This probably goes without saying, but planning a destination wedding tends to be more complicated than planning a local wedding. I mean, once you get travel involved — and all the added costs and time commitments that go along with it — any planning endeavor is bound to get more complicated! While the wedding day is still very much about the couple, there are some destination wedding etiquette rules that couples are encouraged to follow in order to help their guests have an unforgettable experience. From covering specific costs to providing travel details, here are our top six destination wedding etiquette tips to help you through the planning process.
1. Send your wedding invitations early.
Your guests are going to need to plan flights, accommodation, time off work, and potentially childcare to attend your destination wedding, so be sure to give them plenty of time to do so! Typically, for a local wedding, you would send invitations at least two months in advance. For a destination wedding, however, you should send your invitations at least three to four months in advance. That means you should send your save-the-dates at least eight months (even as far as 12 months) ahead of time, rather than the typical six to seven months.
2. Find lodging for your guests in advance, in different price points.
Unless you’re planning to pay for your guests’ travel and/or accommodations, it is expected that they will pay their own way for your destination wedding. One way you could help your guests find the perfect place to stay is to scope out accommodation options before you send save-the-dates and provide that information on your website. Make sure to include several options in different price points — and all as close as possible to your venue — so your guests can choose the one that works best for them. You could even go one step further by tracking down flight options or at least provide websites where guests can book reasonable flights. Any stress you can take out of the travel planning process will be huge for your guests!
3. Let everyone know it’s okay to not bring gifts.
This topic has the potential to be a sensitive one, but hear us out! Weddings are expensive for everyone involved. Whether it’s the family helping pay for parts of the day, the wedding party buying new attire and accessories, or guests buying gifts, it’s just a fact of weddings that things can get expensive very quickly. And people are totally willing to pay for those things because they love you! But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to alleviate some of the cost and one of the biggest ways is to explicitly let your guests know that gifts aren’t required. Their presence is enough! Simply put a short and sweet message on your website and your invitations so nobody has to have an awkward conversation. (Chances are you’ll still get a few regardless!)
4. Host a welcome party or a post-wedding brunch.
One way to let your guests know you appreciate the time and money they spent to be with you on your big day is to host a welcome party or a post-wedding party — or both! Open up the traditional rehearsal dinner to all your guests to start the celebrations early and to give you both a chance to spend more quality time with your guests than you’ll be able to get on the wedding day. Or say goodbye in style with a day-after brunch, complete with one final “thank you” toast and hugs all around!
5. Pay for day passes at all-inclusive resorts.
This tip won’t apply to all destination weddings, but it’s important for couples who plan to hold their wedding at an all-inclusive resort. Most guests will probably stay on property. But, if guests decide they can’t or don’t want to stay on property, you should pay for the required day pass they’ll need to attend the wedding. (You should be able to arrange this ahead of time through your wedding planner or the resort coordinator.)
6. Add a destination guide to your wedding website.
If you’re traveling to a different country, you and your guests will have to think about currency differences, time changes, exchange rates, cultural nuances, safety, and so many other little things. You’ll likely be looking into all of these during the initial research phase of planning, so just remember to record all this information as you find it. Then, when it’s time to create your wedding website, simply add a special section with all your research so guests can easily find and reference it as they prepare for their trip! If you want to get super cute and creative, you could also create a printed infographic to include in your welcome gifts so your guests have an easy reference when they get to the destination (in case WiFi is spotty). It would also be great to add restaurant recommendations, sightseeing spots, and anything else your guests might enjoy!