Planning a wedding can be extremely frustrating if you’re hoping to involve two families that are cities, states or even countries away.
The reality of today is people meet “the one” when they’re away at college, on vacation or after relocating states away for work. Even if you aren’t getting hitched in Cabo San Lucas or New Zealand, your wedding may be considered a “destination wedding” for some or even all of your guests.
You have a lot of options, and with each option come things to consider.
Traditionally, the wedding and reception are held in the bride’s hometown with a secondary (if needed) reception in the groom’s hometown. Today tradition isn’t your only option. You can get married in either hometown, somewhere in the middle or even the city you currently live in if you’re both away from family and home. You could even do a small ceremony in a random city and have one or two large receptions after.
When you are considering your options, remember that all of your guests may not be able to attend. They may really want to, but finances, accommodations or even timing may force them to miss out. This should be expected and you cannot beat yourself up because your favorite aunt can’t make it.
If your groom’s entire family is in a 50 mile radius, while your family is spread all over the country – consider having your wedding near your fiancé’s hometown. If it were in your home town, your entire family that is spread all over, plus his entire family will have to travel. If you have it in his hometown, only half the guests are traveling. Also consider the number of family members. If you have a huge family and your groom has a very intimate family, asking his 20 guests to travel verses your 200 may be easier.
Grandparents and elderly guests
Some of the guests in these categories are getting older and cannot travel a long way from home. If only the brides grandmother is older and not in the best health, considering taking your nuptials to her home town. You can also rely on having a family member travel with granny! (Just be sure to thank them a few times!) If you are concerned with important guests missing the celebration, such as grandparents, be sure to hire a videographer. This is a more realistic “day in review” then an album of pictures.
Start a wedsite early. While a save-the-date has become expected courtesy, get yours to your guest sooner rather than later. This will allow guests ample time to clear their schedule, make travel arrangements and figure out accommodations. Early save-the-dates increase guests’ chances of attending your celebration. (Traditionally, save-the-dates are sent out 6 months before the wedding. With a destination wedding, eight months is better!) Notice will also allow guests to plan financially for your big day.
Some or all of your guests will be required to travel to your wedding. Take that into consideration when picking your wedding date. Holidays (including smaller holidays such as Labor Day, President’s Day, etc.) should be out of the question, summer and spring break times in beach towns should be as well. Airfare and gas are more expensive during these times. Also consider the season. If your wedding is in a colder climate be sure to have a summer wedding. You don’t want your guests flights delayed or any accidents to happen while they are traveling. Finally, consider where you’re flying – some airports are just cheaper to fly into. This in turn would make it cheaper for one of the families to travel, rather than the other.
Like travel, figure out a price-friendly, off-season date. Consider where accommodations are in relevance to your venue as some guests may not have vehicles at their disposal. Make sure you have a large enough room block reserved so all of your traveling guests will be at the same hotel with your discounted wedding rate. If the wedding is held in either the bride or groom’s hometown – to cut costs, some wedding guests may even open their homes to out-of-town guests. (Discuss this prior and don’t make any suggestions or decisions without permission.)
While you need to provide your guests with sufficient time to attend a destination wedding, you also can take it a step further and provide them with additional information about a town or city they may be visiting for the first time. Local swag is a fun way to make your guests feel welcome, and while I’m sure you’ll encourage them to talk to the local guests in attendance this will help them along the way if they’re shy. Include travel information and directions. Driving directions should be provided from the north, south, east and west as well as from the nearest airport. You can, however, go a step further. (Which many guests appreciate!) Provide a local map that points out: accommodations, rental car locations, airports, any public transportation, must-see local charm, restaurants, things to do during their stay and any venues your event will be at.
If one of you has a strong connection to a parish, church, synagogue or other venue – you may want to marry in that location.
If you are covering the cost of your own wedding, or the families are splitting the costs you are still going to have to make a decision. However, if only one family is picking up the bill – chances are the wedding will be in closer proximity to that family.
One thing to remember when you are planning a wedding is – yes, things can be done virtually and by e-mail and phone but there are some details you want to be there to see (or you may be required to be in proximity for.) Planning local makes it easy for you to communicate with vendors. If you’re planning from a distance a wedding planner may be a wise investment to avoid fires on your big day.
Overall, you must do what is best for you and your fiancé. You have to do what will make you both happy, and there is no wrong answer. No matter where your wedding celebration is or how close your families live, you will never make everyone happy. This day is about you and your love. Don’t settle on a location because it’s practical and makes sense if you have dreamed of a Cape Cod wedding since you were five. Think about the decision that needs to be made and what you want your celebration to look like. A glass of red & to-do list should get you through.
If all else fails, elope! Then tell your respected families when visiting them.