Chances are, over the past few years, you’ve probably been invited to a destination wedding — even if that destination was just a long drive to a (somewhat) nearby city. With so many families spread across the county, more couples are opting for a remote location where everyone can meet to celebrate. They are becoming more and more popular—in fact, 24 percent of all weddings are the destination type, an increase of 4 percent from 2009-2012, according to a study by Digital Research Inc.
Since prepping for an in-town wedding can be tricky enough, we’ve made an out-of state-wedding checklist so you can enjoy watching the walk down the aisle stress-free.
The etiquette for sending the “Save the Date” notice for a destination wedding is eight to nine months before the big day, according to The Knot. This is your cue to start doing some research on affordable airfare and hotel stays, and request time off work. Check out the couple’s website (if they have one) for information about local airports, ground transportation and accommodation information. When looking into hotel stays, first check to see if the couple reserved a group of rooms at a nearby hotel at a discounted rate—this can save you some dough. The destination wedding invitation will likely come about two to three months before the wedding, and this is your time to be sure you’re booked and ready to travel.
Destination wedding events are often longer than the average wedding, with about 60 percent lasting three or more days, according to the DRI study. And typically, over the course of these days, there will be some group activities planned: According to the same study, one in three destination wedding couples plan a group activity like a sightseeing tour for their guests. The website and/or invitation will likely have a recap of each day’s plans so that you know exactly where to be and when. Once you have these planned events lined up, you can schedule your downtime in the destination—after all, this is a vacation for you, too.
Many receptions are child-free, so it may not be safe to assume that everyone is welcome. The couple’s child policy should be noted on their website or invitation, and if you cannot locate it, be sure to ask the couple. Some couples allow children at every event except the main event, in which case they may have arranged for child care services. Many guests bring along their parents to make it a true family trip, knowing they’ll have the best built-in babysitter(s) to watch the little one on the child-free days.
Once you have the itinerary, you’ll be on the right track to know what to pack. Check the weather this time of year at the location to be sure your clothing is weather-appropriate. Is it a beachfront location? Will you need a swimsuit and sunscreen? Is it a mountain getaway? Will you need to pack a few sweaters? After your bags are brimming with must-have clothes, don’t forget to pack for the most important day. Find out if the ceremony is indoors or outdoors and whether it’s black tie, beach attire or somewhere in the middle. Be sure to pack appropriate shoes, too. Ladies, if you’re wearing heels on the beach or dirt, you may do a lot of sinking and even get stuck. Refer to the wedding invitation and/or website for ceremony attire specifics.
You’re likely to have some downtime while you’re at the destination, so be sure to do some research on where you’ll be staying. There may be a state park nearby that’s perfect for a morning hike, or perhaps there’s time for you and your family to snorkel before that day’s events. The best way to make the most of your trip is to do your research and plan ahead. This way, it can be a trip that the happy couple—and you—never forget.
Traditionally, you technically you have up to a year after the ceremony to purchase a gift for a wedding, and some couples will say that attending the destination wedding is gift enough. But if you’d like to get the couple something, it’s better to do away with creativity and instead refer to the wedding registry. You can typically locate the online registries on the wedding website or on the invitation. Nowadays, the gifts will be sent directly to the couple’s home, which is ideal, since the duo won’t want to schlep piles of boxes home with them. If you feel bad coming to the wedding empty-handed, bring a card with a personalized message to leave at the gift table.
Once you book your travel arrangements, secure a pet-sitter to watch your critters while you’re away. Be sure to have your vet’s phone number available for an at-home sitter, and your pet’s records of their up-to-date shots if they are going to be boarded. If they are not up to date, add a trip to the vet to your pre-travel to-do list.