Checking In with Your Guests
When you've invited scores of people to your destination wedding, they become part and parcel of your plans during your wedding week. In other words, you can't invite every friend and family member you can think of to attend your cruise ship wedding and then announce upon their arrival that you really need your privacy in these days before the ceremony. That's just not going to fly. Instead, remember that they're here to share your joy with you — and you and your new hubby will have lots of alone time to look forward to later.
In the interest of exploring the area together, charter a bus and coordinate a tour of the area for anyone who's interested. If you're in Hawaii, for example, wouldn't it be cool to check out a volcano with a slew of wedding well-wishers? Or if you're off to New England, your guests might want to go on a whale-watching tour.
Obviously, these things are easier to plan if your wedding is on the smaller side (fewer than a hundred people), but if you know that only fifty family members are going to be with you for the entire week, it's not so difficult to plan some interesting activities.
A place like Las Vegas or Disney World or a cruise ship already has enough activities to keep everyone amused without your having to plan an extra outing. In this case, you're off the hook as far as chartering a bus or a boat goes. Still, you should provide your guests with enough information about the area so that they can choose the best options for themselves. Even though your cousin has made the trip to Las Vegas for your wedding, she may not be much of a gambler. Does she realize that there's more to Vegas than shooting craps? She might be surprised to learn that she can catch a Broadway-caliber show and do some Fifth Avenue — style shopping in Nevada. Or maybe she'd be more interested in hopping on a four-wheeler and checking out the desert. Either way, she can't do these things if she isn't aware that they're viable options.
How can I make sure everyone will be amused once they arrive at our wedding site?
Do your research thoroughly and include a list of interesting activities (or better yet, a small local travel book) when you send your save-the-date cards. Your guests then can do further research into activities that interest them before they arrive at your wedding site.
If you're a born planner, take your laptop along and make up a daily itinerary for yourself; hand out copies to whomever is interested in spending time with you and your groom. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. If you're a laid-back girl, your itinerary might look something like this:
9 A.M. to 10 A.M. Breakfast in the Mirror Lounge.
10 A.M. to 12 P.M. Poolside.
2 P.M. to 3 P.M. Volleyball on the beach.
4 P.M. to 6 P.M. Scuba diving. Must make reservations before 2 P.M. if interested. Equipment rental is $50 per person.
8 P.M. Dinner at the Tiki Torch. Entrees range in price from $17.50 to $39.
10 P.M. to ? Dancing and drinks at the Diamond Head Club.
Notice that you have not accounted for every single minute of your day on this sample itinerary. From noon to two o'clock, for example, you might be off taking a nap or meeting with a vendor or the wedding coordinator. Your guests don't have to be with you every single second, but make sure that you give them plenty of opportunity to see you and to have some kicks with you.
Make sure to preface any itinerary with a line or two that lets the guests know that this is where you will be at any given time, and they are welcome — but not obligated — to join you. Also, include ticket or meal prices (in ranges, if appropriate) so that your guests know that you will not be picking up the tab for everyone.
Alternatively, you can divvy up activities between yourself and the groom. If you hate sitting next to the pool, for example, maybe you can hit the town to do some shopping while he catches some rays.
Get into the Mix
One big reason that brides plan destination weddings is so they can spend lots of time with their guests, and one big reason guests love destination weddings is because of their one big happy family / weeklong party atmosphere. So plan to indulge your guests in this way. They want to see you, and they want to have some laughs with you.
Don't play the part of the shrinking violet (or worse, the pampered princess). Get in the pool with your family. Play volleyball on the beach with your friends. Hit the casinos with your grandma. Have fun during your wedding week, and any stress you're feeling will dissipate!
Any bride who has had a destination wedding will tell you that spending fun, quality, laid-back time with guests is the biggest perk of planning a wedding out of town. Brides who plan in-town weddings are often running around like madwomen the week before their ceremonies, feeling rushed and out of sorts. Many women don't take vacation time the entire week before their nuptials if they're getting married in their hometown. It just feels like too much of a luxury, especially because she's heading out of town for her honeymoon the following week.
Here's where you, as a destination bride, have an edge: You have to take time off before the wedding. It's not a luxury; it's a necessity. You can't pop into town and expect your wedding to fall magically into place twenty-four hours later. Even with the best wedding coordinator on the planet, that would be stretching the limits of probability.
You can't plan every deep conversation, every joke, every hearty laugh, every hysterical anecdote — but you can open the door for them merely by planning the destination wedding and making time to connect with your guests.
The time that destination wedding couples are able to spend with family and friends in the days leading up to the ceremony is something that couples who marry in-town really miss out on. So enjoy it and make the most of it!