Destination Do's & Don'ts

Monday, October 20, 2014

As per a request, this post is all about destination wedding etiquette. Since I've never been involved in the planning process of a destination wedding, I did have to do a little research on the topic. There are varying opinions on the Internet when it comes to certain aspects of destination weddings, so I've condensed the research and given opinions of my findings.

Increasingly, many couples forgo traditional weddings for something intimate at a stunning location. Destination weddings are very romantic and provide a built in vacation for you and your guests. Not only do you get to spread your wedding out over four days as opposed to four hours, but destination weddings are also typically less expensive than traditional weddings, as guest lists tend to be smaller. The planning process can seem a bit more overwhelming since you're working remotely - but don't worry - I've outlined a few do's and don'ts to guide you through the process!

Save the Dates

Information varies on when save the dates should be sent out, and for a traditional wedding, they aren't always necessary. But if you are planning a destination wedding, save the dates are an absolute must! Personally, I think you should give your guests as much notice as possible especially for destination weddings. Guests will need time to book their trips, request vacation from work, etc. I recommend getting your save the dates in the mail sometime between 8 to 12 months in advance of your wedding date. 

I also have two pieces of personal advice about save the dates. First, DO the photo! Save the dates are more casual than the actual wedding invitation and should be fun! Second, DON'T get the magnet. Many brides seem to love the idea of a save the date magnet, but many people no longer have magnetic refrigerators (stainless steel isn't magnetic) so it ends up being a waste of money.

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Wedding Invitations: Who to Invite & When to Send?

Some couples like to keep the guest list small for destination weddings, inviting just bridal party, immediate family and close friends. If friends ask why they aren't invited, just let them know that the wedding is small. Always be honest! If the wedding is large, the couple should still be honest, even if there's a possibility of hurt feelings.

Even if they've told you they can't make it, you should still send wedding invitations to close friends and family members. Plans change, and those who had a conflict originally may decide later that they can attend. They also might feel slighted if you don't invite them, even if your intent is to spare them from having to send a gift. Some may simply wish to have the invitation as a keepsake, even if they can't come. So DO send your invites to the whole save the date list.

Wedding invites should be mailed out 6 to 8 weeks in advance of your wedding date, which is the same timeline for a traditional wedding. DO include an accommodations card that provides information on the location, venue, resort (consider an all-inclusive!), and any group booking/fight reservation discounts

Post-Wedding Reception

DON'T make any invitees feel obligated to make the trip to attend your destination nuptials. Have a post-wedding reception for any guests who were invited but couldn't make the trip. These receptions can be as intimate, formal, grand or casual as you'd like. Some couples opt for a laid-back party at home, while others prefer a formal, elaborate evening. If you decide to do this, include a note about it on the save the date and wedding invite. Also, DO take this opportunity to celebrate with anyone that you didn't invite to the actual wedding

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Bridal Shower & Engagement Party

Particularly when couples choose a destination wedding, showers and engagement parties become a great way to celebrate with close family and friends who may not be able to attend the actual ceremony. However, DON'T extend invitations to guests that have not been invited to the actual wedding, as gifts are involved. You don't want to have any awkward encounters! 

Rehearsal/Welcome Dinner

When guests make a commitment to attend your destination wedding, DO include them in any pre-wedding festivities at the destination location, including rehearsal dinners. Even if they are not immediate family, the time and expense of attending a wedding away means they should expect to be included in group activities. Rehearsal and welcome dinners at a destination wedding can be as informal or creative as you like. Many couples choose to have beachside bonfires, wine and meal pairings or themed dinners to help everyone bond and get excited for the weekend ahead!

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Since you're getting married in a beautiful location, you're going to want an awesome photographer who knows how to capture beautiful wedding photos. I recently came across Veil Photo via Instagram and absolutely fell in love with their photos. This husband and wife photography team specializes in destination wedding pictures. Since I knew I was writing a post about destination weddings, I reached out to the couple asking if I could feature their photos in my post and recommend them to my readers. Here are some of my favorites!

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DO check out all their photos on their website!

Honeymoon Funds

Increasingly, many couples prefer experience-based gifts to more traditional wedding presents. While you obviously can't direct your guests to forgo a traditional wedding present, many couples DO set up a honeymoon fund, where guests can buy couples massages, excursions for a honeymoon, and romantic dinners in lieu of conventional gifts or checks.

Welcome Gifts

DO include a welcome basket for traveling guests upon check-in. It's a great way to greet your guests even if can't do it physically and it provides an opportunity to add pertinent wedding information and schedules for your guests. DO also include contact information for the wedding party or parents (room/cell numbers), along with a few goodies to help welcome your guests. Welcome baskets can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose - it's more about the gesture of showing the guest that you appreciate the time and commitment they have made to attend your wedding!

For Guests


Every wedding invitation carries the obligation to give a gift. If it is an actual gift, you should send it before the wedding, to either the bride or the couple, if they live together. Gift certificates and cash gifts are usually brought to the wedding. How much you spend is always based on your relationship to the couple, your budget and what you think they'd like. There is no price range but if you're invited to a destination wedding, chances are you know the couple fairly well. With all those travel costs, it's likely that your gift budget is going to be smaller - and that's okay! Give a gift, but DON'T worry if you aren't spending what you usually might. But either way, DO get the couple something.


Here is a great info graphic I found that can serve as a guide for how to dress appropriately for a destination wedding.

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Thanks for reading! Hope this was helpful for those planning or attending a destination wedding in the near future! DO leave a comment with questions or concerns!