Photo: Ken Kochey
You're asking a lot of your guests when throwing a destination wedding. Sure, you're giving them the chance to soak up the sun and some gorgeous views, but you're also asking them to sacrifice a chunk of cash and vacation days to attend your nuptials. That's why making your destination wedding the ultimate guests' getaway should be on top of your to-do list!
You may be the star of the show, but your guests deserve a destination wedding experience that'll make them thrilled that they boarded the plane. Your friends and family have stuck by you through all the planning craziness after all, so show them the love with tons of fun, sun, and perks that'll make the hustle and bustle of travel totally painless. Need another reason to take special care of your away-from-home wedding guests? Listen to this major destination don't...
"For his Tulum wedding, my friend Mark thought it would be a super idea to have the bridal party cook the wedding meal. Cook it! So we all lugged baking soda and spices to Mexico, lest the "supermercado" not have the ingredients for chili-rubbed pork loins and cupcakes for 50. Instead of frolicking on the beach, we were cursing the happy couple in the kitchen. That was 10 years ago and I still hold a wee bit of a grudge. But I also believe that attending a destination wedding is worth the hassle. Without my friends, I probably would never have visited County Mayo, Ireland, or Florianópolis, Brazil, or even Santa Barbara, California. That said, keeping your guests cheery (and out of the kitchen) is a must." — Heidi Mitchell
So how does one throw a destination wedding that won't make guests groan when they receive the invite? Follow these tips and be the #squadgoals of all the folks back home when they see your destination wedding pics!
The Gift of No Gifts
"Destination weddings cost guests about $1,500 a person to attend," Mitchell points out. "Make our presence your present." Besides, do you really want to be lugging microwaves and mixers on the plane ride home?
Get Your Guests There
Set up a wedding web site. Do it ASAP, and post all travel info and suggestions. Sites like WeddingWire make it fast and easy. Many airlines, including United, American, Delta, and US Airways, offer lower fares for groups of 10 or more traveling on the same flight, or just hire a pro. "A travel advisor specializing in destination celebrations can handle everything for your guests, from flights and hotels to roommate pairings and beauty appointments," says Jack Ezon of Ovation Travel.
Unite Us in Technology
Another thing to add your wedding website? Contact information — which is especially important when traveling internationally! "Remind friends to use WhatsApp to stay in touch internationally," says Mitchell. "And send out a contact list so people can text one another to find the fun."
Help with Hotels
"Secure room blocks at resorts with different price points so we won't have to crack open our 401(k)'s for your special day," suggests Mitchell. Research room deals and group-travel sites like HotelPlanner, which helps you lock in a low rate and score a free room for you and your husband-to-be.
Feed Your Friends
Plan a few group meals besides just the reception and rehearsal dinner to help your guests cut down extra costs. They don't have to be fancy or overtly expensive — local dishes are always a destination crowd pleaser!
"Another dear friend got married in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but didn't organize any activities beyond the wedding," remembers Mitchell. "I suffered from major FOMO when I heard some guests had gone zip-lining without me!" The solution? Make sure your wedding isn't the only thing on the itinerary. "Couples want 'wow' experiences for their guests," says April Schmitt of Divine Destination Weddings. She's set up wine tastings, parties on private isles, even an after-hours visit to a Mayan ruin, where everyone was "cleansed" by a shaman and served dinner by candlelight!
Want more genius planning tips? For the best wedding dresses, advice, and big-day inspiration, pick up the BRIDES December 2015/January 2016 issue, on newsstands now and available for download here!