If you’re just getting started with planning your destination wedding, you are already thinking of the obvious: Who will do my hair and makeup? Who’s the best photographer? What will my bouquet look like? But, if you’re like most destination couples, it isn’t until a little further in the planning process that you realize you have not only invited guests to your wedding but you have invited them on vacation. You’re suddenly taking on the roles of bride/groom, travel agent, concierge and event planner. This can be tons of fun but also a lot of pressure. Here are my top six tips to get you through hosting a destination wedding weekend:
1. Allow guests to enjoy their vacation. While they are there to celebrate your union, there is also a part of each guest that is looking forward to some down time. Because of this, don’t feel obligated to plan every minute for them. Give guests enough to do to get a good feel for your destination and why you’ve chosen it, but also allow them have enough time to relax and plan activities on their own.
2. Use the culture of your destination to shape events. Your guests will want to explore the activities that can only be done at the destination of your choice. Take your guests to a wine tour rather than a traditional rehearsal dinner when in Napa, or introduce them to the Caribbean with a welcome party consisting of Mojitos, steel drums and a sunset sail. If in Italy, treat them to a feast of pastas, gelato and wine and so on and so on.
3. Create an itinerary and list of recommended activities. Outline for your guests the events they are invited to, as well as some additional activities that they may enjoy. A map is always lovely to include as well. Don’t forget to send the itinerary with your invitations, put on your website or they can be sent separately one month before traveling to allow your guests to plan their down time. Don’t forget to put another copy in their welcome bag.
4. Don’t feel obligated to pay for activities. Beyond the welcome party, wedding and farewell brunch, it’s okay to ask guests to pay for the optional excursions. For activities that you would like to arrange but not host, put out an “optional” invite letting them know the expense affiliated should they decide to go. If you choose an activity that the guests were likely going to do on their own anyway (ie, luau when in Maui, snorkeling if in Mexico, etc), then you should expect most guests to join in.
5. Have all of your guests stay in the same area (or same hotel) if possible. The beauty of a destination wedding is it allows you and your fiancé’s families to come together for an entire week. If everyone is staying all over the island or city you are in, your guests won’t have as much opportunity to get to know each other. On the other hand, planning accommodations for all your guests can be a logistical nightmare. Solve this by providing accommodation information and/or room block information on your website or in your save-the-dates. Include information only on accommodations that will keep your guests near the party.
6. Don’t take everything on yourself. Planning a destination wedding weekned alone can take a lot of time and research. Depend on the professionals within your reach like your wedding planner, travel agent or even the concierge at the hotel you will be staying at to organize events and activities for you and your guests.
The image above is from Lauren & Abby of Olivia & Freddy’s destination wedding in weekend. You can see all six events here: