Wedding Planning

Destination Wedding Etiquette

destination wedding

Whether you’re dreaming of a sunset reception in Bali or a seaside ceremony in the Bahamas, destination weddings are always an unforgettable way to tie the knot. There are some amazing benefits to hosting a destination wedding (hello, tropical holiday!) but there is also some serious planning and preparation for everyone involved.

If you’re currently planning a destination wedding, you should already know there are a completely different set of logistics that need to be considered. It’s easy to get caught up in the sheer amount of planning and organisation required on your end as a bride-to-be, but it’s also important to acknowledge and prepare your guests!

A destination wedding requires careful budgeting, financial expenses, making travel arrangements and more – not just for you, but for everybody attending. Don’t forget your guests are making a huge effort to be a part of your big day, so it’s crucial to ensure they are well prepared.

From sending out save the dates and invitations at the right time, filling your wedding website with useful content, and navigating your way through the tricky topics like gift-giving and covering costs. We have compiled our top tips and insight to help you with your destination wedding etiquette and pull off a seamless celebration!

destination-wedding-etiquette
Photography: Sean Cook Weddings

Invitation Etiquette

Have you already set a date for your big day? Keep in mind that a destination wedding is essentially a holiday for your guests, and all holidays require a significant amount of budgeting and planning. The more notice your guests receive, the better!

If you’re planning a destination wedding, give your guests the heads up as soon as possible by sending your save the dates at the 6-month mark. This allows your guests to make the necessary arrangements with work and family, start saving for the big day, and keep an eye out for flights and accommodation deals.

You can keep your save the dates short and sweet. Just let your guests know the exact dates they should block off, the wedding location, and the link to your wedding website for more information.

If you still wish to send formal invitations, you should post these at the 3-month mark. If you already know certain guests are unable to attend, it’s courteous to send them a formal invitation anyway. This provides them with a little memento and allows them to feel involved in your special day.

Wedding Website Etiquette

It goes without saying that there is a lot of communication involved for a destination wedding. There is usually too much essential information to fit on a single piece of paper, so a wedding website is a no-brainer.

Your wedding website is going to be a valuable resource for guests as they plan and prepare for their trip, so it’s important that you include as much useful information as possible. When you send out your save the dates, your wedding website should already include the following details as a reference for your guests:

  • Dates and times: Along with the date and time of your wedding ceremony and reception, make sure you also include any pre or post-wedding festivities so that your guests can block out the right amount of time and budget accordingly. This includes any rehearsal dinners or post-wedding brunches.
  • Accommodation advice: Do a little research on the closest hotels in the area and provide direct links for your guests to check them out. If you have already arranged discounted group rates with certain hotels, let your guests know who they need to call and what they need to mention to be eligible for the discount.
  • Location tips: Keeping in mind that this will likely be the first time at your chosen destination for your guests, some local knowledge can really be a lifesaver. Take the time to research and include details for recommended restaurants, things to do in the local area, and any particular customs that they should be aware of.
  • Flight and transport advice: If you already know which airline provider has the best rates or special deals for your location, give your guests this insider knowledge to assist them with booking flights. You’ll also want to let them know the transport situation – will they need to hire a car, or is the venue easily accessible?
  • Dress code and weather conditions: Prepare your guests for the question they all want to know – “what do we wear?!”. Are you hosting a relaxed beach party or a more high-end dinner by the pool? What is the weather going to be like at that time of the year? Brief your guests on these details using your wedding website so they can pack their suitcase accordingly.
destination-wedding-etiquette
Stationery Suite: Paper Chase Press

Gift Etiquette

If you’re planning a destination wedding, you might feel a little awkward about the topic of gift-giving. It’s a touchy subject because your guests will be shelling out more than usual in order to be a part of your special day, and you don’t want to add any financial burden by requesting a gift on top of this.

Generally speaking, it is common for the bride and groom to count their guest’s presence at the wedding as their “wedding gift”. Flights, accommodation and other travel expenses can add up quickly, so if you don’t wish to receive a gift then you can specify this on your wedding website. A simple sentence like “your presence at our wedding is the only gift we require” is a courteous way to address this issue.

With this in mind, many guests do see wedding gifts as a tradition and will still want to send you something regardless! If you’re expecting this to happen, provide your guests with a residential address for them to post their gift prior to the wedding, instead of making them transport their gift across the country.

You might even wish to set up a honeymoon fund so that your guests can offer a monetary donation online with the click of a button.

destination-wedding-etiquette
Photography: Jemma Keech

Bridal Party Etiquette

There’s no doubt that destination weddings can be expensive, but it can be particularly expensive for those in your bridal party. Along with the travel and accommodation costs, your bridal party also has to organise their attire, accessories, pre-wedding celebrations and more.

As the expenses start to add up, you might find yourself wondering who pays for what. Our advice? If you have room left in the budget, it’s definitely worth considering chipping in for these extra costs to show your appreciation for everything else your bridal party is helping you with.

If you don’t have room in the budget, then make sure you are flexible with choices like bridesmaid dresses. Leave this up to your bridesmaids to decide so that they can choose a dress that works within their budget, instead of having to fork out for the custom gowns you pick out for them!

Alternatively, you might wish to cover their accommodation or flight expenses to reciprocate for their other costs. Many hotels will offer special deals for bridal party suites, or a discounted rate on large villas with plenty of bedroom. Think about how you can lessen their financial burden in this way.

destination-wedding-etiquette
Photography: Tec Petaja

Tips & Advice

At the end of the day, everyone attending your destination wedding has made a genuine effort to be there, so the gracious thing to do is make it as easy and cost-effective as possible.

Try to think about what you can do to make the trip more affordable and enjoyable for your guests. Some tips to consider:

  • Host a more intimate wedding with just a small group of close friends and family, allowing you to help cover their flights or accommodation. You can always throw a party for everyone else when you return, so think carefully about your guest list.
  • Apply for a discounted rate at local hotels to pass on to your guest.
  • Host your wedding in the off-season or on a weekday for cheaper flights.
  • Cover the costs for any extra activities like welcome dinners, rehearsal dinners or post-wedding celebrations.
  • Arrange a babysitter to take care of any children that might be present.
  • Create a helpful ‘welcome pack’ for your guests when they arrive, including a wedding schedule, location map, public transport information, and contact numbers.

It’s also important to be understanding and gracious if guests decline your invitation. Committing to a destination wedding just might not be feasible for them at that time due to financial, work or family commitments. Don’t take it personally – you can rest assured they would love to be there celebrating alongside you.

And most importantly: send a thank you card to each and every guest after the wedding (and toast them on the night!) to show your appreciation for them being a part of your incredible day!

destination-wedding-etiquette
Photography: Tom Moks Photography

The Planning Is Worth It!

Yes, it sounds like a lot of planning and preparation, but let’s be honest – it’s all going to be SO worth it when it all comes together. Just keep the above tips in mind and you can make the process as easy as possible for your guests.

Celebrating your love in an exotic location, surrounded by your favourite people, making lifelong memories. What could be better?!