Destination Wedding Etiquette and Tips – How to Make the Trip Easier and More Fun for your Guests

The thing about planning a wedding is that most couples haven’t done it before, and usually if they have, they’ve done it only once before and they don’t want to do it the same way again!  If you follow tradition and hold a big event close to home then there are boxes to tick and a clear list to follow.  I find that couples come to me asking for help with planning a wedding in New York exactly because they don’t want to be checking boxes on a standard list – they want to do things their way.  It’s still helpful to have guidance from someone who has planned a few destination weddings and I’ve planned over three hundred weddings in Central Park to date – some elopements, some smaller groups and some with groups of fifty and above.  The vast majority of my couples come from another country or at least another state, so here are a few things I’ve learnt about planning a destination wedding.

Destination Wedding Tips

Communicate with the guests

This means listening to their needs or requests as well as telling them information.  Yes, it’s your wedding and the day should be about you, but if you’re asking your loved ones to travel a long way to be there then you ought to keep them in mind when making decisions.  Really think about the location you’re getting married in – is it somewhere that everyone will enjoy, or at least not hate?  If they’re paying travel costs to go to a place your have chosen then this is the least you can do.

Make suggestions, but give your guests options

Once you have found your hotel, and if you have a great deal then of course you should share it with your guests.  But if some want to go up a level of swankiness, or stay somewhere more budget, then that should be fine, too.  If they’re travelling a long distance to be there while you say “I do” then let them do the rest of the trip however they want to.  Of course this is all fine as long as it doesn’t hinder your special day, or any other group activities that you may have planned – eg family meals or bachelor/bachelorette parties that you might want to do since everyone is together.  This is pretty easy in New York, because there are so many options.

Agree as a couple before informing guests

Good practice for married life is making a decision together.  Make sure you do this with your future spouse and not with your parents or your bridesmaids without your partner present.  It’s their day, too.  Being clear on what you have decided and having at least a loose plan as a couple before telling guests what’s happening will avoid any confusion if you start changing your mind, and you get confused about what you have said and to whom.

Don’t do anything you don’t want to

This rule can be applied to all weddings.  But this is especially important when having a destination weddings, because isn’t part of the reason for going far away for a wedding the opportunity to do things a little differently?  Choosing an amazing location to tie the knot is part of what makes your wedding unique.  For example, lots of our couples who get married in Central Park take advantage of being in New York with a huge amount of choice and find unusual ways to have a reception.  So, if there’s a tradition that you don’t like, then just don’t do it, and you don’t need to explain to anyone else why.

Try not to surprise anyone

Nobody likes surprises.  Least of all wedding guests who will need to get time off work, save up, maybe sort out child care, find the perfect outfit, and all that important stuff!  They may want to add on some extra vacation time around your wedding to make the most of the trip.  So, give everyone as much notice as possible as to what your plans are and what is expected of them, and that includes what you pay for and what you expect them to pay for.  Even if you’re not completely sure of everything, send out your save-the-dates as early as you are able to, with as much information as you have.

Accept non-attendance with good grace

A destination wedding can be a big deal for some people.  You may want to keep the guest list short if you think many of your loved ones might not be able to make the journey.  Several of my couples have told me that they are very touched by how many people are prepared to make the journey to be with them for their destination wedding, and several have said that they were sad that some people couldn’t come.  Lots of couples who have a very small wedding or elopement far away have a big party on their return – getting the best of both worlds in many ways!


I’d love to help you plan your own destination wedding in Central Park.  I wrote another post a while back with other thoughts on how to make a destination wedding better for your guests.  Check out our website, or “like” us on Facebookfollow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest where you will find lots of inspirational photos of destination weddings of all sizes, stories of real weddings.

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