It’s so rare to plan a wedding where all of the guests are locals. More so, it’s becoming common that a significant portion of guests are travelling from out of town. (I guess they call Seattle a city of transplants for a reason) Whether it’s family, or college friends, there tends to be a group that couples need to put a little more focus on to ensure their trip and time around the wedding is a fun one. From our own wedding (almost 90% of our guests were travelling from outside of Washington) to the many clients I’ve helped with out of town guests, I’ve learned some tricks and tips to decrease the work of planning for them and increase the guests’ satisfaction with their trip.
1. Send save the dates
Save the dates are optional, and depending on the length of your engagement, may not be 100% necessary, but if you’re planning timeline is longer than 6 months, I tend to encourage clients to send save the dates. If you are on a budget, instead of sending save the dates to everyone on your guest list, consider only sending them to guests that will need to travel and close family and friends.
2. Consider sending invitations a bit sooner
Most invitations are sent out 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding, however, I’ve found it can be extremely helpful to send them to out-of-town guests anywhere between 8-12 weeks prior. Your invitation will have more detail on the location and time of the festivities, which will give your guests the opportunity to plan their travel to and from the wedding. While some guests will choose to make a vacation out of the trip, spending extra days before and after to travel and see the area, others may need to make it a short trip, getting in right before the ceremony and leaving right after. Either way, getting them the details they’ll need early allows them to plan accordingly.
3. Give suggestions on where they should stay
If you have a large number of out of town guests, the decision to get a hotel block of rooms may be an easy one. If you aren’t sure, keep in mind that most hotels have a 10 room minimum, and will require that a certain amount of room are filled (either at the expense of your guests or you). Beyond the number of rooms, also consider how close the hotel is to your venue, if they offer shuttles/transportation for guests, and the quality of the rooms. Having a block is not a requirement, and if you have doubts on whether your guests will book the rooms, you can always put together a simple list of accommodation options, including B&B’s, hotels, and locations in different areas, again, depending on your venue location. Some people will opt for convenience, while others will try to use hotel points, and still others may want to make it a vacation and want to be in a tourist hot spot.
4. Think about how they will get around
Similar to choosing a hotel block, you should also consider how guests will get around. Depending if your guests are coming from another city, they may or may not be comfortable using public transportation. I recommend giving specific directions on how to use trains, buses, etc. Although it’s easy for you to get, it could be your guests first time in the area and they’ll need the extra instructions.
5. Tell them what to pack
If your guests are travelling from an area with a different climate, it can be very helpful to give a little bit of weather advice and tips on what to pack and wear. For our own wedding in June on Camano Island, WA, we had to ensure guests knew that a “summer island wedding” in the PNW did not mean hot weather and sandy beaches. Many were travelling from the Midwest, which happened to be in the 90’s when they were flying out, so although they all agreed it felt silly packing cardigans and jackets, they were all very thankful they had once the sun set on the coast and temperatures dropped to the 60’s that evening.
6. Give them extra things to do
The few days leading up to your wedding will be a blur of last minute details, a rush of greeting family and friends, and celebrating the exciting upcoming days together. While it’s all very exciting, it can be exhausting, and you likely won’t have time to play hostess and tour guide to everyone. Help your guests be self-sufficient by giving them a list of activities, your favorite spots, tourist attractions, and things to do in the area before they arrive. This will help eliminate the guilt you might feel by not being able to spend time with everyone, and ensure they have a great time during their stay.
When planning for out of town guests, treat it like a destination wedding. If you were to travel to an unknown place, what types of tips and advice would you want? Now, provide those answers to your guests.
Candi Block, Founder & Event Planner
Midwest native with big-family roots, now newlywed, entrepreneur, and new home owner in the PNW. Love being involved in the community, crafting, creating, and Netflix binging.
Thrifty Events offers wedding planning, event design, and day of coordination services.