For some, the mention of a destination wedding evokes images of a picturesque Italian villa along Lake Como, or the white sandy beaches of Bermuda, while for others it calls to mind the Seinfeld episode where Jerry, George, and Elaine go to India and disaster and hilarity ensue. For most of us, the reality of a destination wedding probably lies somewhere in the middle. Before you get swept away by the idea of a week sipping wine in France or wandering through the lake country in England in search of your own Mr. Darcy, there are a few things to ponder.
Can you afford it? Being a bridesmaid or a groomsman in a wedding close to home is expensive enough. Being in a destination wedding can run into the thousands. While most couples are aware of what their friends can afford, occasionally the bride and groom become too enamored with the idea of a place they don’t consider who may or may not be able to attend. Some couples may offer to pick up the tab for flights and accommodations for the wedding party, but don’t assume this is the case. Check with the bride or groom before you say yes and then check with your bank account.
Remember, this is a wedding, not a vacation. Sure, it’s being held in an castle outside of Edinburgh, but that doesn’t mean that you can show up with full touring itinerary that includes a walk of old town, a tour of Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, a hike up Arthur’s Seat, dinner at Mother India, and a bus ride to Rosslyn Chapel or a day on the links at St. Andrews.
Before you wade too deeply into travel apps and guidebooks, consult the wedding website and see what the couple has planned. They may have already scheduled trips to some of the sites you want to see and paid for tours in advance. Part of agreeing to attend a destination wedding is participating in all of the festivities.
Finally, book your side travel for after the wedding. Why after? Because you don’t want to show up at the wedding exhausted from a week of touring and sightseeing, ready for a rest when everyone else is just revving up.
Plan, plan, plan
The first mistake many people make when invited to a destination wedding not planning well in advance. Is the wedding in a foreign country? Then, you will need a passport. Already have one? Check to make sure it hasn’t expired. Passports aren’t as troublesome as they may seem, but they do require some advance work. The average passport takes six weeks. You will pay extra if you have to have the process expedited.
Book your flight as soon as you are sure you are attending the wedding. Flights are less expensive 50 days from the departure date and get progressively more expensive the closer you get to the date.
Pack appropriately. Remember, you're packing first for a wedding. Consult the wedding website or the information provided by the bride and groom. If the wedding is in the islands, chances are the ceremony and reception will be more casual than nuptials in a cathedral. Plan your wedding attire according to the venue and time of year.
Other than the wedding, what other activities and events are planned? Some couples may want to share as much of their special location as they can with their family and friends. One wedding itinerary for a Saturday evening wedding held in Santa Barbara suggested that guests should arrive on Thursday and plan to leave Sunday afternoon. The couple arranged dinner Thursday night, breakfast Friday morning followed by a round of golf, a walk on the beach, the rehearsal, followed by the rehearsal dinner, for all guests their guests. On Saturday, guests met for breakfast, could walk on the beach if they weren't in the wedding, and then headed to the ceremony, and the reception. On Sunday, there was a fully catered farewell breakfast for all the guests at the groom’s beach house. The itinerary left little time for sightseeing. And, it required packing clothes for dinner Thursday and Friday, beachwear, golf clothes and clubs, and something for the breakfast on Sunday morning in addition to what they worn to the wedding.
Pack for the wedding and for any additional events you might attend or that might come up. Put aside a bit of money should you need to run out and pick up a pair of shoes or a dress for an event you didn’t plan for.
Relish any free time.
You are in a place you haven’t been, and after checking the events schedule you find yourself with a free afternoon. Don’t spend it clinging to the bride and groom or the one other person you might know. Venture out. Google the top things to see in your destination and see one or two of the things on your list.
Or maybe you just want to take a nap, read a book, or relax by the fire. After you check with the wedding party and are sure that you aren’t needed, you are free to pamper yourself and enjoy your surroundings.
Use social media carefully
You are away from home and in a foreign country, which means people could take advantage of your absence and your friendliness. Keep your social media activity to a minimum so that you don’t signal to people that you’re away and no one is at home. And so you don’t give that cute guy you met in the café the wrong message.
Think about the people back home who couldn’t afford the trip or couldn’t take the time away from work or their families to attend the wedding. Posting a few pictures is great, posting every 10 minutes and tagging everyone who isn’t there is well, obnoxious.
At the wedding
Above all, don’t forget that you are first and foremost at a wedding. Even though you are at the beach with all your besties, this isn’t girls weekend in Cancun. While the actual vows only take a few minutes, and the entire ceremony might only last an hour, this is still an event dedicated to celebrating two people and the joining of their families. It is important to be respectful of that atmosphere during the trip. Sure, you might take a few vacation days off from work to attend, but that still doesn’t make it a vacation.
Wearing your skimpiest bikini to tan next to the bride’s grandmother on the beach, or sporting a tank top in the hotel bar for drinks with the groomsmen isn’t going to cut it. Try to remain respectful of the occasion at all times, not only in demeanor but in dress as well. A pair of boat shoes, khaki shorts and a blue button up or polo will substitute that frat shirt, and a more modest two piece, or cover up can help distinguish yourself as someone who is there for the bride and groom, not just yourself.
Treat it like the honor it is. If you have a longstanding relationship with the bride and groom or if you have been friends since childhood or have been best buds since college being asked to participate in or attend the wedding is an honor. It shows how much you mean to the bride or the groom. If you don’t feel that way, politely decline the invitation and send a gift off the registry. The day is for the bride and groom, for that one day, make it all about them.