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The Etiquette of Destination Weddings

Planning a wedding is tricky at the best of times but when you’re inviting guests to travel for a destination wedding, it’s a whole other world of etiquette and logistics to navigate. Jetting off to tie the knot surrounded by beautiful scenery and sharing it with your loved ones really can be more than worth it though.

So we've mapped out answers to some of the most frequently asked destination wedding queries to help you launch this most special of journeys.

When should you send the save the dates?

As soon as possible! If you're asking your guests to book travel and accommodation, it's best to give them plenty of time to organise their plans. So it should be longer than it is for a home-based wedding where six to eight months is the norm. For a destination wedding, we would suggest sending your save the dates nine to twelve months ahead, if you can, to make sure it's in the diaries of the people you want to be there. You might also want to include travel details for your guests at this point, rather than in the invitations.

Who should pay for what?

The couple's only requirement is to pay for the ceremony, including all the food and drink, and you needn't pay for your guests' travel and accommodation. As your guests will be splashing out more than for a wedding at home though, it's nice to help them out as much as possible. So let them know the best ways to get there, when flights to your destination go on sale, and links to places to stay – you might even want to book reasonably-priced accommodation for your guests and then ask them to reimburse you. If you do that, you could arrange welcome gift bags for them on arrival – with items that they can enjoy during their stay such as local delicacies or, to help ease the morning after the grand celebrations, paracetamol.

destination wedding etiquette

Photo credit: Jason Mark Harris

Should the couple host events in addition to the wedding?

It's customary for a destination wedding to last longer than just the day itself so that guests can make the most of the journey they've taken to celebrate with you. This could be a dinner the evening before, lunch the day after, or both. All of which, the couple would be expected to pay for.

How far in advance should you send the invitations?

As with your save the dates, invitations to a destination wedding should be sent further in advance than you would for a local ceremony. Three to four months is a good amount of time to give your guests the information they need to prepare for their travel and accommodation.

What should you include in a destination wedding invitation?

There's a lot more to plan for everyone with a destination wedding and that usually means there'll be more information with your invitation than there traditionally is. If you haven't already done so in your save the dates, information on how to reach your destination and where to stay is, obviously, rather important.

Further to that, you might want to add tips for places to visit and eat in the area for those moments when there is no official wedding activity taking place. And any information on what the weather may be like at the time of year is helpful for your guests to plan what to wear on your big day. This can all be on a separate information card that you send with your invitation. If you're having various different events around the wedding, such as dinner the evening before, or lunch the following day, then you'll want them all listed on your RSVP card so that guests can tick off which ones they'll be attending.

Should you ask for gifts?

Although it's customary to ask for wedding gifts, for a destination wedding when you're asking your guests to spend the extra on travel and accommodation, writing something along the lines of "No need to give us a wedding gift, your making the journey is gift enough in itself!" is always a nice touch and a gratefully received gesture.

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