How to Prepare Yourself as a Guest for a Destination Wedding

By Christina Kim - May 14, 2016


Destination weddings are exhilarating and exotic as they sound, as one travels to the location which could be just as meaningful and romantic for the beautiful union between two people.

It is a dream come true, especially for the couple in question, who are about to exchange their vows to start their journey together.

The bride and groom, without question, are definitely beyond ecstasy when it comes to their own destination wedding which could take months and even years to plan.
From scouting that perfect location to figuring out the logistics and rationale of actually holding their wedding in that place, to planning for their guests' to be able to get there, there is just more than what one can imagine.

For the guests themselves, the whole destination wedding invitation perhaps could even present an opportunity for a little bit of traveling, as they make plans to get from their residing location to that selected destination of the couple's nuptial ceremony.


I don't know about you, but I am always excited to receive a wedding invitation, and I always make it a point to attend the weddings I am invited to, or whenever I could.
I always think it is an honor to be invited to a wedding; to be thought of by the couple (or either the bride and groom) that they would want you at their wedding.
Never mind what people say that sometimes you are invited to fill the tables or even worse, some say that they want your gifts, I never really cared much about that.
Reason is simple, I don't think of the intentions or in that way, nor do I think about what people would say, but rather, what I want to think of, and that's simply, the couple is inviting and that I am an honored guest.
That's just the way to un-complicate things.

Anyway, when it comes to weddings, I have been to my fair share ever since I am young, just like everyone else.
(I'm sure everyone has been to at least more than five weddings, and the numbers just increase along the years, of course)

When we reach our 20s, 30s, that's when most of the wedding invitations just come flooding in; one after another.
In a blink of an eye, it seems as if everyone we know are off the singles' market and that's figuratively speaking.

Being a part of a wedding is the most wonderful experience, well, at least I am speaking for myself.
As I have mentioned in my previous post, there is just so much magic when it comes to weddings.

Destination weddings, just adds to that magic.

After all, what is there not to love about having your big day in a dreamy location which could also serve very well as a mini getaway at the same time, or perhaps to kickstart that honeymoon for a much-deserved break after all that wedding planning?

Everything, I say.

While the couple is bustling about their Big Day, with all that excitement in their heads, how about you, as the invited wedding guest?

Move past that thrill of being part on the guest list, you may have many questions popping up in your head about the whole wedding itself.

The location, the logistics, and most of all, that whole packing part.
I hear you.

So, this is just a simple list of things I would like to share; I wouldn't say it is a guide or anything for I am just like you, speaking from my past experiences, I could just very well offer a few pointers which could probably help some of you figuring out, especially for first-timers.

Here's a few things you could look into, when you find yourself being invited to a destination wedding

Definition: Anything that is away from home or that local spot, is technically considered a destination wedding.
No, I don't mean driving to the restaurant in the next neighborhood or picking up your bride from her place and having your wedding dinner in her neighborhood.
I mean, further, and usually, I say, USUALLY, it would probably involve a beach.

Yes, sea, sand, sun, island and maybe for the more adventurous, on the mountains, the jungle for the nature lovers (for real, I'm not kidding).

Even cities away from your place.

Destinations which would need you to pack and get there, capsize?

What to Expect from a Destination Wedding and How do You Prepare as a Guest

1. Location

Whizarts Wedding Photography

First of all, the WHERE plays the important role in determining the rest.

Where will the wedding be held?
Where do you expect to stay, and how do you get to the ceremony?
The location determines the rest of the details next in the list; the climate, the environment which could prepare you on your packing list, logistics, transportation, arrangements which you would need, and of course, your overall budget.

Find out and do a little research on the location of the wedding if you are not familiar with the place, and ask around, or even refer to the couple (hosts) for assistance if you need to.

2. The Climate


Once you know about the location, pay close attention and check out the local climate of the place during the month, week or day of the wedding.

This is an important detail which would determine what you need to pack, and whether you need any protective gear such as an umbrella, raincoat, or even your Wellington boots (just kidding about this one, or not)

One of the biggest mistakes one could make when heading to a destination, even if it is purely for leisure travel and not for an event, is to be uninformed which could result in poor organizational skills in both the travel arrangements and outfits.
Since you will be attending an event full of people and it is an important day, or the most important day of the people you are there to celebrate, you don't want to make this mistake.

Be prepared; if the weather is dry, you would need your list of things to keep you hydrated at all times (water, lotion, mist/spray, etc) and if it is cold, bring along your scarf, cardigan, or anything that could keep you warm.

The key is, be ready for the weather condition and you know how unpredictable it could get sometimes.
(Though of course, preparing for the snow in Malaysia would be a little too far-fetched, no?)

3. Logistics Arrangement


Accommodation, transportation and your travel mode (flight, boat, train, car, etc) would need to be planned once you have confirmed the location.

Typically the hosts would often include their recommendations in their invitations, or even on their website (if they have set up their wedding site online).
The list would be a simple one, of course, so do not expect it to be the comprehensive and exhaustive one filled with every single hotel/motel/inn or AirBNB homes in that area, meeting every range of budget possible.

Their list is just a suggestive guide, not your full travel guide.

You can choose to follow their recommendations, and you can cross check with them for sometimes, they could have better rates, though it is usually for the venue where their wedding reception is held (if it is in a hotel, then there's usually discounted rates for their wedding guests).
You can politely check with the couple, on the rates, and sometimes, the couple would even help you to block the rooms, but of course, you would have to pay for your own, unless indicated otherwise.
(Even if the couple are kind enough to offer, it is often more polite to pay for your own room, just my humble opinion).

*Don't expect major markdowns though, they are just discounted banquet rates.
They are holding a wedding there, they don't own the place.

Make your plans, cross check your dates and your travel documents before you travel.
Arrange for your transportation upon arrival, if there will be any pickups (if you are staying away from the venue) or car rental services.

Check all the travel requirements (passport, visa, departing airports/stations, identification documents, restricted items, etc) if you are required to travel internationally.
If you are in a duty-free port, verify the allowance of duty-free items you can bring home in case you want to purchase a few souvenirs or goods from the trip.

It is your own responsibility to make sure you adhere to the travel regulations, so make sure you confirm all the details.

4. Dress Code


There is always a dress code, of course.

Even if the event states that it is going to be really casual, and it is usually so when it involves the beach, that does not mean that you can just go in sweatshirts or pants you put on when you go to the neighborhood market.
Unless, that IS the dress code insisted by the couple.
(Sometimes couples do get creative, and they probably wanted their hometown friends to reflect that home environment or if being at home is the theme, but usually that is not)

Smart Casual: What you would put on if you were to go for a movie or dinner date
For Men: Slacks, collared shirts, blazers (if you would), and loafers.
It's always easier for women, dresses, tailored blouses and skirts and nothing too raunchy or revealing.

Casual: You could probably get away with jeans and sneakers for this one, but again, do refer to the venue mentioned in the invitation.
If it is in a hotel, it is always appropriate to dress in a respectable manner.

Black tie, Formal, Cocktail, you probably know what that means.
Tuxedos, tails, waistcoats, gowns are definitely in that list; and maybe gloves are required too (just kidding).

5. Type of Ceremony


Cultural, religious, funky, just to name a few.
Just like going to a party, there is probably a theme and perhaps a little more for weddings, as there could be some traditional customs or even religious observations involved.

Do check with the couple to be prepared and always make sure you observe and adhere to the customs practised by the host as a sign of respect and courtesy, and also be mindful when attending the ceremony.
There may be instances when you would be required to take off your shoes, or not wear certain colors, or types of clothing.
For example, it is always best to avoid black at most weddings, especially Chinese, as it is considered a mourning color.
If you are entering a religious premise, make sure you do not wear revealing clothes or slippers as a sign of respect.

6. Gifts


You know what they say, gifts are optional but not mandatory.

This is at your discretion, for it is coming from you.
I am listing this as part of the planning, on how you could bring it along if you are traveling.
The need for travel, climate and logistics would probably shed some light on how you could pack your gifts if you are planning on getting something for the couple.
The size of the gift, place to store it (if it's big), etc.

Though I am sure, your presence is already a big gift to the couple, especially if you went all the way to their destination wedding.
At the same time, I understand, for I have been a guest far too many times, I still love to get a little something for the couple if I could; it is just a token to add to their joy on their big day, isn't it?

Of course, based on all the above, it is obvious that to attend a destination wedding, you would need to allocate a budget for the traveling and such.
Therefore, plan wisely and also, make your decision early.

While it is truly an honor to be invited to a destination wedding, if you truly feel that you cannot afford, or perhaps there was a conflict in your schedule which was just so unfortunate, be polite and inform the couple as soon as possible.

It is always good to make sure the couple is notified early, for it would help with their planning and all that arrangement.
Speak to them personally, and I am sure they will understand.

Of course sometimes they would be disappointed, but they really do understand.

A destination wedding is not all that easy or even flawless, it takes time and effort to plan and even for the guests, it is all the effort and the couple really do know how hard it is to get everyone present at their wedding.

Just make sure they are informed upfront, and do not wait until the last minute, unless in extreme emergencies which could not be foretold.

I speak from experience, as both a host and also as a guest where I myself, have experienced last minute cancellations and even I myself have been unfortunate to met with some mishap right before a friend's wedding.

The most important thing is to always keep the couple informed, and speak to them personally. Make that phone call and just tell them.

You don't want them to be truly disappointed when they anticipated your presence yet you turned out to be a no-show.
That is the true disappointment; even disrespectful, to say the least.

Destination weddings fulfill a couple's dream, and as a guest, even if you cannot make it to join their day, you want your blessings to with them always.

But if you could make it to be a part of the event, even better, you have no idea how much your presence would mean to them.

Maybe you do, from your personal experience as well.

There is just no way to express that heartfelt gratitude when you see the faces of the people you have invited turn up at your own wedding, or even event.

I definitely know how that feels.

It is priceless.


Last but not least, if you make it there, have fun, enjoy yourself along with the couple, to make it a memorable experience for yourself as well.

Like I said, a wedding always has its own magic, and you will feel it too!

It may not be your own Big Day (you will have your turn), but make it a Fun Day!

Above all, give yourself that credit and live up to your name, be that guest your hosts invited and make them proud :)

And of course, Enjoy!~


Hope this helps to give you an idea of what to expect and how to go about planning on attending a destination wedding, as a guest.
It is not an official guide or anything, just merely from my personal experience.

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.

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  1. Superb photographs! Thanks for sharing them here. We are also looking for destination wedding venues Chicago. Want those venues which are interesting, unique and affordable as going to have an adventurous wedding.

    1. Hey Zerry HT, I'm so happy to hear you've enjoyed the post! :)
      Your wedding sounds amazing, and that adventurous vibe is going to be a blast, I'm sure! ;)