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Destination weddings


June, moon, spoon and spend. This is the month that brings thoughts of weddings and their exorbitant costs. According to CostofWedding.com, the average wedding will cost $27,000 - and that's merely the average. No wonder many couples choose destination weddings, with their built-in honeymoons, so that even with pricey packages they may save. (Their guests, however, will spend an average of $900 each to attend.) Here are some examples:

Occidental Hotels & Resorts, an all-inclusive chain, offers its Grand Wedding Experience package free year-round in Aruba, Antigua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. To be eligible, couples must book a certain number of room nights in the "Royal Club" section of the resort. Occidental says that, for instance, you will save $18,000 or more off the average cost, based on booking a minimum of six Royal Club Luxury rooms at the Occidental Grand Cozumel for a minimum stay of four nights at a rate of $718 per person, double occupancy, Sept. 1-Oct. 31. The Grand Wedding Package includes preparation of documents, a certified marriage license, legal fees, the justice of the peace, witnesses, a decorated wedding site, a wedding coordinator, champagne, an a la carte wedding reception for up to 20 people, live music, the bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniere, the cake, photos, a candlelight dinner for the happy couple, and continental breakfast in bed the morning after the wedding. Call 800-858-2258 or visit occidentalhotels.com.

Elegant Hotels Group, with five properties in Barbados, provides free weddings in June, September, and, at some resorts, in other months as well. Book three rooms or more for a five- or seven-night stay and you receive the use of a decorated wedding arch, round-trip transportation to a marriage registration office; the license; services of a magistrate, priest, or minister; the bouquet and boutonniere; a best man, maid of honor and witnesses, if required; a bottle of wine; the cake; a champagne breakfast the next day; a candlelight dinner with wine; and a gift. Call 800-467-4519 or visit www.eleganthotels.com.

And then there are those who relish exceeding any average costs. For them there is the Runaway Bride Buyout Package at the Viceroy Palm Springs in California's Mojave Desert. The package includes complete rental of Viceroy Palm Springs for two nights (67 rooms, accommodating 130 guests); a one-bedroom Bridal Villa for two nights; the wedding dinner; a couples massage for the bride and groom; manicures and pedicures for a bridal party of up to six; hair and makeup for that bridal party; golf tee times and transportation for up to six; a photographer, music, flowers, lighting and a Bloody Mary full brunch the day after. The total cost is $68,000. (The fine print: The package is available Sundays through Thursdays only.) Call Viceroy general manager Jonathan Heath directly at 760-320-4117.

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