Your Destination Wedding Etiquette Questions—Answered!
We all know that planning a wedding is a huge undertaking. But when it's a destination wedding, things can become even more complicated. There are plane tickets to book, hotel reservations to make, and wedding gifts to pack carefully in a suitcase or carry-on. Do you shell out for a ticket to a far off destination for a friend's big day? How many vacation days from work are too many for a wedding? What type of budget-friendly gift can you bring? Luckily for us, etiquette expert Lizzie Post is here to guide wedding guests in the right direction.
Why do people do destination weddings, anyways?
"Nowadays people aren't just getting married in their hometown, where everyone stayed. A destination wedding is almost inevitable if you're getting married in the United States (although sometimes it's not a destination wedding for their family, who grew up there). People choose destination weddings for lots of reasons. Maybe they want to go somewhere memorable and different, [or] want an entire trip around it, [or maybe] the place is special—where they got engaged; where they vacationed together. Or it might be the luxury aspect of it: 'I want to get married on a beautiful beach or in the mountains of Aspen!'"
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How does a destination wedding change the etiquette equation, if at all?
"I think it does change things. It's a hard answer. You can always say, 'It's the couple's wedding and they can do what they want'…if it's the couple's preference to make it about the event and about the wedding itself, and not how that affects the people around them. Their friends and family might not be so happy about that, but they can choose to do it. … But any time you choose any type of destination wedding, you need to understand that a lot of guests, even some you really care about, may not make it due to finances or time. [Some might say], 'I can afford to go, but I can't take the time off from work to go.' … Just be aware that it might really affect your guest list."
If you're a member of the wedding party, do your obligations shift?
"If you're planning a destination wedding, make it really clear to attendants: 'Jamie and I are getting married next June in Aruba. If you can get yourself there, we have the hotel and meals covered.' While the bride and groom are responsible for housing obligations—although it's not required—the financial responsibilities for the attendants don't change. Those things—transportation, attire, and a gift, as well as wedding-related events—are all still a part of it."
Should the bride and groom dial down expectations for expensive pre-wedding activities?
"The bride and groom [should] pay for lodging and for travel for pre-wedding events, and pay for the hotel for that bachelorette party. I am always a fan of when—for a destination wedding, let's just say it's going to be be expensive for that bridal party—I think it's really considerate of the bride or groom to not request destination bachelorette parties or destination showers. If she's going to do Aruba, and her friends are all 20-somethings, all sharing studios with four other people, it would not be considerate of her to be like, 'I absolutely have to have my bachelorette party in Vegas.'"
Do gifts still have to bring gifts?
"Guests invited to a destination wedding, whether they attend or not, should send a gift rather than bringing one so the couple doesn't have to mail them home. It's also gracious of the couple to spread the word that their guests' presence is their present. In my opinion—as always, you work within your budget—if your budget is tighter because you had to plan a trip to get there, a modest gift is O.K."
Should people plan weddings during the winter holiday break—say, on December 26th?
"My advice is to stay away from holidays. Asking people to come away from their family to attend your wedding is not a very considerate thing to do. Different holidays are different; Memorial Day weekend or Labor Day weekend are really different from Christmas and Hanukkah. [You could] get married on Thanksgiving, but the likelihood is that people are going to choose their own families … It's a big ask."
Alex Van Buren is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.