Imagine saying ‘I do’ on a white sand beach with the ocean as your backdrop or exchanging vows in front of heritage architecture in a historically-rich setting. If you’re dreaming of a destination wedding, you’re not the only one.
Far-flung nuptials offer a perfect opportunity to create life-long memories in an exotic location, surrounded by your closest family and friends. But like any wedding, planning one away from home also poses its own set of logistical challenges and questions.
The most common question is: Who pays for a destination wedding?
The good news is, you can offer generous hospitality without having to shoulder the entire financial burden. Our destination wedding etiquette guide will not only outline the key costs you can expect when planning your special day, but will explain who traditionally pays for what.
Guests normally pick up their own airfare tab, regardless of the wedding location.That’s why it’s imperative couples send out their ‘save the date’ cards at least eight to 10 months before the wedding. This will give the wedding-goers enough time to plan their travel, consolidate their budgets and book flights at more reasonable rates.
Ample time also provides the guests with enough leeway to customize their travel itinerary, especially if they wish to spend a few extra days vacationing at or near the destination.
Guests traditionally pay for their own accommodations. However, there are many ways you can make it easier for them.
Provide guests with accommodation options
By researching and sharing a list of hotels and Airbnbs near the wedding venue, you can make it easier for your guests to choose an option based on their budgets. This ensures friends and family will not have to strain their pocketbooks.
Providing suggestions is also a great way to make sure guests won’t choose accommodations that are inconveniently far away from your wedding venue.
Negotiate a better rate with the venue
If you’re hosting your wedding events at a hotel or property with accommodation, you can negotiate a better rate on behalf of your guests. This might entice folks to stay at the venue and bring everyone together in one place making it a real party.
Be clear with communication before guests RSVP
It’s important to inform your guests of all expectations well ahead of time. Be clear with your communication so they know they’ll need to handle their own accommodation arrangements. Having this information before they RSVP will also allow those attending to budget for their stay.
Offer to subsidize accommodation rates
If someone close to you can’t afford to attend your wedding, you can pay for that person if you wish. If you do opt to do this, however, be discreet. Not only does this protect the privacy of the guest you paid for, it will avoid hurt feelings among guests who had to shell out for their own accommodations.
If you can comfortably afford to pay for all accommodations, it is certainly a nice gesture, but you aren’t obligated to do so when hosting a destination wedding.
It’s best to provide transport to and from wedding events if all of your guests are staying in one place. No one should have to worry about driving anywhere after a party, especially after drinking. A feasible option is to have a minivan on standby. This will give everyone the peace of mind they need to dance — and drink — the night away.
If guests are staying at a number of different accommodations, providing transport will be a logistical nightmare. Instead, you can provide contact details of local transport companies and leave it up to them to book their own rides to and from the celebrations.
Food and Beverage
One of the most important responsibilities as a host is providing enough food for your guests at all wedding-related events.
Invite all guests to the wedding gatherings, including the welcoming of guests, rehearsal dinners and send-off brunches. When people are traveling for your big day, ensuring they are a part of all wedding activities will make them feel welcome and valued.
What is not necessary is footing room service and mini-bar bills. There is also no obligation to pay for meals outside of your hosted events. This can politely be mentioned in the information shared with the guests before arrival at the destination.
The same goes for alcohol. You can limit the quantity or brands served, but try to cover the cost of your guests’ drinks.
At a destination wedding alcohol is typically served at the rehearsal dinner, wedding reception and after party. There’s no need to go overboard, though. The more options you give your guests and the more premium those options, the more you’ll pay.
To keep the cost in check, you can offer just wine and beer and be innovative with a signature cocktail. If any guest wants to order anything else, this can be on their own tab but the bartender should inform them beforehand.
If you choose to have a full open bar, it’s important to set a cap on the alcohol bill and have the bartender give status updates to a designated, sober family member at certain times of the evening.
Key wedding vendors typically include the decor team, photographers, bartenders, make-up artists and, optionally, a wedding planner.
Unless your parents have offered to pay, vendors are an expense you and your spouse will be expected to cover. You’re also expected to pay for the travel and accommodation of these vendors if they aren’t from the destination itself (for instance, if the location of the wedding is secluded and lacks a skilled make-up artist). It’s usually more convenient to negotiate an all-inclusive package with the service provider beforehand.
For a destination wedding, you may want to reconsider your policy on the usual practice of receiving gifts. Guests will likely have to spend more than they would otherwise to travel and attend the wedding. Hence couples might consider letting folks know gifts aren’t necessary and that their presence is enough.
Another option is to choose lower-budget gifts on the wedding registry. This way, friends and family can choose to give smaller tokens.
Be mindful that guests may not be able to fit large gifts in their luggage anyway, so if you do choose to accept gifts, request for them to be physically small or even virtual, like online gifts.
A destination wedding requires providing enough details to your guests. It’s important to be transparent so they know what to expect.
Your wedding website is the perfect place to consolidate and share all this information. There are multiple online platforms with ready-to-use templates which can be easily edited to suit your personal style. Be sure to send your website address along with your invites so your guests will know how to access information and updates.
You can provide details on travel, accommodation, the location and the registry on your site, giving your guests access to an information hub with all the details they’ll need to plan and budget.
It will also simplify the planning process for you because it can be used to collect RSVPs from your guests, allowing you to plan your budget accordingly.
You can even preemptively answer frequently asked questions about dress code, gifts, and all things wedding related. As you get closer to the wedding, you can also post any quick updates about your big day.