Our FAB Guide today looks at destination wedding etiquette and how to deal with various scenarios that may arise. Letting family and friends know that you are planning a wedding abroad can be tricky. How will they take it? Will they be supportive or completely against the idea? Will they still come or help out financially? The important thing to remember throughout is to be as transparent as possible about details so that your friends and family are under no illusions about your destination wedding plans. Most importantly, know your budget and go with your gut feeling- if something doesn’t feel right for you try and find a way around it; you don’t want to feel uneasy about a decision in the run up to your wedding day.

Ever Yours Wedding Book by Christina Brosnan_0004
Image by Brosnan Photographic


Figuring out who pays for what and letting others know will probably be the most uncomfortable topic you are going to have to deal with. Traditional etiquette suggests that the brides family pays for the ceremony, flowers and dress and the groom pays for the rehearsal dinner (for our US readers) and grooms wear. In todays world, even for traditional weddings at home – this isn’t always the case. Many couples pay for their own wedding or get help from their parents, it’s not followed as a rule anymore. So for destination weddings, how do you know if you are going to get help financially from your parents? Sit down at a table with them and talk about it, as you would if you were planning a wedding at home. Let them know that you are planning a destination wedding and that you are figuring out your financial situation. They might not be willing to gift as much to you if they are a little put out that you are going abroad (it will mean that most of their friends won’t make the guest list!) so be prepared for this. If you are still adamant that you want to get married overseas, then you are going to have to accept it if they don’t offer as much as they would if you were having it at home.


✈ Don’t get both sides of the family together at the one table because it might cause embarrassment or tension if one side can’t afford to gift as much as the other.

✈ If you can, prepare your budget in advance. Itemise everything with their estimated cost marked beside it. If money is an issue for your parents, ask them if they would like to contribute towards anything in particular on your list. This means they will still feel good about paying for parts of your wedding but at a price they themselves can afford.

✈ Don’t fall out if you can avoid it. Don’t assume that parents are going to pay for everything and be disappointed if they can’t or won’t because you are going against a traditional wedding at home. Just know that this might be the case beforehand and have a serious conversation with your other half about whether or not you can afford a destination wedding if paying for it yourselves. If you know your parents can afford to help out more and are just being stubborn because you want to get married abroad, give them a chance to come to terms with your news. Make sure you clearly communicate your reasons for going abroad (wanting it to be a really intimate ceremony) and how much it means to you that you have their support. They will come round with time. Bottom line – you don’t want to be fighting with your parents the day of your wedding. It won’t be a happy ending.


The Bridal Party

Before you ask anyone to be in your bridal party, let them know that you are having a destination wedding as the chances are, it will be more expensive for them to attend.

You are not expected to pay for their flights. As for accommodation, traditional etiquette says that you should pay for their stay, modern etiquette doesn’t. This one really depends on you and your budget. Your wedding party will most likely have to stay for more than one night so if you can afford to pay for any of it, offer to cover accommodation costs for the night of your wedding. This will imply that you are not covering any additional nights either side. If you really can’t afford to pay for any of their accommodation, let them know that their gift is being able to make the wedding.


You are not expected to pay for flights and accommodation for guests. It is a good idea to put on a bus or coach to get your guests from the airport to their destination and from a local point (if they are all staying in different hotels) to and from your wedding.


✈ If a very important guest or one someone in your bridal party lets you know that they can’t afford the trip and you are in a position to help them out, it’s a lovely gesture but best to be discreet about it – especially if you are not going to extend the offer to everyone else.

✈ To ease the financial burden, you should try negotiating discounts with the airlines and hotels on behalf of your guests. They will really appreciate this effort.


It is good manners to organise a welcome dinner and a farewell lunch for all of your invited guests. Anything that you do organise and invite guests to (including welcome dinner, farewell lunch and any excursions or group activities) requires you to pay for them so be careful not to overstretch yourself if you are on a tight budget. It is better to leave your guests to their own plans than invite them to something and expect them to pay for it.

Lake Como Wedding by www.purewhite-photograhy.it_0004
Image by Pure White Photography


Don’t invite anyone to your bridal shower if they aren’t going to be invited to your wedding. If you are planning on having a party when you get back, it is ok to invite those that will be invited to your at home celebration to your shower but you should make sure your chief bridesmaid lets these guests know that there will be two events and that you will only be able to invite a small number of close family and friends to the destination celebration.


Up to 75% of guests will attend a destination wedding so don’t go carelessly inviting everybody, secretly hoping they won’t attend if you actually can’t afford it. Sounds a bit mean I know, but you need to keep things realistic.

Save the Dates

A destination wedding requires you to send Save the Date cards with as much notice as possible, 6 – 9 months being ideal. It gives guests a chance to consider their financial situation, book time off work and make travel arrangements. Some may wish to extend their stay and attend your wedding as part of their annual holiday. The more notice you give will increase their chances of attending.

If you have set up a wedding website, you should include a link to it on the save the date. If not, you should also include accommodation and location details along with the save the date so that guests can get a good estimate of costs together before accepting or declining your formal invitation later on.


Formal invitations should go out to guests 3 months in advance if you have sent a save the date or else 6 months in advance with all travel and local information if you haven’t.


✈ You should invite guests that you know cannot attend as it will show that you did want them there.

✈ If you don’t want children at the wedding, exclude “and family” on the invitation. Remember though that it could be hard for guests to leave their children at home for an extended period of time and that by excluding them, they will probably have to decline the invitation.


For weddings at home, usually only the bridal party and immediate family members are invited to the rehearsal dinner. For a destination wedding, your guests will have travelled so far to be with you so traditional etiquette goes out the window. All guests should be invited to attend your welcome dinner. It will give them a chance to get to know each other better and will also give you an opportunity to catch up with them properly.


Laxenburg Wedding Ideas by www.thomassteibl.com_0009

Image by Thomas Steibl

This can be quite a difficult one to judge as all guests will have different priorities outside of your wedding. Some may want to relax as because they are on holiday, some may want to see the city in their own time and others will want to be shown around. Include lots of information on your website (if you have one) or as part of your invitation on the various activities available and if you can stretch your budget, arrange for one group excursion. Just remember, anything you organise and invite guests to should be paid for by you.


If your venue doesn’t provide enough accommodation for all of your guests, be tactful about who stays. Offer the onsite accommodation to the bridal party and close family first by reserving rooms and after that, you should really let the rooms go on first come, first served basis. Guests staying away from the venue should be offered transportation and as already mentioned above, putting on a coach / minibus from a central point where everyone can get to will make things easy for you and your guests. Appoint a groomsman to take charge of looking after guests this way.


This is such an awkward topic and one that depends very much on individual circumstances. First thing to decide is if you are genuinely ok with not receiving gifts – I know how tacky this sounds but some couples do really rely on receiving gifts to help pay for their honeymoon or new home. Having a destination wedding puts such financial pressure on guests so if accepting gifts makes you feel uncomfortable, it is lovely to be able to include on the invitation that “Your presence is gift enough“ or suggest a charity.

If you are accepting gifts, have a plan for bringing gifts home with you. In Europe, it’s not really that common to register fo gifts so this only really applies to our American and Canadian readers. If you are registering for gifts, make sure that that you have plenty of items on the lower end of the scale as your guests will be going to great expense already. If it’s an option, have them sent to your home so that guests don’t have to carry them. If you already have a home full of lovely things and would prefer money, then a honeymoon gift registry might be more appropriate.

For our European readers, if a guest asks you what you would like or need and it’s really money towards the wedding or your honeymoon, be classy about it. Say that you are so glad that they can make the wedding and that you don’t want them to have to carry any sort of gift, especially when you already have anything you need. If they really insist – ask them to make a small contribution towards your honeymoon or to your chosen charity.

It’s a difficult one to manage especially when you really don’t want to be carrying anything home so just be gracious and ask family members and bridesmaids to help out.

Ponferadda Wedding by www.f2studio.es_0039

Image by F2 Studio

If you have any specific questions or have found yourself in a bit of a pickle, let us know. It can be really difficult to get an objective opinion and unbiased advise from the people you love, especially if they are involved in the planning.

3 Responses

  1. Alice Crotty

    Bear in mind that some guests (me) resent having to pay for your dream wedding. By having it in a cheaper (for you) destination and forcing others to travel you are saving money but it is costing me a lot to go somewhere not if my choice. My holiday funds and time are spent going to somewhere you choose at a time if your choosing.
    I don’t go into debt for my holidays and I don’t want to be forced to – so you can have your dream wedding.
    Be thoughtful of others. It is no fairytale for the rest of us.


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