How to Host the Perfect Destination Wedding
Avoid travel headaches (like lost luggage), greet guests with gusto, devise an event schedule, and find a helping hand. Here's how to host an unforgettable weekend.
Keep Calm and Carry (It) On
"You shouldn't ever check your wedding attire," says bridal consultant JoAnn Gregoli, of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli in New York City. That goes for your gown, the groom's suit, and the attendants' garb; everyone should stow day-of clothes in an overhead bin. Not all airlines allow this, so only purchase tickets from one that does.
Give a Warm Welcome
Nothing says "we're glad you're here" like a little surprise in guests' rooms. This can be goodies from the region, like coffee, wine, candies, or snacks, as well as practical items such as maps, sunscreen, phrase books, or a booklet you create with recs for restaurants and area attractions. Note: Some resorts charge a fee for placing welcome bags in rooms. And, "they 're not always up front about it," says Lisa Light. "Ask ahead of time if you'll be paying more for special deliveries."
Go the Extra Mile
Your hosting duties don't begin and end with the welcome bag, of course. "Focus on being hospitable and gracious throughout the entire event," says Michelle Rago. That could mean writing a note to be left on pillows at turndown time, or meeting groups of guests arriving from the same flight in the hotel lobby.
Pass the Buck (a Bit)
If you're not using a planner, appoint a bestie in your entourage to act as on-site coordinator, assisting guests if questions on timing, dress code, or babysitting arise (and they will!). Give each concierge at hotels where attendees are staying a detailed plan, or include it in welcome bags. That way, you aren't fielding every call and question from those who left their invites at home. "And put contact numbers for point people on your wedding website," says Rago.
Most destination weddings include three days of events -- typically a rehearsal dinner, the I do's, and either a first-night cocktail party or a day-after brunch. When deciding on your schedule, consider logistics; there's no point in a Sunday morning brunch if the only flight out leaves at 9 a.m.
Build in Downtime
Don't plan every single moment of everyone's stay. Sure, most people love beach barbecues and scavenger hunts, but, though they adore you, "people don't travel to a destination wedding just to hang out with the bride and groom," says Lucy Swift Weber. Leave blocks of time open, and make events optional.
Take It Easy
"A welcome dinner or drinks should be very casual," says Sasha Souza. Think cookouts, taco trucks, and pub crawls. A relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for people to get to know one another before the more formal affair. And when in Rome ... "Tailor events to the culture," says Wayne Gurnick. "In South Carolina, go for a hayride that ends with a Lowcountry boil."
Ask the hotel to post signage that yours is a private event if you're marrying at a resort where other vacationers are also staying, advises Gregoli. "Wedding-crashing happens a lot." If you want the sign to fit in with your overall design, you can certainly make it yourself.