While destination weddings are certainly increasing in popularity every year, it is still true to say that in many ways they differ from the traditional wedding. Many choose to tie the knot abroad to avoid the stress of planning a big wedding, but there are different challenges with a destination wedding than the traditional big do close to home. I have planned lots of weddings in Central Park for couples who have family all over and New York is a nice easy place to get to for everyone. Here are some ways you can make a destination wedding easier and more enjoyable for your guests.
Research the location
Of course you will have read up on the place where you will be getting married, but perhaps when you chose it you were thinking about how well it suited what you want. Make sure the locality of where you intend to get married will be a pleasant place for your guests to visit. If some guests hate the heat, don’t get married on a beach, and don’t come to New York in August! If some of your guests cannot walk for or stand for too long then that must be addressed, either with transport or seating. Be sure there will be attractions, activities and restaurants that your guests will enjoy. In my opinion there is something for everyone in New York, so you can’t go wrong here!
Give plenty of notice
If you are hoping that your guests will take several days or possibly more out of their schedule to celebrate your wedding with you, then let them know the plan as early as you can. Even if you’re not completely certain of the plan, send out your save-the-dates as early as you can, with as much information as you can. As soon as you can book your flights, you should send invitations, to give guests enough time to book time off work, book flights, and plan their own travel itineraries. Just as many couples use New York as a great in-between spot to get married, and then carry on to somewhere further away for their honeymoon, your guests may want to do this too.
Be clear about what expenses to expect
In my experience, for destination weddings, it’s customary for guests to cover their own accommodation and transport. But you might plan on paying for the hotel, but guests need to pay for everything else. Whatever you decide on, make sure that everyone knows this, right from the start, before they RSVP. It may feel awkward to ask everyone to a party far away and then explain that it will cost them money, but it’s much better to be upfront about what is expected. Let them know if you intend to pay for food and drinks on the wedding day, and what you expect guests to foot their own bill for. Similarly, you could consider saying that you do not expect gifts since the wedding itself will require more financial outlay for them. On the other hand, you may want to ask for some funding towards your own travel expenses as gifts. Just tell people what the deal is!
Consider their plans
Some couples will discuss their wedding plans with their nearest and dearest before booking the wedding, especially with a small group. Things like school holidays or their work schedules might affect when they can come. It might be kinder to plan the wedding over a national holiday weekend in some ways. But it might be polite (unless guests agree!) to avoid holidays like Christmas or New Year’s since people may well have plans that don’t revolve around you!
Share all your plans
Once you have found some great accommodation, let your guests know where you’ll be, and see if they’d like to stay in the same place. The same goes for great flight deals. Get everyone together in a WhatsApp group, or make a wedding website to communicate your plans. If you decide to take advantage of the awesome places to go in New York and have stag/bachelor and hen/bachelorette parties while you are in town, then you can share those plans and date, to make sure that everyone is in town and nobody misses out!
Throw out traditions you don’t want
A huge benefit of getting married away from home is that the couple can break the rules a little and make their own rules. If you don’t want to be given away or wear white or have speeches, or anything really, then don’t. If you have pushy family members who question this, then you can use the unusual location as an excuse. Make decisions together about what you want the day to be like, anything goes, as long as you communicate it clearly to everyone with lots of notice!
Give them options
This is easy in New York. There’s everything for the extremely swanky hotels to cheaper places, to Airbnb apartments, which can be right next door to the hotels, or further out of town. Some guests may want to stay in the same place as the couple, some may have a very different budget, so make sure they have something to work with, and plenty to choose from.
Plan what happens once you are married
Some couples will want to continue the festivities with their nearest and dearest, but some may want to start the honeymoon straight away. In that case, you need to plan a courteous exit without causing any offence. So, if you plan on leaving for Hawaii the very next day, that’s fine, as long as it has been communicated and you say your goodbyes politely to everyone. So, perhaps plan to leave after a brunch with your guests the following day, rather than an early-morning flight without farewells.
Yes it’s your special day, but, as with any wedding, all of your guests are doing exactly what you want where you want them to do it, to celebrate your love, because they love you. So, think about them and what they would enjoy when planning the activities while you will be away. It might be that you do some things that they will love during the trip but perhaps you won’t enjoy too much, just to be diplomatic. Lots of my clients tell me that their guests have loved the opportunity to visit New York for the wedding, so let them enjoy this incredible city!
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