Invitation Etiquette for a Destination Wedding

Deciding who you’re going to invite to your wedding (or not!), especially if you’ve opted for a destination wedding, can be a challenge. Let’s get one thing straight right now – from my own experience, and from what friends have told me, there will always be someone who thinks they should’ve got an invite! ALWAYS!

So put any lingering guilt to one side and concentrate on who you ACTUALLY want to be there celebrating with you.  Our “Destination Weddings – Who Will Make the Cut?!” infographic is a great way to help you make some of those trickier decisions.  You can view it here.
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If you’ve read other blogs on this topic, you’ll already know that in reality most weddings, even in your home country, incur travel/ accommodation costs for most of your guests.  With a destination wedding, these costs are, of course, going to be higher. Whilst you do have to consider who can afford to come, take a more positive approach and ask yourself who you’d want to spend a week’s holiday with. After all, that’s what you’re going to be doing!

Once you’ve decided who’s on your guest list, the etiquette for inviting them is different to a home country wedding.  Here’s our lowdown to help you get those DW invitations out of the door and into the mail!

Make sure the key players in your wedding party are able to come! 
This may sound obvious, but before confirming your DW dates, as well as booking your own time off work, make sure your significant family members, bridesmaids, best man and groomsmen can also make the date!  The last thing you want is for your BFF to turn around and tell you she’s just booked a fab holiday on the other side of the world at the same time!
Koh Tao Wedding
Now is also the time to decide if you’re having a reception or celebration party at home, either before or after your DW, for all those people you’re not inviting to join you on your BIG day. Having a separate celebration gives you the opportunity to throw a fabulous party, which can be wedding-themed or not.  This one you can absolutely have fun with, whether you want a casual daytime picnic theme, an evening, music-filled dance-a-thon, or a more traditional sit-down meal with speeches.

How much notice should I give my guests for my destination wedding?
As a DW is an investment for your guests – both financially and time-wise, give your guests as much notice as possible. The more the better! My experience is that couples planning a DW (with more than 10 invitees) are giving their guests around 12 months advance notice.

Giving your guests ample notice enables them to thoroughly check out their travel budgets, confirm if they can get time off work and research if they want to extend their holiday to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to and experience your far-flung destination.  Even with this much notice, expect to get rejections. Your friends already have their own life plans, so don’t take it personally.
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Sending Save-the-Dates
There’s a balance to be had here – even though you can’t imagine your wedding day without your carefully chosen guests, don’t make them feel obliged to attend. If they can, they’ll do everything possible to be there.   Tell them if you’re planning on a celebration at home so they know they have an additional opportunity to celebrate with you.

Your Save-the-date should include your destination, the date of the actual wedding (plus it wouldn’t hurt to include the dates when you arrive/depart), the beach/resort/villa where you’ll be holding your wedding ceremony and the access code to your wedding website (if applicable).

What should I include in my Destination Wedding invitations?
You’ll need to provide information about the destination itself, the wedding venue, where you’ll be staying at, travel routes to the destination including group room/flight bookings and any group activities/excursions you’ve planned.  While most of your guests will expect to pay for their own travel and accommodation, do clarify costs that will be covered as part of the wedding and those that your guests will have to pay for separately.

Depending on how travel savvy your DW guests are, you may also want to include additional information on:

• Expected climate and temperature
• What to wear for the wedding given the climate/temperature
• Visa considerations
• Travel vaccinations that may be required
• Suitable travel insurance
• Available medical facilities at your destination (particularly if you know some of your guests have medical conditions).
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Should I send wedding Invitations to my home-based reception guests?
Simple answer – No!  Unless you want a couple of unexpected (and possibly unwanted) guests at your DW, send out separate home-based reception invitations.  In order to keep yourself sane, have two guests lists: one for the DW itself and one for the home-based reception.  This will enable you keep track of costs and numbers for each event, and prevent any surprise guests at either or both events!

Assuming that you’re also inviting your DW guests to your reception ensure you send them invitations to both.

What happens if I have fewer people at my DW than I was expecting?
If you receive fewer acceptances than you were planning for, as I’ve already said, don’t take it personally.  We all have busy lives, and not joining you at your destination doesn’t mean they love you any less.  It’s also possible that someone may have to pull due to unforeseen circumstances, e.g. for medical reasons, or, as happened to a friend of mine – she said yes to a DW 2 years in advance and then a year later got asked to be bridesmaid at another DW in the same week!

You’ve got two options if you find yourself with fewer guests than you’d planned for:
• Notify your wedding planner immediately of the revised guest numbers (do check your wedding planner’s contract / terms and conditions carefully regarding changes in guest numbers) and transfer any unused budget to upgrade an element of your DW or include that extra ceremony wow factor that you’d had to shelf due to budget constraints.
• Invite one of your reception guests who’s very unsubtly hinted that they’d love to come to your DW!  There’s bound to be someone!

Either way, you can turn it into a positive outcome and have a fantastic DW that not only exceeds your expectations, but allows your chosen guests to experience the vacation of a lifetime.
Koh Tao Wedding

Photo credit:  Aidan Dockery Photography, Koh Tao

If you’re looking for a tropical DW with stunning sea views and rustic beachside venues, get inspired with our free, downloadable “Koh Tao Wedding Guide” and contact us at Forever Lovestruck. With fierce organisation and boundless enthusiasm, we’ll plan your wedding to perfection!