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The Rules of a Destination Wedding

When it comes to planning a wedding, the destination is important—and usually says a lot about the type of event you’re hoping to have. For some couples, getting married where they currently live is a no-brainer. For others, the perfect venue might be in the bride or grooms hometown—which means a little traveling is probably involved. And for others still, that image of a perfect wedding involves jetting off on an International adventure, bringing your entire wedding party with you.

Destination weddings have become more popular in recent years, and for good reason—there is something truly special about extending your wedding into a days-long celebration, vacationing with your closest friends and family in the process of getting married.

But of course, there are additional factors to consider with a destination wedding. Like the fact that the cost burden on your guests is generally higher, and that planning from abroad can sometimes be more complicated.

The truth is, destination weddings require an extra level of etiquette to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Here are the destination wedding rules to live by.

For Brides and Grooms

As the couple about to say “I do” at some grand destination, you owe this much to your guests:

  • The List: Destination weddings often appeal to couples because getting married abroad serves as a really good excuse for a small and intimate wedding. There is simply a heightened commitment to traveling abroad for someone else’s nuptials, something that is worth keeping in mind as you create your guest list. In general, if you’re asking your guests to take up to a week off work and to spend a pretty penny on travel and accommodations—make sure those guests you’re inviting are close enough to you to make that sacrifice worthwhile.
  • Be Prompt: Typically, save the dates go out six to nine months prior to the big event, and actual wedding invites are sent six to eight weeks in advance. But with a destination wedding, giving your guests ample time to plan is key to ensuring more of them can actually make the trip. That means aiming to get your save the dates out a year in advance, and sending the invites two to three months ahead of time.
  • Gifts: It’s important to recognize that those guests who do attend your destination wedding are likely making quite the financial sacrifice to do so. As such, letting those guests know that their presence is all the present you need can be a welcome and classy gesture.
  • Expectations: Temper your expectations when it comes to RSVPs. Not all your guests will be able to make the travel happen for a destination wedding. In some cases, you might decide the presence of certain guests is important enough that you will offer to help with their travel costs—though that is certainly not a requirement of planning a destination wedding. What is a requirement, however, is remaining gracious and understanding—even if it is your best friend informing you she can’t attend. When you plan a wedding abroad, you have to go into it knowing not everyone will be able to make it.
  • Welcome: Consider the comfort of your guests and provide a small assortment of commonly needed items upon their arrival.  A small gift bag with water, pain killers, a sweet and a snack.  Maybe sunscreen or flip flops in a sunny location.  This can be small or elaborate, but will most definitely be appreciated.

For Guests

The biggest responsibility for guests being invited to a destination wedding is to be honest and prompt with your RSVPs. The bride and groom will be planning events around the number of people they assume will be in attendance, so if you think there is even a possibility you won’t be able to make it—let them know that as soon as possible. Don’t hem and haw around the issue, or try to put them off as you work to figure the details out. And don’t send a “yes” if the reality is, it’s probably going to be a “no” in the end. Be honest about your own ability to travel for this wedding, and make every effort to let them know either way as soon as possible.