Destination weddings are my favorite by far. Whether you’re dreaming of an Italian villa, a tropical beach, or simply a mountain getaway in another state, here are some great tips for the most commonly asked questions to get you started.
What’s the best strategy for sending save-the-dates and invitations for a destination wedding?
Unlike traditional weddings where save-the-dates can go out as late as six months before, for a wedding away they should be sent nine to twelve months out. Guests may have to request time off work, and hotels in the area can book up quickly. A good idea is to create your personal website, with details and information about the destination. If you are getting married in a popular vacation spot, make that aware to your guests so they get their reservations in quickly. You don’t need to send out the invitations a year in advance. Eight to twelve weeks is sufficient and helps build excitement.
Another great idea: A few weeks before the wedding, send a pre-departure letter with packing tips to your guests. Include information about any separate celebrations, such as a welcome dinner, golf outing, spa day, post wedding brunch, etc. If there are any specific dress requirements, be sure to include that here so guests can plan accordingly. You can also use check boxes on your reply card to keep track of who is coming to what event.
How far in advance should we arrive at our destination before the big day?
Find out the legalities of your destination. Different states have different marriage license requirements. If you are getting married in another country, you’ll need to find out if there a residency requirement for you to obtain a marriage license. For instance, The US Virgin Islands don’t require residency, but the couple does need to appear in person at the court on a business day to pick up the license, while getting married in Tahiti you can send in all required documents, but it can take up to five months to complete the necessary paperwork.
It’s also important to give yourselves a few days to relax prior to the wedding. And remember, even if the weather is fine in your destination, you may be traveling from a location that could be affected by weather, which can delay any scheduled festivities also. Keep in mind, the same goes for your guests.
What is the couple expected to pay for?
Technically, the bride and groom (or parents) are only required to pay for the ceremony and reception, including food, drinks, entertainment and decor. Guests are expected to pay for their own travel arrangements. Because destination weddings are often longer celebrations that can last for up to a week, couples often host additional events, such as a welcome party or farewell brunch, but these are not a requirement. While these gatherings aren’t necessary, they are appreciated. After all, guests have spent money and taken time off work to be with you on your big day. It’s good form to show your gratitude. However, 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 town exploration excursion, so guests can relax and enjoy their vacation.
Should couples provide welcome gifts at the destination?
When guests arrive at the end of a long journey, it’s very courteous to have a little gift waiting for them at the front desk or in their room to let them know you’re thinking of them. This could be a beach bag filled with sunscreen and bottled water, a crate filled with local snacks, or a simple bag with local brochures of things to do, all accompanied by a welcome note. Along with the gift, be sure to include a brief itinerary of wedding events for their convenience, in case they forgot to bring it.
What’s the best way to indicate an adults-only event?
The same rules apply to destination weddings that apply to 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. It’s generally frowned upon to include verbiage that states “adult reception” or “no children.” Handling the situation with proper etiquette is recommended, but you can always have the information included on your personal website, or let your parents and the wedding party know it’s an adult reception in case they’re asked.
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 [spouse] 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 [spouse].” 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 kid.” As long as you’re respectful while letting them know, it’s up to them how they deal with it. Another possibility would be to coordinate ahead of time with someone to be available for babysitting during the wedding festivities, that way you don’t run the risk of couples backing out of attending because of their kids.
Contact us to find out more on planning your destination wedding.