While it’s typically accepted that weddings are all about the bride & groom, destination weddings are a little unique. When your guests are going to great lengths – and often great expense – to attend your wedding, it’s incredibly important to consider them every step of the way.
Exchanging your vows in a breathtaking setting is one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have. Being able to share it with the people who matter most to you, elevates it to another level entirely. And while it might sound like a daunting task to try and keep a whole group of people happy the entire time, it really doesn’t have to be that difficult. All it takes is a little bit of forward planning and some flexibility to ensure that your guests leave with the same incredible memories that you do.
Here are a few pointers on how to look after your guests like a pro . . .
Roll Out the Welcome Mat.
Arrange Hotel Transfers – There’s nothing worse than stepping out of an unfamiliar airport into a barrage of hawkers and cab drivers with an armful of bags and no idea where you’re going. If it’s not already included in the room rate and your budget allows, arranging transport to the hotel is a thoughtful touch that ensures your guests will start their vacation stress free. Alternatively, researching the various options and letting your guests know in advance which is the safest/cheapest/fastest alternative, or how much a standard cab fare to the hotel is, will also be appreciated.
Leave a Welcome Bag – Leaving a welcome bag in your guests’ room is the perfect way to show your appreciation, particularly if you include a hand written note. Some information on the local area along with a map and perhaps even a phrase book is always helpful, and a copy of your schedule means that they can plan their time. Finally, throw in some local food and wine to get everyone in holiday mode – perhaps some chocolate, fruit or the local delicacy, along with a bottle of whatever adult beverage you choose . . . wine, beer, tequila, rum . . . you get the picture!
Plan a Welcome Function – Speaking of your schedule, it’s traditional for the couple to throw a welcome function for their guests on the first night, presuming that everyone is arriving around the same time. This can be as extravagant or as low key as you like, but it’s a good idea to host something either onsite or nearby, rather than planning a boat cruise or an excursion to the next town. This allows any jet lagged guests to excuse themselves early if they need to.
Make It As Easy As Possible For Your Guests.
Share Your Research – It pays to remember that your guests are probably visiting an unfamiliar location, and because you will be making a lot of decisions on their behalf such as where they stay and how they will spend their time, it’s fair to assume that they might not research the destination as much as they would if choosing it themselves. Sharing as much advice and information about the location as possible will really be appreciated – what to see, how to get around, best shops, restaurants, any do’s and don’ts, any visas or vaccinations they will need etc. etc. A wedding website is the ideal spot to include all of the information you have, along with links for further reading. And don’t forget to include hard copies of useful maps and information in your welcome bag (see above), so that guests have easy access to the information once they arrive.
Make it Affordable.
Negotiate Discounted Rates – Depending on your venue and the size of your group, you may be able to negotiate a group rate for your guests, or perhaps even some complimentary extras such as breakfast or a local tour. Weddings are big business to most venues, so it pays to at least ask the question.
Provide a Choice of Accommodation Types – You will probably need to cater to a range of different tastes and budgets, so wherever possible, it’s great to choose a hotel or resort with a range of accommodation types. Some will jump at the chance to splash out on a deluxe room, while others will appreciate a more economical option. If this isn’t possible, look for nearby options – both high end and budget friendly – and let your guests know about any offsite alternatives. Some guests might also prefer the privacy of staying at a separate property.
Pay For At Least One Tour or Activity – You chose your wedding destination for a reason, so this is your chance to show it off! It’s customary to host at least one tour or activity for your guests, but if you have a broad range of ages or tastes, a few smaller, optional activities could be more enjoyable that one large event. If you’re arranging a spa day or a shopping trip for the ladies, consider arranging a golf game or some water sports for the guys at the same time. A number of your guests will probably be partners of friends or workmates who don’t necessarily know anyone else, so giving them the chance to mingle with the others will be appreciated, and it means they aren’t left at a loose end while their other half is hanging out with the girls or boys.
Give Your Guests A Choice.
Don’t Over Schedule – Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a great holiday, and for some, that means laying on a sun lounge for three days straight. While it’s nice to feel that you’re keeping your guests entertained, it’s important to factor in free time as well. After all, you don’t want your guests so exhausted by your wedding day that everyone wants to go to bed at 9:00pm! Chances are you’re all going to be staying in or around the same location anyway, and there’s actually something nice about bumping into different people over breakfast or by the pool, instead of having to meet somewhere at a prearranged time. So if you’re planning a full schedule of events, be sure to include plenty of optional activities along the way.
Consider Dietary Preferences – For most of us, the obvious reason to travel is to experience new things, and that generally includes the food! While it goes without saying that you need to cater for any guests with allergies or intolerance’s, it’s also important to understand that not everyone will want to embrace the local cuisine. Some might not like spicy food, others may be ultra healthy eaters and some people are just plain fussy. While it might seem like a shame for your guests to travel all the way to your exotic locale, only to eat the same thing they eat at home, you should always cater for any ‘less adventurous’ types. Otherwise, you might find out that their lasting memory of your beautiful destination wedding was all of the ‘weird and wacky’ things that you made them eat!
Finally, Don’t Panic!
Ultimately, remember that your guests have chosen to be there for you. They’ve each made the journey so that they could be part of your wedding day, so try not to panic too much about keeping every single person happy at all times. And if you follow the advice above, you can arrive at the destination knowing that your work is done. All you have left to worry about now, is getting on with the celebrations!
Rebecca’s note: I’m so excited to have Kirsten & Barney on our blog…Thank you guys so much for making and appearance! Kirsten your destination wedding knowledge is insane and Barney your photos are amazing (I’m in love with the couple on the bouncy castle!!) We actually had the honor of doing a series of posts on destination weddings to South Africa on Brides Without Borders a while back so if you haven’t seen them go and have a peek..