Destination Wedding Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

I have worked with many destination wedding brides over the past several years, and just as it happens with local events, there are tricky situations to work through and tough decisions to be made. Should the bride and groom pay for some of the wedding party’s expenses? If so, how much? What if someone wants to bring a guest who was not originally invited? Should activities be planned for each day? There is so much to consider! The toughest part about all of it is that there’s not one right or wrong answer.

One site I recently came across, Martha Stewert Weddings, posed some great questions pertaining to destination weddings in particular. I thought I’d share some of the common ones with you, along with my two-cents regarding each Q & A. They’re definitely not going to be the ‘magic answers’ for everyone but at least hopefully they provide some guidelines and food-for-thought!


1. “Are my husband and I obligated to spend all our time with guests? We want to be able to have some time to ourselves.”

Martha’s team says: “No, especially if you don’t fill every moment of every day with mandatory group activities. That said, you’ll have plenty of alone time on your honeymoon. In other words, you don’t have to act like a cruise director, but you shouldn’t be antisocial, either… If it’s possible, you may want to consider honeymooning somewhere else entirely. That way, you won’t feel required to spend time with any guests who have decided to stick around for a longer vacation.”

My two-cents: What about going to your destination a day or two early on your own? That way you can kick off your trip with some quality alone-time and also tie up any loose ends before tying the knot? Is everyone following or am I getting too carried away with puns?! It’s Friday so I’m a little more silly than usual as I write this 馃槈


2. “Are we required to book and pay for the flights and hotel rooms for everyone in the wedding party?

Martha’s team says: “According to traditional etiquette, it’s the party’s responsbility to get themselves to the wedding, destination or not. That said, if you know someone won’t be able to afford the trip, it’s wonderful to offer to help out. If you are both discreet about it, it isn’t necessary to extend that offer to anyone else. Though some etiquette sources say the couple pays for attendants’ lodging, this is seldom followed. So if you book the rooms to save them the effort, be clear about who will pay.”

My two-cents: Speaking from experience it is much easier to let everyone book their own air + hotel (…with a romance specialist from Midwest Travel Service of course!). That way the bride & groom don’t have to spend time playing ‘travel agent’ and each person can customize their trip as they wish.

If the bride and groom want to financially contribute to various reservations they can still do so, especially if it’s booked through one of our agents (we collect a deposit up until 45 days prior to departure, whereas certain online sites would require full payment up-front). Basically with this scenario each guest can secure a custom itinerary and then the bride and groom have time to decide how much they want to contribute before the full balance is due.


3. “Is it tacky to register for gifts if we’re having a destination wedding?”

Martha’s team says: “It is not tacky at all to register for gifts if you’re having a destination wedding as long as you make sure your wish list covers a wide range of prices — after all, you don’t want anyone to feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with. Remember that your guests will be spending lots of money to get to the wedding, and that’s a huge gift in itself. If creating a wish list makes you feel uncomfortable, suggest that guests make donations to your favorite charity instead, or skip it altogether.”

My two-cents: What about a honeymoon registry? Again, that’s something that Midwest Travel Service can help you with (like how I fit that in again?). A honeymoon registry is a great way for guests to give money in a way that feels more personal… and it’s also a lot easier than hauling bath towels, pots + pans and board games off to your exotic locale. Ok, I don’t think anybody has ever really tried that, but I thought saying so really proved my point!


4. “Are we expected to set something up for the guests to do each day?”

Martha’s team says: “You absolutely can provide something for your guests to do every day, but it’s really a matter of your own preference. At the minimum, have some sort of welcome dinner on the first night so everyone can get acquainted, and provide information about the destination on your website so guests can plan their own activities.”

My two-cents: I think it’s best to try setting up at least one group event. It could be a welcome dinner one of the first nights, or maybe even a day in the middle of the trip where the gals go to the spa and the men try out deep-sea fishing (just as an example). I think that would be a nice way to get everyone together and to thank them for traveling such a long way for your celebration.

If something like that isn’t in the budget, you could always suggest fun things to do in the area and include details in a ‘welcome basket’ in each room. The point here is to try and make info regarding local attractions and activities accessible and convenient for each guest.


5. “One of the guests showed up with a date, but wasn’t invited with one. What’s the best way to handle that?”

Martha’s team says: “If ever there was a time to use the phrase ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’ this is it. When you’re hosting an event, the comfort of your guests (yes, even the unexpected plus-one) should come before yours — even on your wedding day. Your response, no matter how perturbed you are, should be to “smile, say you’re glad he or she could make it, and ask the wedding planner or caterer to add a place setting.”

My two-cents: Although I don’t totally agree that the ‘comfort of your guests should come before yours – even on your wedding day’ (I think it would be absolutely exhausting to plan a wedding if you had their suggested mentality the whole time), I do think that it’s best to accommodate the unexpected addition and be as pleasant as possible.


6. “What are the dos and don’ts of making our guests feel welcome at our wedding while not pressuring them to attend?”
Martha’s team says: “Do let your guests know that you’ll absolutely understand if they can’t make it. After all, you don’t want anyone to feel obligated to attend, especially since it’s likely that they’ll have to spend much, much more than they would if you were getting married locally. Don’t be overly effusive about this; otherwise, guests will start to wonder whether you actually want them there at all. Saying you won’t feel bad if they stay home is one thing, but putting it on repeat will only make them feel like B-listers.”

My two-cents: I agree with them on this one. Do your best to strike a balance between the two extremes… It’s important for your family and friends to know that you’d love them to be there, but you also completely understand if they’re unable to make it (…no guilt trips, just a destination wedding trip! Ohmylord, someone help me today!!). In all seriousness, one challenge with a destination wedding is the fact that not as many people can join you based on the cost compared to a wedding at home, and you have to be ok with that aspect going in. My opinion? For those that a destination wedding is a good fit for, the pros far outweigh the bad.

I think it’s time to wrap this post up now before the giddy-Friday-word-play and cheesy jokes get even worse! Thanks for reading~ Hope you all enjoy the weekend!

Author: Christina ~Wedding & Honeymoon Specialist, Midwest Travel Service


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Destination Wedding Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts