Is Our Destination Wedding Actually a Bad Idea?

It’s not too late to back out...


Q:I bought both of Meg’s books and have been reading this site (especially love all the How To articles and the archives!), but I promptly freaked out when I read, “In recent years, people have slowly started to treat weddings as impositions. This may be a result of receiving one too many ‘only wear gray and fuchsia’ to the reception, or one too many invites mandating that they spend their family vacation for the year on a weeklong wedding trip to Costa Rica” (A Practical Wedding, page 156). HOLY CRAP, we are planning a wedding in Costa Rica! And then I read Meg’s article “Your wedding is not an imposition.” So I’m honestly asking the question: Is my wedding an imposition, and what do I do to fix it?

Here’s how we ended up with an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica:

Our families are quite large (more than two hundred people) and spread over fifteen states and three countries, and since we are both in the Navy, our friends are spread even further (Hawaii, Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, and Bahrain). We live in Virginia, my parents live in Washington, and his parents live in Florida, so even the immediate families are spread. We knew that no matter where we held the wedding, about ninety percent of people would have to fly in, so we figured we would pick a location that was worth flying to, while also being convenient and inexpensive. We quickly ruled out Washington and Florida because the cost for the rest of the family was very high; and we ruled out Virginia because the average cost of weddings in our area is $45,000, which we can’t afford. The next best was Las Vegas, which was not the kind of wedding we want.

At this point, we made a huge spreadsheet and spent several hours on Expedia looking up the cost of flying to international airports from Washington, Florida, and Virginia for every weekend in a six month window, then factored in the average costs of nearby hotels, rental cars, and “daily average traveler spending” (for food, drinks, activities, etc.). And we ended up with this resort in Costa Rica: twenty minutes from an international airport, all food and drink included, shuttle service from airport (so no rental car), free activities at resort or paid activities nearby, no wristbands, and a wedding package within our budget, all for about $200 per person per night. Also, I have a distant uncle that lives in Costa Rica, and we both have family and friends that visited Costa Rica and loved it. My fiancé’s brother stayed at this resort and recommended it. Finally, just as a sanity check, we looked up how much staying in Virginia or D.C. would be, and it was roughly $180 per person per night, so we felt pretty comfortable with our choice.

Now that we’ve sent out save the dates, I’m freaking out. What if we made a huge mistake and everyone is upset? Some people have called me to say they are so excited, but my mom said that others have called her to ask “Why the heck are they doing this?” Nearly everyone in our families already has passports and most of them love to travel (thus why people are so spread out), but the money upfront is scary. Are we being unreasonable? We totally understand that people are coming from all corners of the globe, and we tried very hard to make it clear that while we would love to celebrate with everyone and hope they can come, we aren’t holding anyone to it.

Here’s the rub: we have two months to totally cancel the wedding, get our deposit back in full, and start over. I called my mom in tears asking what to do, and she said, “Honey, everyone that loves you will go anywhere.” She admitted that my closest aunts were surprised that we didn’t just elope (my fiancé would love to elope, but I think that sounds lonely). In the same conversation, she also admitted that Grandma was disappointed that we aren’t doing the wedding in Bahrain, since she’s never been to the Middle East and it would be so special to get married where my fiancé and I met. (Ummm, no. Intense legal restrictions + expensive alcohol + SAND, although the food would probably be amazing).

I feel like we are still early enough that we could cancel and re-plan the entire wedding, but I’m honestly not even sure what/where we would do it. So I’m reaching out: Is our Costa Rican wedding an imposition, and if so, what is the better alternative?


Don’t let the negative feedback drag you down (yet).

Your people might be responding to the fact that Costa Rica just SOUNDS more expensive than some of those other places. Realize that most folks consider things from their own little finite perspective as the nexus of their own universe. They don’t know what other factors you weighed, how much time you spent on Expedia, how many calculators and spreadsheets were involved. Most are thinking of it as “Costa Rica versus near me” and don’t realize that all of your options involved expensive travel.

Also, in the very nicest, most well-meaning way possible, you made a whole ton of decisions for your guests. You figured out approximates and averages, sure, but some folks are really good at traveling cheap. Maybe they could’ve found a friend to stay with in Florida, but don’t have that option in Costa Rica. Maybe they’ve got some hotel points saved up. You accounted for the cost to eat out, but there was a stretch where I’d pack bagels, cream cheese, rolls, and deli meat every time we traveled, and we’d just eat out of a cooler to save cash. An all-inclusive removes a few of those money-saving opportunities.

But, all of that is really beside the point. When you’re talking about these kinds of logistics (more than two hundred people! scattered all over!), you have to face the fact that not everyone is coming to your wedding. That doesn’t mean your wedding is an imposition (we’ll get back to that), and it doesn’t mean you need to cancel and re-plan. It just means that it’s unlikely all two hundred of your nearest and dearest have the time, money, and inclination to hop a plane for your wedding. Your mom is lovely, but in this way, she’s (a little bit) wrong. I’m sure all of these two hundred folks love you. But not everyone can come to a destination wedding, and even with all of their love for you, not all of them will. The folks who love you may want to go anywhere! But some of them may not be able to, you know?

So don’t start canceling things just yet, but maybe make a couple calls. Who are the people you absolutely need to come to this wedding? Check in with them and see if Costa Rica is feasible. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into making your wedding as guest friendly as possible. You tried to think of everything for your loved ones! You’re not in the wrong here. There are just some situations that have no perfect solutions. This might be one of them.

Destination weddings aren’t an imposition. You aren’t obligating someone to come. You aren’t forcing them to use up vacation days and spend cash and hours on air travel. But not being an imposition doesn’t mean it’s not an inconvenience. We’ve all sunk in mud in our fanciest heels, or stood in unexpected weather, or ate dinner far later than we’d hoped. There are some lovely weddings that are really inconvenient. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, some folks are just going to be inconvenienced anyway. I know that’s not what you want to hear. After all of this effort and energy, it’s pretty clear that the last thing you want to do is inconvenience anyone. This is where your mom’s advice rings true. Folks who want to be there (and can) will be happy to make it happen, even if it means a plane ride and some sunscreen.


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  • Kaitlyn

    I think the advice to do a temperature check is great, but no matter what, your wedding is going to be a destination wedding for the majority of your guests regardless where you hold it. And Costa Rica sounds great! But just like some people aren’t going to want to go to Florida, some won’t want to go to Costa Rica and that’s fine. The people that want to be there, and have the time/funds to do so, will be there. And people are going to complain no matter what. My mom can’t figure out why I’m having my wedding in Rhode Island vs. my hometown (which is only 90 min from my hometown), but it is what it is haha

  • Amy March

    I can see one of two factual scenarios here:

    Option One- people are invited to a wedding at a resort. They can stay at the resort, or anywhere else they want, for however long they want.

    I think this is totally fine (as long as you’ve checked that it’s cool with your most important friends and you won’t be mad at people who don’t come). And as long as guests won’t be charged an entry fee to the resort for the wedding if they stay elsewhere.

    Option Two- you’ve set up a package deal at this resort, you expect that everyone will stay at this resort for a set amount of time.

    I think this is a problem. I know there are resorts and travel agents who push this hard, but I think requiring your guests to stay anywhere is problematic.

    • Katharine Parker

      Agreed. The first is an invitation to a wedding that is also a vacation destination, the second is planning people’s vacation for them.

      • TheHungryGhost

        Yeah, a Hen Weekend (ok, four days) became that kind of situation for me recently. It collapsed because there was not enough consulting of the attendees and making decisions for them (n.b. – LW, you do not need to consult anyone btw, except those people who you are really desperate to have at your wedding!).

        For the Hen, they;
        – looked up flights from major airports (it’s only about £100! – it was more than double when anyone actually looked at flight times that were remotely practical)
        – chose summer flights which are more expensive (presuming the teachers etc wouldn’t prefer shorter and cheaper in term time weekends)
        – decided people staying an extra night would not have to pay any extra (what the actual EFF!)

        – planned a ‘money saving itinerary’ which kind of… sucked? It would have saved money, but it did essentially sound like they’d planned something so expensive in the first place that we wouldn’t be able to do anything when there.

    • sofar

      Yeah, I was once invited to a wedding that was Option Two. And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

      And, yes, making sure there is no entry fee for non-resort guests is HUGE. My cousin got married at a resort that DID charge a fee for letting off-site guests in and he made sure to negotiate for that fee to be waived from the beginning. If it can’t be waived, the couple better be paying that fee — not the guests.

    • This is such a good point… Both on principal, and practically. Particularly for anyone dealing with budget issues, having flexibility to plan your own shiz can make all the difference.

    • H

      Definitely! Great point. Also some people (me) hate all-inclusive resorts because they are the pickiest eaters alive (me) and would be happy to come to your wedding and stay at a different resort – so give people that option!

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    “My mom said that others have called her to ask “Why the heck are they doing this?””

    This is a minutiae point because Liz’s advice is great, but what was your mom’s motivation in telling you that? I’m sure people grumbled about my semi-destination wedding (a few hours drive away from my husband’s family, that was also an easier flight for his Latin American family), but I was kept blessedly ignorant of any specifics of the grumbling. Unless your mom wanted to achieve something specific (like quietly telling you that she feels the same way? hoping you’ll help with people’s travels? wanting you to call them and explain yourself?), all I can see this doing is making you feel bad!

    So to counter that, I’d say that even my friends and family who have had local weddings get crap from Great Aunt Mildred who thinks their reception venue has too long of a driveway. Or Cousin Bill who *demands* that Bud Light be served at the wedding instead of the microbrew options he heard the couple picked. You’ll never please everyone, no matter what your choices are, so try to cut yourself some slack.

    • Amy March


    • janie

      So true. There is a very reasonable point where you say “I’ve thought about how easy this will be for most people, it’s the wedding we want to have, and I’ve done the best I can” for almost every decision in wedding planning. Food? Temperature? Location?

      You can try to drive yourself nuts planning for your cousin’s date who is vegan, dairy free, all organic whatever, but I think it’s much more peaceful to say “I’m glad my cousin is coming, and bringing a date, and we’re having a vegetarian option. Hopefully this is sufficient for everyone to be comfortable.”

      • S

        I mean, but, no? A vegan cannot eat a vegetarian meal and you should just pass those dietary requirements onto your caterer to make sure there’s something they can eat at your wedding – it’s not hard or crazy-inducing to just forward any dietary requirements on. But I agree with your wider point.

        • Eenie

          Or at the very least tell your cousin what you plan to provide so the date can plan accordingly.

    • Brynna

      100%. People will ALWAYS find something to complain about; I think your wedding sounds lovely and you’ve clearly put lots of thought into it!

    • Sara

      Personally, I think its possible her mother mentioned this in passing, seeing as she backed it up with trying to reassure her. My mother would definitely do that as gossipy conversation, and kinda forget that it might stress me out. “Oh Aunt E complained about the distance! You know her, always finding something!” or “Uncle T isn’t thrilled about buying plane tickets for the family, but he’d really only be happy if he can drive there.”

      • penguin

        Yeah my family would do this too. My grandma and I chat about everything, and it would be just like her to say “oh your aunt so and so called me to complain”, but she wouldn’t expect me to act on that information. Just friendly family bitching.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        I agree that’s more likely! But unless there’s some reason to believe it *isn’t* just a gossipy aside, I just think it’s good for the LW to remember that weddings are weird events that people get *weird* about; it’s not necessarily that she’s doing anything wrong. And there will always be people who will be pissed that your wedding isn’t taking place next door to them, the rest of your family or your parents family or other logistics be damned.

        And also, even if it’s not ill-intentioned at all, it’s still thoughtless to tell a bride that people are complaining about her wedding…and it seems like it’s at least part of why this LW went down her spiral, so I just wanted to validate that her mom probably should have chosen to keep that info to herself. Lots of great moms would do this without thinking though, for sure.

    • savannnah

      People’s opinions about beer almost topped their opinions about name changes at my last earful from fiance’s family…

    • toomanybooks

      Hah, what was her mom’s motivation in telling her about the grumbling? Oh, does everyone’s mom not feel like adding stress to her daughter’s wedding planning process? Lol, with the way my family is dealing with wedding stuff, I just took it as a given.

    • AmandaBee

      YES. Most of our guests traveled less than an hour to be at our wedding. And you know what? Some still grumped about parking. Sounds like you did what you could, and other people are going to have to make the choice about whether they want to go or not.

  • ManderGimlet

    I think a lot of people just have no idea what it costs to have a wedding and think that an inclusive resort will be lavish and that doing a local affair automatically translates to affordable when that is just not the case.

    I think being frank about your decision making process and also expressing how excited you are to have your wedding there will quiet the rabble. There will always be people who can’t make it, but you don’t owe anyone an apology for doing what’s best for you and your spouse and your goals for your wedding. Stay positive, honest, and firm, and maybe set some boundaries with your mom in regards to what kind of feedback you need/want to hear. If you are excited and express that you have thoroughly vetted your options and are in control of the situation, that feeling will spread.

    • penguin

      Agreed – I bet a lot of invited guests heard “resort in Costa Rica” and immediately just assumed it would be out of their budget, without looking to see what flight/hotel costs would be. Also, even if people grumble about this (and they will, there’s no pleasing everyone), at the end of the day it sounds like they planned the wedding with guests’ convenience and budget in mind, and people can decide to come or not. With everyone that spread out, it’s not like there was an option to have the wedding somewhere within a one-hour drive of the whole family.

    • Alyssa


      Most people in our families live within 3 hours of each other, but we’re still doing a destination wedding — because weddings are so ridiculously expensive, we didn’t want to plan an entire thing, but still wanted something special. So we decided to go to France — which like you said, I think a lot of people see that it’s a destination wedding and think “Oh! Expensive uppity wedding!” Actually NO — we’re literally picnicking and hanging out at a street fair in Paris. That’s it. The special-ness of it is that it partially re-creates our favorite travel memory from when we were there 4 years ago, and we get to share it with our nearest and dearest. However, we’re able to do exactly the type of wedding we want, in a place that has meaning for us, and to everyone’s surprise, stay within our initial budget — and I think sticking with your reasoning and enthusiasm can definitely spread to any guests who are unsure.

  • Sara

    I think you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to make too many people happy. If you need a gut check, single out the people you’d be most disappointed in missing (for me, that’d be parents, siblings, grandpa and college roommates). See how they’re feeling.
    But based on your outline here, with family all over the world and a lot of Navy adjacent friends, I’d bet they’ll be fine and/or expected this scenario. You even say your Grandma wanted to go to Bahrain! I think you might be overthinking your mom’s feedback – even though she also told you that people will travel for you! Stick with your plans, it sounds like they’re fantastic.

  • anon

    I think your gut is telling you that you want to get married in Costa Rica. So do it!

    I also think that numbers can be re-jiggered to tell you what you already know, and that may be the case here. I don’t doubt your spreadsheet prowess, but I got married in DC and it cost out of town guests nowhere near $180 a person a night. Flying internationally would have been much more expensive for our guests (almost exclusively domestic). Which brings me to my first point: you want to do this, so go ahead! But guests get to do their own individual math, and it may be more expensive for them in a lot of ways your spreadsheet doesn’t capture.

  • Laura

    It sounds like you and your fiance are excited about getting married in Costa Rica. You’ve been thoughtful about potential logistics for your would-be guests. That’s awesome!! But, you need to really, really be honest with yourself about whether you’re okay with people not making it to your wedding.

    We chose to have my wedding in Chicago, the city we lived in at the time. The fact that Chicago is a major transportation hub made it very convenient for our friends, many of whom were flying in from across the country. However, it was a 4-6 hour drive for my mom’s family, most of whom aren’t comfortable traveling farther than ~90 minutes from home. We knew that a number of them wouldn’t show up. And so when those “no” RSVPs start rolling in, you need to be really, really okay with the fact that it doesn’t reflect upon their love for you whatsoever. Spoiler alert: my husband and I were cool with it, but my mom still resents a good number of her family members who didn’t prioritize our wedding. Such is life.

    • Lisa

      ….did you plan my wedding? We also picked Chicago because husband’s family was going to have to fly no matter what, and I was hoping that Midwestern city would reduce the barrier for my family (most of whom lived within 1-2 states). My MIL still loves to pick at the fact that, even though husband’s family had to fly in, his side was better represented at our wedding than mine was.

    • savannnah

      We’ve starting getting this response “So excited for your wedding. We aren’t coming because husband does not travel but so looking forward to pictures”. I’ve gotten 4 of these in the past week all from my fiance’s side. ‘does not travel’ isnt a thing in my family so that’s taking some getting used to but I understand it (sort of) but what’s been more bizarre is singling out the male partners that don’t travel. I can’t tell if its just the person whose not on the phone with me and easier to make an excuse or there is something else about it that’s gendered.

      • penguin

        That is odd. I could understand “can’t travel”, or just generic “we can’t make it”, but saying that the husband just doesn’t travel seems weird to me. That’s not really a thing in my family, although I imagine if it was then their partner/spouse could still come alone, or with other family members. I wonder if it is their version of “we can’t make it”, like just a generic “we won’t be there” response.

      • Anna

        Weird. As someone with a male partner who pretty much hates traveling (but will do so for important occasions), I can’t imagine responding to an invitation with “Neither of us will be there because fiance doesn’t travel” – it would be either “I’ll be there, but unfortunately fiance won’t be able to make it” or “Sorry we won’t be able to make it” or, if the invitation is from someone we’re both super close with, maybe even “Fiance won’t be joining us because he’s over his travel anxiety budget at the moment”, but… I’ve never heard of “doesn’t travel” being, like, a socially acceptable excuse to give for things. And why blame it on your partner when you can just leave it at “wish we could be there with you, sorry”?

        • S

          I personally would assume “doesn’t travel” meant basically the same as “can’t travel”, but for anxiety/phobia reasons instead of literal, physical health reasons like their heart would explode if they did. To me, “doesn’t travel” means, “Would get on a plane if there was a gun pointing at their head, but other than that, does not travel”. It wouldn’t occur to me to think that they meant they just didn’t like to, but if that was the reason, I agree it’s a pretty bad excuse. (I might be influenced by the fact that my father-in-law has a very severe flying phobia that’s basically PTSD after a severe in-flight incident, and I would be as likely to say that he “doesn’t travel” as I would to say that he “can’t”, because both are true in his case. Coming from that perspective, I wouldn’t think twice about anyone saying they couldn’t make a wedding because they didn’t fly.)

          • Anna

            Fair, I could even imagine getting a lot of “Oh no, is everything okay?!” nosy health-related questions if you said your partner “can’t travel”, but “doesn’t travel” invites less of that. Makes sense :-) (I do generally stand by the “don’t give an excuse, just an apology” strategy, though.)

  • volley10

    I’m wondering how much information, such as link to a wedding website with more details about the trip, was available on the save the date. Some people that are grumbling might be thinking they need to come up with a flight, a place to stay, and food/activities. Is this an all inclusive trip through a travel agency that includes flight? If that’s the case, once people know that, it may make them relax a bit. I will be a guest to a destination wedding next year. I did have a bit of sticker shock once I heard the location, but the bride and groom have laid out where, what, and how for each guest. The only thing I’ll have to pay for on the trip is tips for drinks, which is great.

    TL:DR just make sure the guests have all the information.

  • OP, one thing I learned during wedding planning is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone once you start inviting people to your wedding. There will always be people who don’t like the location, or the date, or wish you’d provide transportation, etc. Especially with your situation and with guests being so spread out, you should come to grips early with the idea that not everyone will make it to your wedding. I personally struggled with this, and I got married in MN in March. Even some of the “important” people won’t be there, but hopefully they will be there for you in other ways during your marriage. If you and your fiance are on board with your wedding plans and excited by them, that’s what matters most.

  • Cdn icecube

    Based on your reasons it sounds like having a wedding in Costa Rica makes the most sense for you as a couple and for your guests as a whole. I won’t reiterate what people have said below me but my one piece of advice is this. Let people know if they are attending your wedding or your recommitment ceremony. I recently attended a recommitment ceremony where some guests thought they were attending a wedding, when the couple was already married. They were PISSED especially after travelling internationally to see them get ‘married’. I was also pissed but that was because we found out after we had booked our tickets and paid for everything that they were already married AND that they were having a reception for it at home, before they left for [destination]. It really put a sour taste in my mouth along with some of the other guests. had I known that they were already married and that they would have a reception here, I may have done things differently.

    • Amy March

      I think this is such an important point.

      • Shirley Schmidt

        Agree! This is why we have been 100% up front about how our big wedding in 2018 will be on the first anniversary of when we are legally married and is about celebrating us being married with all our friends rather than a legally binding ceremony.

        • Amy March

          Which sounds like an awesome event!

    • theteenygirl

      Since you have experience with this, can I get your feeler on my situation? FI and I had a courthouse marriage for immigration purposes with two close friends in April. We have literally two pictures of it, and we went out for dinner. It caused a loooot of issues with my parents and sisters because we are still having a wedding in September (26 guests at an Inn, nothing fancy). What is causing a lot of anger from my mum is that we have decided only to tell our immediate family members and of course our two friends who were at the wedding that we’re legally married. We are planning on incorporating that into our ceremony at the September wedding so people know, but we’re not telling anyone ahead of time. It’s about a 2-3 hour drive for my family and friends to come to the wedding, and the only people from his side that don’t already know are his friends and his grandma, who will be flying in from the States.

      My mum wants to tell everyone ahead of time, but we’ve already sent out the invitations/made the website/etc. so there really isn’t a good way to communicate this information at this point. Now I’m worried about pissing people off.

      • Amy March

        Only 26 people? Call them on the phone individually. I don’t like expecting your mom and sisters to keep this a secret, especially when they don’t want to be involved in that. I don’t really think surprising people with this info during the ceremony after they’ve made the effort to be there is great.

      • penguin

        I think you should tell people ahead of time. I could see being upset if I found out during the ceremony of the wedding I was currently at, but would understand if I found out ahead of time that they had to get married early for immigration purposes. I’d just say something about how you had to have the legal marriage done ahead of time, but you’re exciting to celebrate with them at your actual wedding (or something). That makes it feel more like “we had to do the legal part/paperwork ahead, but this is our ‘real’ wedding” to me.

        • Anna

          I like that wording (“had to have the legal marriage done ahead of time, but excited to celebrate with you at our actual wedding”). And the fact that immediate family members were “told” means that this is a somewhat meaningful bit of information to the couple in question, so probably there should be some communication to the fairly small number of other guests.

      • Idk, I understand the “just tell people to avoid the hurt feelings” advice and don’t exactly disagree with it buuuutt… I live in a state that has absurdly lenient standards for common law marriage & almost my entire peer group so far has ended up doing that before the wedding because health insurance is cool. There have been varying degrees of “hush”, but no one out and out and announced it & as far as I know there hasn’t been any drama big enough to make friend-group headlines ¯_(ツ)_/¯.

        • theteenygirl

          Thanks for your feedback. My sister has been to half a dozen weddings in the last couple of years and has yet to attend a wedding where the couple wasn’t already married before the wedding. None of them told guests ahead of time, she either heard through the grapevine or was in the bridal party, and so I never thought it would cause drama?

          • Ashlah

            It seems to be one of those things that doesn’t matter to everyone, but to the people who do care, it matters a lot.

          • True, and if it’s *already* causing drama with your mom it might be worth it just go with it in the spirit of choosing your battles and all that. (Unless you have a strong value set going in the opposite direction — I actually do on this issue, and this would have been a battle I would have chosen at the time, but yano)

          • Violet

            This issue has come up numerous times on this site, and not only has there never been a consensus, I’ve yet to see one person change their mind because of another’s argument. Because at this point it seems clear to me that some people care and some people don’t, I think the best option forward is just to be upfront (without giving the reasons why if the couple doesn’t want to) and let guests decide for themselves from there.

          • Anna

            While I agree with you 100% in the case theteenygirl is describing (information gradients aren’t good for relationships, in part because they tend to collapse pretty quickly), I think part of the sticking point in this conversation every time it comes up is that the argument isn’t between people who care whether a given wedding is a legally binding ceremony and people who don’t care; it’s between people who care whether a given wedding is a legally binding ceremony and therefore think they have the right to KNOW whether it is, and people who think that information is none of their business unless the couple makes it their business*. So “be upfront and let guests decide for themselves” is great advice some of the time, but it’s not exactly a compromise position, if that’s what you were going for :-)

            *FWIW, telling a subset of your guests often DOES make it the business of the rest of your guests, since the people in the former category probably interact with the people in the latter category.

          • Violet

            I guess my thought is that most people eventually find out anyway, whether they think they have a right to know or not. So ignoring whether people think they ought to know, if I’m the couple, I’m going to just want to tell guests beforehand, on my own terms. Rather than let them find out some other way. Most people aren’t upset that they attended a ceremony rather than a legal act; they’re upset that the couple didn’t feel comfortable enough to just tell them. (Because they usually told someone, which is why the person then feels left out.) So in my mind, it comes down to: a. most people eventually find out anyway. b. they’re upset because some people were told, but not them. You can head off both these problems by just being upfront (and not feeling like you have to justify/provide details).

          • Anna

            Right, if you make it a secret (telling some people and asking them not to tell others), it runs into all the problems that are always associated with secrets. If you keep it between you and, if you have them, your witnesses (who are presumably people you’re close enough with that you can trust them not to tell anyone), telling everyone else is optional and depends on whether the couple feels it’s pertinent information.

          • Amy March

            Yes, exactly. Also giving people time to process their feelings not on your wedding day just seems helpful. I’d be really hurt if my sister got married without me there. I’d get over it and enjoy her ceremony, but if I found out about it during the ceremony? That’s a big emotional thing to manage at what should be a happy occasion.

      • Cdn icecube

        Personally I would do what Amy March suggested and call the people and tell them in advance. It doesn’t have to be a big deal and you can say/not say as much as you want about the legal ceremony and what it means/doesn’t mean to you. But I think most people don’t like being surprised with information like that. Telling them in advance gives them the space to process in private their feelings about not being at the legal ceremony. In the situation I described the grandparents found out in a big group setting and it appeared that they would have appreciated learning that information in private.

      • Anna

        Not having the opportunity to prioritize among different events because not enough information was shared undeniably sucks.


        This question has come up a bunch of times, and what seems to be the prevailing attitude around separate legal and wedding ceremonies – that people have the right to know whether the wedding ceremony they’re at has legal force – reallllllly rubs me the wrong way. If the couple is thinking of it as a recommitment ceremony, then yes, they should communicate that to guests. But being legally married in advance – for logistical, immigration, health insurance, or whatever else reasons – doesn’t turn a wedding into a “recommitment ceremony”.

        If a couple needs to get married immediately for some reason, saying they need to inform their community that a later wedding isn’t a legal ceremony is tantamount to saying that whatever those reasons are MUST be a public issue. In the case of international wedding logistics, it’s an implementation detail, and it’s not a big deal unless the domestic ceremony is a separate event – in which case the etiquette issues in question are universal to any time you have multiple events with possibly overlapping guest lists! In the case of immigration, yeah, sure, your communities are probably aware that visas are a thing and will probably understand if you tell them that’s why you’re already legally married and that’s all great (although FWIW, I still don’t think you’re obligated to mention the legal status of your ceremony). But what if you need to get on your partner’s health insurance because of a recent diagnosis? What if you’re trans and need your partner’s health insurance for transition-related treatment?

        I’d imagine most APW readers are on board with a couple in one of those scenarios withholding the information that they were legally married prior to their wedding. But I think it illustrates the point that the legal status of a wedding ceremony is not something the guests have a RIGHT to know. There may be scenarios where it is appropriate to inform people, and maybe even scenarios where it’s rude not to, but in LW’s case – if there even is a plan to get legally married prior to the destination wedding, which I didn’t get from the letter – it’s irrelevant.

        [Also, there’s the angle of: pre-legalization of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples who had weddings didn’t get the protections of legal marriage, but the social/community/emotional aspects of their ceremonies were just as valid and their guests would’ve been assholes to be like “BUT THIS ISN’T A LEGAL WEDDING!” xP]

        • laddibugg

          The thing is if you say ‘we’re getting married and you’re invited’ people expect to be witnessing a historical event. Some people are truly bummed when they find out that is not the case. And some are hurt that you didn’t feel you could trust them with the truth.

          As for the same sex couples, everyone knew what the deal was pre marriage equality act.

          • Anna

            The point I’m making is that the legal marriage proceedings are not necessarily the “historical event” you’re referring to. Sometimes the legal part is just a situational necessity and a separate wedding is the meaningful part. The bit about same-sex couples was just supposed to be an example of a case without legal force that was nonetheless meaningful.

            I’m not saying it’s impossible for the legal part to be itself meaningful; but that’s up to the couple, not up to the guests. If they make it a separate event and invite people, then sure, other people may be upset they were not there for something that was evidently significant to the couple. But if nobody is there besides whatever witnesses are legally required? No, guests don’t get to be upset (at least not vocally to the couple) that they didn’t witness the signing of a legally binding document, and the couple are under no obligation to reveal the lack of legal force of their actual wedding to anyone else.

          • Amy March

            I just feel like don’t lie to me to get me to spend a lot of money flying to your destination ceremony at which you are not becoming legally bound. Tell me what I’m doing and I’ll decide.

          • S

            They are telling you what you’re doing: you’re going to their wedding? You’re going to what they consider to be their wedding? What about this is confusing? You don’t get to decide how a couple feels married. You don’t need your detective hat and to “decide” whether you want to attend the wedding of your loved one. If there’s someone in your life inviting you to witness their vows and spiritual and social rites and traditions that are so important to them that they’re spending a lot of money…and you wouldn’t want to be a part of that if the wedding was technically not going to be a legal one? They’re probably not a close loved one who you care about, so just don’t go regardless.

          • Amy March

            Actually in most cases I would go. But I’d appreciate knowing what I’m going to. Regardless of how they feel about it, if you’d have to get divorced to break up, you’re married. In reality. I don’t like feeling tricked into things. To me, “married” is not a feeling, it is a fact. I get that people disagree but please don’t insinuate I just must not really care about my loved ones. In fact, I care a great deal about them, value being present for the moment in which they become married a great deal, and would be very hurt to discover after the fact that I wasn’t when they told me I was.

          • S

            But if you would go anyway and you know they consider it a real wedding, I’m really struggling with why you’d feel tricked and why it matters? Again, if you feel like someone’s being deceitful and/or…gift grabby, or whatever if is you’re suspecting them of, instead of just believing that their wedding is their wedding and they want you to come…I just have to believe you don’t think highly enough of them. And if you don’t think highly of them or want to give them the benefit of the doubt, then, yeah, just don’t go. I don’t want anyone who automatically thinks the worst of me at my wedding. If you’re worried I’m out to trick you by just, like, living my life…I’m sorry, but I stand by us probably not being close or having a great, healthy relationship.

          • S

            And, like, maybe you’ll say, “It doesn’t matter WHY I feel that way, I just do, and I would want to know.” Sure, but you’re still not entitled to and nobody’s being rude if they don’t give you what you want. The way they think about marriage is just different than the way you do, and it’s their marriage, so yours doesn’t count.

          • Amy March

            Wow. Ok. Thanks for informing me my relationships are bad and unhealthy because I disagree with you about this one thing. Talk about assuming the worst.

          • S

            I’m not assuming anything about any of your relationships. I don’t know you or the people in your life. But separate to you but also including you if any of your relationships fall into this category, yes, I assume that if anyone thinks someone is out to get or trick them, that’s not a healthy dynamic? Is that weird/presumptuous? I think healthy relationships mean believing the best in that person and giving them the benefit of the doubt, regardless of whether we’re talking about you or weddings, or what.

          • S

            Also for the record, when I said, “If you’re worried I’m out to trick you by just, like, living my life…I’m sorry, but I stand by us probably not being close or having a great, healthy relationship.” I didn’t actually mean you. Because clearly we don’t know each other and don’t have a relationship and their is no “us”. I meant a general you. Sorry if you thought it was a personal attack. :(

          • Anna

            I agree on the “don’t lie to me to get me to spend a lot of money flying to your destination ceremony at which you are not becoming legally bound”. I just don’t think not mentioning that you signed the legal documents on your native soil before the actual wedding is a lie. It’s a logistical detail. Sure, it’s a logistical detail with possible emotional fallout if people are aware of it (especially if some people are aware of it and others aren’t), but weddings are full of those – people have strong feelings about all kinds of aspects of weddings! It’s the couple’s prerogative to decide who to share those details with, and their responsibility to do so courteously when they do choose to share, but it’s not an obligation.

            The point at which it becomes (at least potentially) a lie and an issue is if the destination wedding ISN’T the “actual wedding” – if there’s a real, deliberate, meaningful wedding-y event around the legal ceremony, and the destination part is just a second party that you’re inviting more people to. Then yeah, if you invite people to the destination event calling it your “wedding”, you’re not accurately representing the way in which you want them to celebrate with you, and quite possibly trying to coerce them into spending lots of money to come to your party by claiming it’s a more significant life event than it actually is. But an actual wedding, considered by the couple to be their real wedding and appropriately arranged as such, doesn’t become a less significant life event JUST because the legal contract isn’t being signed there.

            (For example: the separate two-months-after-the-wedding hi-we’re-married-now reception we’re having for my relatives is not being billed as a wedding; it’s explicitly a “come celebrate our recent marriage with us!” party, which they are mostly all thrilled to attend. Calling it our wedding would be super skeevy, even though it’s not “destination” and not hugely inconvenient for these guests to get there. I can almost understand the temptation to call it a wedding, since these are people I would LOVE to have at our real actual wedding, but given that we can’t have them there – because then fiance would spend our wedding day having panic attacks due to being surrounded by 200 people he mostly doesn’t know in fancy clothes – it would be massively unfair to tell them they were coming to our wedding in August when we had our actual wedding in June. But if we had to actually sign the marriage license the day before our ceremony in June for some reason? All the guests coming to our June wedding would still be at our real, actual wedding, and we would not be lying to them if we elided the detail that our legal relationship status had become “married” the day before.)

          • I just don’t think you always get to decide what constitutes the “historical event” for someone else — If that was the case that wouldn’t mean that, for example, Catholics should never feel any need to go to any non-Catholic’s wedding because they aren’t binding according to the institution they find most important?

        • Cdn icecube

          I agree with a lot of your points but I will disagree on one of them. I was really hurt because it felt that the couple had no problem asking me to spend thousands of dollars to attend their wedding, but didn’t actually want me at their wedding. I was really hurt because it was the only vacation I will be able to take this year and had I known that I could have celebrated here with them I probably would have just done that. Instead they took that choice away from me and were a bit sneaky about the whole thing.

          • Anna

            Right, I totally agree that this couple did something inconsiderate and hurtful; I just think the legal vs. not thing is sort of a red herring. It sounds like one issue is that it’s coming across as the destination part is not in fact the “real” wedding, which is a pretty different situation from having a purely procedural legal marriage and a separate real wedding. Then there’s the lack of consideration for your and other guests’ travel constraints: If they’d had the legal part abroad and not told you about a ceremonial local celebration that part would have been equally rude – you still wouldn’t have been given the option to prioritize your own travel etc. But I think there are ways they could have handled this that could have been perfectly reasonable but still involved doing the legal formalities separately if doing that abroad would’ve been too complicated – just not having effectively two weddings and making both of them big events without communicating what was going on where. (I think a couple that DOES tell people their wedding isn’t their legal marriage should do so clearly and in advance. Like, either make it a private detail and only your witnesses need to know, or tell all your guests on your invites/website. Otherwise you’re creating an information differential in your guests and that pretty much never works out without lots of hurt feelings.)

          • penguin

            Totally agree on your last point. Tell all your guests or just keep it between you and the witnesses. That was my big sticking point on the original post here, it opened up a big possibility of hurt feelings.

        • Very much agree. Saying that the legal moment of marriage trumps the personal/cultural moment of marriage is real problematic in a society where the state puts excess pressures on some people to get married, while (until recently) denying marriage to others.

          Marriage is an important legal institution, but it’s not *solely* a legal institution — It is also social, personal, cultural, and sometimes spiritual. Sometimes these spheres align neatly and sometimes they don’t. I needed access to healthcare so we got common-law married, which involved a UPS manager notarizing a piece of paper that said we considered ourselves married. While we were undeniably legally married, that did not square with our personal and social realities. Our actual wedding ceremony was really freaking important to me.

          As a guest would it have been your prerogative to think that our ceremony isn’t when we were “really” married because you feel that the legal is the only thing that counts? Sure, but that’s not a value-set I feel any obligation to go out of my to humor.

        • Guesting

          Yep yep yep! “If the couple is thinking of it as a recommitment ceremony, then yes, they should communicate that to guests. But being legally married in advance – for logistical, immigration, health insurance, or whatever else reasons – doesn’t turn a wedding into a “recommitment ceremony”.” It’s your wedding, which makes it your business. It’s not the guests’ job to decide what “counts” as your wedding.

          • S

            “It’s not the guests’ job to decide what “counts” as your wedding.” YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. If you get a wedding invite from me, assume I’m inviting you to what I consider to be my wedding, and accept or send your regrets accordingly. This is not a confusing concept. (Cdn icecube’s example being an exception.)

        • Liz

          Yep. I completely disagree that your guests are owed the right to know if this is the moment that your marriage is becoming legally binding. You’re invited to celebrate a marriage in whatever capacity the couple chooses, the end, you’re owed no explanation or specification.

        • S

          Agree 100%. The case Cdn icecube mentions is incredibly rude, but it is not rude in general to invite people to your wedding and not tell them that you dotted the is and crossed the ts beforehand. Anyone who thinks it is and wants to launch an investigation into the potential legal situation of all couples before they agree to attend their wedding…I don’t know, it really feels like looking for things to be upset about. If you care about the couple enough to see them exchange vows and cut the cake? Go to the wedding, because that’s what’s on the table, secret marriage certificate regardless. (If you only want to go to weddings cos you’re super jazzed about watching people sign documents, maybe start hanging out at City Hall or the DMV on weekends, idk.) If your loved one is spending a sh&ttonne of cash and carefully curating a meaningful ceremony and thoughtfully planning a reception it’s because…it means something to them. Literally nobody does that unless having that celebration with their loved ones is something that’s important to them. If you love them back I REALLY don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to attend based on a legal document. (Unless we’re talking about Cdn icecube’s situation, because having a sneaky local reception after you’ve invited everyone to an overseas one and they’ve bought plane tickets is ?????????? But the legal component isn’t even what’s rude about that story.)

          • S

            Also another part of this that confuses me is when people say they “need” to know because then it’s not a “real” wedding and they can prioritise their life accordingly….I promise you that if people are writing deeply personal vows and battling with their mothers over guest lists and crying about people who can’t make it and stressing about making sure their guest have a good time…it’s a real wedding. If you have two weddings, you go to the wedding of the person who matters most to you. The idea that I wouldn’t go to my brother’s wedding and would instead go to my coworker’s wedding, because my brother had to sign some papers with his fiancé beforehand for medical reasons – that I would miss out on being in my brother’s photos, seeing my parents make toasts, because nyah, he didn’t do it RIGHT and my coworker’s wedding is REAL….the idea of that is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

          • I’m with you – if someone thinks it’s more important to see me signing legal documents than it is to share in a moment of celebrating our union, then frankly our friendship isn’t what I thought it was. Like, it was fun getting to witness (in the legal sense) our friends signing the mortgage paperwork, but the actual meaningful house buying celebration was the housewarming party. My sister got married with immediate family only on a Friday because that was the only slot the registry office had near the wedding date (and the room held 20 people, which meant immediate family involved some super touch decisions) but had her actual wedding on Saturday with everyone they wanted present and a friend providing a much more meaningful ceremony than a stranger reading out legal terms and conditions in an un-airconditioned room.

        • AmandaBee

          YES THIS. Who thinks it’s any of their business whether the couple is legally married or not?

          We had to get married quickly for health insurance reasons 4 months before our wedding. We didn’t tell most of our guests – because you know what? We still considered the wedding day our real marriage day. The whole damn point of our wedding was that we wanted to commit ourselves to each other with our communities there. Legal stuff is practically important, but that’s not what makes it “real” or “not real”.

        • K8

          Also, as an atheist in the US, the rules about officiants can be tricky to navigate.

          As far as I understand:
          1) If I really want a secular officiant, I have to either go to the courthouse or convince a judge, etc. to come officiate my wedding. I don’t know any judges, so this would mean asking someone who doesn’t know me or my partner at all. Courthouses often have limits on the number of guests, available days and times, etc.
          2) If I’m really set on my location/date, I can ask someone who has the authority vested in them by a religious tradition, whether a priest, rabbi, or someone who got “ordained” online. I am uncomfortable with this because it feels incredibly disrespectful to exploit religion in this way just because it makes my life more convenient.
          3) If I’m lucky, I live in a place with self-uniting marriages. Pennsylvania, Colorado, DC, and Wisconsin, under certain conditions.

          I really resent the fact that it is so difficult for me to stay true to my beliefs while also combining the legal and community ceremonies, and I wish that more places offered the self-uniting option because I believe my partner and I are the best ones to decide whether we are married. Instead of compromising our beliefs, we have chosen to get legally married before the ceremony, but we will still consider the ceremony to be our actual wedding.

          • Anna

            My ILs-to-be intended to get married by a justice of the peace, but the weekend of their wedding (which was constrained to that one weekend for various other reasons) turned out to be the same weekend as some enormous conference for justices of the peace, and there literally wasn’t one in their entire state who was available that weekend, even almost a year in advance :-) FMIL is Jewish (albeit non-practicing) and FFIL was raised some vague sort of Protestant, so they were married by a rabbi who wasn’t legally registered to perform marriages in their state and a priest who was.

            I will say, though, I don’t think the “someone who got ‘ordained’ online” option is necessarily exploiting religion (although certainly if you’re not comfortable with it, then don’t do it). In my view, it’s essentially exploiting a loophole in the legal standards for who can perform marriages. Religions that allow people to become ordained in them online are not being exploited by people who do that; they’re deliberately providing this as a service. And I also don’t think it’s disrespectful to the concept of religion as a whole; people have always observed their religions with wildly different levels of seriousness, and that’s okay.

          • Liz Funk

            In some states (Florida is one), you can be married by a notary public, which are WAY easier to find than judges. My dad became a notary public when my cousin asked him to officiate her wedding, and as my mom is a floral designer for weddings, this has worked out nicely for her business as well. It’s completely secular, so not the same as getting ordained on the internet. Also, my sister and her husband found their officiant on Craigslist, and their wedding was extremely secular (their reading was an excerpt from the Supreme Court ruling overturning DOMA.). So there are options! Hope this helps!

          • K8

            I didn’t know notary publics were an option in some places. I really like that! Yay for secular options where regular people can get certified!

            People definitely do have beautiful and personal and secular ceremonies with officiants whose authority to perform legal marriages technically comes from a religious organization. We’re just personally not comfortable with that.

            We’ve chosen to do things in a way that works for us, even though we have to make the compromise that we won’t get legally married in front of our guests. I’m still pretty happy with the way things have worked out.

          • CMT

            Just chiming in to say there are usually other choices for officiants than to be “ordained” by an online church! I filled out paperwork in a court in my state to be able to marry my friends.

        • penguin

          Fair enough – I was thinking of it in terms of the original post here, where only the parents/siblings knew and were uncomfortable keeping it a secret. To me that felt less OK since some people knew and didn’t want to have to keep it secret. I think if you want to/need to sign the legal docs ahead of time and you want to keep that to yourself, that’s fine and makes sense. I think it just gets messy when you’re asking other people (who in this case already sound upset about the situation) to keep secrets.

          • Anna

            Sure, I think asking people to keep secrets (especially regarding weddings) generally goes poorly and causes hurt feelings – but that holds for any secret, it’s not a specific property of whether your wedding has legal force or not :-)

      • ManderGimlet

        Heeeeerrrree’s the thing: a lot of people love parties. They love food and dancing and seeing people they haven’t seen in a while and meeting new people and dressing up etc etc etc.
        BUT…very few people want to drive multiple hours to go to a party.

        To many people, the CEREMONY is what represents the marriage, the reception is just cake (pun semi-intended), and so when people want to come to support your marriage, they anticipate seeing your actual union. That’s the part that is important to them, the part that symbolizes the life you are building and the future you are having together. While usually the greatest amount of planning and expense (and criticism!) goes to the reception, the ceremony is what everyone is ultimately there for.

        There are some circumstances where a pre-arranged “legal” marriage needs to take place before the reception (very sick family member who may not make it to wedding; shaky legal issues) and guests will absolutely understand and will be there for the wedding ceremony very happily. But most people, if given the choice between “spend a lot of time/money coming to a party that’s about our wedding but not actually our wedding” and “let’s get dinner when we return from our honeymoon” / “let’s have a local get-together to celebrate our marriage we had a few months ago” they will probably choose the latter. It’s nothing to do with you, it’s everything to do with the finite amount of time and money people have.

        The other thing to know is: your guests are going to find out. Your parents, sisters, and 2 friends already know and you’ve got 5 months until your wedding. Someone is going to spill the beans and it will cast a pall over your entire wedding. Be honest with your guests now so you can have time to do damage control, get everyone positive, and persuade them to let go of any hurt feelings and celebrate your marriage.

        • Violet

          The truth will out, for sure. May as well get ahead of it.

        • CommaChick

          Plus, marital status is not protected information. There’s no HIPAA or FERPA for it; it’s public record. Literally anyone who wants to know if and when you got married can find out, sometimes accidentally. Trying to keep public information a secret is asking for trouble.

          • Anna

            I mean, fair, but I have a little trouble picturing how this would happen accidentally unless you have friends/family members who like… routinely sort through the records of their local county/city clerk?

        • AmandaBee

          I 100% agree that the ceremony is what makes the wedding, but I’d argue that the legal paperwork isn’t necessarily the thing that defines a “ceremony.” For some couples, maybe it does – but for many people, that’s not the case. Ceremonies are deeply personal, and deeply steeped in a variety of cultural and religious traditions, and I don’t think that wedding guests get to decide what counts or doesn’t count in someone else’s marriage.

          It’d certainly be weird to bill something as a wedding if there was no ceremony. But in the original question, sounds like we’re talking about a full wedding ceremony with vows, readings, rituals, or whatever else is meaningful to the couple – and for most people getting married, that part IS the ceremony. So if that’s the case, I’d argue that there isn’t anything at all dishonest going on. Guests are invited to a wedding ceremony, and the couple is holding a wedding ceremony.

          • quiet000001

            Totally agree about the legal paperwork not being necessarily the ceremony. My late husband and I got married legally in a registry office for immigration purposes and it was basically a non-event, emotionally. We had to use their wording, which didn’t really fit us, and so on. So I have no problem at all believing someone could do the paperwork but still consider the social/emotional ceremony to be their wedding and when they actually got married.

            I would have a problem with a couple presenting a destination event as the only celebration option when in reality they are having a local celebration too, but that’s because it seems like a form of manipulation and is inconsiderate. (Even then, it does depend.)

      • Staria

        I’m with Amy March. Call everyone on the phone for a catch up and just slip in that you’re doing your paperwork early / have got it done already and what you’re planning is the real wedding to you. Great wording suggested in these comments. The trick with this stuff is you can only tell everyone, or no one. It’s not fair to ask some people to hold on to the info.

        Example, I’ve been invited to my cousin’s wedding later this year. It’s a casual backyard bash at their house. I was invited through a Facebook group. The bride has casually made reference a number of times this week that they’ll be doing all their paperwork the week before and that the ‘wedding day’ is party day. Not a single person has made narky comments.

        • Violet

          “The trick with this stuff is you can only tell everyone, or no one. It’s not fair to ask some people to hold on to the info.” I agree so much with this. It perpetuates the idea that it’s a “secret” if some know and others don’t.

          I think just being honest shows that everything’s cool and there’s nothing to “hide.” If the couple truly feels that the wedding celebration is what is the most emotionally meaningful for them (over the legal aspects), then why is it even an issue to hide? Be open, honest, and proud of your wedding choices! No one’s saying you have to broadcast the details of why you’re separating the events; it’s a common enough practice these days for obvious, banal reasons (health insurance, etc.) that most people will just shrug and move on.

      • AmandaBee

        I think it’s totally up to you whether you want to tell people. We got legally married ahead of time, and told very few people precisely because we didn’t want other people deciding if our wedding was a “real wedding” or not. It was real to us. And it wasn’t any one else’s business whether we made it legal that day, or the day before, or the day after, or 4 months before.

        I don’t think you owe it to anyone else to tell them unless you want to.

        (I would personally not spring it on folks at the wedding though – it just seems weird. Either tell people, or don’t tell people.)

      • anon

        We got legally married two days before our actual wedding (we really wanted our friend to marry us, and to avoid the yucky anti-marriage equality wording you have to use in Australia). We specifically told our immediate relatives (knowing that they are massive gossips and would get the word out to all the other relatives) and at the ‘real’ wedding basically just mentioned that we’d ‘done the paperwork’ in advance so we could concentrate on celebrating our commitment with the people we love. A bunch of our friends also knew in advance, but a bunch didn’t (and I am pretty sure than non of them could care less).

    • Staria

      Whoa that is rude. I would definitely do different things with that info

  • Vanessa

    I agree with Liz that some of the pushback is likely just because Costa Rica sounds expensive and lavish, at first. We went to a similar wedding in Costa Rica – B&G lived in NYC, but friends were spread out throughout US, bride’s family was mostly in Colombia & groom’s family was mostly in Colorado. The B&G enlisted family & friends to spread the word that Costa Rica was a compromise location between all of the geographic areas where their family lives, and it went a long way towards making the inconvenience more palatable.

    But the bigger point is that, at some point during wedding planning, you have to internalize the idea that not everyone is going to love every decision you make about your wedding. People have a lot of pre-determined opinions about what you should be doing, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You have no control over this. You do have control over how you treat your guests, how you act as a host, and how graciously you handle situations that don’t go your way, like people not attending, or people telling you you’re doing your wedding wrong. If you’re treating people considerately, being a good host, and handling challenges graciously, then your wedding is not an imposition. I’m still working on this myself, but to the extent that I have been successful at it, it’s made the experience of planning a wedding so much easier.

    • sofar

      This is so well put. One of the most shocking things about wedding planning was how PERSONALLY people take it if you don’t do the things THEY did at THEIR wedding.

      • theteenygirl

        LIke x10000000

      • Vanessa

        OMG YES. Being the last of our siblings and one of the last of our friends to get married, talking to our friends & family about our wedding has become such a minefield.

        • Kaitlyn

          Ugh I’m starting to find that out. I’m always afraid when I said I don’t want to do something the way my friend/family member did, it’s going to cause great offense.

          • sofar

            Yes, so many conversations:

            Friend: Have you bought your garter yet?

            Me: No

            Friend: Oh no you only have a week before the wedding. I’ll buy you one!

            Me: We’re not doing a garter toss.

            Friend: NooOOOOoooOOO you have to! We did it, and it was so much fun!

        • sofar


        • Not Sarah

          Talking to my family about our wedding where we are the first ones to get married has been a minefield because no one knows anything about how weddings are supposed to go yet they STILL have plenty of opinions. Sigh.

      • Staria

        Omg the pitfalls of being ‘one of the last’ or the last to get married! Because you didn’t wait long enough – you have to get everyone else’s things they did too!

        Although the flip side / advantage is that you can see really clearly what you don’t want to do

    • penguin

      Yeah I’ve been shocked at how many pre-determined opinions people have about what our wedding should be like. At first we heard “do whatever makes you happy!” and then found out that meant “as long as the groom wears a tux and the bride wears a big white dress, and the reception is a catered multi-course sit-down dinner”. Which clashes a bit with our plan, which is for A. to wear a suit, me to wear a blue dress, and have the reception be a buffet. Just going to own it and let people sort out their own opinions. (Favorite complaint so far – “How will people know who the groom is if he’s not in a tux??”).

      • sofar

        LOLOL we got that “how will people know who the bride/groom is?” line so many times because he was wearing a suit and I wasn’t wearing a veil or a big dress. Considering how neither of us could get to the bathroom during the reception without getting mobbed, people obviously figured it out.

        • penguin

          Haha right? “Because we’ll be the people getting married during the ceremony!” I have faith in people to figure it out. Their complaint was also about the venue staff, like they would look for the bride and groom, not be able to find us, and just give up. Like, we’re paying multiple thousands of dollars for this place to host our event, they WILL know who we are and how to find us during the wedding.

          • Jane

            Also, don’t you want the vendors to locate some third person who is in charge so you and “the groom” don’t have to deal with everything day of?

          • penguin

            Exactly! Our venue has an on-site event coordinator thankfully, so I expect that she’ll deal with most things day-of. We’ll also have a couple of point people ready to deal with crises as they emerge.

          • sofar

            haha the cocktail staff literally trailed me with the appetizers the whole cocktail hour, despite my confusing lack of veil. It was AWESOME getting the first pick of everything.

          • SS Express

            “despite my confusing lack of veil” hahahahaha

        • Laura

          This reminds me of a wedding I was at with a very narcissistic mother of the bride. It was held at a family home, and the bride came down the central staircase in lieu of an aisle. It was a pretty casual wedding, and her mother (dressed in a white dress with flowers…apparently a popular choice judging from the comments section around here!) descended down the staircase in dramatic fashion as the prelude was beginning.

          She spent the entire receptor professing to be “so worried” that she had “stolen the moment” from her daughter and lamented to me that “I just can’t bear the idea that people might have thought *I* was the bride!” Suuuuuure, lady. It’s a 30-person wedding full of family and close friends only, but you’re right — we became momentarily disoriented and believed that the narcissistic mother we’ve known for years magically transformed into a 22-year-old bride. Some people.

          • Jane

            That is absolutely ridiculous.

          • theteenygirl

            My sister went to a wedding last year where the sister of the fiance bought an ivory gown, I kid you not, for the reception. She showed the picture to the bride and the bride was like no, you cannot wear that, it’s fancier than my own wedding dress. So she returned it and bought a WHITE Vera Wang gown that we all agree had to have been a wedding sample gown it looked that much like a wedding dress. So she refused to return that one and ended up wearing it to the wedding.

            I guess the highlight of this woman’s night was when a server mistook her for the bride, and she kept telling everyone over and over again all night how *THE SERVER* thought *SHE* was the bride can you *BELIEVE IT?*

          • Jane

            There was an ask APW with facts similar to these. Pretty outrageous.

            I think you’ve hit on the key point. Dressing up more than the couple dresses up issue (and just ignoring their wedding vibe) is a much bigger problem than the couple setting a dress code / vibe that is less fancy.

          • sofar

            I *might* have had trouble keeping a straight face.

        • ART

          While we were eating dinner at my wedding (pretty casual – catered BBQ buffet), the head caterer came over to the table where we were sitting with our wedding party. She very respectfully asked my younger brother, who was sitting to my right, if she could bring him anything else and he was like oh my god yeah, I would love another plate of meat! So she brought it, and he was like blown away by the amazing service until I whispered to him that she mistook him for the groom, who was sitting to my left…but yep that was the only problem people had with our lack of tuxes and if you ask my brother it (mainly the second plate of meat) was a highlight of the evening.

          • sofar

            That’s amazing. He was probably thinking, “Hell yeah, I’m a VIP, brother of the bride!”

            We booked our wedding-night suite at the same hotel my husband’s family was staying at. My husband’s sister and her boyfriend checked in first, and husband’s sister said, “We’re under [my husband’s name], assuming that was what you did because we had a room block. And they GAVE THEM OUR SUITE. And were like, “Oh welcome! So happy to have you here, you both look so happy and in love. How was the big day?” And they were like, “Oh it was so great! So much fun.” And then they got back to the suite with the chocolate-covered fruit and champagne and just assumed that this was the BEST HOTEL EVER and didn’t even question it.

            Flash forward to the end of the night when WE, at 1 am, came to check in. And the front-desk guy nearly fainted when he realized what had happened. We were too tired to care much and stayed in the room his sister was supposed to have stayed in.

          • sage

            What the actual eff?? I am upset on your behalf about this situation… I am trying to imagine how my fiance and I would have reacted in this situation… probably 50/50 chance we would either A) let it go or B) demand the best room they have available at that hour / a refund / free breakfast / anything else they might throw in… because although I love sleep and would probably be exhausted at that point, I also love fancy hotel suites (and if I’m honest I also love being outraged on occasion)

          • sofar

            They are a small, old, family-owned hotel. Just seeing the fear on front-desk dude’s face was enough to make me go, “OK ok it’s fine, just give us his sister’s room because we need sleep.”

            In another weird turn of events, I accidentally left my wedding dress BEHIND in the room. So, when I went back to get it a day later, they gave me a very nice goody basket. Which I was fine with because, even if they gave us a free night for later, there’s no way we’d get to use it (we are so rarely in that city).

          • Katharine Parker

            This is why you have to check the name on the credit card against the reservation (or ask to see ID), hotel front desk! Wow. I hope the hotel comped your room, at a minimum.

          • sofar

            They were a tiny little family-owned hotel that obviously wasn’t crossing all their t’s. I thought that was super weird too.

        • Laura C

          I went to a wedding where they had a guy who didn’t quite make the cut as groomsman act as emcee, and they asked him to wear white tails while the groom and groomsmen wore black tuxes. Apparently their own wedding photographers did keep taking his picture like they thought he was the groom.

          But that was white tails. He sorta stood out.

      • Fushigidane

        Most lol comment during my wedding. “I’ve never been to an ethnic wedding before. This was so nice…and different” The only thing “ethnic” about my wedding was that I changed into a red dress form the white one. Everything else was the typical American wedding at an American catering hall with typical American catering hall food. We didn’t even get the stir fry or dumpling options for the cocktail hour.

      • MDBethann

        My response would be: Well, he’s the one up front marrying the bride. If you don’t know either one of them, then you are probably at the wrong wedding :-)

        • CommaChick

          An old family friend who’s getting up there in years and is starting to get confused more easily recently went to a venue that was having two weddings and ended up at the wrong one. He was so confused because he didn’t recognize anyone there, including the bride and groom. He didn’t realize his mistake until about an hour and a half in. Luckily, he was able to laugh about it afterward.

    • ManderGimlet

      As someone who just spent almost a thousand dollars on a gd rental car for a NY wedding: BLESS YOU FOR PICKING COSTA RICA! If any of your guests bitch about the costs I will gladly show them my receipts as a mere guest at a wedding in proximity to NYC and they can realize that a week in South America is cheaper than a weekend in the city.

  • sofar

    You need to come up with your must-have attendees. Parents? Siblings? If they are cool with it, then all your other guests can just decide for themselves whether they want to go. I’d maybe even forego wedding parties if you think that would obligate people to go — or pick your wedding parties AFTER you get an idea of whether all your besties are like, “Hell yeah! Costa Rica! I’ve already booked my flight!” or if they’re more like, “Oh hmmm I don’t know. I’ll try …”

    The only reason I’d be upset about a destination wedding is if the couple were giving me grief about not attending. Or if someone asked me to be a bridesmaid and THEN announced it was across the world.

    And, for the record, I got TONS of grief for having my wedding in my midwestern hometown (where my entire extended family lives) because all our local TX friends considered that a “destination” wedding and there are no direct flights to that city.

    • Katharine Parker

      Truly, why do people think a couple planning their wedding wants to hear negative opinions about decisions they’ve made? I can’t imagine complaining to my friend that her wedding in her hometown was inconvenient for me. I might gripe in private to my partner, but not to the bride!

  • Cassy

    I echo all the other commenters because they have great things to say, but want to add — this sounds absolutely beautiful. I hope all of your guests (friends and family) appreciate what a caring person you are, because you truly picked the option that will work the best in your unique scenario. Hopefully everyone turns out to be understanding; regardless, you sound like you’ve found a gem of a destination wedding and I hope it’s everything you want *and* you can enjoy every bit of it!

  • Amanda Smith

    I relate to this so, so much and I’m not even planning a destination wedding! I’m from Michigan, he’s from California, and we met in Wyoming. Our people are everywhere. My hometown, where the wedding will be, is in northern Michigan. It’s pretty and inexpensive and very local for all of my immediate family. His immediate family is planning to make the trip. We are hoping to pay for his brother’s ticket and hosting both of his siblings and their dates at our house. We are hoping that eases the burden for them. It’s a small event- 80 guests invited but we already know that many won’t be coming. My MIL is planning a big celebration on the West Coast for his friends and family.

    What gets me is our friends. I have a group that I met while living in Mississippi. They now live in TN, TX, PA, NY, and NM. Our friends we met while living in Wyoming work seasonal jobs in the hospitality industry. We are planning a November wedding specifically to accommodate them (it;s their off season) but they are traveling from TN, WY, MT, OR, CO, and AK. My hometown is six hours from the nearest hub airport (Detroit). Tickets to our actual airport easily run $700-800 round trip. Several of them have already agreed to come and are in our wedding party. We just sent our save the dates and I haven’t heard anything negative. That doesn’t stop me from feeling so, so guilty though. I keep wondering what we could have done to make things more convenient for our guests. I keep wondering if we are planning a nice enough event to make it worth it. I don’t know how to stop feeling that way. I have no expectations that all of those who are far away will come.

    It’s just so difficult having all of our important people so spread out. No matter what we choose some people will have to travel. It really makes me wish we’d gotten married last year while we were still living in Wyoming. Our parents would have flown out and our mutual friends were all in one spot.

    • ssha

      I feel this too. We are getting married in my fiance’s hometown, 4 hours from my hometown (a major city with an airport) and many people can’t make it. I somehow keep thinking this is our fault that they can’t- that if it were here it would be better- but in reality Liz’s words about everyone who loves you not making it are so true, whether or not the wedding is local. So many people are so excited, but I still sometimes feel guilty.

    • Jane

      I feel guilty about similar things (less my town is inconvenient and more my town is expensive during the summer). But I don’t think either of us should!

      I don’t think you have to do anything specific to make it “nice enough,” but recognizing the money and sacrifices your friends are making could be good. Whether that recognition comes in the form of heartfelt thank you notes, squeezing in a more intimate gathering with them (which maybe you’ll have because of wedding party?), etc.

  • Katharine Parker

    Reading this makes me think of the Benjamin Disraeli saying, “never complain, never explain.” It’s so tempting to give a long explanation of why Costa Rica is the best choice for you, that it isn’t actually a lavish wedding but what is best for your budget, that you chose with flights, hotels, etc. in mind for people, etc. etc.–but what actually matters is that it is the best choice, you’re making the decision thoughtfully and with your guests in mind, and you’re accepting of people not being able to come. You can’t make everyone happy, and you can’t make everyone understand why you want to host your wedding this way. And so–never complain, never explain.

    Your wedding sounds lovely, and I hope you enjoy all parts of it!

  • theteenygirl

    You sound a lot like me.. I drove myself crazy thinking of every single little thing to make my wedding the least imposing as possible. Ours is a destination wedding, I guess, in the sense that it’s a 2 hour drive north for most of my side, and FI’s side has to fly in. It’s on a Monday because that was the only day we could get the venue on short notice, so we’re arranging carpools for those without cars to connect them with those with cars or who are okay sharing a rental, and we’re covering the cost of everyone to stay at the Inn so they don’t have to worry about paying for a hotel or cabs to and from the event, providing all meals, and I made a website that information on how many rooms there are, things to do, what will be provided, the schedule for the weekend, a suggested packing list, and a huge FAQs page. And even with all that I’ve got push-back from (mostly family) about them having to take two days off work and get “all the way” up there, they don’t understand why we are having it “so far away” etc.. Having said that, there are a lot of people who are excited, but I think I’ve figured out that I really, really, can’t make everyone happy.

    • Cdn icecube

      I really think you’ve gone above and beyond here. Try to shut out the haters because clearly they have nothing better to do then complain.

      • theteenygirl

        Thank you. I never expected my wedding to be so drama filled. How naive.

        • penguin

          I felt the same way before I started wedding planning. We’re laid back, our families are reasonable people, what could go wrong? *ominous thunder and lightning* (spoiler alert, a lot so far, and we’re not done yet!).

          • savannnah

            ha. ha. ha. immoral wedding countdown: 4 months!

  • savannnah

    I agree with Liz wholeheartedly and I also want to say that I’m not sure there is really a difference between a average and above sized wedding and a destination wedding anymore. All of the weddings I’ve gone to in the past 10 years have required a plane or train ticket and usually 2 night hotel stay and they have all reacquired some type of further planning than simply showing up by the guests. You consider what you can, control what you can and let everyone else decide if they want to go or not.

  • jem

    So our wedding is a “destination” for my side, and a ton of people mildly bitched about it when we first started planning. So… we assumed they wouldn’t come. Turns out, people just like to whine and EVERYONE who complained at first has already booked a hotel room (we haven’t even sent invites yet). And now we are madly readjusting everything because our attendance estimate was way off.

    • Vanessa

      This too. If you had done it differently they would have just complained about a different element/at a different time.

    • ManderGimlet

      YESSSSSS! EVERYONE LIKES TO WHINE! I just whined today about how much I’ve spent to go to my bf’s wedding, but I’m still going and I’m stoked as hell! Spending money sucks, even when it’s on something awesome, and complaining about it is a lowstakes way of working through travel anxiety (if I bitch about my rental car price, I won’t needlessly obsess about the possibility of getting kicked off my flight/losing my luggage/etc etc etc.)

    • idkmybffjill

      Toward the end of wedding planning I made a choice that anything people wanted to whine about was my gift to them – as some people love having things to whine about. lol I did my very best to have a wedding that was practical for everyone and be the best host I could be, but at the end I was like, “Oh mom’s work friend is disappointed we aren’t having any young children in the wedding party? How kind of me to give her that juicy nugget of gossip.”

  • Kelly

    The only way I could potentially see destination weddings in general as an issue is for the immediate family members. For instance in my husband’s family, brother was married to someone whose family is from Slovakia and they were thinking of having ceremony there. And in their family, it doesn’t matter where in the world your sibling is getting married, you are expected to attend. And trips to Europe are not particularly cheap.

  • Natalie

    I think “destination weddings” get a bad rep unfairly these days, especially when the couple lives a plane ride away from most family and/or friends. It’s one thing to plan a destination wedding when almost all the guests live within an hour drive of the couple, so they’re being asked to spend serious money to attend a wedding in a special destination somewhat unnecessarily. (To be clear, that’s also a totally valid wedding choice, just a very different sort of destination wedding than the one being discussed here). It’s another when almost all the guests would need to fly to attend the wedding no matter where it’s held. In my mind, whether guests have to fly from WA to Virginia or FL to Costa Rica doesn’t necessarily matter, but the Costa Rica wedding gets labeled as a “destination wedding” while the Virginia wedding doesn’t. The connotation of “destination wedding” is that the couple is forcing guests to spend their vacation where the couple wants to vacation. But the reality for those of us who live across a continent or ocean from most of our relatives and friends is that every wedding requires using up our vacation time & travel money to attend. Personally, if I’m having to fly to attend a wedding, I’d rather it be in Costa Rica than in Virginia.

    LW, it sounds like you’ve thought very hard about how to plan a wedding that most of your family and friends can attend at minimal cost to them. I wouldn’t worry too much about your mother’s comments about it. Your guests may be wondering “why Costa Rica?” not because they’re upset about being invited to a destination wedding, but rather wondering if Costa Rica as a place has special significance to you and your partner. If they are complaining, well, people find reasons to complain about every wedding.

    • NolaJael

      THIS. “But the reality for those of us who live across a continent or ocean from most of our relatives and friends is that every wedding requires using up our vacation time & travel money to attend.”

    • breezyred

      All of this. My spouse and I were in a similar situation where no matter where we held our wedding, over 90% of friends and family would have to travel out of state. So we also opted for a location where everyone could veg together for the weekend.

      There were a few “why there?” questions from a couple guests, but mostly everyone got on board quickly. And those who couldn’t travel, didn’t travel, but it wasn’t because they love us any less. (And most of our guest list couldn’t travel, which made for a more intimate gathering.) Instead, it meant on our wedding day we had lots of love coming our way from–not just our reception site–but all over the country from those people who couldn’t make it.

  • Sounds to me like you actually gave a lot of thought to where to have the wedding! You have loved ones all over (like seriously all over) so you made the best decision that you could. As other commenters have mentioned and Liz said, too, you won’t be able to please everyone. If this is really where you want to tie the knot, go for it!

  • toomanybooks

    Regarding the “everyone who loves you will be there” comment – that can be true to an extent but of course it’s important to remember that there will be people who would love to go but can’t spend money on the trip or don’t have the vacation time. Heck, I’ve been invited to my fiancée’s cousin’s wedding down the coast, and I’m worried about being able to take any vacation days to attend that, after all the ones we’re taking for our honeymoon and my college reunion this year.

    Since everyone is so scattered and you’ve taken costs into account, I don’t think your wedding falls into the same category as like, someone who lives in Virginia and all their family and friends do too, and decided to have a Costa Rica wedding. And, I mean, you can decide to have whatever wedding you want. But some guests just might not be able to come if it isn’t local to them, that’s always a thing that happens.

  • erika22

    When we were first planning our destination wedding, I asked the people closest to me if they’d be ok with traveling internationally for my wedding, and between having a year and a half to plan and save, being my closest friends, and wanting/needing an excuse to travel, they all said they’d be there. I don’t know if I’d have changed our fledging plans to make it easier for them to attend had they said no, but a large portion of our guests would have had to travel to get to our wedding no matter how far it was.

    One thing my fiance’s family didn’t understand (and probably still doesn’t but w/e) was that we weren’t having our wedding in his home country, but eight hours away in a country neither of us has explicit ties to. Because of this, some of his family isn’t able to come either, but in all honesty, even if we had the wedding in his hometown, they still may not have come, and we would have had to deal with a lot more pushback in all other aspects of wedding planning. We knew the people most important to us would get there even if we had to help them, and that was the priority.

    tl;dr – you do what you want, prioritize those closest to you while knowing that others may not be able to make it, and that on the day of your wedding, you’re not gonna miss your second cousin or whomever, you’re just going to be happy you’re married!

  • laddibugg

    ” And we ended up with this resort in Costa Rica: twenty minutes from an international airport, all food and drink included, shuttle service from airport (so no rental car), free activities at resort or paid activities nearby, no wristbands, and a wedding package within our budget, all for about $200 per person per night. Also, I have a distant uncle that lives in Costa Rica, and we both have family and friends that visited Costa Rica and loved it. My fiancé’s brother stayed at this resort and recommended it. Finally, just as a sanity check, we looked up how much staying in Virginia or D.C. would be, and it was roughly $180 per person per night, so we felt pretty comfortable with our choice.”

    The difference in price is more than $20/night.

    International flights cost more. I suppose you could drive there but that’s not realistic.
    People have to get passports–and sometimes that issue isn’t just price. But that’s still another $150.
    Flying to VA can be an in and out thing, going to Costa Rica likely isn’t.

    The price difference in hotels doesn’t really mean anything. I’m not saying don’t do it, but please don’t act like the only thing people would spend more on is $20/ night.

    • ManderGimlet

      I think having all accommodations, food, drink, entertainment, and transportation was more the focus. $200/night for all that vs. $180/night for just a room itself in the city and then guests paying for everything else piecemeal themselves. Definitely agree about the added costs of international travel, though the LW’s description seems like most of the family are big travelers. (My family on the other hand would never go for that, I think I’m one of the only people to have a passport!)

    • Anna

      Okay, but the rest of the paragraph sort of addresses that – in VA guests would likely have to pay for rental cars, food, etc (it’s not like the alternative was an all-inclusive resort in VA). Some guests will be flying international regardless. It sounds like their crowd is heavy on people who already have passports. It’s likely that, on average, for their actual guests, the difference in cost really is in that range.

    • penguin

      Yeah I was sort of wondering how the math worked out (don’t a lot of people share hotel rooms, so it would be $180/ROOM per night?), but even without the math the answer is still the same. Have the wedding you want, and people can come or not. Especially in the situation in the original letter, I think a destination makes a lot of sense and will be relatively convenient for the most guests. I think it sounds like a great wedding.

  • Grace

    Meh, to me it’s not a big deal. My husband and I live on the west coast, most of our families are east coasters. We decided to have the wedding on the east coast and heard through the grapevine that some people were sad to have missed a reason to come out west. And we had people local to the venue who ended up not making it to the wedding.

    Long story short, have the wedding you want.

  • Staria

    Darling LW. I feel like the response was not decisive or clear enough. NO your wedding is NOT an imposition. YES you should definitely proceed with your plans! It sounds freaking amazing and I would definitely want to go if I were invited to such a wedding!

    You really have a great reason for wanting a nice destination wedding and ANY wedding you hold would be a destination wedding. I held mine where I grew up and where I live now but I lived away for ages and so did my partner and we had a lot of invited guests who had to travel. That’s just how it is. My best friend and her partner decided to have a ‘wedding weekend’ at a venue 2 hours from anywhere, everyone had to travel, it was fine and it was a beautiful wedding!

    Amy March had some good advice here in the comments about some costs and expectations on guests that I would consider, but nothing that should stop you in your tracks.

    This is a time, lovely, for you and your partner to make a firm decision about what suits you guys. Go forward and I hope you have an amazing time in CR!

  • Eh

    With people scattered all over like that you aren’t going to make everyone happy. My family lives all over Canada, the USA and the UK (we only invited my family that is from Canada – but they live coast to coast – and my closest family live 7 hours away). On the other hand, my husband’s family all live within a one hour radius. We live an hour from my inlaws. We were planning on getting married in the city we live but my inlaws asked us to get married in the town they live in (after complaints about my BIL/SIL getting married where we live). We accommodated them because we found a venue that we were loved (it would have been more difficult without that venue). On the other hand, members of my family complained that I didn’t get married in the city I was born in that I haven’t lived in since I was 6 years old and is difficult to fly to and is a 18 hour drive from where we live. Our wedding was effectively a destination wedding for my family and we had pretty low turn out (overall was about 50%).

  • Jenna

    As a quick counterpoint:

    Not everyone is going to go to any given wedding even if it’s held in someone’s hometown or where they are living. We held ours very near my hometown – not because I love it there (though it is scenically lovely, the Hudson Valley) or because I even live there anymore, but because it was where all my elderly grandparents could get to.

    And you know what? Not everyone came.

    If we had held it in my husband’s hometown (in Maine) or where we are living now (Taipei) or where we met in college (DC), not everyone would have come.

    So it almost doesn’t matter that the LW’s guests will not all come to Costa Rica.

    Sure, maybe one guy has a friend he can stay with in Florida, but someone else may have a friend in Washington but not Florida. Someone may not want to go because they can’t or won’t drive (until a few years ago that was me – if your wedding required a rental car and me driving it, I was not going to be able to go. Even now I prefer not to be the main driver).

    So even if you had chosen another option, that was going to happen for some people.

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  • EllieS

    There’s no issue with your wedding, but you have to be aware that some people will bow out and you should allow them to do so gracefully with no guilt trip. We wanted a short engagement, so we decided to get married in December. We knew the month is a busy one with lots of obligations and that some guests wouldn’t make it. We made sure to tell them a million times that there were no hard feelings.

    Also, the only destination wedding I went to ended up having a disproportionate amount of parent friends and older family because they are the ones with deeper pockets. Even if a hotel is $180/night in the USA, your younger friends are more likely to airbnb/couch surf/fit 6 people in a hotel room and that is much trickier with a destination wedding. Maybe consider having a bar night with your local, younger friends when you get home, since the wedding is much more likely to be a financial strain or impossibility for them.

  • Your mom said it best. Everyone who loves you will go anywhere to support your wedding. Just keep in mind that you can’t please everyone. It’s your day and it’s important that you’re happy with it instead of trying to please everyone. Just saying…

  • idkmybffjill

    Man – maybe unpopular opinion, but I would rather travel to Costa Rica than like…. the random town someone grew up in in Iowa ANY day. I also come from a family of spread out folks, so maybe that’s just knowing I’ll usually need to travel somewhere for weddings… but I’d be SO PUMPED if some of my friends chose a destination wedding.

  • LindseyM

    We got married in Argentina a few months ago and dealt with this (I actually had written an ask APW about it a year ago–lots of helpful comments, you could go look it up). We checked first with immediate family, and we offered to pay for the flights of the two people for which they expressed doubts about the finances. We ended up having a great turn out from my side, and a horrible turnout from my husband’s. Not one of his friends came, which really surprised us. He had a lot of emotions around this (obviously) and I think it will probably impact his relationship with his friends going forward. The golden rule is always “know your people,” but you can’t predict everything. Most of his friends are financially stable and were able to come, but chose not to (all the while asking me when we were throwing our “party” back home—spoiler, we don’t feel the need to throw a second party for friends who chose not to come. Family that could not afford to come, yes, friends, no). So you have to be prepared for the fact that you could have something like that happen. It its a low probability, but it is the reality of any wedding more than an hour away. I think a main factor is in what types of friends you have — I have fewer, but really close friends, while my husband has many more friends, that are all close, but not “best friends.” I think it was easier for them just to assume that other people would be going and that they could bow out. And honestly, if we had gotten married in Alaska, our second option, I bet the same people would not have come. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it is eight hours or two hours.

  • Julie

    I totally understand the o.p.’s thought process here, but I just wanted to build on what Liz was saying in that state-side travel can be made cheap for those that have the will, and it seems like that won’t be an option in Costa Rica. Sure, the all inclusive resort price is very similar to a hotel in the other areas you considered, but that’s per person, and I don’t think I’ve ever stayed alone in a hotel room for a wedding- I usually split one with at least three other friends. Also remember that you’re taking away the road trip option for stateside guests should that be their preferred travel mode. Just a few things to consider, which may be of greater importance if you and your partner’s friends are in the under 30 crowd.

  • Tahlia Kirk

    I agree that your best bet is to make a short list of your Must-Have guests and check in with them individually to make sure they’re happy and planning to come.

    However, if you’re going for quantity–simply trying to find the plan that satisfies the most people–have you considered conducting a poll? I’m not saying that you should try to please everyone, but if your goal is to figure out what will make the most people happy, you could jump on SurveyMonkey and make a quick little survey. Email it to all 200 of your family members and let them vote. Whichever destination gets the most votes is where you have the wedding. This way, you don’t have to feel guilty, since YOU didn’t pick the location, you just went with the numbers.

  • K.K.

    I just want to add that for some people, time is the bigger factor than money. I used to have an annoyingly tight vacation day budget. Excluding Alaska and Hawaii, if you work a 9-5 M-F type job, you can generally make a Saturday evening wedding anywhere in the U.S. from anywhere in the U.S. without taking any vacation time. For a Saturday morning or Sunday wedding, you can do it in one vacation day. Once things go international, this gets a lot trickier, or even impossible. There are fewer flights, often longer flights, and customs and immigration to deal with. So money is only part of the discussion.

    • Greta

      Yes to this! I totally think you should have the wedding you want to have, BTW. It sounds lovely. For me though, the true cost would be in time and the distance of the flight. I can, and have done redeyes all over the country on a Friday night for a Saturday wedding and then flown back Sunday in order to not miss any work. I only get 10 vacation days and those are usually already accounted for in many of my own trips. If you’re asking me to go to Costa Rica I would a) be psyched and b) probably wouldn’t be able to come because I’m guessing I would need at least 5 consecutive days there to make it worth it. For me, I can budget to make things work financially, but I can’t in any way buy more vacation time, so that would be the real factor in determining whether or not we could go.

  • AnonThisTime

    I think it was wonderful of you to do all that research on the different destination options. One of my friends is getting married this weekend at a resort that is $250+ per person (double occupancy) plus since it’s a holiday weekend, the flights are $1,000 per person. We live in the DC area and can choose from three different airports, and it was still going to be $4,000 for two people for three nights, and on the other side of the continent from where we live. I can’t help but think they wanted to get married somewhere pretty and also weren’t too concerned if some people couldn’t make it.

  • mary

    I’m having similar trouble with planning our wedding. We live in Los Angeles but do not have $50,000 to hemorrhage (not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you can afford it,) so our options are limited. We found a BEAUTIFUL and perfect venue (after years of searching) but it’s on a mountain and two of my immediate family members are afraid of heights. They perceive of this as a destination wedding, though it’s only a two hour drive from LA. (My family and my fiancé’s family are from separate states so they would have to travel anyway.) My fiancé and I absolutely fell in love with the venue, but I’m worried my parent and my sibling might let their phobias keep them from attending. The road is completely safe, as I would never put people’s lives at stake to attend, but they may not figure out how to manage their anxiety. Is this a big enough issue to change the venue? The thing is, we had another venue in Mexico but another family member has a phobia of Mexico due to previous law enforcement experience at the border. All these restrictive phobias clashing with our limited budget, balanced with my fiancé and my simple (but distinct) vision is making this so hard! Anyway, thank you for the forum, it’s very appreciated!