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Proper Etiquette for a Destination Wedding

Updated: Jan 17


It always great to have your closest friends and family with you when you say "I do," because a wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life. But of course, there are some formalities that go along with the big day, and not all of them are fun or easy to handle. Consider all of these factors, not to mention all the added pressures and difficulties with planning and organizing a destination wedding.


So adhering to destination wedding etiquette can be difficult, for example when should you send out your invitations? as well as some additional unique logistics that do come along with planning a wedding in another state and even more so if your planning one out of the country. So being a destination wedding planner myself I am well versed in the etiquette of planning a destination wedding. So hear is a guide to help you get through some tough situation.


What is the couple financial Responsibilty?

Realistically, the bride and groom are only required to pay for the ceremony and reception, including food, drinks, entertainment and décor, and anything else they want or need for the ceremony and reception and that’s pretty straight forward. Guests are expected to pay for their own travel arrangements. Because destination weddings are often longer celebrations over three to seven days, couples often host additional events, such as a welcome party or farewell brunch, and maybe some activities for their guest but these are not a requirement.


Can we pay the travel expenses for a guest who is Financially unable to pay their way?

Of course it is and I’m sure they would be grateful for the help. My advice would be to keep that fact to yourself, because you might open yourself up to some criticism...... especially if you have guests who declined their destination wedding invitations due to budgetary reasons. But honestly, unless it's a wedding-party member, a very close friend or a family member, it's best to have a standard set of guidelines to follow when it comes to money and budgeting for your wedding. Of course, if it's just one person (who can keep quiet), that's a different story. Ultimately, the bride and groom need to do what feels right for them.


When should you send save-the-date announcements?

we’re you are having your destination wedding can affect the timing of when to send invitations for the wedding; traveling out of the country or at a far enough location within the United States takes more time to plan than a three-hour road trip to the mountains. To be safe either way, send out the save-the-dates as soon as you confirm the details. The more time, the better: 12 months is ideal and provides guests ample time to schedule travel plans and time off from work, and even save money.

Be sure to include information about the wedding destination — I would suggest that creating a wedding website would be ideal — so guests can begin to plan and know what to expect.


When should formal invitations be sent, and what info should be included?

With a local wedding, invitations are sent six to eight weeks out, but with a destination wedding they should be sent at least two to three month ahead of time. If you sent a save-the-date, an invitation is expected to follow.


With a formal invite, the emphasis should be on the invitation itself, so don’t turn it into a travel brochure; instead, list your wedding website on the invite, and update all travel information online, including places to stay, group-hotel rates, maps and airport information.


Some very useful information to also include is where the ceremony will take place (beach, lawn, poolside etc.) so guests can wear the proper shoes as well as attire, one thing that not not be included is your gift registry information (that should go on your wedding website).


Since destination weddings often involve multiple days and events, I would suggest creating a schedule of events for the main invitation to invite guests to any planned celebrations (e.g., a welcome clambake, a golf outing, a post-wedding brunch). And include a card for your guest to check off and let you know what events they will or will not be attending.


Not to mention m, this will also inform your guest of when and where the activities will begin.


What's the etiquette for letting friends know they're not invited?

When sending destination wedding invitations, you’ll come across a list of people who won’t be inviting. Most people will assume they are invited, but no one should ever assume anything, but unfortunately they do. Destination weddings, are almost always smaller events with very close friends and family. If friends ask why they aren’t invited, just be honest and let them know its a small wedding and that only close friends and family are invited.


Who should be invited to the engagement party?

Only guests who will be invited to the wedding should be invited to the engagement party. One exception is if the destination wedding is intimate, meaning only the couple and immediate families. Then, it's OK to have a larger celebration at home. Also, remind guests that gifts are not required at an engagement party.


Should couples provide welcome gifts for the guest who are attending their destination wedding?

When guests arrive at the end of a long journey, it’s very polite as well as gracious to have a welcome bag for your guest waiting for them in their room. This could be a beach bag filled with sunscreen and bottled water, local snacks or a simple scented candle accompanied by a welcome note. Along with the gift, include a brief itinerary of wedding events for their convenience, in case they forgot to bring it. One tip: Give a gift that can be enjoyed during their stay (e.g., snacks, wine) or a suitcase-friendly item that will be easy to take home.


Is the couple responsible for hosting pre-wedding and post-wedding events like a rehearsal dinner or a farewell brunch? Who should be invited?

While these gatherings aren’t necessary, they are surely appreciated. After all, guests have spent money and taken time off work to be with you on your big day It’s good just being a good host to have a welcome or farewell party to show your gratitude.


Technically, there's no rule that says you have to invite every guest, but, since they're going out of their way to attend your destination wedding, and since guest lists for destination weddings tend to be smaller, excluding some guests doesn't really make sense. Also, be careful not to go overboard and plan too many activities. Book only one gathering beyond the rehearsal dinner, be it a beach-cabana day or a sailing excursion, so guests can relax and enjoy their vacation.


How does gift etiquette differ from at-home weddings?

Gifts tend to be smaller due to traveling concerns and money spent on flights and accommodations. To thank guests for going through so much trouble, a classy thing would be to tell guests their presence is their present.


Who wants to tote a blender to Jamaica? Or home from Jamaica? A polite line on the registry page of your wedding website should let guests know to send gifts directly to the couple's home or to the bride's residence or a family residence, if the couple doesn't live together yet.


Are gifts expected from guest who attend an at home reception but not the destination wedding?

Typically, one invitation equals one wedding gift, whether or not the guest is able to attend the wedding away. An invitation to a belated reception back at home does not imply that people are expected to bring gifts. Some people will want to, but it's not required. Don't plan this kind of gathering with the expectation of additional gifts.


How to announce an adults-only event?

The same rules apply to destination weddings as local weddings: The invitation should be addressed only to those who are invited — meaning, if the children’s names are left off, they are not invited. Of course, few people know this rule, but it’s generally frowned upon to include verbiage that states “adult reception” or “no children” in your wording for destination-wedding invitations.


Handling the situation with proper etiquette is recommended, but you can always let your parents and the wedding party know it's an adult reception, in case they're asked.


List exactly the people who are invited on the inner envelope, and don’t mention who isn’t invited on the invitation. Not including children is the host’s choice, and guests have to respect it. If you have invitees with children who might not understand, call them on the day you mail invites, and say something like, “We’re only able to invite you and Tom to the wedding. We know that means you need to get a sitter, so we wanted to give you as much time as possible.”


If someone RSVPs with children, call to say, "We're sorry if there is confusion, but we can only invite you and Tom." The way you say something like this can make all the difference. There's a big distinction between saying this and saying, "We're not inviting your son." Keep the focus on what you can do rather than what you can't. As long as you're respectful while letting them know, it's their bad if they can't swallow it.


Etiquette rules for wedding websites, Facebook or Twitter?

Etiquette rules continue to evolve when it comes to social media. The ease and modern feel of social-media outlets and wedding websites have allowed couples to find ways to tweak etiquette to help convey necessary details, such as registry information, childcare issues, where to send gifts, etc.


A rule of thumb: Aim for grace and tact at all times, even when online. A good suggestion is to keep parts of your wedding off social media entirely, or create private groups. You don't want to play out any family drama or personal issues in such a public forum. Also, friends who aren't invited may take offense to a barrage of wedding information. Plus, for your own security, you don't want to be Facebooking or tweeting that you're out of town.


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