How to have a travel themed wedding on a budget

When I first started planning my wedding, way back when we first got engaged, I knew that I wanted it to be a travel themed wedding. Travel is something that we both really enjoy, and more importantly that we enjoy doing together. It also felt like a nice metaphor in some way – a wedding is about celebrating the start or next step of your journey together as a couple, so why not use our wedding to celebrate some of the journeys we’ve had together along the way. Theme in hand, it was time to start some of the actual planning.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started wedding planning was looking for inspiration in wedding magazines, shortly followed by through social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Big mistake! I soon realised that whilst I would be blown away by lots of beautiful décor and suggested styling, nothing shown in the magazines was going to be to a budget. So whilst I definitely recommend looking at different options and making a note of what you like the look of, if you’re working to a budget it’s then best to think about how you can reproduce those things or something even better at a lower cost.

To begin with, I was ready to go all-in on our travel themed wedding. I liked the idea of invitations that were like boarding passes or tickets, confetti in cones made from old maps, and a whole number of other ideas that never made it past the drawing board. Why? Cost, time, energy and a number of other reasons which made it clear that having every detail attached to a ‘theme’ wasn’t important. So instead we pick and chose a few things which would definitely lean into a travel theme, but without people thinking that everything had been done with that in mind. We also tried to do quite a lot ourselves.

There are loads of beautiful things on websites like Etsy where you can pay a small fortune for a ‘personalised’ version of a design that already exists. That’s definitely the less stressful route to go if you’re trying to take things off your to-do list rather than add to it. But it’s also more expensive and if, like we were, you are trying to reduce your wedding costs so you’ve got enough money leftover for a honeymoon, then it’s time to embrace a bit of DIY.

Our Travel Themed Wedding Cake

Our travel themed wedding cake was the thing that we could have budgeted a little bit more on if I had been brave enough to attempt to make it myself. Instead, we paid for a professional to do it and that came with a bit of a price tag. However, in our early conversations we made it really clear how many adornments etc we wanted and managed to come up with something that wasn’t too complex for the baker, but that still looked good.

After perusing multiple different options ranging from globes (very elaborate), stacks of guidebooks and more, we decided to go for a three tier cake decorated as a stack of suitcases. It might have cost us a bit more than we’d have liked, but I loved our suitcase cake and it tasted just as good as it looked as well. Options we could have considered to keep the price down further would have been having a plainly decorated three tier cake and adding our own adornments on / around it, such as laying it on a map, putting a small globe on top or even a photo of you in your favourite location.

Our Travel Themed Tables

The next thing I was keen on, was making our tables travel-themed in some way. An obvious way to do this was to label each table as a different location, and then make sure our table plan was travel themed. Our table plan is possibly the thing I was proudest of how it looked, particularly given how expensive these can be to order pre-made! We had six long tables so decided on a different country for each. The table plan was a large map (using a poster we already owned) where each of the six table ‘locations’ was marked with a pin attached to some luggage tags which listed everyone’s names.

Each table then had a table name on the table so that guests could identify which table was theirs. These definitely looked home-made and weren’t as structurally sound as I’d have liked (a lot of them fell over) but they were fun to make and were designed to look a bit like a scrapbook page so it didn’t matter that they weren’t perfect. We also doubled up our name cards and favour boxes. So everyone would arrive at a seat with a tiny suitcase with their name on the tag, and inside the suitcase were some sweets. We bought the suitcases but had to construct them ourselves and write out all of the labels. They looked great!

Other nods to a travel themed wedding

We only had two more small nods to travel in our wedding decorations. One was using an old melodeon case as our place to collect any cards or gifts. This was borrowed from a friend who had used it for their wedding, and looked suitably like a suitcase. For out guestbook we used a scrapbook which had a pretty landscape picture on the front and the words “And so the adventure begins”, which seemed pretty apt. This was also used by our friend who was acting as our celebrant to hold the script for the ceremony.

I was really pleased with how we were able to integrate a travel theme throughout our wedding, but without it feeling too all-encompassing. After all, it’s likely that you rather than your guests are going to notice and remember the details so don’t go putting too much effort into something which might just get ignored.

Further suggestions for a travel theme

I’ve listed some of the things we considered, but didn’t do, below:

  • Confetti in cones made from old maps
  • Ticket / Boarding pass style invitations
  • Personalised globe decorations
  • Photo based table plan labelled ‘check in’
  • Paper plane confetti
  • Signpost
  • Luggage tags or passport covers for name cards
  • Globe to sign as a guestbook

Image credits: Ed Woodmass Photography

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