Destination Wedding Etiquette
Destination Wedding etiquette differs in a few ways from traditional wedding etiquette. In some ways, the traditional rules may be relaxed or even ignored. However, Destination Weddings can mean your guests will require a bit more direction (or "hand-holding", if you will). Here are some tips:
The Guest List
Soon after your engagement, draw up a guest list. Destination Weddings will sometimes decrease, and other times increase (as in snowball) your guest list. Remote or distant locations, holiday weddings, and midsummer weddings tend to reduce the number of people who can attend. On the other hand, easily reachable locations, large families, and summer weddings (given plenty of notice) are usually a recipe for a larger, and potentially increasing, guest list.
When you need to keep the guest list relatively small, delicate situations may arise. What do you say to those who are friends or even relatives, who won't be receiving an invitation? First, consider if you might throw a party, or hold a local reception sometime after the wedding. This is a good way to make those who aren't on the A-list feel included. If that isn't practical, do a little rehearsing along the lines of "Our wedding will be very small and private, and unfortunately we need to keep our guest list very limited. I am sure you understand."
If you prefer not to invite children, when mailing invitations and Save the Date cards, be sure to address them to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (or some other variation that specifies the adults only) rather than "The Smith Family". You might also consider directing your guests to a local babysitting service. Finally, be prepared for those occasions when you'll need to explain gently that while you and your fiance(e) adore children, your wedding location is not the most kid-friendly venue. Add that you would be happy to help locate a sitter, family-friendly hotel, etc.
Scout it Out
If your wedding ceremony will be held in a unique location (such as on a beach, in a park, etc.), check out the location months in advance. If possible, visit the location at the same time of day when your ceremony will be held. This will allow you to check the view from your guests' perspective, note the amount of sunlight or glare, ensure a comfortable temperature, and even locate the nearest bathroom.
Give a Head's Up
You should also consider mailing Save the Date cards to your guests as soon as possible. More web-savvy couples might even consider sending an electronic version of a Save the Date card, such as an E-vite that includes the web address to your Wedding Web site. In any case, Save the Date cards give a 'head's up' to your guests, and will help them start planning.
Also, it is wise for everyone to start reserving lodging and to arrange for vacation time with employers. If you have already blocked off hotel rooms, or if you can recommend hotels and other accommodations, do include this information with your Save the Date card. Then...be prepared to answer your guests' questions!
If your wedding ceremony will be held outdoors, do advise your guests as to appropriate footwear. Destination weddings may be held on sandy beaches, in rocky national parks, in vineyards, even along hiking and biking trails. So please, warn the guests in advance as to the terrain and climate where your ceremony will be held.
Destination - Vacation!
Many guests will take some extra vacation time to enjoy your destination wedding location. You can expect that some of these guests will come to you with questions about what to do and where to go during their time there. If you're not up to playing concierge, consider asking a friend or family member to be a point of contact for such questions. Or, do a bit of research and see if you can find such a service in town. You might even include contact information for this service as part of your wedding invitation information packet, or wedding web site.
A Gesture of Gratitude
Your guests have likely traveled far and wide to attend your wedding. Many couples are choosing to acknowledge the efforts of their friends and family by arranging for a hospitality suite at the hotel of choice, or by providing welcome baskets with local fruits, flowers, etc. in each guest's room. Another popular idea is to incorporate local themes into wedding favors.
The Type-A Guest
So, how do you handle the high-maintenance guest in your Destination Wedding location, far, far away? Put them to work! Focus on their strengths (such as photography, directing guests or answering their questions, entrusting them with the officiant's fee, etc.). This will help them feel important and included, and will reduce your stress on the big day!
Find Local Resources
Finally, do a little research as to the available resources and attractions where your wedding will be held. Find a local wedding coordinator, concierge, babysitter, and diversions such as National Parks. Your guests will appreciate the information, as well as your efforts. And you and your new spouse will likely enjoy these as well!