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If you’re planning a wedding out of town or to an international location, you may need some additional guidance on what to include in your invitations and when to send them out. Here’s Loud Bride’s complete guide along with a handy infographic you can pin or print for later!
What is a destination wedding?
First, let’s start with the basic definition of what is consider a destination wedding:
A destination wedding is a marriage that is celebrated out of town. This can mean out of town for the a large portion of the guests, out of town for the couple, or both. If the guests have to travel and book accommodations to attend the wedding it is considered a destination.
For example, a wedding would be considered a destination wedding in the following scenarios:
- One, a couple living in Seattle hosts a wedding in Seattle when most of their friends and family live in New York
- Two, a couple living in Seattle hosts a wedding in New York when half of their friends and family live in New York and half live in Seattle
- Three, a couple living in Seattle hosts a wedding in Jamaica when none of the guests live in Jamaica
The third scenario is more commonly understood to be a destination wedding. Most people imagine traveling to a foreign country or tropical location. And there are even destination wedding packages at many resorts designed to be all inclusive for small weddings.
The first two scenarios are also considered destination weddings. If a significant portion of your guests have to travel more than 2 hours and book hotel accommodations (e.g. your partner’s entire family is from a different town or country) than you are planning a destination wedding for those guests.
Ultimately, a destination wedding isn’t something necessarily extravagant. It may be a necessity for multi-cultural couples or couples who have moved far away from their hometowns.
Who do you invite to a destination wedding?
The rules for who to invite to a destination wedding are no different from you would invite to a local wedding. You should consider your maximum guest list number based on your budget and then narrow the invites from there based on how close they are to you now and how close they will likely be to you in the future.
The only difference between a local guest list and a destination guest is that you might want to consider creating a tiered guest list if you are above your maximum guest count. This is to account for the people who aren’t able to attend your celebration because of the travel or time off it requires. With a tiered guest list you can send additional invitations when people decline and slots open up. It is not a mandatory to do this. You may just be happy to save some money with a smaller final guest list.
What percentage of guests actually attend?
It’s not possible to predict exactly how many guests will attend your out of town wedding but you should assume that fewer people will attend than if you had a local wedding. The advice from other wedding blogs and professionals is that it’s anywhere from 35% – 75% that will attend.
There are a few factors that can help you narrow down that range and get a better estimation.
One, how far away the wedding is.
If your wedding is a few hours drive from your hometown, you can estimate that 75%+ will attend. I found that to be the case with my own wedding which was a 6 hour drive for about half the guest list and a 2 hour drive for the remainder. If you have to travel by plane or internationally, your percentage will shrink and may end up being closer to 35%
Two, how expensive it is to travel and stay there.
Same as above, if you add in international travel that requires a pricey plane ticket and hotel stay, you’ll have a sharper drop off rate. Or if you choose a high cost city where the hotels are significantly more expensive than guests are used to spending, you’ll have more people decline because of the cost.
Three, how much time off will the guests have to take.
Again, this is related to travel and the inconvenience factor. You can help alleviate it by having a Saturday evening wedding so guests can travel on Friday night / Saturday morning and leave on Sunday. If you’re planning on having a Friday or Sunday destination wedding, it is harder for guests to travel without taking time off from work. That may lead to a smaller percentage in attendance.
Four, how many guests you invite.
You might not have considered this a factor but if you’re only inviting your closest family members and friends, you’ll have closer to 100% attendance. These are the people who would do anything for you!
Now that you’ve got your invite list down, let’s talk about timing.
When should you send out save the dates?
For destination weddings, you should send your save the dates out sooner than for local weddings. Plan to send save the dates 9-12 months in advance, or as soon as you know the date and location.
You want to give your guests as much time as possible to plan for your wedding and allow them to say yes. By sending out basic information on your wedding far in advance you’re providing your guests with the time they need to request time off, save money, book flights or rent a car, rent a hotel room and anything else they need to do before their trip.
|Send Save The Dates (the year prior)
|January – April
|February – May
|March – June
|April – July
|May – August
|June – September
|July – October
|August – November
|September – December
|October – January
|November – February
|December – March
Do you need to send save-the-dates?
Sending a save the date is crucial for destination weddings. It gives your guests advance notice so they can book travel, accommodations, and take time off from work to attend.
If you’re trying to save money, send digital save the dates instead. (Here are some additional tips to save money on your wedding invitations.) But don’t skip the save the dates for any guests who need to travel and book a hotel to attend your wedding.
Need more information on what goes on a save-the-date versus an invitation? We have a separate post that dives deep into invitation basics.
How far in advance should you send out invitations?
Like save the dates, you should send wedding invitations for destination weddings out a little earlier than local weddings. Based on the average of four months we found in our research, that means you should send out your invitations 4-6 months in advance for out of town weddings.
Since you’ve already sent your save the dates, guests have hopefully made some arrangements if they plan to attend. Your invitations will give them the rest of the information they need to finalize their travel and lodging.
|July – September (the year prior)
|August – October (the year prior)
|September – November (the year prior)
|October – December (the year prior)
|November (the year prior) – January
|December (the year prior) – February
|January – March
|February – April
|March – May
|April – June
|May – July
|June – August
When should guests RSVP for a destination wedding?
And you might want to give yourself a little extra time to collect RSVPs too. As always, go by the date your venue or caterers give you and pad the time a little to follow up with guests who miss the deadline. Ask guests to RSVP 2-3 months before your destination wedding date.
|October – November (the year prior)
|November – December (the year prior)
|December (the year prior) – January
|January – February
|February – March
|March – April
|April – May
|May – June
|June – July
|July – August
|August – September
|September – October
If you don’t hear back from guests after your RSVP deadline, follow up via text or phone. It’s a lot less likely they are attending if they don’t let you know 2 months before your wedding. Who is going to book international travel, hotels, etc a couple of weeks in advance? Not many people. So you can safely assume if they are on the fence about it by the time your caterer and venue need your guest list that you can count them out. Definitely let them know you won’t be including them in the head count if they don’t give you a firm answer by that date.
How do you word a destination wedding invitation?
You don’t need to put anything special on your invitation to let guests know that it’s a destination wedding. Simply by including the location, your guests will know where it is. If you want to include some special wording to emphasize your big day, here are a few creative ideas:
- Join us for a beach vacation that doubles as a celebration!
- Cruisin’ to the wedding
- Sun & Sand & Love & Forever
- Bon voyage! Buon viaggio! Buen viaje! No matter how you say it, it’s going to be a good time!
- Destination: Happily Ever After
- Bibbity boppity I do’s
- Pack your bags. Jaime and Mike and getting married!
What information do you put on a destination wedding invitation?
For the save the dates, you just need to put the location and the date. If you’d like to give more information to help with booking travel, you can include the wedding website. For the invitations, you’ll want to provide more information either in the form of a details card or by providing your wedding website.
Here’s a check list of all the information you should consider providing:
- Date and time of key events (welcome party, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception, farewell breakfast, etc.)
- Locations with exact addresses
- Hotels nearby or where you have room blocks
- Things to do in downtime (optional)
- Travel instructions (e.g. best way to get from the airport to the hotel, approximate length of flight or drive)
- Visa instructions / Passport reminder (if needed)
- Packing check list / reminders (e.g. remind guests to pack a swimsuit for the pool!)
Here’s an example of a destination wedding invitation suite with all of the information needed:
Thinking of making your own invitations? We got you with this post on how to get started.
Chart for when to send out save the dates, invites, and RSVPs:
Pin or print this chart to help with your wedding planning and invitations.
The truth is just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the wedding of your dreams. Check out this list of myths that are holding you back from having the wedding of your dreams.