Destination weddings…they're the kind of exotic, escapist celebrations we dream of. Being so far from everyday life there's a definite sense of heightened connectedness between guests, a feeling of being entirely present, far away from day to day distractions, the bonus of a holiday and a thousand and one inimitable memories - all beautifully linked to a sense of place. But they can also be a bit of a grey area where etiquette is concerned, with a unique set of considerations worth keeping in mind before deciding to head down this planning path...
Graciously Accept Absentees
Destination weddings, while incredible, beautiful, amazing, once in a lifetime experiences for both bride and groom and the guests fortunate enough to join them, are by nature, not as inclusive as a wedding on home soil. Be prepared for a few guest list causalities and the possibility of some friends and family not being able to make the trip. This could be due to financial reasons, annual leave restrictions, childcare logistics or just personal circumstances. Understand, and graciously accept this as a possibility when opting for a destination wedding, and don't make guests feel guilty if they're unable to attend (we can guarantee they're feeling pretty sad about it themselves, and already anticipating much FOMO!).
Save The Date
This is one of the biggest considerations - giving yourselves and your guests plenty of advance notice! Time to plan, time to budget, time to save up, time to negotiate holiday leave with their employer, time to factor this amazing reason for travel in to any other personal travel plans they may have been considering for the year ahead. The more time you can give your guests, the more likely they'll be able to come…and also it's just more polite!
Understandably, when you set a date (and communicate it, see above Save The Date point), you may not have all the exact details figured out, but as a minimum, try to provide guests with the geographical location and date duration of the official festivities (such as night before and day after celebrations) so they can plan accordingly. Also, if there are any non-negotiables that they really need to know before they begin booking things (like accommodation considerations) be sure to include those too.
As far as transport and accommodation goes…do you want everyone to stay in a certain place? Are you headed to an island, or a remote part of the Tuscan countryside where the options are limited and logistically you actually need everyone to be within a certain distance? And if so, what about getting around once there? Or getting to and from the airport…do guests need to hire a car, or will you provide bus transfers on certain dates. Whatever you have in mind, be sure to communicate it to your guests as early as possible so they can make their plans accordingly. If you're setting the agenda, be sure to offer different options and choices, taking in to consideration various budgets. If everything is fixed, pre-arranged and priced per person upfront, be sure to give guests this information as part of their initial save-the-date or invitation, so they can consider this before RSVP'ing.
Activities & Inclusions
Some of the best destination weddings we've attended have offered a mix of organised activities and events, as well as suggestions of local sights, restaurants and solitary adventures guests may like to explore themselves. Be sure for anything you organise (like a night before dinner, or morning after brunch) to tactfully articulate what component you are paying for, or the expected cost for guests. We recommending putting together a brief itinerary of the trip (preferably sent out with the invitations) including some thoughtful information and suggestions of local activities. Alternatively there are some great e-sites, that can host all of this information (interactively) for guests to keep at their fingertips, the login details of which you can include in the invites.
Kids or no kids?
Whilst ordinarily we're all for a child-free-wedding (mostly because we believe weddings aren't actually that fun for kids, or for the parents who can't really let their hair down!), destination weddings can logistically be a little more complicated than yes or no. Considering that most friends and family won't be able to/or want to engage leave kids at home with a babysitter for the whole trip, its most likely the kids are coming. So consider researching and organising some babysitting options, not just for the wedding day itself, but any other days your guests may like to head off on a day trip or have some adult time together. They'll appreciate the assistance and everyone will be more relaxed and able to enjoy celebrations. Also, be prepared to accept that some people may not feel comfortable leaving their kids with a stranger in a foreign country (no matter how safe and well researched you believe it to be), a decision you need to respect and/or be prepared to discuss with them, so everyones expectations are understood.
Joining you at your destination of choice to celebrate this incredible, beautiful occasion, keep in mind guests will already have invested in flights, accommodation, on the ground costs, meals, outfits and a myriad of other expenses that creep in (as happens with any form of travel). While your friends and family are no doubt absolutely thrilled to join you and celebrate, and admittedly will treat the whole thing as a bit of a holiday…we advise against asking for a gift on top, their presence being enough of a present. Also, logistically, imagine the expense and hassle of shipping everything home. Instead, treasure the memories and unforgettable moments their company created.