Will People Kind of Hate Me If I Have a Destination Wedding?

AAPW: Can I ask my wedding guests to drop $2k and travel 20 hours?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW


Q: My fiancé and I are are trying to decide where to get married (so far we have spent four months on this question). We are in the lucky situation of having two free venues available to us: my family’s home in Seattle and my family’s farm in Argentina. We are very interested in the second option because that is where we first went on vacation together and he got to know my family. Not to mention that it is incredibly beautiful and a really fun and relaxing place to go. However, we are very worried about anyone feeling obligated to pay $2,000 and travel twenty hours to see our wedding. We would like to give our friends the option of coming because many have expressed great interest in it, but we know there will be probably a large-ish group of people that feel it is rude we had a wedding in a location that they cannot easily get to. So, getting to my question, what ways can you think of to lessen people’s anger? I thought maybe really informal invitations—like just email or evites—would help, stressing that we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to come. But then we wouldn’t want to discourage someone who was actually interested in coming! We would also plan on having a very informal barbecue or party in Seattle. Any other ideas of how to deal with or lessen people’s anger that you had a wedding they could not just drive to?

(For clarification—I do not have family in Argentina, so it would not be a wedding where it is a middle ground between two families. It would definitely be a “destination wedding.” That said, we have family friends there I have known since I was five and have seen more often than some members of my actual extended family.)


A: Dear Lindsey,

There’s nothing inherently “rude” about choosing a destination wedding. Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of times when folks make wedding choices that are inconsiderate of their guests. But, picking a far-away location isn’t what I’d consider one of them.

The questions you’re asking here—Is it rude? Will they be angry?—aren’t what I think you should be considering. Instead, you might need to start thinking, “Will anyone come?” and “Is it important to us that they do?” Frankly, even if I loved you, it’s unlikely I’d be able to drop $2k and a few vacation days on your wedding. Many of your friends may find themselves in the same situation. Destination weddings usually end up being a good deal smaller as a result of these sorts of things, but your particular wedding may be even more so because of just how far it is (twenty hours, whoa!).

This is where I’ll point you back to that good ol’ standard, “Your wedding is not an imposition.” You’re inviting people to come to Argentina. Some of them may come, many of them may not. But, you’re not obligating them or forcing them. If they choose to come, I hope it’s happily and with sunscreen and sunglasses. If Argentina is inconvenient for finances or time constraints, they’re welcome to stay home. They’re grown-ups who can make this decision.

So quit worrying about anger and rudeness. What do you want? A beautiful location with not so many guests? Or a ton of loved ones in a less exotic locale?

And, psst. A beautiful, meaningful backdrop really is awesome (who wouldn’t want that for their wedding!). But if you think about it and decide you’d rather your people show up than to keep it small and gorgeous, it could also make a really beautiful, meaningful honeymoon spot.


Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Amy March

    I think this is one of those times where people who don’t like it don’t like it and there’s not much you can do about it. Assuring them that they don’t have to come might make them feel unwanted. Having your wedding in a location that you know they will struggle to get to might make them feel like you care more about that location than about their presence. A casual BBQ might feel like why should they bother celebrating you when it wasn’t important to you to have them there.

    I agree with Liz that none of this is really your problem to solve. These are potential consequences of a destination wedding. Should people get upset? I tend to think no, but they might. If you go into this decision planning to do things to keep people from getting upset, I think you’ll be disappointed to find out that it’s just not always possible. If you go into the decision understanding that yes, it’s pretty likely at least some people close to you will be hurt and you won’t be able to fix it, I think you’ll have an easier time deciding what’s important to you in the wedding process.

    And for my pick I vote Argentina! It sounds fabulous and I would try really hard to come.

    • Sarah E

      I was reading through the comments to see if anyone voiced this, too: You can’t control other people’s reactions or emotions. Liz is absolutely right in terms of planning. Decide whether you’d be okay with fewer people traveling than you’d hoped, or with having a wedding in Seattle instead, and go with your priority.

      All you can really do is behave in sincerely compassionate ways, and let people make their own decisions. You could choose the most graceful wording in the whole world, and someone might be upset, because: humans. So make the choice that is right for you as a couple, be the kind, gracious friend you always are, and let go of expectations beyond your control.

  • Eenie

    I wouldn’t hate you, but I may be sad I can’t swing the trip to attend your wedding. I would send a lovely gift and try to make the local reception! Just make sure you’re OK if it’s a smaller wedding. And check with you must haves on the feasibility of attending a destination wedding.

  • Hannah K

    I would be interested if people have thoughts about how to invite people. How do you make the balance between “we’d love to have you” and “we totally understand if you can’t make it” clear without causing your guests to worry that you either only invited them out of obligation OR that you’ll be offended if they don’t come. I know you can only do so much to manage other people’s feelings, but what is a graceful way to invite people?

    • Amy March

      By sending them a normal invitation. That balance is already implicit in “we request the pleasure of your company at our wedding.”

      • Hannah K

        But if you’re sending this to someone who you KNOW can’t afford the trip, and they know you know they can’t afford the trip, would you really send the invitation with no additional comment? You wouldn’t break it to them first or something? I’m thinking of friends who are totally broke. It just seems inconsiderate not to somehow acknowledge that you basically both know they’re going to be excluded because of the cost, but you’re sending the invite as a gesture anyway.

        • Liz

          On an individual basis, yeah, maybe (though I’d avoid bringing up the finances- being the perpetually broke friend, I’d probably feel pretty embarrassed if someone was like “I KNOW YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT” …I mean, yeah, possibly true, but way harsh, Tai), but not on a mass, full-guestlist level.

          In a similar but different situation, a friend is having her baby shower 4 days after my due date. She shot me a text the other day, “Hey, your invitation is in the mail but I know it’s probably an inconvenient day for you, so NO PRESSURE.” I know she didn’t want me to feel excluded or not-invited, you know?

          • Liz

            So, more to your point- if you DID want to address a specific guest and alleviate concern, maybe “I know it’s a big commitment, so no pressure!” might be the verbiage I’d choose. (But you never know! Maybe perpetually broke friend is looking for a good excuse to dump those limited funds into a short vacation)

          • Hannah K

            This is really helpful, I think your friend handled it well. Thanks. Just sending an invite in the mail without any comment seemed a bit insensitive, but so does bringing up someone’s finances or other circumstances that you assume would keep them from attending. It’s hard to walk that line between not making assumptions, but also not making your loved ones feel like you’ve completely forgotten or stopped caring about their circumstances. It does seem better to acknowledge the hardship somehow.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            The no pressure is less jarring than referring to money for sure. I am also many times the broke friend.

        • Amy March

          It seems inconsiderate to me to offer any sort of message that implies “I know you are too poor to do this really fun thing but I’m inviting you anyway.”

          To me, things like “of course I understand if you can’t come, but obviously wanted you to know that I love you and am thinking of you” are best conveyed in a personal conversation where you can listen to each other, not in writing on an invite.

          • TeaforTwo

            I think you can get away with “I know this is a huge expense” which applies to…almost everyone on the guest list, broke or not. Even people who aren’t broke might think twice about the cost of a trip to, say Argentina, and decide it’s not where they want to spend their money.

            Because the $2K in the subtitle is probably a lowball. A couple is going to spend at least $2K on flights, but then there’s accommodation, and the fact that a 20 hour flight is probably going to warrant turning it into at least two weeks away. It’s not a directly-related wedding expense, but it is an I’m-not-going-to-the-wedding-without-this expense.

          • VKD_Vee

            So this! I was invited to a wedding in Quebec once when the bride-to-be told me “it’s really important that you’re INVITED to this” even though I obviously wasn’t going to be making the trip (I was a kiddo, back then…)

            I also invited about a million friends from Scotland to my wedding who I KNEW wouldn’t come. I wanted them to have an invitation as a keepsake or at least invite them to celebrate with us in their hearts, if not in presence.

        • Lawyerette510

          I think there’s a difference between the invitation aka “how do you invite people” and the relationship. You have your invitation and you send it to everyone you’re inviting. Then if you have people that your relationship is such you want to make sure they know that you love them and cherish their friendship regardless of it they attend the wedding, have a call or text or drink with them and tell them that. Like Liz said, don’t make assumptions about their finances, just tell them you love them regardless and want them to know there is no pressure to attend for them or any other guest.

        • laddibugg

          Don’t count other people’s money for them. That’s a rule of thumb I use for lots of things.

          If the friends are close, though I’d mention that the wedding probably would be in Argentina. Even if they can’t go, and know you know they can’t go, they still might appreciate knowing you used up an invitation sending one to them.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I really really don’t think anyone needs to do this. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what someone can and cannot afford and I don’t think people who can’t afford something necessarily would appreciate a special acknowledgment of it. You just send the invite and if they can’t make it for whatever reason, they won’t.

        • Vilmos Kovacs

          This is a really kind impulse. But it is so much money (and honestly, I think $2,000 likely underestimates things – travel is more expensive when you don’t have flexibility with dates), that it would be a big financial decision for most people. Obviously, everyone is in different spots and can afford different things, but when wedding travel could pay a month’s rent in a major city I don’t think it is necessary to single out specific people who may have more trouble spending to travel than others. I think the caveat probably applies to 99% of people. And if it doesn’t apply to your friends, I want to be invited to your parties! Champagne dreams!

    • Eenie

      You just invite people normally (I think every invite goes with the understanding of: we’d love for you to make it, but understand if you can’t). I would probably put the 2nd reception on the invite as well so people know there’s going to be an event afterwards. Worded: A local reception will be held on June 11th in Local City.

  • Christina H

    We did a destination wedding that wasn’t quite as far away as Argentina but was still smaller as a result of being in an out-of-town location. Our middle ground was to make sure the wedding could be broadcast via webcam and we included a note in the invitations that said “Can’t make it, but still want to be a part of our day? The wedding will be broadcast online! Please visit out wedding website for more information.”

    I think it helped take the pressure off of people to know that they had the option of watching online.

    • Kayla

      That’s really sweet! I would watch a wedding broadcast. And I’d probably still cry my eyes out.

    • Lisa

      I love the idea of doing a YouTube steam or a Skype link! If I couldn’t make it, I would totally watch the wedding at home and wish the couple the best in the comments.

      • Christina H

        It was awesome because it was like having a virtual guest book and instant wedding video! We were able to go back and watch the ceremony that night and read all of the comments left by our friends and family back home.

  • Laura C

    Personally, I wouldn’t go (I don’t travel 20 hours for anything), but I wouldn’t be mad unless you somehow conveyed an inappropriate level of expectation or pressure to be there, which from this letter you are obviously not planning to do. And if you had an informal party someplace more doable, I’d be there with bells on.

    On invitations, I’d go with normal ones, and then maybe on a wedding website really emphasize the importance this location had in your relationship and how special it is to you. Not as an apology, but as part of the story of the wedding that can double as an explanation to those who want one.

  • Sara

    Argentina sounds fabulous, and you should do what makes you two happiest. But there are always a few guests that are more vocal than the rest about their disappointment for whatever upsets them. There’s no reason to change your plans, but just be aware some people will likely not understand why you’d want to go so far.
    Personally, I would love to go back to Argentina so it sounds like a dream location to me!

  • PW

    Agreed that what’s more important is whether it will break your heart for certain people not to be there, especially the less well-off ones. I wouldn’t be able to afford it either, and it would make me super sad if I was one of your friends and had to miss it.

    If you feel this way, could you have your wedding closer to home and honeymoon there?

  • Mary

    When we were making a similar decision (though with a destination that isn’t so far from where we live) we just asked people: we emailed all our friends outlining the plan, and asked for initial responses (i.e. no firm commitments, just people’s quick reaction to the question of whether they thought they could make it or not). That way you can base a decision on a rough idea of how many of your most important people will be able to be there. This depends on the dynamics of your friendships (and I think in the UK people are generally a bit less formal in how they approach weddings!), so if an email feels inappropriate you could ask people in person, and of course speak to family members too? Basically if you can establish all your most important people will likely be there, then I wouldn’t worry about ‘offending’ others – as others have commented, you really can’t control this.

    In the email we sent, we did stress that we were well aware that taking time off, travel time and the attendant costs might make things impossible for some people, and we absolutely had no expectations that anyone would shoulder this burden if they didn’t feel willing or able. We also stressed that of course we really wanted them all there! Basically we just approached this like a normal conversation you’d have about any other issue and communicated properly and fully about it.

  • Kirstin K

    As someone who just returned two days ago from my own destination wedding (in the Caribbean at the home of a family friend), I would say do what feels right to you! We were so worried about planning a wedding that might be difficult for many people to come to but found that really wasn’t the case. Yes, we had a few people that didn’t come who we really wanted there but some of them we realized would not have made the effort to come no matter where we chose. In the end we had 75 people that traveled to be with us and the time spent together before and after the actual wedding is something I will always treasure. We also had many people come up to us and say that it was one of the best weddings they had ever been to and I think part of this is because we did what felt right to us and not what might have been easiest.

    As for invites, we sent save the dates a year in advance with a link to our website where we included a note about how much we would love to celebrate with everyone but understood that it could not be possible. We also are planning to do a reception in WI where most of my family lives and had an engagement party where we and my husband’s family lives so feel like this allows us to celebrate with many of the people who couldn’t travel.

    Good luck!

  • Mrrpaderp

    Don’t apologize for your choice, but also don’t pressure anyone who expresses hesitation about going. And sometimes “pressure” means venting your disappointment that no one is coming to your wedding. Including to those people who initially expressed excitement about going, but when push comes to shove they’re not able to make it.

    Manage your expectations. Your preferred plan might mean that only immediate family is able to attend. Are you cool with that? If you imagine your wedding as a party until sunrise surrounded by your closest friends kind of affair, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

    Give as much advance notice as possible, like over a year in advance if you can. For most people, a trip to Argentina will be their one big vacation of the year. If they already have a vacation scheduled, they won’t have the resources to attend your wedding even if they would love to.

    Everyone gets a plus one, even if they’re not in a relationship. I’m generally pretty anti-random plus one, but if people will have to travel 20 hours to get to your wedding, give them the option of bringing a friend to keep them company.

    Try to host them as much as you can. It can be super casual, but if folks are going to make that much effort to come to your wedding then, imo, you should offer them more than one dinner on your tab.

    • Not Sarah

      “don’t pressure anyone who expresses hesitation about going”

      Please, this. That is just a great path towards regret for everyone involved.

    • Mary

      Totally agree on giving everyone lots of notice, and also on hosting them fully once they’re there. For our destination wedding, which was a three-day affair, we made sure no one had the pay for anything over that period. This can just mean getting in take-away pizza or something, but making sure the costs don’t mount for guests is pretty crucial I think, after they’ve taken the trouble to travel that far.

    • K.

      “Including to those people who initially expressed excitement about going, but when push comes to shove they’re not able to make it.”

      And as someone who had a semi-destination wedding, mentally prepare yourself for A LOT of this. Until you have an official RSVP in your hand, do not assume that anyone who said, “Oh my gosh, YES! I can’t wait to be there!” is definitely coming when more significant money and time is involved.

      • Bandy

        Yes! We are still months away but so many people who had originally said they were “DEFINITELY DEFINITELY COMING NO MATTER WHAT” realized later on that “no matter what” was probably a stretch. And luckily, I prepared myself for that. I know they really want to be there, but it’s just difficult.

        • Ali

          I’m currently one month in to planning a destination wedding and I’m having fears that the opposite will happen: I guess they’ve only had a short time to process it so far but I seem to be getting lots of hesitation rather than “definitely will comes” so having budgeted on lower numbers, it’d be a shock if then everyone decides to go.

      • Vilmos Kovacs

        Yes! It is so great to be so understanding. It reminds me of the Ellie and Carl silent film in the beginning of Up! You wanted to go to Paradise Falls, but then you got a flat tire and a tree slammed into your house. With weddings (and life), it helps to remember that you are only the protagonist in your own movie.

        • Danielle

          OMG. I just saw that clip at a conference (the speaker used it as an example of great storytelling) and most people in the room pretty much started crying!!!

          And also that clip is about the difference between what you NEED to do and what you WANT to do.

    • MC

      “And sometimes “pressure” means venting your disappointment that no one is coming to your wedding.”

      YES, this. We had friends recently get married in a semi-remote part of the caribbean, and when very few of her peers (and no one from our particular friend group) could manage to attend, the bride-to-be talked to my husband & I about how disappointed she was that so few people would be there. And it was a little awkward because we straight-up could not have afforded it in any situation. I totally understand that no matter what it will be upsetting when people can’t come to the wedding even if that was to be expected, but don’t process this emotion with your friends who can’t come.

    • brooksienne

      Absolutely on the big advance notice!! 20 hours travel is a big deal – I’ve done it. And that amount of time off can be difficult to finagle.

  • macrain

    I’m just going to throw it out there that if I had enough time to save up for it, I totally WOULD do this. It sounds like an awesome adventure and wedding rolled into one. Hell yes.

    • Lisa

      This was my initial thought as well. Would the LW and her fiancé be willing to plan for a wedding 12-24 months down the line to have it in the location they want? Then they could give friends and family more than a year notice, which would allow them to plan out vacation time and finances to make a trip like that work. I had some friends who were invited to a wedding like that once; I noticed an STD magnet on the fridge for a wedding two years away. They explained that, since the groom’s family was Australian and they were hosting the wedding in his country, they wanted to give their American friends and family plenty of notice so they could hopefully have more people at the wedding.

      And I am totally with you. If I knew a year in advance that I could travel to Argentina to see a dear friend get married, I’d be saving my PTO and $$ to make a real vacation out of it!

      • Vilmos Kovacs

        I think the hard part of that much lead time is that it puts pressure on friends to spend their money and vacation time on the wedding. I think it puts a lot of onus on friends to save their money and vacation time for the wedding. Honestly, I would only ever travel that far for a wedding if that was one member of the couple’s “home base” where that person’s family is clustered. And even then, I would still likely decline. If my friend said, we are getting married here (destination location) on this date (date that worked for them), I would likely decline but have no hard feelings. You do you. But if a friend said, we are getting married at this destination location in 2 years, so you have your time to get your ducks in a row to come, I would feel pretty manipulated. It forces me to say, I have no interest in getting my ducks into that row. Which would likely result in hurt feelings. Am I crazy?

        • Amy March

          No, and I think its an important aspect to keep in mind. Giving people advance notice of your wedding is great- if they want to, they can make arrangements. Assuming or implying that you are giving them advance notice so that they can prioritize attending your wedding- not so much.

        • Lisa

          I agree with @amymarch:disqus. I was never under the impression my friends felt coerced; they were genuinely excited about the trip. The advance notice is just helpful for people who want to make it a priority. Being able to say that you still can’t make it is your prerogative as an adult.

          • Eenie

            Advanced notice will help the people plan who genuinely want to/can come. It also explains to everyone why they haven’t set a wedding date yet (you have its just a ways away). If someone can’t/won’t come, sending a save the date well in advanced isn’t going to change that fact.

          • Vilmos Kovacs

            I know its my prerogative, and of course I would never say anything to the couple. I would just be frustrated to be put in an awkward situation. But that is also known as “being a human grownup.”

        • Natalie

          I think it’s all in how you phrase it. If you say “I’m giving you 2 years notice so you have time to save up and I totally expect you to be there”…not cool. On the other hand, I was invited to a wedding that was a long, expensive trip from where I lived (although not technically “destination” b/c it’s where the bride’s family lived) that, had I had a year or more notice, I would have totally attended. But with just 6 months notice during a very busy time of my life, I couldn’t swing it, even though I really wanted to. I think as long as you’re not a jerk about your expectations, giving your guests plenty of time to plan for a big, expensive trip will make them happier and more likely to attend.

          • Vilmos Kovacs

            Totally agree!

    • Lawyerette510

      I second this! If I had plenty of lead time to save and plan the time off from work, I would love to attend a wedding in Argentina! And if I couldn’t make it I wouldn’t be mad at the couple, I’d just be bummed for the missed opportunity. That said, I would hope that there was more than one day worth of activities of some sort once I got there, like some hang out time or casual meals or something.

    • TeaforTwo

      I agree! I would also caution that this kind of wedding might mean that you get a weird collection of guests. As in, dear Aunt Edna might not make it (because $$$ and travel) but random coworker might (because, Argentina!)

      • macrain

        I think that’s part of the fun! The only destination wedding I’ve ever been to saw me thrown together with people I didn’t know very well at all, and I haven’t seen since. Still, I have the BEST memories.

  • Katie

    Why don’t you get creative with your invitation wording and say something like “Please join us as we celebrate our marriage! Ceremony and party on (date) in (Argentina location); Party on (date) in (Seattle location)” And then on your RSVP you can have an Argentina box, a Seattle box, and a no thank you to either box? That way, you’re sending one invitation, and people get to let you know what they can do? I think part of the problem with people getting offended about destination weddings is that they end up seeming very selective. Maybe this could alleviate those feelings? Make all your loved ones feel invited, and that your Seattle party is just as much a valid wedding celebration as the Argentina trip?

    • NC

      I love this idea! I think this also might eliminate or reduce any resentment from anyone who might have felt like they really should or really wanted to attend the wedding but couldn’t really swing the destination piece. I realize their resentment is not the couple’s problem, but I’m not gonna lie – it happens.

    • Sosuli

      This is a great idea! Even just letting people know there will be a second party may help. Our wedding will be a destination one for my family (coming to the country me and FH and his family live in) and we made sure no one traveling from another country felt pressured into coming by saying in our pre-invite info packs “we would love to have you here, but understand if you can’t make it. There will be a celebration in [my home country] later that month and everyone is welcome to that.”

    • Kayla

      Totally agree that this is a perfect compromise. People will probably not feel bad they can’t make it to Argentina if they know they’re still able to join you in Seattle, and it won’t feel like Seattle is as much of an afterthought if it’s right there on the main invitation.

      If you’re willing to do a couple small things to make the Seattle party feel a little more weddingy (toasts, “first dance,” white dress, champagne… whatever feels right to you), I think that would especially lessen any disappointment for those who couldn’t travel.

    • Aubry

      Just keep in mind that this is essentially throwing two receptions. Depending on how far into budgeting you are, this may strike fear into your heart! Bottom line, weddings are expensive. So if you want to throw a second party in Seattle (especially if this includes stuff like food, booze, and cake) expect to throw several thousand at it. probably more that the Argentina reception cost, as there will be more people (of course not including the travel cost etc, just the reception cost)

      • Greta

        Yes to this! We strongly considered doing the small intimate destination wedding followed by big blow out party – and then realized that all of the expensive stuff comes with the reception – i.e. food, booze, lots of guests, etc. So definitely do some serious budgeting around this. Also – it’s not entirely clear to me if all (or most) of your guests are in the Seattle area. If you’re asking a bunch of people to fly to Seattle from some other part of the US, that’s still a pretty big money/time commitment. Not saying don’t do it, I think it sounds lovely. It just might end up looking more like 2 weddings. Which sounds awesome to me! :)

      • brooksienne

        If you go this route, think about whether you want/need your parents, sibs, etc. at both events, just so everyone’s expectations are on the same page.

  • Greta

    We were invited to a wedding in the caribbean for a not-so-close friend. We were surprised to be invited, but thought it sounded like so much fun to go to the caribbean for a week-long vacation with a wedding thrown in as well. It ended up being that the timing didn’t quite work out with work schedules, and it was a lot of money, so we didn’t go – but we definitely didn’t feel offended that they chose this or offended that they invited us. We were pleased to be thought of, but felt totally comfortable saying “sorry we can’t make it”. They had a small but totally lovely wedding and I loved looking at the pictures!

  • NC

    I think when you’re considering a big destination wedding like that, you might want to think of a venn diagram: the people you REALLY want to be there, and people who are likely to happily travel to the wedding. The bigger the overlap, the better; the smaller the overlap the more likely you are to experience stress/sadness over the attendees. I attended an awesome destination wedding in Italy (I’m in the U.S.) several years ago for a family friend because a bunch of my family was going. While the bride was thrilled to have us in attendance as a group, she and I aren’t close, so I personally was not on her VIP list, I’m sure. So that is the flip side to consider; not only the people who can’t make it, but even the people who can who aren’t necessarily on the list of top 50 people you’d want to be there. Not that you don’t want those people there of course – you invited them after all! – but they could potentially make up a good chunk of your attendees in an already-small crowd.

    • JenC

      Definitely agree with the bit about non-VIPs potentially turning up. We attended a destination wedding where it was only immediate family and us. Had it not been a destination wedding we’d have been towards the bottom of list of invitees but nicely got lost in the crowd. As it was, we are family friends that are in their wedding pictures of only immediate family. I don’t think the couple were fully expecting us to come so sometimes a destination wedding still doesn’t get around those you feel obliged to invite. (For what it’s worth, we did think that some of the couples friends would be travelling too and some more family friends but they all couldn’t make it).

  • Lauren

    We threw two weddings: One in Germany, where my husband is from and where we’re based, and one in my hometown in the US. We invited everyone to both events, but the only Americans who came to Germany were my parents and brother, and my husband’s immediate family plus three others came to the US (this being out of about 120 guests for both events, combined). I think when you’re talking about distances that huge, definitely be prepared to have a lot of guests bow out because of the money and time commitment. As much as I would have loved to get all my people to Europe, I’m so glad that we went through the trouble (and cost) of throwing an event closer to home so that we could celebrate with them. That was ultimately more important than the location.

  • sara

    I like the idea of an invitation that lists both the wedding + the local reception and asks for both RSVPs at one time.

    In terms of whether to do the destination wedding at all, I would identify a list of people that you are going to be really upset if they are not there (for us this was our immediate families, a grandma, and our attendants). Then — throughout your wedding planning, make sure that whatever you are planning is something that works for those people. For example, those are all people we checked with before finalizing the date of the wedding, and the location was largely chosen around my grandma (who is not able to travel long distances). If some of your people that you really want there at the wedding aren’t feasibly going to be able to do this trip, then I would probably skip it. But if that set of folks is excited and able to do the travel, I would go for it and consider anyone who comes on top of that to be gravy. :)

  • Ais

    I just wanted to say, we flew to Colombia (from Europe) for a wedding and it was fabulous.

    Most people who went were family of the bride/groom but they committed to the party spirit and everyone had a wonderful time.

    It was great to have advanced notice, as we turned it into a proper holiday. The only thing I’d say is make sure the accommodation available is reasonable – the bride told us she’d brooked us into the “cheaper” hotel next door. Turned out it was also 5 stars and two nights cost us more than the entire rest of our holiday combined!

  • Mindy

    Obviously, you would never, ever do this but here’s an example of the rudest/worst destination wedding behavior I’ve seen: An acquaintance asked my good friend to be her maid of honor and then announced two months later that the wedding was going to be in Barbados (they live in the PNW too). It was specifically done this way so that her best friends actually *were* obligated to attend her destination wedding because otherwise, they’d be reneging on their wedding party agreement. [For the record, I would have said that the bride was the one who reneged, but they all felt bad/were successfully manipulated]. They all ended up shelling out the time and money, but the friendship has definitely never been the same.

    So yeah, there are definitely ways that having a destination wedding is rude, but it’s usually because you’re doing rude things centered around a destination wedding. I think your thoughtfulness puts in the clear, except for those who inherently find destination weddings rude. But no one is ever going to be completely happy with any choice you make for a wedding, so I personally wouldn’t worry about that likely small percentage too much (unless your family/close friends happen to culturally have that perspective to a larger degree)

    • laddibugg

      Renege or not, if I don’t have it, I don’t have it. However, to be fair, before I agreed I would have asked where the wedding might be held, and if the bride was unsure, I would let her know my answer might be subject to change.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      If I couldn’t go I would not have gone, best friend in the wedding or not.

      • Mindy

        The thing is technically they could do it financially/time-wise, but they really resented the bait-and-switch, especially since the bride actually said, “I was so worried that you wouldn’t agree to be in the wedding so I decided to make it a fun surprise!” They probably/definitely *would* have thought more seriously about agreeing to be part of the wedding party if they had known the real plans in advance. They were also younger (early 20s) so I think the idea of BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING had a lot more social weight than it might now, 10ish years later.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Early 20s makes a big difference. I have a friend who was in a wedding (they are no longer friends due to this) where the bride kept changing dates for things at the last minute. She literally expected no one in the wedding party to plan anything for their lives for an entire year bc SHE was getting married (and her justification for the fuckery was always “I’m only getting married once) and in case she wanted to change something around, you had to be available. So she set a date for an event. Changed the date. Changed it again. At one point, it was changed to a date my friend was on vacation (out of town, tickets paid for etc) and the bride wanted her to PAY the change her flights etc. It was insane. My friend is one of those people who will give a mile and she stuck through it. The bride ended the friendship anyway after all was said and done.

          I personally don’t think they were obligated since that wasn’t what they agreed to (and no I don’t think they were required to ask) but wow, people get so out of pocket when it comes to their wedding sometimes!

    • Hope

      We were invited to a destination wedding at a resort abroad. We love to travel so I looked at flights, and checked out cheaper hotels option than the resort they were using. It was expensive and out of our budget. Then I looked at the resort and realized we would be charged a fee to attend the wedding at the resort! We would have had to buy a day pass to visit the resort for the wedding. Insane.

      • J

        For better or for worse, I don’t think this is unusual. Was the resort an all-inclusive? If so, the fee would theoretically go towards the food you’d be entitled to consume, etc. Some resorts also offer day passes so people who aren’t staying there can come in and use their pool, private beach, etc. – and once you’re on the property, they would assume you’re eligible to use those amenities, so they don’t necessarily have a system to let you be at the resort all day without paying it. I can see how it seems crazy not to have an alternative, though – at least if it isn’t an all-inclusive. If it is, I think the fee is basically paying for part of the reception (as would your hotel charge if you were staying at the resort). This is definitely a good thing for a bride/groom to keep in mind, though, and quite possibly to cover if people are staying off-site.

        • Amy March

          Quite possibly?!? I’d say it is an absolute must! You can’t invite people to your wedding and require them to pay admission to get in. There is a system to let guests be on the property all day without paying- it’s having the wedding couple pre-arrange to pay for it.

  • laddibugg

    I wouldn’t think you were rude, I just wouldn’t come. Depending on how well I knew you I might assume the reason you had a destination wedding is to cut down on the guest list, but I still wouldn’t think that’s rude.

    The only way I’d think you’re being rude is if you knew most of your immediate family and close friends couldn’t afford to spend the time and/or money, but still decided to have a destination wedding in an expensive far off locale AND was pissed that people might not go.

    • Anonny

      Yes, I think one thing destination wedding folks need to keep in mind is that often (not always!) there *is* an underlying expectation that certain people will come, even if they don’t realize it consciously.

      So it’s easy to say, “Of course no one is obligated to come!” when they’re thinking of friends and extended family members. But what if, say, their sister (or equivalent immediate, close relation) is the one hesitating about the cost/travel? If there’s any part of you that thinks, “Well, of course my SISTER has to come, she’s my SISTER and it’s my WEDDING” and you’d be upset that your SISTER wouldn’t figure out how to get there/make financial sacrifices/etc, then maybe a DW is not for you and your family.

      Not that I’m speaking from experience with my SIL’s expectations of us or anything…

    • tr

      I had this happen, too, just on a tinier scale. I had a good friend get married in Malibu when I was still in college and super broke. Seeing as how we lived on the east coast, that wasn’t exactly doable on my broke college student budget.

      It turns out her parents were offering to pay the airfare and house the handful of us east coast people, and she thought we knew that! No, no we did not. Le sigh…the dangers of weddings planned and (not) attended by 22 year olds!

  • Amber

    If you are planning to have a second celebration I would for sure make sure that is well known either on your invites, website or by word of mouth. I would be pretty upset if I scrimped and saved and spent money on a trip that maybe wasn’t my first choice for a vacation if it was important to me to celebrate your wedding, and then you had a local party that would have been preferable.

    • gonzalesbeach

      my friends planned a wedding in destination that wouldn’t be my choice of trip that I signed up/paid for… then very last minute, they planned a local fancy hotel wedding to appease upset family to happen prior to the trip. which naturally become ‘the’ wedding. had I known in advance, then I would have only gone to the local one.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I think destination weddings are fine and do not require any extra justification for having them. They only go wrong when there is an expectation for people to come. You don’t sound like this kind of person so have fun!

  • Bandy

    We had a similar choice to make, though I would say that it was a little different because no matter which location we chose, it was going to be a destination wedding for many people. Here is what we did to mitigate that:
    1) Sent out save-the-dates a year in advance. Sent invitations out 8 months in advance and gave plenty of time to people to RSVP.
    2) Accepted that because people were coming from far away, we probably would have to manage larger expectations of what that wedding would be like (no 2 hour cake and punch reception for us).
    3) Made our wedding website as informative (and bilingual) as possible. Found a mid-priced hotel for people and locked in a discount.
    4) Managed our own expectations and remembered to be very very grateful anytime someone said they were attending.

    Mind you, this should all be written in the present tense, as the wedding has not yet happened :)

    • Lindsey Mundt

      Do you mind sharing what kind of RSVP rate you had for people traveling? Based on other people I’ve talked to who have had weddings where at least one side had to travel internationally it was anywhere from 20-40%. I would love to get another data point!

      • Bandy

        Our RSVP deadline has yet to pass, so I can’t yet say. Ask me again in May?

      • Eh

        My guests were not international but from all over Canada. My side had to travel much further (we got married in my husband’s hometown). Our overall RSVP rate was under 50% (over 160 invites fewer than 80 guests). The RSVP rate from my side was probably under 40% and his was probably just over 60%. We invited a lot of people, including my step family and relatives in my family who are less ‘involved’ with the family. Out wedding was also in the fall (during the school year) which made it more difficult for some people to travel.

  • emilyg25

    I don’t think it’s rude, but it does put the location above your guests. That’s okay–we all have different priorities. Just don’t be bummed if people are a bit hurt by that.

  • archaeopteryx

    The one thing I would keep in mind is that this wouldn’t just give you a smaller wedding, it would change the likelihood of who attends from mostly people closest to you to being mostly people with the most money/time. And that’s okay too, if you’re fine with that, but it’s one thing to think of it as a small wedding and another to realize that that might mean more mid-level friends attending rather than your core peeps. Unless your core peeps are flush, in which case party on!

  • archaeopteryx

    I’d also say, in the event that you decide on Argentina and have very close friends who can’t go, try and find a way to represent them somehow and keep in touch with them so they still feel like they’re there in spirit. This isn’t exactly comparable, but my best friend visited our other best friend in Peru last year, and I couldn’t afford to go; I was feeling really sad about that until they sent me a picture of a candle they’d lit for me there. It really took the sting out of feeling left out because of dumb old finances!

  • TeaforTwo

    I think one key here is to tier your guests when thinking about who might be excluded .

    If my sibling, parent or child had a wedding in a place that I couldn’t afford the cash/vacation days/time on a plane to attend, I would be upset. Basically any of my friends are free to get married on Mars, and while I might be disappointed that I can’t attend, I wouldn’t feel personally hurt by it.

    Bottom line: I think if YOU’RE fine with the idea that your friends might not be able to attend, and still want to get married in Argentina, get married in Argentina. They’ll deal. If you’re worried that your sister might not be able to make the trip (or might not make the trip without significant hardship) then it might not be worth it.

    • joanna b.n.

      And just to emphasize a point, I think it’s critical to take stock of what your people can afford. In some circles, family members may have $2k (per person) to spend on this, with enough notice. In other families, it would really be an extreme imposition, and as TeaforTwo said, they would likely be hurt that you chose to go somewhere that they can’t afford.

  • Ella Mae

    Oh this is such a tricky one. I would just caution you to be careful with assuming that even immediate family can attend. There are so many responses that say “Just make sure you are ok with only close family attending,” but even that can be so tricky. My SIL is getting married in Hawaii in a few weeks, they are paying for our accommodation but it is still a big expense to pay for two plane tickets, food for the week we are there, and all the other expenses that go with a wedding like a tux rental for my husband who is a groomsman. Plus my husband works hourly, so we are losing a week of his income to be there since his job doesn’t offer vacation time. It’s a large expense for us right now, and the rational part of me says we can’t afford it. But on the other hand, what kind of monster misses their sister’s wedding??? Us not going would cause a huge family rift and we really do want to be there for such a close family member. So we will be there, but it is causing a lot of stress in our day to day lives to make it happen. So just tread lightly, realize what a big request you are making. Of course your closest people want to attend, but them attending will mean they have to sacrifice somewhere else in their lives. And please don’t use the “well what a great excuse for a vacation!” line. It’s difficult when people say “oh you get to go to Hawaii!” when it’s not really a get-to, it’s a have-to.

    • This is key. We had a destination wedding and decided first degree relatives were must-haves at the wedding. For those that could not afford to come, we offered to pay for their plane, room and board for the weekend. Some family took us up on it, and some didn’t. It meant that not everyone we wanted was there and likely for the reasons listed above. You need to know whether you are OK if your parents and sibs cannot make it. Or anyone else truly special to you.

    • emilyg25

      Yeah, it would actually hurt more if a close family member did a destination wedding because it would be harder for me to decline and I’d be super bummed if I couldn’t make it.

    • Lindsey Mundt

      Yeah, we have asked all immediate family and are planning to pay for flights for those that we think it would be a hardship for. Its also a nice situation in that all immediate family has a free place to stay (we are not planning to invite extended family no matter where we get married because our families are huge). Where we are more running into a hard spot is with my boyfriend’s friend group, because he has many close-ish friends, wheras I have two best friends. We know probably only 20% of his friends will come, likely less, so he is trying to decide if he is ok with only having a few of his circle of friends there.

  • brooksienne

    My reaction to an invitation to a destination wedding would depend on whether I was a friend/distant relative, or a close relative. For me, being a close relative, e.g., makes the wedding a “must go to.” Being a friend or a distant relative makes the wedding optional. If I’m a close relative, then I would be irritated if it was destinatin wedding that I either couldn’t afford or it would be a hardship in some way. If I were just a friend or distant relative I would be disappointed.

    So, if I were in your shoes, I’d take into consideration if I had any siblings, parents, and other close family members for whom the wedding would be very difficult. I wouldn’t want my loved ones to feel undue stress over getting to my wedding.

  • Penny7b

    We went to a friend’s destination wedding in Fiji, so a little similar to your situation. They managed it by having a big casual engagement party where they could celebrate with all their friends, and then a smaller destination wedding with just those people who could make it. They put a small caveat on all their invites saying “we recognise not everyone will be able to join us in Fiji, but if you can we’d love to share one of our favourite places in the world with you.”

    • Lindsey Mundt

      That sounds like our situation (in terms of remoteness). Were there more than just a few people that showed up? The three people I know that have had weddings where one half of friends/family had to fly internationaly all put attendance for those people at around 30% but I can’t imagine it would be that high!

      • Penny7b

        I’m not sure how many people they invited all up, but just comparing against the numbers at the engagement party, I think around 30% is probably fairly close to the mark. They had around 25 people at the wedding, and I think somewhere between 50-100 at the engagement parties (they actually had two and I only went to one, so I’m guessing a little here).

        I expect it depends a bit on who you invite too. Their parents and siblings and their partners were all there, but there weren’t many extended family members and no older relatives.

      • tr

        Sooo much of it just depends on the financial/work situation of your crowd! I’ve had acquaintances from very well off families who had great attendance rates, because 90% of the people they invited could easily swing international travel. Conversely, I’ve seen friends get married at the beach eight hours away and have nobody but immediate family show up, because the bulk of their guest list consisted of broke 20-somethings.

  • Eh

    There will always be people who are unhappy with the location of the wedding. I did not have a destination wedding but all of my family and friends did have to travel from quite a distance. We got married in my husband’s hometown. It was a logical choice for us (only an hour from where we live, cheaper than where we live, all of his family live there). My immediate family lives seven hours away and my extended family lives much further away. When I was talking to some of my extended family about wedding plans they were upset that we weren’t getting married where they live (I was born there but my family moved when I was six). Pretty much it didn’t matter where we would get married people would be upset with the location. If we got married where I grew up most of the guests would have to travel. If we got married in the place I was born most of the guests would have to travel. Getting married in my husband’s hometown meant that only half the guests had to travel and it was closer for us. We did joke about having a destination wedding and making it inconvenient for everyone.

  • Lindsey Mundt

    Thanks everyone for all of the great/really helpful responses! Another reason why APW is the best.

  • i think it’s a case of knowing your people. i had a destination wedding; half our guests were thrilled, the other half seriously upset. the half that were thrilled were friends and family who lived overseas and would have had to travel anyways. the half that were not were relatives that rarely ever travelled. but in this day and age not all couples are from the same place, or have a tight knit group of local friends (we have any close froends where we live) so i don’t think destination weddings are selfish.

  • Lizzie Hessek

    My wife and I had a destination wedding in Paris (we met there, so it was a meaningful choice for us), and we actually found that our guests were delighted. Not everyone could make it work, that is definitely true, and we were totally ready to be the only two people at our wedding. However, a surprising number of people (30 out of 40) did come – many of whom told us that they always wanted to go to Paris, but wouldn’t have if it weren’t for our wedding being a good reason to spend the money.

    We did send out our save the dates announcing the location a year in advance so people could plan. The people who were not able to come let us know kindly, and we did not have any angry responses. I think the fact that it was a meaningful location for us was really understandable to everyone.

    We also did not have wedding parties… so maybe that helped curb any obligation that people would have felt.

    Something about having a destination wedding that I was not expecting: it was so much cheaper than in the US! Maybe this is only true for France, but it seemed like the “wedding industry markup” that is pervasive in the US doesn’t exist in France yet. Our photographer, our cake, our wedding meal… everything was so much cheaper than it would have been here. Maybe you will find the same thing if you choose the Argentina route!

  • Anita

    We are doing a destination wedding in Brazil in September 2016. His family is from there, but we have a large group of friends and really want them to be there.

    The US Dollar is really strong right now and flights to South America are dirt cheap right now. Because of all our hard work, we have a much higher rate of people buying tickets and planning to go than we expected – we thought maybe 20 would go, and now we’re looking at closer to 50 (from the US).

    A lot of my young friends have been wanting to go to Brazil for a while, and our wedding is the excuse they needed to check out Rio. For my older aunts and uncles, this is their trip in a lifetime. They have never been outside of the US before except Mexico. So a lot are going who we didn’t expect to be into it.

    Let me tell you what we did:

    1. Scheduled it around a major holiday. It’s over Labor Day weekend, so people take one less day of vacation.

    2. We have been telling people about it forever. Our save the dates went out in 2014 for 2016 in Brazil (obviously no date just general info). That was possible because in 2014 we got legally married.

    3. Sent the real invites out 10 months prior to close friends and family (roughly 80% of our guest list). We put as much info as we could on our details card and on our website – hotels, airports, and that we are offering transportation from the nearest airport, which is 2 hours away. If you don’t send formal invites people will not take you seriously – and they will not drop 2k to travel to Argentina if you’re not serious about it.

    4. Follow up, follow up, follow up. I can’t stress this enough. I set up travel alerts for everyone we invited. When I see a good deal I immediately share it. Not only reminds people but prompts them to take action.

    5. Make it worth their time/money. We are doing everything that we can, stretching our budget, diy, to make it a good experience so that our guests feel it was worth the travel. We are doing a morning after brunch with just international guests too. We are asking some international guests to be in the wedding party and to take part in other wedding traditions – it’s our way of showing them how much we appreciate that they’ll be there to share our day with us.

    6. We started a monthly newsletter on Mail Chimp about our wedding – travel info, tips about sightseeing and where to go, and info about our wedding like explaining our traditions, etc. This also serves as a friendly reminder and gives people who already bought their tickets practical info for their trip.

    • Lindsey Mundt

      This. Is. So. Helpful. Thank you so much for posting. I may ask you questions over the course of the next year if we decide to go the Argentina route, if that is ok. Hopefully we’ll know before March since that is one year out and we would want to give people at least a year of notice. I love the idea of a monthly newsletter to keep momentum and get people interested, and sending out alerts when good prices come around for tickets. Again, thank you! Just to hear from someone that did a south america wedding when a good chunk of people were coming from the US is really nice. Then I know it can be done!

    • Marcela

      ooo Where in Brazil are you having your wedding? I’m from Rio.

  • Amy March

    Also keep in mind zika. All of my friends of baby-making age are cancelling all travel south of the border. It’s in many cases an over-reaction, but definitely an issue for many.

  • LindseyM

    Update — we’ve decided to do Buenos Aires as a middle ground and then invite anyone who would like to come up to our family’s farm after the wedding. Its much, much easier to get to BsAs, so we’re hoping we’ll get a few more people and it will just be easier overall on guests. I think it ended up being a good compromise. Unfortunately then the venue isn’t free, but we’re willing to pay that price. If anyone else has a similar type of situation in the coming year(s) I would be happy to give them info on what we have done/ are doing.

  • Meaghan

    Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but if so, a question!

    What about having the destination wedding (argentina) with, lets say 50 people, and then a larger reception closer to home later (with more people who weren’t invited to the destination). Is that horrible? Has anyone done something like that? Also gives the 50 person destination group an option to save money and come to another event.