Your Biggest Destination Wedding Etiquette Questions, Answered

We cover all the details, from flying with your wedding dress to accommodations.

Destination wedding in Positano, Italy

Photo by Christina McNeill

What’s better than planning a wedding? How about planning a spectacular destination wedding, and inviting the people you love to join you? Whether you’re heading to a white sand beach or a centuries-old European city, a destination wedding is hard to beat.

But of course, planning a far-flung wedding comes with its own list of logistical problems and etiquette questions. Who do you invite? Do you pay for their accommodations? How do you travel with your wedding dress?

We’ve rounded up the most common destination wedding etiquette questions to help you navigate the choppy waters and make sure your celebration continues with smooth sailing.

01 of 06

Can We Have an Intimate Destination Wedding, Then Celebrate When We Get Back?

Bride and groom walking on dock

Photo by Jamie English

Absolutely! When you’re planning a wedding abroad, you’ll most likely end up with a smaller guest list whether it’s due to the size of your venue or how much your guests feel comfortable spending. So if that beach ceremony will only include a dozen or so guests, you can definitely invite the rest of your family and friends to join you for a reception once you’re home. You could go full throttle with a traditional wedding reception (white dress, live band, and cake included), or keep it more casual with a cocktail celebration or backyard barbecue.

02 of 06

What Do We Need to Include on the Invitation?

wedding invitation

Photo by Chris J. Evans

Unlike a traditional wedding invitation, you need to give your guests a lot more information when you’re asking them to join you out of town. In addition to your actual invitation, you’ll want an information card outlining all of the events you’ve planned so guests know how long to be in town. The weekend itinerary should include the date, time, and location of each event. You’ll also want to print a card with lodging details—whether that’s a huge house you’ve reserved for the group or the local hotels where you have room blocks (plus, information on how to get discounts!).

A wedding website is a great idea, especially for celebrations with a lot of logistics. This will allow you to put everything in one place, as well as include details about transportation and local activities.

03 of 06

When Should We Send Our Save-the-Dates?

wedding save-the-date invitation

Photo Rebecca Yale Photography

If you’re going to ask guests to book flights (and even bust out their passports) for your wedding, make sure to give them ample time to make travel plans. Instead of the four-month lead time for a local wedding, you’ll want to send destination save-the-dates at least six months in advance—and should have all the travel details outlined on your wedding website before you send invitations at the 12-week mark.

04 of 06

What’s the Best Way to Travel With My Wedding Dress?

Bride in Theia Wedding Dress

Photo by Rochelle Cheever

This might be one of the trickier parts of planning a destination wedding. The easiest option (especially if your dress has a slim silhouette instead of a full skirt) is to carry it in a garment bag as your carry-on. Ask to hang the dress in the hanging space for first class or, if the plane doesn’t have a closet, wait until all of the rolling bags have been stowed, then lay your dress on top of the suitcases. If the fabric isn’t prone to wrinkling, you could also carefully fold the dress and tuck it into your own carry-on suitcase.

05 of 06

Do We Have to Pay for Our Wedding Party’s Travel and Accommodations?

guests on a boat in the water

Photo by David Bastianoni

Here’s some good news: You are not obligated to foot the bill for any of your wedding party’s travel expenses. That being said, you should try to hook them up as much as possible. Offer reasonably priced lodging options, or consider renting a house instead of hotel rooms so everyone can crash together (at a much more reasonable price). Let them know about your plans ASAP so they can start shopping around for deals on airfare, too.

06 of 06

Do We Have to Pay for Our Guests' Meals, Aside From at Our Reception?


Photo by Lyndsey Anne Photography

While the only food you must pay for is what’s served during the festivities (rehearsal dinner, wedding-day meals for the wedding party, the reception dinner, and morning-after brunch), it’s a kind gesture to pick up the tab at least one other time if you’re asking your guests to join you for more than three days, like at a welcome dinner or lunch on the beach. If you can afford it, paying for one meal a day for your wedding party (such as daily breakfast) will help offset their expenses.

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