between a restaurant reception and a private reception):

Destination Weddings have CHANGED.

It used to be, that if you were having a destination wedding, you were doing it to save money. This is still a lot of what draws people toward a destination wedding today – but things have changed. LONG GONE, are the days of free wedding packages. Not because they don’t exist, but because wedding couples now want more than they include. Destination weddings may have started off as a form of eloping with small group of family and friends, perfectly happy with dining at one of the a la carte restaurants after a simple ceremony, but that is not the case anymore!

simple beach ceremony

Would you be Happy with a Semi-Private Reception?

If due to budget constraints a semi-private reception truly is all you can afford, please know that I really do understand that we all have budgets we need to stick to. I just want to make sure that if you are making compromises, you know what you are giving up. Resorts are getting more strict when it comes to couples essentially trying to make their semi-private reception more private.

It is not going to be your “typical” wedding reception. There is no dancing, no toasts, no cake cutting. You are often restricted on the decor you can use. Similarly to if you want to all head to a restaurant after you sign wedding planners at a courthouse. You are eating at a restaurant and it probably won’t feel like a wedding reception. BUT, you are not paying wedding reception prices either, sooooo, you win some you lose some.

Why is a private reception so expensive??

I know that’s what you are all thinking at first but I have to disagree. Yes, things add up for weddings. But even at $100/person – I would hardly consider a private reception expensive in the wedding world. Recent surveys throughout Canada are all putting the “per guest” budget in the $180-$250/person range. We just don’t really think about weddings that way in Canada. *Also, let me just say that this theoretical $100/person price tag is average for an all inclusive resort. Off the resort or at a destination without all inclusive, the price tag is considerably more.*

Although, yes, your food is included at an all-inclusive resort, the food for the wedding tends to be from an upgraded menu. Often the wedding food will be the best food of the week! So part of the $100/person cost will be from that. The rest of the fee often comes from the extra staff and decor the resort provides. Even if you are choosing the basic package and not upgrading, more guests means more servers/bartenders, more tables, more chair, more tablecloths. Not all resorts have this on site – a lot of them rent their decor and are paying per person just like they are charging you!

restaurant semi-private reception

Why I am not a fan of Restaurant Receptions

Okay, everyone is going to have an opinion about your wedding. Even me, a stranger on the internet. The reason I don’t like semi-private receptions (or “restaurant receptions”) is because guests are often disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, obviously you need to stay within your budget and your guests will understand. But your guests did fly a long way to celebrate with you and they will want to celebrate. Which is a bit harder to do sitting down at a restaurant with strangers all around. Take it with a grain of salt because you can’t make everyone happy. But this is my blog and I am going to let you know my thoughts 😉

The Price Difference

Okay, I know you are probably wondering what the actual price difference is. Actually, I know you are. I asked on my Instagram stories the other day what your questions regarding private and semi-private receptions and price came up a lot! So, although I always recommend choosing a resort with a wedding package that already includes a private reception, if you do end up falling in love with a resort that doesn’t, you can expect to budget between $50-$90USD per guests to add a reception (usually it varies by the resort & menu you choose).

That being said – most packages only include 30 guests. As destination weddings are growing in popularity, they are also growing in size! If you choose a package that includes a private reception – you should plan on budgeting $75USD on average for each additional guest (on top of what the package includes). If you are choosing a package with a private reception, you can expect to budget about $30-$40USD per additional guest. After 50 guests, most resorts will require you upgrade to a private event.

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