In my experience, nearly every couple has toyed with the idea of having a destination wedding. After all, what's not to love about taking a vacation with a group of your closest family and friends, and exchanging vows in a spectacular location?! Contrary to belief, it is not always any cheaper than having a local wedding, and if you do decide to go this route, there some specific etiquette rules that you should be aware of. In order to guide you, we are answering the top (5) destination wedding questions we get as planners.
1. What are the couple supposed to pay for?
Similarly to a local wedding, couples should pay for the wedding itself. All the food, drink and entertainment that is part of the ceremony and reception should be 100% included. Because most destination weddings last 3-5 days, many couples also choose to host a welcome and/or farewell party for their guests. This is not required, but is a nice gesture as your guests spent a lot of money to be with you on your big day. These don't need to be big, extravagant events, but instead something simpler, such as a BBQ by the beach.
2. When should save the dates / invitations be sent out, and what information should be included?
Because guests need plenty of time to plan for a big trip, save money, and request time off from work, the earlier save the dates can go out the better. We recommend these go out 9-12 months prior to the wedding and include information on the wedding location and a link to your wedding website. Invitations, on the other hand, should go out 2-3 months prior to the wedding. This is well before the 4-6 weeks of a typical invitation, as once again, guests need ample time to plan for your wedding. As for information, your wedding invitation shouldn't look like a travel brochure! Simply keep to your basic wedding invitation information, and include a link to your wedding website. This is where you will have travel information, hotel information, scheduled activities, etc.
3. How do we tell our friends they are not invited to the wedding?
Nobody should ever assume they are invited to a wedding! The best approach is to be 100% honest, and let them know that you are keeping the wedding small. If you plan on having a larger casual reception for family and friends upon your return, let them know they will be invited to that celebration.
4. Who is invited to the engagement party?
Only invite those people who will be invited to the destination wedding. Those who are invited to the engagement party will naturally assume they will be invited to the wedding. Inviting additional guests is just setting yourself up for uncomfortable conversations in the coming months.
5. What is the gift etiquette for destination weddings?
Because your guests are spending a decent amount of money to be with you on your big day, you should not expect as many gifts. Them being there with you is their gift. With that being said, you will still receive some gifts, but they will more than likely either be monetary or will be sent directly to your house before or after the wedding. Nobody want to travel with a huge mixing bowl, and they know you won't have room to carry it home with you. Additionally, if you are planning on having a larger reception back at home for the rest of your family and friends, those guests will generally bring a gift.