These are the questions we’re asked again, and again, and again. Feel free to write to us with your own at email@example.com.
How many parties and events are we expected to pay for?
As at any wedding, the bridal couple (or whomever has offered to pay) will finance the entire wedding, including ceremony, reception, and—if there is one—an after party. Additionally, you’ll pick up the tab for a welcome gathering of some type; generally it’s a cocktail party and meal on the night most guests arrive, which can double as the rehearsal dinner. Hosting a casual breakfast, brunch, or lunch the day after the wedding is another standard cost, but a small one, as many of your guests will have already left for home, will have moved on to another venue to continue their vacation, or will be sleeping in.
Beyond that, be as generous as you can without going into debt. Some type of group activity, be it a sailboat ride or a picnic excursion, is a great way for you to mingle with everyone and a chance for the group to bond. And often the bride treats her attendants to a girls’ gathering (anything from a spa afternoon to wine and cheese by the pool), while the groom hosts the ushers for a whiskey tasting, a golf day, or a manly hike.
Does everyone pay for their own travel costs and accommodations?
Customarily, yes. The minimal expenditures required of guests is that they get themselves to the wedding and pay for their accommodations. Which is why you should think carefully about your family and friends before you embark on planning. Will the majority of them be able to afford to attend? Are they comfortable travelers? Will your plans enable them to have an enjoyable mini-vacation, or will attending the wedding be a burden? If the latter is true, you might want to think about a destination elopement and a party later.
One of my bridesmaids won’t be able to afford to travel to the wedding. Can we pick up the tab for her?
You can, but before doing that, you might want to look at the scope of your plans. Are you sure she’s the only one who feels a financial pinch? Could it be she’s the only one who’s complained? Consider what adjustments can be made to suit everyone’s budget.
Are there a variety of accommodations at all price points? If you’re marrying someplace where you have family or friends, can they open their homes to your budget-challenged guests? Are there rental houses where friends can make use of extra bedrooms and cook their meals, saving on resort costs?
Even arranging a van to pick people up at the airport and take them to their hotel(s) can help everyone’s bottom line. And if you can swing it, hosting breakfast each morning can be a very small expense for you and a very welcome gesture for your guests.
If she’s a close friend who’s truly cash-strapped, however, by all means treat her to whatever travel expenses you’re comfortable footing. But you’ll need to be completely discreet so you don’t seem to be playing favorites.
We’re marrying outside of the U.S. Will the marriage be legal when we get home?
If the country where you plan to marry considers you legally wed, then your marriage will be considered legal in the United States too. The important thing to keep in mind is what constitutes “legal” in your specific location. For example, in many countries only civil ceremonies are considered legally binding; in a few countries (Indonesia, for example, which includes Bali), only religious weddings are recognized. And depending on the country, there may be a considerable amount of red tape to deal with beforehand. While the most popular wedding destinations tend to make the paperwork fairly simple, if things get at all complex you can always have a civil ceremony at home beforehand, so there’s no question that you’re officially hitched.
Should we register for presents? People are already spending an awful lot of money to come to the wedding.
It might sound greedy, but you really should. Here’s why: Some people who won’t be able to attend the wedding will still want to send a gift, and registering is the easiest way for them to shop.
Having said that, you’ll probably want to put together a different kind of registry than couples having a big hometown wedding. In general, don’t register for large groups of items—a dozen place settings of china, for example; you may get only three or four, and you’ll either have to complete the set yourself or reconcile yourselves to a lifetime of four-person dinner parties. Good ideas: Towels or bath linens, wine glasses, a serving platter, candlesticks.
When do we send out the save-the-dates?
You can send them as far as a year in advance, but you run the risk of people either losing the invite, forgetting about it, or ignoring it. Depending on how difficult it will be for guests to get hotel reservations, it’s generally better to wait six to nine months before the wedding.
If someone says “no” to the save-the-date, do we send him a wedding invitation anyway?
You probably should. Whatever reason he had to begin with—a shortage of money or vacation time—may change by the time the wedding rolls around. And even people who feel it’s too much of a bother may very well warm up to the idea of traveling to your wedding—particularly when everyone else they know is going.
We don’t want to invite kids. How do we word the invitations?
Everything gets more complicated with children, doesn’t it? Destination weddings are no exception. The problem is, if you’re inviting parents to travel to your wedding sans children, those kiddies will 1) have to be left at home or 2) be hauled along and then deposited in a kid’s program during the day and left with a sitter at night. Neither scenario is likely to delight your friends, but this decision is entirely up to you.
As to the actual wording, you really shouldn’t write anything along the lines of “adults only” or “no children” on the invitations. The only way to make your wishes known is to address the invitation exclusively to the parents (“Joe and Jill Monroe,” not “The Monroes”). You can also make the point, and give parents some valuable information while you’re at it, if you have a small card printed with the name of a few excellent local babysitters.
If you still suspect your message may not get across, call whichever parent you’re closer to and explain that while you adore their son, you have this wedding fantasy in which children don’t figure. Do not anticipate this being a happy phone call. But once everyone gets used to the idea, you may find that some parents even thank you—sometimes it takes a wedding to inspire a second honeymoon.