Destination Wedding Etiquette

A concise summary of destination wedding etiquette. Planning a destination need not be hard. Get all your questions answered here.

Seriously considering a destination wedding?

The difference between a destination wedding and a regular wedding is the level of hosting and entertaining. Because of the considerable effort your guests make for your wedding, you are obliged to look after them the moment they arrive from the time you leave.

Not only have they spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars to attend your wedding, but they've ventured out of their comfort zone to get there, its up to you to make them feel comfortable and remind them at every turn how much you value their presence.
- The Wedding Book
pink travel bags

Don't bother trying to plan a wedding if you have not been to the venue. In fact, make a few trips!

Take comprehensive notes about things like local transport, how far it is from the airport, where your guests can stay, rent tuxes, things that they can do after the wedding, tours, restaurants, child friendly facilities etc.

Save-the-date announcements are essential at a destination wedding because your guests will need more time to make travel arrangements.

Destination Wedding Etiquette in Planning

Planning a destination wedding is like planning a church camp. You can have to consider the lull periods of your guests' stay. You'll have to remember that you are not just hosting a wedding, but a weekend getaway for all your guests. That means taking care of guests from the moment they arrive, ensuring their comfort and their leisure until they leave.

Planning and working out the details of a destination wedding involves:

beautiful scenery of a destination wedding
  1. The wedding, reception itself and dealing with far off vendors
  2. Sending out very early save-the-dates
  3. Comprehensive travel information packets
  4. Airport transportation
  5. Welcome party
  6. Wedding day after brunch
  7. Trying to get discounts on as much as possible, hotel, airfares, activities etc
  8. Welcome gift baskets
  9. Compiling an activities menu
  10. Or A "Sights To See" suggestion page

Priorities in Destination Wedding Etiquette

These should be your priorities

  1. send out save-the-date cards at least eight months
  2. If a prime holiday weekend is involved, you should get save-the-date cards out even earlier.
  3. reserve block of hotel rooms
  4. arrange discount group airfare
  5. send out a comprehensive information pack with travel info
save the date card
Have you got your SAVE-THE-DATE yet?

Destination Wedding Etiquette

First Steps: Notifying Guests

Assuming you have family and friends out of the city you live in, you'll give a notice with a lot of lead time, enabling them to make preparations to come to your wedding.

Sometimes they'll need to set money aside, make arrangements at work, plan for someone to look after the plants, the dog etc, so a destination wedding is not ideal if you decide to have a short engagement.

You don't always have to announce your engagement and destination wedding plans formally first, you can mention or spread the word by word-of-mouth.

It is also an elegant touch to create information packets and have them sent to guests six to eight months before the wedding.

Creating The Information Packets

Good Destination Wedding Etiquette is making things as easy and comfortable for everyone - it shows your thoughtfulness and commitment to someone else's situation.


Information packets should include as much relevant information to make your guests' planning and arrangements.

In addition to travel and hotel information, make sure it includes a list of things to do in the area, typical weather for the time of the year, times, places, and suggested attire for any other wedding related events

You could also include as much pictures and activities (or selling points) as possible to get them excited so that it will not be a chore.

Destination Wedding Etiquette Tip: Prices should be included, otherwise at least a phone number where they can call to enquire before hand.

You definitely can't "sell it to your guests as a holiday" because that is rude.

Some destination wedding etiquette books say that 'Welcome baskets' are absolute necessity for a destination wedding. They have gone as far as to include flip-flops to the beach, sun tan lotion... it makes me feel like I'm the hotel rather that the host. It really depends on how much you want to put in into the wedding.

Financing in Destination Wedding Etiquette

Who pays for what?

Who pays for the bridal party and guests to attend?

As with any other wedding, guests and bridal party members attend at their own expense.

Before picking the most romantic place to wed in, consider which people you most want at your wedding and whether they are likely to be able to afford to attend. Consider mobility issues - how difficult is it to get there? If your dream location is too much of a hassle, maybe you're better off with a less exotic wedding closer to home.

It is a good idea to chip in by covering some or all of the bridal party's airfare, hotel room and wedding attire. Some people can afford to pay for everyone's accommodation and airfare, but it is not something most of us can afford.

How do we practice good destination wedding etiquette here?

What we can do is perhaps try to negotiate bulk deals with airlines and hotels, thus providing a subsidized rate (or you can even subsidize it further) makes it more comfortable on the wallets of your guests.

Also, since the guests will be spending a fair bit attending your wedding, consider any additional costs your guests might have to bear. For example, if your dress code requires your guests to bring their own tuxes or rent there, it is only more hassle and expenses.

If attendants are expected to pay their own way, you must be upfront about costs when you invite them to be in your wedding. If you are helping to chip in, clearly state what you are covering.

Destination Wedding Etiquette Tip:

Before you invite people to be attendants, prepare an overall estimate that includes airfare, lodging, attire and local transportation. And be understanding should they kindly turn the invitation down.

"You want them to accept the job with their eyes open, not turn into a bundle of resentment as the credit card charges pile up. Not everyone may be able to afford to participate, so be prepared for some people to decline. "

Planning Accommodation in Destination Wedding Etiquette

beautiful scenery of a destination wedding

Here are some destination wedding etiquette when it comes to choosing accommodation.

It is true when your mother says that the whole crowd should stay at the same place or they won't feel like part of the festivities. Often people enjoy themselves more when its easy to meet up and go off to do something together. When people find it hard to meet up because perhaps each hotel is a little too far to walk, its only going to make it harder to gather a crowd for the parties.

With trying to keep everyone close in might, you might want to offer lodgings that appeal to your parent's friends or older people as well as your own.

You'll also have to consider offering your guests options with a few different price range.

"While your friends might love a place that celebrates retro motel chic that has a lively bar at the pool, your aunts and uncles might be much happier at a more predictable, full service hotel where they can be sure to get a good night's sleep."
- The Wedding Book

You may notify your guests the hotels you've booked on your information packs, save the date cards, or wedding website.

Destination Wedding Etiquette

Managing the Non-wedding Activities

The basis of destination wedding etiquette is to keep your guests entertained for the time they are there. The activities you organize will contribute to their sense that you're taking care of them for the whole weekend.

beautiful scenery of a destination wedding

If your destination has a well known attraction, you'll have to notify them in some sense so that your guests won't leave like they never saw the highlights, like traveling for work.

Having a destination wedding with multiple events means you have a lot of information to convey in your invitation.

if you are having several events that a weekend such as golf outings or tours, you can create a single card with room to rsvp to each.

the bridal party is typically very small at a destination wedding so people often play dual roles. For example, father as bestman, grandmothers maid of honor.

Just be careful that you'll leave some time for guests to do a little shopping on their own, or lying by the pool etc,.

Ferrying the Guests

Traveling doesn't stop from simply taking a plane ride.

Think of the comfort, both physical and mental all the way to the hotel and to the wedding. Also think about how these guests will get out and about their activities for the weekend.


Guests should feel taken care of, providing a shuttle in an unknown city or arranging for everyone to get back to the hotel together can make all the difference - they don't have to worry about directions, where to park, whether they'll be on time, or how many glasses of champagne they can safely imbibe at the reception.
- The Wedding Book

It is already a great expense attending your wedding, so don't give them the added burden of paying for a twenty dollar cab ride to the wedding site.

Although it may seem like an unnecessary extra expense, guest transportation can make such a difference in everyone's mood and definitely reflects on what type of hosts you are.

It is highly recommended, even though it might means cutting back on flowers or wine list.

Miscellaneous Destination Wedding Etiquette

The guest list you create for your destination wedding is very different to the traditional wedding.

It is good destination wedding etiquette to practice to be gracious because you'll probably get more declines. You'll also have to accept that not everyone is a fan of the destination, complain and whine about the weather, service amongst other things. Some might not appreciate or know the effort you have made to make their trip and stay as pleasant as possible. Some might even resent the money and the time commitment.

It is common that most family protest destination weddings because of hassle, their friends' hassle, their friends and family not being able to make it and...but of course, high expenses.

Usually, once they get over that, they end up having a wonderful time and might even make new friends.

Destination Wedding Etiquette mistake:

One mistake that couples make is trying to sell their wedding to friends and relatives as their vacation.

We have no right to decide where people should spend their vacation.

Avoid arguing or even bringing up this matter as "vacation" because it is the type of self-absorbed bride you don't want to be.

Last Words on Destination Weddings

Etiquette is also about being appropriate and sensible.

Some people tell me that they chose to have a destination wedding because of costs and the very reduced guest list but don't forget there are hidden costs such as long distance calls, the frustration of working with someone you have not seen, or having limited choice of flowers, menu, favours, tuxe rentals etc.

Best to have a destination wedding with a relaxed expectation and a 'chill' approach.

Be forewarned that destination weddings with very limited guest lists can create lasting rifts when family members or close friends are excluded from the list.

But other than that, a successful destination wedding can be the talk of the decade among family and friends, create many lasting memories for a long time. It serves as a good reunion of everyone, re-acquainting and developing strong bonds as people have more time and opportunity to spend together

It is also a good way to gather everyone because gathering people as everyone gets older, moving on with their lives is getting harder and harder.

Thank you for reading 'Destination Wedding Etiquette'!

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