When it comes to planning a destination wedding, it always seems like there are more questions than there are answers! But don’t worry, we’re going to try and tackle all of your biggest questions in this multi-part FAQs series!
Be on the lookout for part 2, and if you have a specific question, reach out to me for an answer!
Questions Frequently Asked By Couples:
We want to have a small destination wedding but then celebrate with friends and family back home. Is that ok?
That sounds amazing! Lots of couples are choosing to keep their destination weddings to immediate family for a much smaller gathering; however, you can definitely invite all of your friends and family to join you for a back home reception! Whether you choose a more formal celebration or a backyard BBQ, well, that’s up to you! Just remember some people will be upset they weren’t invited, and if you don’t invite them to the wedding, sending them an invite saying hey we are married, might not work in your favor with some of your friends and family.
Should I do a site visit?
If you can swing it, I highly suggest you visit your destination and venue—especially if it is new. Think about it, if you were getting married at home, would you book your venue sight unseen? I know it might be an extra travel expense, but it is one that is worth it. If you can afford to squeeze it in the budget, you will not be disappointed.
Do we need Save The Dates and/or Formal invites?
This is not a traditional wedding so it’s ok to throw out the traditional invites that go out a few weeks before the wedding because, by that point, you will know who is coming and who isn’t. Save the Dates, however, that’s another story. As Destination Wedding etiquette, you need to give your guests, as much time as possible to plan. That means sending STDs as soon as you know you are saying I do from afar. Really a year out is best. Include date, destination, and next steps for your guest. Most couples put their travel agent’s contact and a wedding website for more details. Stick to the basics and you can always send out a newsletter of informational packet closer to wedding time. Your travel agent and/or wedding planner can help with this.
Should we host a welcome party?
Of course! Guests have traveled near and far and probably haven’t all met. There is nothing like a good welcome to start the weekend off right. Work with your onsite coordinator to plan this event, most plans in the Caribbean have a complimentary reception option you could use for this event. Throw in a few cocktails and fire dancers, and you are off to a memorable time.
Do we have to pay for our guests or wedding party’s travel and accommodations?
Would you pay for them back home? Here is the thing: whether you are getting married in a small town back home or in Rio de Janiero, some guests would still have to fly in and find somewhere to stay, so you are not obligated to foot the bill. It’s just an invite. It’s their choice to come, with that said, try to get them the best possible deal and keep in mind if you want certain people there, then you might want to change the time of year, destination and/or venue. I find letting VIP’s know way ahead of time works out best so they can start planning early.
Should we allow kids or make it Adults-Only?
When I was planning my destination wedding, I did not hesitate on the NO Kids policy. I did an adults-only, all-inclusive resort for a reason. Don’t you feel obligated to allow kids, either; this is your wedding and vacation. It is fine to let some guests know its okay to bring their kid but you will not be providing childcare services or planning extra activities for them. Let guests know up front on the Save the Dates, invites, and wedding website. Clearly state your policy early.
What about gifts?
I say if you get a few, great! But, remember it is a destination wedding and all of your friends and family are spending a lot of money to be there with you. It can be expensive so do not make it imperative for gifts to be the center of attention. Keep it simple and go virtual. Throw a link or two on your site, maybe create a honeymoon registry (Honeyfund is our favorite) for those who may not be able to attend, and call it a day. In addition, who wants to be toting tons of gifts home from their destination? Think extra baggage fees and headaches.
Questions Frequently Asked by Guests:
Can I bring a plus one if I was not given one — since it is so far away and I might not know anyone?
Say what?! N-O, come on now, you know that is not cool! Would you want someone to show up at your wedding that you didn’t invite or even know? Please be considerate. The couple that has invited you has to pay for each guest for the ceremony and reception packages. Remember, you were invited to something, which makes you a guest. While I understand you might not want to travel alone, guests aren’t in the position to dictate to the couple who gets to be a part of their special day. This is also not about you. This is about the bride and groom. Reality check! (Sorry to be harsh, but I’ve seen this happen way too many times. #ToughLove)
Should the couple pay for my travel & accommodations?
I understand this might put a dent in your budget, however; guests aren’t obligated to attend, so if you can’t afford to travel, please don’t feel pressured to do so and spend money! Do not let the bride and groom put the full court press on you. Now the answer to your question: no. A couple will host a welcome reception of some kind, maybe a few group activities and then, of course, the reception itself. Beyond that, it is going to vary couple to couple and budget to budget. You know your friends. If budget is a biggie, let them know. I always advocate for helping my VIP’s (ex: bridal party, grandparents etc…) out with travel, but in general, travel arrangements are up to the guests themselves.
Is it ok to stay somewhere other than the hotel/resort selected?
Most couples try to book an alternative hotel if it’s in the states, especially if their venue is high-end, however, not everyone does. In regards to destination weddings in the Caribbean and Europe, it is not good etiquette to book outside of the group. You might have a bed and breakfast, points at another hotel, a favorite agent you use on your trips or even some type of vacation club; however, it goes back to the first question, this day (this weekend) is NOT about you. Your guests have picked that venue for a reason and its best to stay with them. It also can sometimes affect benefits that they get for booking so many rooms with their venue. However, if your budget does not allow it, it is not rude for you to stay at another location and pay the day fee that most resorts require of guests visiting the resort. You usually can get a day pass for a certain price. You might also want to consider that you could miss out on the activities the couple decides to throw and will be apart from other guests mingling throughout the day. If it is an all-inclusive resort, you might not be allowed to visit friends by the pool for the afternoon.
If the couple has a weekend itinerary planned, is it ok to not participate in all of them?
I think this varies by couple. I love activities, and although I try to be a cruise director, I like to make sure that my guests have tons to do. If it were an informal get-together or something that didn’t require an RSVP, I would say its ok to skip it. On the other hand, if the couple decides to do an excursion, for example, a sunset cruise and you are in the headcount and don’t show, well, that would be considered rude.
Do I still need to get the couple a gift if I paid to travel to the wedding myself?
Most couples only request your presence as their gift; however, the short answer is yes. Destination weddings do not really get you off the hook from giving a gift, but most couples do understand that it took a lot to be there. They also would rather have something on their honeymoon registry than for you to come all the way to Africa with antique chinaware. Be sure to leave your gift at home and either give it to them before you come or afterward. Wedding gifts really can be given to the couple within the first year of marriage—so don’t worry, you have a lot of time.
Stay Tuned For Part II!
Eat, Drink and don’t be that guest! (or Couple)
P.S. You know, the one everyone is talking about lol!