Your wedding is more than a celebration of the joining of two lives. It’s also a chance for old friends to see each other again, and for two family reunions to happen in the same room. Since weddings are major life events that draw friends and family from all parts of your life, it’s very likely that some of them won’t be living in your town. That means they’ll be traveling to attend your wedding. It’s your job, as their host, to make sure they feel at home.
Many couples rule out the idea of a destination wedding, deeming it inconvenient to their guests, since they don’t want to make their loved ones travel to an exotic location just to witness their nuptials. However, since many people move to new cities as they start jobs and families, it’s rare that a modern wedding isn’t a destination wedding for some of the guests. The best you can do, in terms of traveling convenience, is to hold your wedding in the city where the majority of your guests already live. For the rest of the guests, you’ll just have to treat them like kings and queens once they arrive.
One of the most important things you can do to welcome traveling guests is make sure they have somewhere to stay. Especially if friends are coming from far away, the first thing they’ll want to do when their plane lands is put down their suitcases and unpack (and probably take a shower, too).
Starting a few months ahead of time, call local hotels and ask about discounts for reserving blocks of rooms around your wedding date. Not only will you be able to save your guests money, but you’ll ensure they’re all staying in a location that’s convenient to the wedding venue.
As a less expensive, less formal approach, ask your local friends if anyone has room to host individual or small groups of out-of-town friends at their houses. If you match people based on whom you think will get along especially well, you may end up sparking newly formed friendships–which makes for a livelier wedding.
Some of your guests will prefer to make their own arrangements for accommodations, so take care not to impose your plans on everyone. Just make sure options are available for those of your guests who do want to take you up on the offer.
The first travel question arises when your guests arrive at the airport. How will they get to their lodgings? The most convenient option is, of course, to arrange for a taxi (or friend) to pick them up. However, even if you can’t offer personal service to each arriving guest, you can still help them find their way. Research rental car companies, taxi dispatch numbers, rideshare phone apps, and public transportation routes, and distribute them to your guests before they depart; that way, they can make their own travel decisions.
Consider your wedding venue. Does it have ample parking, or is finding a free spot an hour-long pain? Are the venue directions easy to follow, or is it located in a remote area that’s off the map? Is your reception in the same place as your ceremony, or do your guests have to cross town to reach it? If you’d never been to your venue before, would you rather drive your own car or be shuttled in? Let convenience be your guide as you recommend travel options to your guests. Many out-of-town visitors will choose to rent a car or rely on public transportation. However, if many guests are traveling to the wedding venue from the same hotel, or if everyone is crossing from the ceremony to the reception as a group, you may want to arrange a shuttle as an added convenience. This is especially helpful if your guests plan on drinking.
The biggest favor you can do to help out-of-town guests feel at home is give them personal attention. After all, you’re the reason they’re traveling! Try to have at least one meaningful, one-on-one conversation with each out-of-town guest where you’re not focused on anything except for being a good friend. (During a wedding, this is much harder than it sounds.)
Put together a “welcome packet” with all of the essential information your guests will need for the wedding. Include phone numbers for yourself and your soon-to-be spouse, as well as ways of contacting the venue, shuttle service, and any other important locations (like the rehearsal dinner restaurant). Don’t forget to include an itinerary with all of the planned wedding activities, timelines, and directions to each location. Mention important information like, “Lakeside gets chilly in the evening–bring a sweater!”
If you want to go the extra mile, write a personal message welcoming each guest and arrange with the hotel or host to have it waiting in the guest’s room upon arrival. It doesn’t hurt to send it with a fruit basket or parcel of homemade cookies. If you’re planning a themed wedding, this is also a great opportunity to present your guests with little gifts (like sun parasols or colorful leis) that they can wear to the wedding.
Remember, traveling long distances can be stressful, and travelers are often not at their best after a long haul. When you go out of your way to be gracious and welcoming, you erase memories of uncomfortable plane seats and long wait times. You want your guests to know that every second of travel was worth it because their presence is welcomed and appreciated at your wedding. Keep that in mind, and you’ll make your guests feel at home in no time.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.