The Do’s and Don’ts of Attending a Destination Wedding

After attending more than 25 weddings, I assumed I knew everything there was about being a gracious guest during someone’s big day. However, after being invited to two destination weddings abroad, I realized the same rules don’t apply. Before you pack your bags, here’s what the experts say you need to know in order to avoid a faux pas.

Plan Your Own Fun.

While most couples will provide guests with a gathering or two (outside of the wedding), don’t expect the couple to provide all the entertainment and things to do, says Jen Taylor of Taylor’d Events Group. Do your own research and identify a few activities to fill the time. Jen says she usually has the couple offer a few suggests that guests can explore on their own.

Follow Through On Your RSVPs.

If you say you’re going to attend any of the additional activities the couple has planned, be sure to show up. “Remember, the couple is paying for each event,” says Emily Sullivan of Emily Sullivan Events. “By not showing up, you’ve cost them money.” If you’re worried that you may not be up for all of those events, she says simply plan ahead and let them know you can’t make it. “It’s perfectly acceptable to do your own thing.”

Leave The Presents At Home.

If you’re gifting the couple with a physical object, Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group, is adamant about not bringing it along to the party. She recommends sending it before or after the wedding. “Neither you nor the couple want to lug a gift through customs and security,” she says. Instead, she suggests going the non-traditional route and gifting them with an experience they can use on their honeymoon (like a massage, candlelit dinner or fun excursion).

Pack The Right Wedding Attire.

Look to the wedding website and invitation for cues on the proper dress. “If the wedding is on the beach in Mexico during the day, beach casual is likely to be a safe bet,” says Megan. “An invite with classic black and white script font points to more formal attire.” When in doubt, ask the couple (a few weeks out, not in the week running up to the big day).

Enjoy Yourself but be Respectful.

You can treat the trip like a vacation but don’t go crazy, says Megan. “Just because you’re at a resort and a fun destination, doesn’t mean you can let loose and act like it’s the spring break trip you never had,” she says. “Be conscious of the fact that the trip is about celebrating the couple.” Along those lines, Megan does not recommend inviting friends or kids who aren’t invited to the wedding. “Things can get complicated quickly when traveling with guests who aren’t attending.”

Budget Accordingly.

Expect to pay your whole way through. Before RSVP’ing yes, Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers says “be sure you’re able to afford all costs.” Some couples may choose to cover all or some of the costs for specific guests, but it shouldn’t be assumed.

Pay Attention to the Details.

Destination weddings require more planning for the couple and guests says Tifany Wunschl of Gourmet Invitations. “It is very likely the couple has given you all of the information you need.” Make sure to read through everything. She adds “there is nothing more frustrating to a couple who has spent time listing all of the details for their wedding, to just have their guests ask them what airport they should fly into.” Go through everything very carefully and avoid contacting the couple. If you have questions while on-site, talk to the hotel staff which has most likely been prepped with information and can recommend local attractions.

And last, if you RSVP no and then find a cheap flight right before the wedding, avoid the urge to go. This adds additional stress to the couple.

Style Me Pretty Contributor – Ximena N. Larkin is a writer and publicist. She lives in Chicago with her husband and dog.