Photo: Julian Abram Wainwright
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold. In her latest column, she explains why she believes that brides and grooms having a destination wedding shouldn't feel burdened to book their guests' travel.
Destination weddings have become more common, and more popular, over the past 10 years. Many brides and grooms opt to get married someplace other than home to avoid the stress of a ginormous wedding in their hometown with everyone they — and their parents — have ever met. The end goal is supposed to be a fun, relaxing experience, with less angst than they would experience planning a big traditional wedding.
Unfortunately, it's easy to accidentally take on more responsibility for your guests' travel to the destination than you should. And by doing so, in my expert opinion, I believe you totally undermine your original goal of avoiding the stress of having a big wedding at home.
My professional advice? Do not get involved in the individual travel arrangements of your guests. Don't book big group travel contracts that require effort and coordination. Don't even set up something with one travel agent to handle everybody — let your guests do it themselves. If they usually use a travel agent, they prefer to book through their own, anyway.
Create a very thorough travel information packet to send to your guests (preferably before you send the formal invitations so they have an idea of what the trip may cost them before they have to RSVP) and let them make their own arrangements. Everybody has preferred airlines and hotels, some people prefer ferries over small airplanes, and some guests will turn your wedding weekend into their own extended vacation.
If you had chosen to get married where you or your fiancé grew up, or where you both currently live, you would have likely provided hotel accommodation suggestions near your wedding venue to the guests coming from out-of-town. But you probably wouldn't worry yourself about how they're getting to and from the airport, whether they're getting good airfare, and how they're getting from the hotel to your wedding ceremony and reception, and back again when it's over. You don't have to do it for a destination wedding, either.
Destination wedding planning shouldn't make things more complicated for the bride and groom — the only difference is that everybody is traveling, instead of just out-of-towners. The destination is probably new territory for almost everybody, but at the end of the day, it's not any different from planning any other vacation, except the guests didn't choose where they were going. That means the bride and groom have an obligation to provide a wonderful wedding experience when their guests arrive, but don't have to worry about exactly how they get there.