Travel & Outdoors | January 2008
|Destination Weddings Ask Guests for More Commitment|
Melissa Rayworth - Associated Press
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It wasn't long ago that attending a friend's wedding meant spending a Saturday night eating prime rib and dancing to cover versions of “Louie Louie” and “Brown Eyed Girl.”
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Now, it might involve three days in Mexico or a long weekend in Maine. There could be scuba diving, cruises, square dancing or a marshmallow roast at a national park.
With a growing number of couples opting to exchange vows far from where they and most of their guests live, saying “yes” to an invite has taken on a whole new meaning.
“Destination weddings” can be fun. And time-consuming. And terribly expensive. Those most likely to be invited to a lot of weddings - people in their 20s, say - also tend to have the least seniority at work and the least disposable income.
Some guests, of course, are happy to pack their bags.
“I love the opportunity to travel and go somewhere I wouldn't have gone, or just to have an excuse to go somewhere that I like,” says Tamar Kummel, a massage therapist from New York City. She plans to attend a friend's wedding in California and another on Cape Cod later this year.
“If you didn't have this invitation, you'd never go,” she says.
But there's a downside. Kummel's boyfriend, Sean Harris, who works at an investment banking company, has a limited number of vacation days and sees a three-day wedding extravaganza as a drain on his time.
“He finds it really inconsiderate of people,” Kummel says.
What's a modern wedding guest to do? A primer:
• Do you have to attend?
“People who are having a destination wedding absolutely expect certain people can't attend the wedding for financial or schedule reasons,” says Carley Roney, co-founder of the wedding planning Web site TheKnot.com. But she advises against mentioning your finances when you decline. “It's such a guilt-tripping kind of thing,” she says. “Come up with a very appropriate reason, even if it has to be a white lie.”
Joanna Hanak of Broomfield, Colo., knew that some invited guests wouldn't attend her wedding last fall in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. “We told people that we didn't expect them to come, but wanted them to know they were welcome,” she says.
Hopefully, guests will get plenty of warning.
“Couples should give their guests at least three or four months to plan by sending out detailed Save-the-Date cards,” says Lei Lydle, founder of the Atlanta-based WeddingBasics.com, which publishes bridal Web sites in several U.S. cities.
That's especially important if the wedding falls on a holiday weekend, when travel can be difficult and expensive.
• Must you stay where the bride and groom suggest?
The couple will likely offer information on a range of accommodations, and they may have blocked rooms at several locations.
“In a situation where the bride and groom have not been so thoughtful,” says etiquette expert Samantha von Sperling, founder and director of Polished Social Image Consultants in New York, “go online and book your own accommodations and then you can call them and say, ‘I'm sorry but I couldn't afford the place you picked, so I've found something else just down the road. But I promise I'll be there and be on time.'”
• Do you have to attend every planned event?
Destination weddings often involve a raft of events, including a cocktail party to welcome guests and a brunch the morning after the ceremony. If three solid days of bonding with relatives, co-workers or strangers doesn't appeal to you, Roney says it's fine to opt out of a few daytime events. But if you're skipping something, let someone in the bridal party know so that no one waits or searches for you.
• What if you've got kids?
If children are invited (with destination weddings, they often are), your hosts may have some childcare planned. Ask whether kids are welcome at all the weekend's events, then ask if baby-sitting is available during any that are grown-ups only. If nothing has been arranged, you might contact the hotel where the wedding is happening or where you're staying and inquire about baby-sitting services.
Some guests, like New Yorkers Michele Clarke-Ceres and her husband, Rudy Ceres, see destination weddings as an opportunity for a private getaway sans kids.
“We take advantage of taking time away to just spend time alone,” she says.
• Do you have to bring a gift?
“You can definitely scale back,” says Roney. “But unless they specifically say, 'the present is your presence,' you should buy a gift, even if it's a $30 something off their registry. People who are in that age range where they are going to a wedding every weekend can chip in with a group of people and do a group gift.”