Bride and groom kiss by lake

How to Talk to Your Family About Having a Destination Wedding

CATEGORIES 

October 31, 2023
Words by Meghan Ely
Photos courtesy of various

From a memorable vacation to a thirst for adventure, there are many reasons to celebrate your wedding away from home. However, most couples expect to celebrate their big day alongside their loved ones (unless you’re planning to elope!) — and the decision to host a destination wedding can impact your final attendance for better or worse. Budget concerns, scheduling conflicts, and cuts to the guest list are enough to ruffle some feathers when sharing the news, so it’s wise to prepare in advance before announcing your plans to family.

So, if you’re dreaming of saying “I do” on a faraway shore or in an exotic city, follow these tips to confidently communicate your decision while keeping your loved ones in consideration.

Pick a travel-friendly destination

Couple against California landscape

When someone learns of your destination wedding, their first thoughts might go to logistical challenges. But if you prioritize accessibility for your guests, they’re more likely to respond with excitement instead of uncertainty.

Vijay Goel of Bite Catering Couture encourages couples to “select locations that have multiple travel options or multiple fare classes so the trip allows people to choose their own adventure.” So, if you’re dreaming of a white-sand wedding, you may have better luck with Malibu or Fort Lauderdale over Bora Bora and Tahiti.

Timing is another key factor to decide before announcing your plans. “Consider the timing of your wedding in relation to the destination’s weather, peak tourist seasons, and any cultural or local events that might affect availability or costs,” adds Samuele Gallorini of Gallorini & Giorgi Events.

A bit of forethought goes a long way for your guests’ comfort and understanding. And if you feel like you’re missing out on a particular destination, head there for your honeymoon to make your first memories as newlyweds!

Spread the news ASAP

Bride and groom on rocks by beach

Traveling to a destination wedding involves an investment of time and money on your guests’ part, so don’t leave them hanging until the last minute. The Garter Girl’s Julianne Smith notes that it’s best to give as much advance notice as possible. 

“They likely have things on their schedules already between family, work, and personal travel,” she says. “With lots of time to plan, this allows them time to adjust their schedules and clear the calendar for the next year to be sure to attend and enjoy your destination wedding.”

Extra time can also allow your guests to save up for the trip so they can make the most of their vacation with added excursions and activities.

However, Smith cautions couples to be mindful of when they announce their destination wedding plans. “Pick a time when tensions aren’t heightened so everyone has a clear head and can focus on you,” she urges. “This likely means avoiding the discussion during events or family gatherings meant for others, birthdays, or holidays.”

Etiquette calls for at least three to four months’ notice before a destination wedding. But if you’ve already set plans in motion earlier, it never hurts to provide guests with even more time to plan.

Expect pushback

Beachside wedding reception

Weddings bring out emotions and opinions, whether they’re close to home or on the other side of the world. So, as you prepare to share the news, brace yourself for loved ones to protest your decision — but remember that it’s your wedding to celebrate your way.

Juls Sharpley of Juls Sharpley Events notes that it’s key to “help your family understand the importance of the locale to you. All of the reasons for hosting a destination wedding should be included in helping them understand the ‘why’ you are doing this.”

Be it your first vacation spot as a couple or a country deeply tied to your heritage, you shouldn’t need a reason to plan your wedding abroad. However, revealing your ‘why’ can help your guests come around to the idea and understand the intent behind your decision.

“An open heart and an open mind during conversations will always serve everyone best,” reminds Carin Hunt of Celebration Pros. “Hear their concerns and excitement, and try to find compromises in more difficult situations.”

Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events adds a recommendation to “come prepared for objections with hard data about how many of your guests are traveling to your wedding and from where.” Knowing that Aunt Marge is flying in from Minnesota might sway your hesitant guests!

Still, some folks simply will not—or cannot—attend due to scheduling, budget, and other personal reasons. Don’t expect a 100% attendance rate; instead, “couples need to prepare for their own disappointment when some of those invited cannot commit to attending a destination wedding,” notes Anna Kimbro of Twickenham House and Hall.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with those who can’t travel (or even those who don’t make the cut of your shortened guest list). Greg Carlyle of The Millennium Event Center recommends “discussing the option of hosting something local afterward so it can be factored into the budget.” An at-home reception ensures everyone feels included without sacrificing your destination dreams. After all, two parties are better than one!

Prepare with research + resources

Bride and groom in wedding ceremony on terrace overlooking ocean

Announcing your destination wedding can seem like a lot for someone to take in, especially if they had assumed you would tie the knot closer to home. But if you’ve done some legwork in advance, you can show them you’re prepared to help them with travel planning.

“Doing some basic research regarding costs, potential venues, and wedding vendors, as well as gathering other helpful information, will make the conversation much easier,” assures Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs.

Providing detailed information can also prevent disappointing surprises in the future, as Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning stresses the importance of managing expectations when sharing the news. “Make everyone aware of the costs, including flight, accommodation expenses, and other pesky fees,” she urges.

If financial concerns present obstacles for loved ones, try to work with them to see how you can make the trip feasible. “Consider ahead of time if you’d be willing and able to cover their travel costs either in full or partially,” suggests Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. But first, ensure you and your partner have discussed it in advance and are on the same page!

Additionally, Gallorini says that couples can provide support by “hiring a travel agent with experience in your destination to help your guests with their travel arrangements.” Investing in a pro can unlock group discounts and additional savings that may ease the burden for your guests (and make it much easier to plan logistics!).

Provide a central point of communication

wedding guests at ceremony in Italian countryside

Now that the word is out, your guests will expect more details as you finalize your plans. From itinerary schedules to accommodations, “you are going to need to provide a lot of information over several months,” explains Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events.

Of course, planning a wedding requires a significant amount of effort already. Communicating updates with your guest list might feel like another to-do on a never-ending list. Willard recommends creating a website to add details as your wedding plans form.

“A wedding website is usually the best place to disseminate information, like transportation needs, room blocks, local places to visit, rehearsal times, and timing in general,” he says.

You may also wish to designate a point of contact to handle guests’ questions, like a parent, sibling, or wedding party member. That way, you won’t have to worry about repeatedly responding to text messages and phone calls to answer the same questions!

Collage of married couple beside lake

As a real-life example, Makayla and Elijah shared their approach to confronting family with the idea of a destination elopement in Greece. “I sat down with my parents and my now husband,” Makayla says, “and let them know early on in the engagement that Elijah and I were hoping to go on a large honeymoon and wanted to spend most of our wedding budget on the honeymoon. Later on, I slowly started to bring up the idea of elopement. Initially, my mother wasn’t fond of the idea, but in the end, everyone was on board with a promise to host an intimate gathering with our close friends and family when we returned to America.”

Rest assured that your dearest loved ones will want you to have the wedding of your dreams, even if that means they can’t make it. And with live streaming available, nobody has to miss out on the big moment — no matter where they are in the world! Trust that your friends and family will support you as always and celebrate your big day however you want. You do you!

(About the Author: Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.)

 

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Katelyn Virginia Photography (1st & 8th); Caroline’s Collective (2nd & 3rd); House of Joy + Leslie Rodriguez Photography (4th); Jessica K. Feiden Photography (5th); The Genovese Studio (6th); Mango Muse Events + Christine Marie Photography (7th)

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