Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of one of the experts offering advice about destination weddings, a New York events planner. She is Tracy Taylor Ward, not Tracy Taylor Lord. This version has been corrected.
Destination events should be a cause for celebration, not concern — over your budget, vacation time, sanity. To turn a grudging social obligation into a party-oliday, we asked experts Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute and Tracy Taylor Ward, of Tracy Taylor Ward Design, a New York events planner, for some advice. Guests and hosts alike, take note.
Hosts: As soon as you know the date and place of the event, send a “save the date” card. Even a year in advance is none too soon. Mention on the card the location details, such as the island, town and hotel, and include information on flights, accommodations, rental cars, restaurants, etc. You can also set up a Web site with this travel info. (Keep this site up until the last slice of cake is eaten.)
As the host, arrange a block of hotel rooms under a group rate. According to Ward, the rate should be the lowest available, though it never hurts to comparison-shop by phone and online. Also, flash that AAA card if you have it. For guests, if the rate is still too high, don’t feel obligated to stay at the same property as the participants and/or event. Consider a nearby hotel or try a rental (try Airbnb), guesthouse or cabin. Really adventurous guests can camp out; just prearrange an indoor shower for the day of the event.
To save money, use your frequent-flier miles if you’ve got ’em. (The host may also be able to arrange group airfare if many people are departing from the same location.) Also, ask other individual guests or couples if they wish to share a room or rental property; ditto for a rental car. Some couples act as matchmakers for their friends and family, but if they are very busy, you might have to seek out these pairings yourself. Use social media to get the word out.
If you can’t attend the special occasion for budget reasons, be honest with the celebrant. (Hopefully, the wedding couple will throw a second reception in their home town.) On the flip side, if you make an offer to help a guest, speak privately with him or her and be clear about what you can offer, whether it’s the flight or two nights’ lodging. “You are not responsible for paying for the guest,” said Post, “but maybe you could swing a discount.”
Invite your guests to a welcome or rehearsal dinner, and try to plan an activity for the group, such as a catamaran ride or snorkel expedition. But you don’t have to go cruise-director crazy and micromanage their time. Just as helpful: Post recreational ideas on your planning Web site.
Unless noted on the invitation, a gift is required. But you don’t have to break the bank. A small token of friendship is acceptable. Or consider going in on a group gift. And don’t bring the present to the wedding; drop it off at their home address so that you don’t have to travel with it and the newlyweds don’t have to lug it on their honeymoon.