Q: My fiance and I want to plan a destination wedding in Napa where most guests would be flying in from out of town. We have a decent budget but almost all of it will be spent on food/venue/entertainment if we go with the place we’re looking at. Will friends and family we invite think we’re rude if we don’t pay for their hotel rooms? -Cate
A: Noooo!!! No. No. No. Have I said ‘No!” enough? Lol. You absolutely do NOT have to pay for your wedding guests’ hotel rooms at a destination wedding or any other kind of wedding. Yes, weddings cost a lot for guests, especially when they’re traveling from out of town and most likely have to pay for a plane ticket and/or gas and lodging for 2 nights. But a wedding is optional for most people, and they should not expect you to pay for anything other than a possible rehearsal dinner if they are invited and your wedding reception and brunch if you have one. And honestly, only one of those is really, truly expected at the end of the day (your wedding!).
Since most of us have been wedding guests and have most likely rolled our eyes at the associated costs with it (“Wait, we have to get a wedding gift for a destination wedding, too?!”), there ARE considerations you should definitely make when planning a wedding (destination or not) that will help guests keep a bit more money in their wallet and smiles on their faces.
Book a variety of hotels at various budgets
Having your wedding at a swanky 5-star hotel? Don’t expect every guest to cough up $500/night. I recommend seriously considering lower-cost hotel options in the area before committing to a venue. Ideally you would have an option that is under $200 for guests if possible. If that’s not in the cards, work diligently with the hotel to arrange the best hotel group rate possible, and nudge them for a free room or two while you’re at it (it never hurts to ask) for guests that need it most (or if you can, offer to pay for those guests’ yourself).
Arrange for group travel discounts
Several airlines (such as American) will arrange for a group fare if guests are traveling together for an event or meeting. You should also look into hotel shuttles for guests arriving at the airport going to one main hotel as well. Getting married in a place like NYC? Pre-purchase Uber or Lyft gift cards so guests can travel to your venue for free and in style.
Forego wedding gifts
You heard me. It’s painful, I know, but if you are feeling extra guilty about your hotel room costs, forego your wedding registry and insist that guests grace you with their presence (not presents!) instead. Most guests will probably get you a gift anyway, but it’s the thought that counts.
Take care of them the entire weekend
Having a destination wedding where all guests are traveling in from out of town and most guests will be staying on property? Arrange for a less expensive BBQ Welcome Dinner (with beer and wine only) or a Cocktail Welcome Drink. Breakfast vouchers or brunch the following Sunday are also appreciated but of course not required. Welcome bags in everybody’s room is also a nice touch.
All of the things listed above are great ways to treat guests at your destination wedding, just remember…a free room isn’t one of them! (Unless you are able to, of course. In which case can we come?!)
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