Celebrate the Wedding Journey

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Sunscreen? Check. Passport? Check. Buckle up for the journey of being a guest at a destination wedding!

Being a bridesmaid in a destination wedding in Peru last year provided me with the first-hand experience of the extensive planning that goes into being properly prepared for the trip. The ten-day Peruvian excursion took ten months of planning. Through the use of a travel agency and the bride’s advance work, every guest had detailed instructions and deadlines to follow to get their travel accurately booked.

There are many important things to know about going to out-of-town nuptials. Here are some tips I learned that can help you to smoothly plan to attend someone’s big day far away.

Schedule and Cost
The most important item is to check your calendar! Make sure that you can take the allotted amount of time away from work, school or other responsibilities and that the dates involved are open for you.

After you know you’re available, the next step is to determine the cost of the trip and budget for it. Most likely the bride and groom have already done some planning for you and can give you an estimate of pricing. Expenses usually include air travel, accommodations, excursions, incidentals and some meals; if the wedding is at an all-inclusive resort, all meals will likely be included.

Logistics and Deadlines
Travel agents are usually the backbone of the organization when a couple is planning such a large event. Agents typically hold a block of rooms at a special rate for wedding guests, and the rates are usually time sensitive. Being aware of the deadlines to pay for airfare and hotel at the special rates is extremely important in keeping costs down and planning for the trip.

Although you may be working regularly with the travel agent to book flights and your hotel, do not forget to confirm your attendance for the wedding and any additional events specified on the invitation.

If the wedding is out of the country, it’s critical that you have a passport. If you don’t already have one, don’t delay in making application. The U. S. Department of State advises that processing time for an application is four to six weeks; expedited service takes two to three weeks and will add $60 to the passport fee.

Do some research on the country you are visiting. Special immunizations may be needed for the region, particularly if you will be outdoors. For example, among the recommended immunizations for Peru are rabies, typhoid and Hepatitis A.

A detailed itinerary through the travel agent or a wedding website will tell you what to expect for the entire trip. Whether the destination is a ten-day European tour or four-day all-inclusive resort stay in the Bahamas, the couple will be planning events in addition to the ceremony and reception. There may be a welcome brunch, rehearsal dinner or an excursion that the bride and groom have planned in appreciation to guests for traveling to celebrate their big day. If it’s an adventure tour or a beach day, it is important to consult the itinerary to pack accordingly. This will also help you anticipate when your down time will be to schedule activities you don’t want to miss while you’re there.

Wedding Attire and Traditions
The destination may be a beach, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the wedding ceremony itself is informal. Be sure to read the invitation carefully regarding the attire for each event. The wedding gift tradition can be simplified for a destination wedding; you can send something from the couple’s registry before or after the ceremony. If you don’t want to attend empty-handed, an option is a monetary gift in a card that’s presented the day of the wedding.

Travel Mishaps
Once you have made all of these important preparations, the next thing to expect with a destination wedding is for something to go wrong regarding travel. As with any vacation, there’s a possibility of encountering an issue or mix-up. Don’t burden the happy couple with these issues. Keep your travel agent’s information with you and contact them first to see if they can resolve the issue. As always, travel insurance is also a good idea.

Lastly, think vacation! Destination weddings are expensive; the bride and groom know that, so they likely have put together a beautiful vacation for you to enjoy as a guest. Sit back and relax, or adventure and discover.

More importantly, know that you’re one of a small group of the couple’s nearest and dearest who will be attending a wedding far away. Remember to soak up the moments and memories of your loved one’s big day and share their happiness. ■

Sources: travel.state.gov and the experience of the author.