Destination Wedding Etiquette

I’ve learned a few things along the wedding way about destination wedding etiquette and wanted to share it with all of you. Even though destination etiquette is very similar to etiquette for a wedding held at home, it does have a few twists and turns. Destination wedding etiquette isn’t as easily available and as a result, you really have to do a lot of digging to find some of this stuff out. The information below is based on some of the most common questions that come up again and again. When reading these answers, please keep in mind that you will want to factor in your own family, culture, customs and beliefs because only you know what those are and what will work best for all of you.

Before you pack, check out the destination wedding Q&A below.

Q: I’m having a destination wedding, but my friends (or family) want to throw me an engagement party at home and invite everyone they know. Is this alright even though I’m not inviting most of them to the wedding? I really want to be able to celebrate with everyone.

A: Regardless of if you are having a destination wedding or a wedding in your own backyard, etiquette on who you invite to your engagement party remains the same. Only invite those to the engagement party that you are also going to invite to the wedding. When one is invited to an engagement party there is the expectation that it is a precursor to them getting a wedding invitation. If you do not plan on inviting them to your wedding, you shouldn’t invite them to your engagement party either. However, there is one exception to this rule when having a destination wedding. If you are having an at home reception following your destination wedding, you may invite all of the guests invited to your wedding and at home reception to your engagement party.

Q: My fiancé and I have decided we want to have a destination wedding, but don’t know where to have it. Can you tell us some places that would be good?

A: Where you decide to have your wedding is really up to you. It’s a decision that only you and your fiancé can make. Every destination has its advantages and disadvantages. A good place to start is to figure out what you want for your wedding, if there are any places that are meaningful to you and your fiancé and where it is in location to you and your wedding guests. Start looking at websites for the destinations you are interested in, check out planning bios of destination brides, talk with travel agents and coordinators at different locations and even have travel guides sent to you. Don’t forget to look at what places will work for your budget, how the accommodations will be for your guests, requirements to get married at that location and what the travel is like to get there.

Q: We want to be able to have a reception back home after our wedding on Maui to celebrate with all of our friends and family. Is this acceptable for us to do?

A: Yes, Many couples throw a party once they return home to celebrate their new marriage with all of their friends and family. Most people will want to celebrate with you and will be happy to attend. However, it is important to keep in mind when making your guest lists and invitations that your at home reception is a celebration of your new marriage, not an actual wedding reception. Doing this will help keep guests feelings from getting hurt if they did not receive an actual wedding invitation and let your guests know how important it is for you to celebrate your new marriage with them.

On a side note, If you are worried about guests thinking you are only having an at home reception for more gifts, you can always let your guests know through word of mouth that gifts are not needed.

Q: Who and how many guests can we invite to the at home reception? If we are having a very small destination guest list is it alright to have a really big at home reception?

A: There are no set rules that say who you can and cannot invite to your at home reception. Many people have different ideas on who to invite. You and your fiancé will need to decide what’s going to work best for the two of you and what’s in your budget. When figuring out how many guests to invite to your at home reception a 10:1 ratio is acceptable. If you are inviting 10 guests to your wedding, you can invite 100 guests to your at home reception.

Q: We found the perfect venue, except it doesn’t fit as many people as we have on our guest list. Do you think that will be alright? It’s a destination wedding, so not everyone will come, right?

A: Never invite more guests than your venue will hold. You don’t want to be scrambling to find a new venue when more guests RSVP than you venue will hold and you have to start over with most of your planning because you need a new venue. Keep in mind, a venue is never perfect if it won’t fit all of your guests.

Q: What am I responsible for paying for my bridal party if I’m having a destination wedding?

A: The same as if you were having a wedding in your hometown; nothing. However, do keep in mind that having a destination wedding may keep some people from being able to be a part of your bridal party. At home, their main financial responsibility would be to buy a dress and shoes. With a destination wedding, they are also responsible for their travel and accommodations to be at the wedding.

If cost is a factor, you may consider paying for part or all of their travel expenses or purchasing the bridal parties’ outfits. Also this arrangement may only be for one person who you really want there and without your help would not be able to attend. If this is the case, make sure to have it stay private between you, your finace and that member of your bridal party. You don’t want other members of your bridal party feeling like you are playing favorites because you are trying to help another out.

As always, a thank you gift is purchased for all members of your bridal party for being there for you leading up to and on your special day. In many cases, due to traveling so far and accumulating extra costs, many brides decide to get an extra or more expensive gift for the members of their bridal party to say thank you. Again, getting a more expensive gift is not required. Sometimes, the smallest gifts that don’t cost a lot are really the most meaningful.

Q: We are having a destination wedding and are wondering when we should send our save the dates and wedding invitations.

A: Since you are having a destination wedding, you may want to send out your save the dates and wedding invitations earlier than if you were having your wedding at home to give your guests plenty of time to plan and save for the trip. Typically destination brides send out their save the dates one year to 9 months in advance. Many send out their invitations early, as well. Anywhere from 9 months to 4 months before the wedding. Of course, all of this depends on where you are traveling to, who you are inviting and how big your guest list is. Whenever you decide to send the save the dates and wedding invitations, you want to make sure you are giving your guests enough notice to be able to travel to your wedding.

Keep in mind that just because you send the invitations early, it does not mean that you will be able to ask for an earlier RSVP date than if you were having your wedding at home. If you ask for RSVPs too early they can be unreliable because plans can and will change. If you have to ask for an earlier RSVP date due to resort reservation cutoffs or other factors, be sure to let your guests know, but be prepared for RSVP changes as it gets closer to the wedding.

Q: Since we are having a destination wedding are we responsible for paying for our guests travel and accommodations.

A: When it comes to who pays for a guests travel and accommodations, a wedding in the Virgin Islands is no different than a wedding at home. Airfare, rental car, lodging and meals (except for the reception) are all your guests’ responsibility. If you were to have a wedding in your home town and out-of-town guests came to your wedding, you wouldn’t pay for their travel and accommodations either. The same applies for destination weddings.

However, since your guests have traveled a great distance to be a part of your special day many couples opt to do a few extras for their guests. Some of the ways they do this is to give their guests a destination gift bag, host a welcome dinner, host a day after the wedding brunch and many other ideas. None of these ideas need to cost a lot of money, but really show how much you appreciate that they all came. A welcome dinner could be a BBQ on the beach and the brunch could just be muffins, fruit and juice the next morning.

Q: Should I get a travel agent to help my guests with making their travel arrangements to my wedding. If I do, how much will it cost me?

A: Good thing is getting a travel agent won’t cost you anything. If you need a travel agent or not depends on many different factors that you will need to look at before you decide if a travel agent is best for you. These factors will include how big your wedding guest list is, how much time you have to give to your guests to help them with their travel and accommodations (if needed), if you have a wedding website with all of this information or not and where you will be traveling to. If you have a large guest list, don’t have time to help your guests with their travel, don’t have a wedding website or are traveling a great distance or out of the country, a travel agent is always a good idea.

A good travel agent will be able to provide your guests with a broader and more complete range of services than can be found on the Internet. They will get to know you, your needs and will work hard to be able to meet those needs. They give your guests the ability to contact a real person if they have a problem or need special assistance. They are also able to give you inside information on resorts that you usually won’t be able to find online.

Q: My guests are already spending a great deal of money to be at our wedding in New Zealand, should we not register for gifts since they’ve already spent enough?

A: Even though your guests are paying a lot more to attend your wedding, most of them are still going to want to get you a gift regardless of how much they spent to be at your wedding. Those guests will expect you to have a registry of some kind to know what you need and want. This registry can also be used for your engagement party and showers. If you do not feel comfortable registering for gifts when having a destination wedding, you can opt out of doing so and use word of mouth to let your guests know.

Q: We’ve lived together for a long time and don’t need anything for our house. Can we register for our honeymoon instead even if it’s going to be at the same place that we are having our destination wedding?

A: This is a registry option that works for some couples, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind when doing so. First, not everyone likes honeymoon registries. For these people you should at least have a few items on a typical registry. There are so many different kinds of registries now that you could register for books, supplies for your hobby or almost anything else now a days.

Second, do not register for anything that you would pay for as part of your wedding. For example, if you plan to fly to Hawaii to get married and then will take your honeymoon immediately following your wedding, you cannot register for your airfare. However, if you island hope to another island than the island you got married on, you could register for your island hopper air travel. Another example is to not register for your meals that you will be eating leading up to your wedding. Only register for items and activities on your honeymoon registry that you will actually be doing while on your honeymoon.

On a side note, never include your registry information in or on any of your invitations. Since you are having a destination wedding and making a wedding website is highly recommended to give your guests all of the information that they need, put your registry information on your website. Or use the old fashion method of word of mouth to provide guests with your registry information.

Q: We’ve heard that lots of other couples getting married have wedding websites. Is this something we should do even though we are getting married in Mexico?

A: A wedding website is a great place to list all of the information about your destination wedding, travel arrangements, planned group activates and so much more. Use it as a window into your wedding locale and include information on hotels, where to eat, the weather, local customs and your favorite things to do while there. It’s also a great place to tell how you meet and to list your registry.

Q: We are only inviting our parents and siblings to our wedding, but my sister wants to throw me a bridal shower with all of our family. Is this all right?

A: Just like engagement parties and other wedding related activities you can only invite those actually invited to the wedding. However, with destination weddings you can make the exception to the rule if you have an at home reception. Those who are also invited to your at home reception can also be invited to your shower.

On a side note, if co-workers plan a shower for you at work or your best girlfriends surprise you with a ladies’ night out to celebrate your upcoming wedding, just enjoy it. Nowhere does it say you can’t enjoy yourself and have a good time at a party thrown for you by others just because you didn’t invite all of them to your wedding.

Have you found planning for a destination wedding to be different than if you planned your wedding at home? Have you learned any helpful advice along the way?

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