A Primer on Destination Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Hello Brides and Grooms! I spent the day on the beach at Sun Bay today — there couldn’t have been more than 30 people along the whole mile-plus stretch of beach. The water was perfect — not too warm like it can be this time of year — and there was a breeze that kept me from getting too hot while I stretched out and read bridal magazines. Yes, I read them. I also subscribe to them. It’s homework for a wedding planner. As I flipped through a Puerto Rican bridal magazine ($17.95 — what the heck is that about?), I came up with today’s topic.

We’ve all grown up with the Emily Post rule of sending wedding invitations 4-6 weeks before the big day. But if you’re planning a destination wedding, 4-6 weeks doesn’t cut it. No way, no how. There are no hard and fast rules about destination wedding invitations, but I strongly encourage my brides to send them out as early as possible. It’s important for you to know how many guests you’ll be entertaining so that you have a big enough venue, and it also helps you guestimate your budget. There are a couple of ways you can go about it.

  1. Send a save-the-date card to all of your guests the day after you book your accommodations and venue. Follow it with a travel information packet that includes information about airline discounts, guest accommodations, and rental cars. Give them a preliminary itinerary so that they know how many days they need to be at the destination. Ask your guests to email you with their hotel information once they’ve booked. It’s a cheater way to find out in advance how many are actually coming. Double back with anybody who hasn’t emailed you to find out if they’re planning to attend, because if they are, they need to reserve their rooms and cars now. Mail your wedding invitations out six weeks before your wedding like normal.
  2. Mail your wedding invitations to your guests as soon as you’ve booked your wedding venue, up to a year in advance. Mail the travel information packet one day after you send out the invitations. Include a line on the RSVP cards that asks what hotel they will be staying in (helpful when you want to deliver welcome bags to their rooms before their arrival). Send a cute one-page newsletter out to all of your guests 2-4 weeks before your wedding with some information about the island, an updated itinerary, and some Frequently Asked Questions or some silly Top Ten. It touches base with your guests and lets them know you’ve planned a fabulous weekend for them.


Either way, the bottom line is that you need to let your guests know about your wedding date and their accommodation arrangements as soon as possible. Some of your vendors (hotels and rental cars) may require that your guests book with them by a certain date in order to guarantee they’ll have a room or car. And you need to your guests an easy 1-2-3 guide on how to book their travel if you’re getting married on one of the smaller islands that requires creative transportation. Don’t assume they’ll figure it out if they want to come. Your travel info packet just might make the difference in whether several of your guests attend your wedding or decline your invitation.

While we’re on the subject of invitations, I’m going to do a quick rant on a subject I’ve probably written about before.

Don’t invite anybody to your destination wedding that you don’t want to see arrive on the island. Destination weddings have achieved a certain panache and more guests than ever are traveling to attend them. Don’t invite anybody you don’t want at your wedding under the assumption they won’t come — you might be unpleasantly surprised. With that said, you also shouldn’t invite anybody to your destination wedding who you really think won’t come just to get more gifts. You know who you are — and if you’ve been thinking about it — just stop it now. It’s a very thinly veiled grab for gifts and everybody will see it for exactly what it is. Tacky, greedy, and just plain bad manners.

Okay, on that note, I’ll say goodbye. Next blog will be about bouquets, and tossing them. To toss or not to toss? That is the question…

Happy Wedding Planning!

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