Getting married in a picturesque location with clear blue skies and sun kissed skin, sounds essentially like a week-long sleepover with your faves. Seems like a no brainer, right? Except you have a laundry list of questions and concerns. Just because you’re set on this new style of exchanging vows, doesn’t mean the rules of proper wedding etiquette should go right out the window. Now you’re drowning in questions: Who pays for what? Can we have a separate celebration afterwards? When do I send out the invitations? Can I still have a bridal shower? But not to worry, we’re going to dive right in and make sure to avoid any faux pas connected with destination weddings.
Be Thoughtful on Location
Picking a destination with one, non-stop flight is pretty much ideal. Because let’s face it: those of us from the tri-state area especially, are pretty spoiled. There are over a dozen islands we can fly to directly. We don’t really like the idea of connecting flights and long layovers. (I mean, who does?) Choosing a destination that already takes ten hours or more, and then requiring a connecting flight just isn’t going to fly with most of your guests. (Sorry Bora Bora, you’re just not it.) However, if you’re looking to tie the knot with just the two of you, or with a select few adventurous friends/family members, then why not? But wanting the full experience with both families, and all your closest friends means, picking a convenient place and make sure it’s affordable for your guests. You know your group best. Cater to their needs and meet with your own before narrowing down on a destination.
It Should Feel Like a Vacation
The wedding will most likely not just be a celebration for your guests, but also a vacation. Maybe even their annual one, depending on their budget. Your idea of a vacation may not be the same as your guests. The “disconnect” themed resort without Wi-Fi and cable may not be a winner, and neither is the wellness resort with mandatory 7 a.m. yoga classes. Is your destination LGBT-friendly for your “man of honor”? And kid-friendly enough for the flower girls? These are the things you should discuss with your travel agent before landing on a destination. Keep it simple, choose a hotel with plenty of options. For example, if you’re going with a beach resort, make sure there’s a pool, some entertainment and some diversity when it comes to restaurants, you know, for the foodies and picky eaters among us. These are just a few experiences your guests will look forward to.
Save-the-Dates & Invitations
Save-the-Dates are usually not really a necessity when it comes to local weddings.
However, when it comes to destination weddings, I HIGHLY recommend them. The sooner you mail them out the better but aim to send them out 10-12 months prior to the wedding. This will allow guests ample time to plan things like getting the time off from work, applying for passports and visas (if necessary) and get airfare at a decent rate. Great last minute deals rarely exist.
What should be on your save-the-dates? Once again, keep it simple! Be sure to include the wedding date, location, your travel agents’ information (this will save you some headaches. Guests will be more inclined to ask your travel agent about the different bedding and view options than you. I would love to inform your guests on any details and questions they have!) and “invitation to follow”.
Which brings us to the actual invitations, send them out around the 4 month mark and be sure to include all the wedding events & celebrations. Don’t make your guests feel obligated to attend each and every event. The ceremony is the most important but do offer them something like a welcome dinner or a cozy bonfire. By adding “be our guest”, you’re reminding them that there are no extra costs for your guest. And, YES! The expenses are on you, the (almost) newly weds.
If I haven’t told you already by now, always start with getting a travel agent. A good travel agent will help you with the planning before, during and after your trip at no extra cost. They will also be a huge help to your guests while they consider the options travel insurance, airport transportations, payment plans and booking excursions. Also for you, the couple, we offer inside information to help keep you “in the know”. Aunt Sue just RSVP’d to the wedding as one, but booked a room with a plus one. Trust me, you just saved yourself from scrambling to find her a seat for her plus one. Don’t make your guests do the work and call overseas to reserve rooms and such. They’ll be smacked in the face with hidden fees and charges at check-out. This will definitely spoil what was a great time. A travel agent offers person to person contact. It will leave them feeling much more confident and comfortable with booking. Another great tip from your favorite travel agent (Yes, still me.) is locking in a group rate. I highly recommend reserving multiple room categories to accommodate all of your guests’ budgets. I still have nightmares sometimes of the one time I worked with a couple that insisted on reserving the minimum amount of rooms required to secure a group rate, against my recommendations. Fast forward, the resort sold out completely and some of the guests were forced to book rooms at another hotel. These guests ended up only being allowed to spend time with the couple and other guests at the wedding ceremony. What a mess, that could have easily been avoided. By requesting a group rate, not only are you getting a deal for your guests, but you are also ensuring the hotel will hold a room for everyone on your guest list.
All the Flings Before the Ring (And After!)
There are many celebrations when you get engaged, and you should keep them coming. You don’t need to limit your festivities but be flexible! For some guests, this is the only time and opportunity they have to celebrate this new chapter in your life with you. For your bridal shower, select options for your registry that won’t demolish the piggy bank. Plan a reasonable bachelor/bachelorette party and release some of the reigns. Another suggestion, plan your last hoorah during the destination wedding week with your bridal party.
Many guests will still be inclined to bring a gift on your wedding day, although it’s not really necessary, considering they traveled all the way to a destination of your choice. Just be appreciative and don’t set high expectations. As for any celebrations after, do it! This gives guests that couldn’t attend the destination wedding still a chance to celebrate this new chapter in your life as a married couple.
The Costs You Should Cover
Long over are the days that our parents would cover the wedding expenses. Some traditions just don’t hold. (tear!) Hosting a wedding nowadays is more expensive than ever. Especially those of us in New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas. Now, although, Your parents may want to help where they can, do not put that expectation on them. As for your guests, they will be paying for the transportation and lodging, just as they would for a local ceremony. Any organized wedding festivities, including pre and post wedding events, should be paid for by you as a couple. Although, anything mom or dad want to help with is always appreciate. Start batting those eyelashes! But what about your bridal party? Do what you can for them! These are supposed to be the most important people in your lives and although they want to be there for you, it’s most likely they don’t want to burn too much money. Consider treating them to getting their hair and makeup done, paying their airfare and/or accommodations, wedding attire or any additional wedding costs.
Be Thoughtful, Not Cheap
Just like getting married locally, wedding favors are a must! It is your obligation to make a gesture of gratitude. A couple I worked with recently, Nicole & Jay, were super thoughtful and clever. They took their guests on a catamaran cruise instead of a trinket of some kind. Guests didn’t have to lug anything home (we all have enough wine stoppers and picture frames) and yet they were given the gift of additional memories. It’s a win-win!
Another must, when you’re not staying at an all-inclusive resort where liquor is included, have an open bar on the wedding day! Your friends and family are spending a lot to celebrate with you, the least you could do is give back and spend where you can. There are plenty of other things to cut your own costs on, like flowers, honeymoon or the number of guests. Like I’ve said before, if you’re not doing an all-inclusive resort, hosting a welcome/farewell dinner at your cost is just another way of being generous and thoughtful to your guests.
Create That Adorable, Corny Wedding Website
Don’t be afraid to post about your crazy love story, engagement photos or anything couple related. And, keep in mind that this is an important resource that will keep your guests informed about essential details about the destination wedding. It will also get them excited to celebrate! Websites like TheKnot and Zola offer personalized wedding layouts for free! Warning: this is NOT your invitation. It’s merely a point of reference and a helpful resource. Your paper invitations should be sent out with proper RSVP inserts. Back to your website, do add the name of the hotel and its’ location, group rates, room options, the wedding date, and time, etc. Also think about informative details like dress code! And I can’t stress this enough, add your travel agents’ contact information. You’ll be more than grateful when all the questions and requests are directed at them instead of you, it can really take a lot of the stress off. My clients have my office number, cell number, social media and e-mail. They slip deep into my DM’s too!
Don’t Be a Control Freak
Do not over plan. I repeat do not over plan! Do give guests time to relax and enjoy their surroundings. No one wants a day by day itinerary. And, do not set the expectation that they have to be present for every single festivity. At the minimum, set a day and time for a welcome celebration so everyone can get acquainted. Sometimes the most fun will be had just hanging by the pool.