Minneapolis couple Kay Hannahan and Tyler Hurley had a Spring wedding in mind. But when a snowstorm hit in mid April, Bride Kay kept her calm. One big reason: she planned ahead for her out of town wedding guests with exceptional thought and etiquette.
What you don’t think about when you’re writing invitations
While creating a guest list is notoriously one of the most difficult things when it comes to wedding planning, some couples may forget about the complications when it comes to out of town guests. Snowstorms aside, wedding etiquette for out of town guests is crucial to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable, and appreciated as much as everyone else.
Here’s our step by step guide on how to do just that–and save you and your guests an awkward situation.
1. Get those save-the-dates out early
Save-the-dates are a nice gesture to every guest, but they’re a must when it comes to wedding etiquette for out of town guests. Not only do they need more time to make travel arrangements, but notifying them as soon as possible means they can save money by buying early flights and planning out any PTO they need to take at work.
2. Help them plan their trip
Because of the high cost of traveling to a wedding, many folks will make a mini vacation out of the weekend, taking an additional day off to spend exploring the surrounding area. Now, you don’t need to be a travel guide, but a top priority for out of town wedding guest etiquette is making suggestions of things to do before and after the wedding.
Dining, shopping, local attractions are just a few very broad ideas to suggest to guests to help make their long trip more complete. But if you’ve been to a wedding recently, you may have noticed that the suggestions on their wedding website were a little.. lacking. That’s because it’s really hard to think of suggestions that apply to everyone. You might recommend one type of restaurant to your uncle, and a crazy dive bar to your college friends.
If a good portion of your guests are from out of town, you might consider letting your guests interact to share ideas with each other. Not only does this save you the pressure of making “good” picks, but it let’s your guests feel more connected well in advance (see next section!)
3. Make them feel connected before the ceremony
You have friends and family from all parts of your life. Letting them interact and get to know each other even before the wedding is great etiquette, especially for out of town guests. It prevents them from feeling alienated and forgotten, and means that you don’t need to bend over backward making sure everyone is being attended to.
One of the most common ways to help everyone get to know each other is to have a small get-together the night before the wedding. Some brides go big by renting out a section of a restaurant with appetizers for everyone, while others simply arrange for everyone to meet at a bar to cheers the upcoming big day (you can make announcements and last-minute updates with Guestboard as well!)
Whatever you choose, this pre-pre-party does not need to be expensive or fancy. Focus on the goal of letting guests meet, chat, and see the couple. Provide a chance for them to catch up with old friends (and make new ones), and they’ll be more than happy. We once went to a wedding that had a laid-back bonfire in the backyard of the grooms parent’s house– people made s’mores and sipped wine, and it was a great time!
4. Provide a welcome goody bag
This has become a commonplace idea to make wedding guests feel more welcome – create little welcome gift bags for your guests as they arrive to their hotels or AirBnbs. But if you’ve been to more than a couple weddings, you can almost predict what will be in these bags before you open them: bottled water, mints, ibuprofen, little snacks, etc. Why not mix things up a bit?
5. Show your appreciation at the reception
The average wedding guests spends ~$600 to get their butt in that seat and watch you say “I do”. Of course, you’ve probably spent much more at that point, but it’s crucial to show your best wedding guest etiquette for all your guests, not just out-of-towners. It’s a daunting task, but at some point in the reception, go around to greet everyone personally to let them know you’re thankful they came.