Destination Wedding Etiquette: 8 Tips for You and Your Wedding Guests by The Anti-Bridezilla

by The Anti Bridezilla

It goes without saying that planning a wedding is a stressful experience no matter how chill you promise to be before you begin. For most people, this is probably the largest and most high-pressure event they’ll ever organize. Now, throw in the added stress of planning an event remotely…and congrats now you have the unique joy of planning a destination wedding! Even an event planning pro such as myself had a few freak out moments. When I planned my own nuptials, not only did I have to navigate “traditional” wedding etiquette, but also learn quickly about the do’s and don’ts of planning a destination wedding. Needless to say I made it through in one piece, but there were some close calls. So, if you’re a destination bride, a member of the wedding party, or even a guest please read on for a few helpful suggestions to make the journey to the big day as smooth as possible!

Destination Wedding Etiquette: 8 Tips for You and Your Wedding Guests

bride and groom kissing at destination wedding
Image by Elizabeth Burgi Photography via Destination Wedding Details


Tips for the Destination Bride and Groom

1. Wedding Invitations Must go Out Much Earlier!

So the suggested timeline of sending out your invites two months prior to the wedding doesn’t apply for a destination wedding. Your guests will need to secure vacation days off from work and budget for traveling expenses. You really should be sending out a Save The Date no later than 6 months prior to your big day to give potential guests a chance to get their plans together or decline. And you should send out the actual wedding invitations no later than four months prior to your wedding. Basically,  the more remote you’d like for your destination wedding to be, the earlier you should  give notice  to the people you really want to be in attendance.

destination wedding invitations
Image by BeyondDesign via Destination Wedding Details

2. Your Invitations Should Match Your Wedding Style.

It’s a complete disconnect to send a classic engraved ivory invitation with hand written calligraphy addresses and then expect your guests to know that you’ve planned a casual beach wedding where you and your beau will be sporting flip-flops down the aisle. Very formal invitations should be paired with an ultra-traditional and formal wedding ceremony and reception. Your invitations set the bar for guest expectations and should also include essential details like dress code and a brief schedule for your wedding day (i.e. cocktails and passed plates + black tie dress code).

destination wedding etiquette - beach wedding
Image by Joseph Lin Photography via Destination Wedding Details

3. It’s Okay to Have a Child-Free Wedding

Yes, this can cause some tension with anyone you know who has children. But I’ll let you in on a secret…it’s your wedding. Whether you’re opting not to allow children because of budget constraints (because wee little ones count towards the head count) or because you’re not really into having a child’s temper tantrum meltdown upstage you…it’s okay. Just be sure to politely let guests know that you’re opting out of allowing children to attend because of budget constraints (because it’s rude to say someone’s child is a brat!). But do keep in mind that if you’re planning on having a ring bearer or flower girl in your wedding ceremony, someone might consider it favoritism. Again, it is your wedding day, but this way your guests will appreciate your diplomacy and you can avoid any potential disagreements on the happiest day of your life!

destination wedding etiquette - tips for bride and groom and wedding guests
Image by José Pablo Martinez Fotografía via Belle the Magazine

4. Try to Negotiate Travel Packages and Other Discounts for Your Guests

Seriously, destination weddings can be extremely pricey affairs for your guests. And if you’re not in a position to cover the costs of travel for everyone, the least you could do is hook them up with a discount! All-inclusive resorts tend to offer preferred rates on hotels (and throw in airfare package deals as well) for guests who book within your room block. If you’re ceremony locale is a non-traditional venue, follow up with your hotel to request a room block for potential wedding guests. Likewise, most airlines will offer anywhere from a 5 to 10% discount for wedding related travel when 10 or more guests book. And be sure to include these details on your info insert in your invitation sets.

bride and groom destination wedding in hawaii
Image by Angie Diaz via Destination Wedding Details

Tips for Destination Wedding Guests


5. If You Can’t Travel for the Wedding, Don’t Hassle the Bride and Groom about it

The fun part about attending a destination wedding is that you get a celebration of love and a mini-vacation all in one! Unfortunately, you might not be able to budget or take the time off from work to attend the wedding. Even if you’re the bride’s best friend, you should not try to convince the couple to change their mind about having a destination wedding. After all, this event is all about them, not you. I’m sure the engaged couple will want you in attendance, but if they had to accommodate every guest’s requests they would never settle on date. There’s enough stress during wedding planning, don’t add more to their plate.

destination wedding etiquette - beach wedding
Image by Joseph Lin Photography via Destination Wedding Details

6. Do Not Assume There’s an Automatic Invitation Coming Your Way.

Trust me, I get it…you’re that friend that Aunt Carol always brings to Thanksgiving. So, you just assumed that when her daughter got engaged, you’d receive an invitation as well. It doesn’t work that way for destination weddings. Not all couples have a “the more the merrier” mantra towards the guest list. And especially if a couple opts for an all-inclusive venue with a very strict head count for bridal packages, they really can’t invite everyone who wants to come. Make sure you ask the couple before you start sourcing flights and planning your outfits. And if you know for a fact that you’re not that close to the bridal couple or their parents please don’t act like the injured party. Understand that weddings can be an expensive investment and the couple will need to prioritize their guest lists to stay within their budget.

destination wedding etiquette - wedding ceremony on the beach
Image by Asia Pimentel Photography via Bajan Wed

7. About Those Plus Ones…

Now, with an in-town wedding, people tend to be more lenient on guest list additions. But with destination weddings, the head count is much more rigid. If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, you can safely assume that both you and your other half are invited. If you’re a close friend or relative, you can assume that a +1 is okay – but you should still ask. And most importantly, unless you know for a fact that the couple is okay with last minute additions, do not decide to invite someone to the wedding long after the RSVP deadline has passed.

destination wedding invitation and beach ceremony
Images by Asia Pimentel Photography via Aisle Perfect

8. Don’t Bring Gifts to the Wedding

Unless you’re giving the newlyweds cash or a gift card, this is an impractical thing to do. As well meaning as it is…most couples do not want to deal with the hassle of shipping bridal registry gifts back to their homes after a destination wedding. And P.S…why would you want to lug it with you through all that traveling?! Instead, if you’re attending the bridal shower, bring the gift there. Better yet, ship the gift to their home. Let this experience simply be a gathering to celebrate love!

bride and groom just married on beach
Image by Vangelis Photography via Want That Wedding





About the Author

the anti bridezilla bridalpulse publisher The Anti Bridezilla is a New York based bridal inspiration website that focuses on couture bridal fashion and luxury destination weddings & honeymoons. The primary focus is to provide information for American bridal couples that are interested in non traditional destination weddings. Dorian uses her own wedding planning experiences to offer guidance as she was a destination bride who married in Tokyo, Japan.