The premise of a destination wedding is exciting, but actually attending one can be a huge commitment. If you're giving up valuable vacation days — and shelling out the big bucks — to see someone you care about walk down the aisle, then you better make it worthwhile.
Being a guest at a far-flung wedding can be an immensely rewarding experience, since you're basically getting a "required" vacation to explore a new place. But, unlike at a local ceremony, there are quite a few things that should be on your checklist for this type of event — and we're not just talking about extra swimsuits. We've tapped etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, founder of
Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, to share her list of best practices for destination-wedding-goers. Click through to see how to make the most of your trip — and avoid potential faux pas (or desaciertos, or oshibki, or whatever the case may be where you are).
"In most destination weddings, the couple is paying for the wedding ceremony and reception — full stop," said Schweitzer. The guests are expected to pay for travel, accommodations, meals, adult beverages, excursions, and incidentals, such as a luncheon or shower. So, definitely factor in the costs you'll be racking up before officially committing.
Make no mistake: Destination weddings are expensive. You should approach planning this trip like you would any other vacation. Guests are expected to come prepared. According to Schweitzer, most guests will RSVP for one to three wedding events: The welcome party, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, post-wedding brunch, and maybe an excursion. You're expected to dress appropriately for all these occasions, so definitely pack a few extra outfit options just in case.
It’s good manners to RSVP to all social event invitations within 24 to 48 hours, especially weddings. At the very least, try to respond within the time stated on the invitation to avoid an awkward call from the bridal party to follow up.
Most wedding websites, like The Knot and Paperless Post, will provide RSVP options and destination details, and also communicate updates. Never commit to something just verbally; always do so through the site or in writing.
Open your eyes and pay close attention to the names listed on the invitation: These are the
only people invited. If you receive the invitation by post, read the names placed on the inside envelope. If there's no “plus one” or “and guest” tacked on at the end, then an extra person is not invited. "If a guest isn’t included, please don’t call, text, or email and ask if you can bring one — it isn’t proper modern manners," said Schweitzer.
Destination weddings are much more logistically complicated than traditional weddings. Couples commonly block off availability for wedding guests at a hotel. Schweitzer suggests booking your airfare, hotel, and rental car (if necessary) well in advance, since waiting until the 11th hour will cost you big. According to
a study by Cheapoair.com, the best time period to book a flight is one to three months in advance.
It doesn't matter whether it’s your sister, your boyfriend’s brother, or your best friend who's getting married; a wedding gift is always expected — and that applies to destination weddings, too. "A gift is a sign of well-wishing as a couple takes their first steps into married life," said Schweitzer. "The best way to present it is to arrange for a delivery to their home."
These people had a wedding registry for good reason: These are the gifts they truly need and will use. Since you'll be shelling out lots of dough to go to the ceremony already, breaking the bank might not be necessary.
"Buy a gift that matches the relationship: You will spend more on your brother than on your distant childhood babysitter," said Schweitzer. It'd also be nice to make a monetary gesture if the newlyweds are seeking funding for a down payment or other large purchases, but always stay within your financial constraints.
Check with the bride beforehand to see if it’s okay to upload photos to Instagram or Facebook. "It’s poor form to tweet or live-stream the ceremony or reception, because you are sharing private moments with thousands of people who were not invited," said Schweitzer. "The bride and groom may want to be the ones posting."
And, since wedding hashtags are a serious matter these days — there's even a business creating custom ones for couples — it's always best to double-check that you're using the right one in your updates.
Some couples plan an itinerary for their guests, such as snorkeling or local tours. Consider the options carefully, and text or email to let the couple know in advance which ones you're on board with. It's totally fine to opt to explore on your own — just be sure to RSVP at your discretion.
Guys. Don’t do local tequila shots, heckle the toast-makers, let your phone howl, or use your camera flash to interrupt special moments. Find time to congratulate the couple personally, and mingle away; don’t spend the entire night glued to your phone or the bar. Celebrate with the ones you love, and revel in the chance to make new friends in a cool destination.