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Enough with the destination weddings already

If you insist on getting married at an island resort far away, some people will say you're selfish.

By Karen Datko Mar 19, 2010 2:58PM

The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary is a huge fan of Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, and we thoroughly enjoy them both. So imagine the fun when these two fine columnists touched on a pet peeve we share -- destination weddings.


Like Martin and Singletary, we have a problem with huge weddings the blessed couples can’t afford, and destination weddings can be an egregious, large subset of that. Singletary, the Post’s personal-finance columnist, wrote:

The truth is, for many of these weddings, guests are goaded to attend because if they do, the marrying couple get their expenses covered. How nice for them!

The main complaint about DWs, as they’re called, is the cost for guests to attend. If your friends have money to burn, not a problem. Otherwise, even those in your wedding party might balk at the expense. People will accuse you of being selfish. (For proof, read this exchange at the Best Destination Wedding forum.)

The topic came up in an online chat hosted recently by Singletary. A reader explained how she (or he) had to decline to attend because of the cost ($2,600) and the fact that the invitees would be in the process of moving to another home. The reader said, “… they felt we should reschedule our closing and dip into some of the profit we had just made on our house.” What gall from a couple who ended up separating four months after the destination nuptials. (I’m not making this up.)


If you really must have your wedding at a faraway, fabulous location, don’t count on the type of crowd who might show up for a wedding close to home. Aunt Betty and Uncle Firp might send best wishes, but they won’t attend.


Here are some DW tips:

  • Keep the invitation list short and consider the wedding trip a group vacation. If you’ve long talked with your closest friends about a group trip to Italy, this could give everyone the excuse they need to order “Learn to Speak Italian” DVDs. (Expect those you don’t invite to feel hurt but possibly relieved because of the cost.)
  • Give your guests plenty of notice so they can get time off from work. (If they need passports, that’s another six weeks, perhaps longer, unless you expedite.)
  • Another time consideration, from Cheap Wedding Solutions: “Make sure you know all of the residency and legal requirements to get married at your destination; you may need to be resident a week before you are married.” Or visit the local justice of the peace before you head out.
  • Decide what expenses you will cover. Smart Money Life says, “A destination wedding … requires only that you pay for the hotel rooms and several of your guest’s meals.” Is that a hard and fast rule? Apparently not. (See below.)
  • If you want more people to be able to attend, pay for the accommodations and the flight -- but only if you can afford it.
  • Work with a travel agent, compare group discounts, and go in the off-season, Smart Money Life advises. (Keep hurricane season in mind.) Also, resorts may offer package deals and the services of a wedding planner.
  • Have a party/reception for everyone else once you get home.

What is the proper etiquette for wedding guests who’ve paid big bucks to fly to a resort? Miss Manners provided some guidance on that and other wedding-expense issues in another online Washington Post chat (it’s priceless):

Q: If guests are spending substantial amounts to travel to destination weddings, are guests expected to bring gifts of the same value of attending a local wedding without travel costs?
Miss Manners: The two expenses are not related. People who cannot or do not care to spend the money to travel should not go. Those who choose inconvenient locations should not expect everyone to swallow that inconvenience. In any case, wedding presents should not cost more than the givers can comfortably afford.

One of the primary arguments offered in favor of destination weddings is that because so few people will attend, you’ll be spending the same as if you held a larger wedding at home. Maybe. But chances are a DW will be a burden to your closest friends. Are they going to tell you? You should ask first.


For possible answers, look at what readers said at a Weddingbee board. Samples from two posters:

For me, it would depend on how close I was to whoever was getting married and also if I could afford it. Destination weddings are awesome, but they aren't in every guest’s budget and sometimes no matter how much they want to be there, they just can't afford to be.
I wouldn't take it personal if people didn't attend ours. I know how rough it can be for people. Shoot, my sister (MOH) told me yesterday she wasn't going anymore. But oh well, what can I do!

Here’s a suggestion: Elope. The Knot wrote: “Remember, too, that choosing to elope or to bring just a few close friends and family members with you is going to be less of a hassle than inviting 30 people from the States to stay in an Italian castle for your wedding.”


Would you go if you got an invitation to a destination wedding? What would it take for you to say yes? Are the couple expecting too much? And if you’ve had your own destination wedding, how did you handle the cost?


Related reading:

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