Destination weddings are woven from a complex fabric of families, emotions, circumstances and travel. In trying to juggle these elements, it’s vital to keep a clear head, and equally important, keep the process enjoyable for both you and your guests. The best way of achieving this is by simply being thoughtful and learning what is and isn’t expected.
When you plan a destination wedding, you’re playing on an entirely different field, bringing forth an avalanche of complicated questions and situations during the process. Should we register for gifts? Who pays for what? When should we send save-the-dates?
Don’t let logistics stand in the way of your dream destination wedding. We’re here to weigh in on a few destination wedding etiquette tips.
Who pays for what?
Similar to a traditional wedding, couples are only expected to pay for the ceremony and reception – including location, catering, entertainment and décor. Guests are expected to pay for their own travel and accommodations. However, many destination wedding couples will choose to host a welcome cocktail party or a goodbye brunch the morning after as a special “thank you” to their guests for making the trip to a special locale.
Understanding the importance of save-the-dates, invitations and wedding websites
You’ll want to provide your guests ample time to plan, save and coordinate their schedules to be in attendance on your big day. We suggest sending save-the-dates anywhere from 9-11 months in advance. At the time of sending, be sure to have your wedding website complete with details of the wedding, suggested accommodations, activities and information on any pre-or post wedding events. Formal invitations should follow suit 3-4 months prior to the destination wedding.
Should the couple provide welcome gifts at the destination?
While not required, it is a gracious offering to provide your guests a warm welcome! They have made the long journey to celebrate your big day with you, so you may want to consider a little something to be waiting for them at the front desk or in their hotel room when they arrive. No need to go over the top, choose something that’s unique to the destination, practical items like sunscreen and snacks, or even a bottle of wine. It’s also helpful to include or reiterate wedding information and schedules for your guests’ convenience.
What is the gift etiquette for guests?
It is standard for couples to register for wedding gifts, whether the wedding is a destination or not. If the idea of asking guests for a gift seems uncomfortable to you, mention on your wedding website or on an enclosure card that you’ve chosen to forgo a registry, and that your guests’ presence is a gift in itself. If you do choose to create a registry, include a variety of items in multiple price ranges, or provide guests the option to contribute to your honeymoon.
Should the couple's host pre/post wedding events during their destination wedding?
While there are no set rules that couples should host additional events beyond the actual wedding, your guests will definitely appreciate spending extra time with the happy couple. Whether you host a welcome dinner or a send-off brunch with mimosas, all your guests will feel extremely grateful for the thoughtful gesture.
Additional Tips, Tricks and Advice
1. Just to be safe, you should carry your wedding gown in a garment bag with you on the airplane. There’s usually hanging space in first class, or ask your flight attendant about securing some overhead space in coach.
2. While you’re not obliged to take care of your bridal party’s expenses, you could consider covering the cost of their hotel as courtesy if possible.
3. Consider a few pre-planning options that could lighten the load, such as researching airline group rates, securing hotel room rates, choosing off-season if possible, and recommending great travel options in your chosen area to show guests they can turn their trip into a vacation.
4. If everyone’s planning to stay at your destination for a few days after the ceremony, you may want to make a reservation for you and your new spouse at a separate restaurant to get some post-wedding alone time.
5. If gifts arrive with guests at your destination, plan to have your wedding planner or a family member help accommodate the items.
6. Hire a wedding planner to make things easier on yourselves, as well as your guests by working with someone who is familiar with the area, can recommend reputable vendors and will make sure all gets executed flawlessly!