Destination Wedding Etiquette: The Do’s & Don’ts

Traveling to an exotic location for a wedding is one of the more exciting occasions in life. You’ll get to skip town to solidify your union or experience the joining of close friends on their way to happily-ever-after. Perhaps you’ve been to other destination weddings before, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, you probably have lots of questions on the do’s and don’ts, and we have the answers. In the hopes of helping you get it right; we’ve summarized some of the key things you’ll need to know before taking off for your destination wedding.

Tip: Also read ‘Destination wedding tips from wedding planners’.

Go to: Etiquette for the Bride and Groom
Go to: Etiquette for guests

Destination wedding etiquette for the Bride and Groom

Who pays for what?

Couple Making Purchase Online

Photo credit: mirtmirt/

Most of the time, guests to a destination wedding are expected to pay for their own airfare and accommodations. However, an exception can always be made for important guests that might not be able to make it without some financial help.

Everything else is usually up to the bride and groom, and this includes costs associated with the wedding ceremony, reception, food, drinks and other activities. Typically, the bride and groom also pay for any extras, like goody bags, which can be filled with customized wedding knickknacks. Sometimes too, the family of the bride and groom will take on some or all of the expenses.

Tip: If you’re planning a destination wedding and staying at a hotel or resort, it’s a good idea to state within your booking that you’ll be travelling with a group. This will make it possible for you to negotiate a discounted rate for your party. Some airlines also offer group discount rates.

Manage your guest list

Wedding Reception Sandalas Royal Plantation

Picture: Wedding reception in Sandals Royal Plantation.

There are two scenarios in life that allow you to get to know a person on a whole new level; living with them and travelling with them. Don’t let your destination wedding be the reason for fallouts with friends or family; keep the guest list short. Invite only the people who absolutely need to be there, that you would regret not having around to share the special moment. You can always arrange a reception later for everyone else once you’re back at home.

Give guests time to plan

Save the Date Wedding Couple

Photo credit: efeyldrmkn/

Though a decision to have a destination wedding can sometimes be spontaneous, it is important to allow enough time for your guests to plan their own travel, and other arrangements. With a destination wedding, ideally, you’ll want to send out save-the-date cards about 8 to 10 months ahead of the wedding, and mail out invites a minimum of three months before. This gives guests plenty of time to plan and RSVP.

Make your guests feel welcome at the destination

Wedding Ceremony Welcome Sign

Photo credit: Stanislav Ronchkovsky/

You’ll have to play host during your destination wedding, no matter how helpful wedding planners are at your resort (if you have one). A good idea is to have a small welcome party once everyone arrives. If you’re in a warm location, like the Caribbean, you can have a welcome bag filled with beach goodies, which will enhance the experience of guests. You may even want to create a group on Whatsapp or another platform where you can share useful information (weather, outfit suggestions, etc.), or have someone else manage for you.

Make gift giving easy for your guests

Wedding Present Bride

Photo credit: Mihail Pustovit/

Gift giving for a destination wedding is a bit of a blurred area, especially considering the amount of money your guests will be paying just to get there. Some people forgo the gifts and let their guests know that their presence is all that matters. Others make a point of keeping it simple, and virtual, so guests are not burdened with bringing along heavy packages. To manage your luggage as well, you can state within your registry that you will be accepting gift cards only, if you decide to go along with gift giving for your destination wedding. You can also make a note for guests to contribute to experiences during the wedding period.

If you want privacy after the reception, plan for it


Picture: Couple enjoying SkyPool Butler Suite with balcony tranquility soaking tub available at Sandals Grenada.

Some couples choose to claim their post wedding privacy by booking a suite at completely different resort. While this can be a good idea, it may not be the most convenient. All-inclusive resorts like Sandals are created especially for couples, so you can find rooms that are more secluded, while the family can stay at a nearby Beaches resort. This way you can enjoy Sandals adults-only setting after the wedding, while the family and kids have fun at one of the Beaches resorts with water park. Maybe even stay in one room category ahead of your wedding, and switch to a honeymoon suite afterwards – your guests will surely get the message.

Incorporating local traditions and cultures

Beachfront Wedding Beaches Turks and Caicos

Picture: Beachfront wedding at Beaches Turks & Caicos.

Ahead of the ceremony ask your wedding coordinator how best you can incorporate cultural traditions (if you choose to) into your wedding. Get all the information you can, so you’re informed about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Keep guests up to speed

Sandals Grenada Wedding Ceremony

Picture: Wedding reception in Sandals Grenada.

You’ll definitely want to keep guests informed throughout the ceremony; this includes the weekend’s agenda, transportation details, emergency contact information, and other logistics. Some people set up a small wedding website to share all important details.

Leave room for socializing

Survivor Catamaran Cruise

Icebreakers are a good idea, especially if your guests are unfamiliar with each other. If the people you’re inviting are from diverse groups, allowing a plus one can be a good idea. Aside from the initial welcome party, schedule excursions including boat cruises and sightseeing tours.

Destination wedding etiquette for the guests

Ask before inviting a plus one

Wedding Reception Beaches Turk and Caicos

Picture: Wedding reception in Beaches Turks & Caicos.

Don’t assume that because you’re invited means you’re automatically entitled to bringing someone else along. Speak with the couple about it before, so you don’t cause any further expenses they haven’t accounted for.

Pack accordingly

Luggage Travel Packing

Photo credit: sebra/

Pay attention to the schedule of activities of the wedding, and pack clothing suitable for each day and event. Consider the climate of the destination and the theme of the wedding as well when selecting outfits and other things to pack.

Don’t overspend on a gift

Wedding Present Guest

Photo credit: DawidAndMarcelina/

It’s important that you consider the money you spent getting there, to see whether you can afford to get a gift, and if you can afford it, at what cost. Be realistic. If you decide to get a gift; make it travel friendly, like a gift card, or ship it to the couple in advance. It’s a bit more difficult to bring home a whole bunch of kitchen equipment after a wedding in Jamaica!

It’ll be a fun ride!

Sandals Royal Caribbean Island Reception

Picutre: Wedding reception on the private offshore island at Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Whether you’re the one getting married, or part of the wedding party, destination weddings require careful planning. If it’s your turn at the altar, these destination wedding etiquettes should help you flawlessly execute your wedding, and if you’re a guest, you’ll know just how to navigate this exciting and once-in-a-lifetime affair!

Also read:

How to plan a destination wedding in 12 steps.
Destination wedding tips from wedding planners.
Destination wedding location ideas (inspiration!).
Destination wedding venues in paradise (inspiration!).

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Kylie Morrow

About Kylie Morrow

Born on the tropical island that is Saint Lucia affords a never-ending source of inspiration. In the past 13 years, Kylie loved to work with various newspapers, magazines and blogs in the Caribbean.