Destination Wedding Etiquette
Destination Wedding Invitations
When sending out wedding invitations to your destination wedding, be sure to do it early! A “Save the Date” card should be sent out as soon as you have finalized your planning, usually four to six months before the wedding date. You'll want to give a large window of time for the guests you've invited to be able to make arrangements to attend. DestinationWeddings.com can help you to get your arrangements made with enough advance notice that you'll be able to send out those invitations with plenty of time to spare.
Destination Wedding Gifts
Many people may wonder what will happen to their gifts at a destination wedding. Usually, the bride and groom (or more properly, a member of the wedding party) will have let guests know where they are registered for gifts, and the guests will purchase items and bring them to the wedding. If the wedding is outside the country, it is acceptable wedding reception etiquette to have the parents of the bride or groom (or someone else close to them) let guests know to send gifts to the couple's home, or to only bring gifts of money or gift certificates to the destination. You can also purchase gifts from the DestinationWeddings.com Honeymoon Registry, which is attached to the bride’s wedding website.
Destination Wedding Pre-Wedding Parties
Pre-wedding parties, such as bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties can bring guests together before the main event. This can also hold true for couples who are having a destination wedding, as you can have these parties before you leave for the wedding. Typically, you should not invite people to these pre-parties that are not invited to the wedding, as they are for guests of the wedding to be able to give gifts and celebrate with the bride or groom. If you want to invite people who will not be coming to your destination wedding, you may wish to hold a party and specify that you do not want gifts, so it doesn't seem as if you're just having a party to get additional items.
Couple's Destination Wedding Duties
At a destination wedding, there are varying beliefs as to what is proper for the couple to pay for. Usually, destination wedding etiquette states that guests pay for their own travel and accommodation expenses, but there are some that state that the couple (or whoever is paying for the destination wedding) should also pay for the guests' hotel rooms and other expenses. Most commonly, however, it seems that the couple is only seen to be responsible for the cost of the ceremony, reception, and any other “mandatory” events (such as pre-wedding dinners and other activities). Often, a thank you card acknowledging the guests attendance and a small gift is appropriate. Or, the couple could offer to contribute to the accommodations or airfare for some of their guests, or host a special event for all guests the night before the wedding.
Guests' Destination Wedding Duties
The guests at a destination wedding are responsible for the same things that they would be at any other wedding. Even if they are paying additional money to travel to and stay at a destination, guests are still expected to bring gifts for the couple. They are also expected to pay for their own amusements, food, and anything else that they need during their stay. Guests should not expect the couple to pay for anything beyond the wedding ceremony and reception, and they should not expect to be entertained by the couple throughout the trip. They should also give the couple “alone time” after the wedding, after all, this is their honeymoon!
Parents' Destination Wedding Duties
The parents of the couple have differing duties for a destination wedding depending on who is paying for the actual event. If the parents of either the bride or groom are paying for the ceremony or reception, they are also not expected to pay for the guests' travel or accommodation costs. If the wedding is being thrown in a traditional manner, and the bride's family is paying for most of the wedding, then it is expected that the groom's family will pay for the rehearsal dinner. They'll also probably be expected to chip in for other items as well, but this should all be arranged before the wedding party gets to the destination.
When to Send Destination Wedding Announcements
A couple should send wedding announcements to anyone (and everyone) who was unable to attend their destination wedding. If you sent a wedding invitation to someone, and they were unable to make it to your destination, you don't need to send them an announcement, but if you did not invite someone because you knew they couldn't make the trip, you should definitely send that person an announcement. Wedding announcements are often seen as being more proper than sending an invitation to a guest that you know can't attend, because announcements don't carry with them the expectation of gifts. Announcements are also a great way of letting people know you had a destination wedding, so they don't feel left out.
Having a Reception After a Destination Wedding
Sometimes, a solution to not being able to invite everyone you'd like to your destination wedding is to have a reception at home. A reception that occurs after you've returned from your destination can be larger and a great way to celebrate with all of your family and friends. If you've had a really small destination wedding, or even if it was just the two of you eloping, this sort of reception can include everyone and be a compromise to having a traditional wedding in your hometown. Receptions after the wedding can be big or small, formal or informal, it's all up to your taste and budget. Guests invited to this after-reception will probably be the same ones who are sent announcements, so you may or may not wish to include your invitations to the reception with them. Gifts are usually not expected at these affairs (but some people will probably bring gifts anyway!).
Choosing a Destination Wedding Party
When choosing a wedding party for your destination wedding, it might be a bit harder than if you were planning a traditional wedding. Your wedding party will probably be smaller than an at-home wedding. Destination wedding etiquette dictates that you should pay for the travel and other expenses of your wedding party. Be sure to give extra notice to your wedding party so that there will be no conflicts on your chosen dates, and let them know that you're going to be paying their way, so that those people you've chosen don't feel that they'd have to decline due to not being able to afford the trip.
General Destination Wedding Etiquette
Some general destination wedding etiquette should be followed by all involved in the wedding. The couple should not assume that everyone they invite will be able to attend the wedding and guests should not assume that the couple (or the couple's families) will be paying for a majority of the trip. We have found that, on average, a guest may spend between $750 and $1,100 to attend a destination wedding. Gifts should be sent to the couple's home or to another place where they can pick them up, even if this is not specified. Above all, destination weddings should be seen as fun for everyone involved - this is a vacation for the guests and the couple getting married alike, so enjoy!