How to avoid destination wedding drama

Maybe you chose a destination wedding to avoid the drama associated with traditional weddings. However, even in paradise, wedding drama can rear its ugly head. Here are some of the more common problems destination weddings encounter–and how to avoid them. 

Your Guests Can’t Come

The most typical trouble that destination weddings face is that many guests can’t afford to come. Sure, this may benefit you if you’re looking for excuses to shrink your gargantuan guest list, but the plan can backfire if the guests you need the most are unable to afford the trip. You may find yourself in the tough position of choosing between a wedding without your mother, brothers, and best friend, or paying for all of their plane tickets out of your own pocket. The easiest remedy is to include your guests of honor in the wedding planning process. That way, you’ll know if a destination wedding makes sense, or if you’d be better off saving the tropics for your honeymoon.

It’s considered good etiquette for the couple to pay for their wedding party’s transportation if they’re holding a wedding in a faraway place. While this is far from mandatory, it’s essential to make sure everyone is on the same page before requests are made or accepted. Cost is a major factor in destination weddings, so make sure that communication on the topic remains crystal clear. That way, everyone in your wedding party knows whether or not they can afford the price tag before they accept the honor.

Keep in mind that some guests can’t travel long distances, and it’s not because of prohibitive cost. If friends or family members can’t make the trip due to poor health or physical frailty, it’s up to you whether you still want to have a destination wedding or not. If you don’t want to put your grandparents in the position of having to choose between attending your wedding and climbing a mountain in remote Nepal, consider holding a special gathering before you leave (or after you return) to honor them. 

Having a destination wedding is one way of winnowing down a weighty guest list, but don’t assume that a smaller gathering automatically means there will be less drama. Sometimes, guests who feel slighted by what they see as a lack of inclusion can cause more trouble than having a large wedding in the first place. If you’re worried that certain friends or family members are feeling left out by your choice, make a special effort to include them in the time leading up to your wedding. This can be as simple as calling them to talk about, yes, anything but the upcoming wedding. You may also want to schedule a visit along with your new spouse.

You Have to Ship Gifts Home

While it’s a lovely gesture for guests to bring gifts, no couple wants to be stuck with a hotel room full of large kitchen appliances and breakable vases at the end of their vacation. To avoid getting buried in well-meaning presents, specify on the invitations that any gifts should be sent to your home address. If you can’t have a neighbor or trusted friend collecting gifts that arrive, politely request that guests send gifts before or after the dates that you’ll be traveling.

You may choose to forgo tangible gifts altogether. In that case, you may want to ask guests to bring their talents and time to your wedding in lieu of traditional gifts. Friends can help you stuff envelopes, blow up balloons, or wind ribbon around table centerpieces–there are a million little details in setting up a wedding, and extra sets of hands are always appreciated. You can also ask guests to donate to your honeymoon fund, thereby ensuring that the gift will be very appreciated, and take up no space at all.

It’s Your Honeymoon, and the Guests Won’t Leave

One of the many perks to getting married in an exotic locale is that you start your honeymoon vacation immediately. You’re already at a pristine white beach, after all. The only problem? All your friends and family are also at the beach. And the only person most of them have in common is you. 

 If you’re worried that your guests will still be expecting entertainment after your wedding, plan a group activity (like whale watching, hiking, or shopping) to give you and your new spouse some alone-time. If your wedding takes place at a resort, there will be activities going on at all times for your guests to join based on their interests.

You can also leave your guests where they are, and take a mini-trip after the wedding. Hop to a nearby island that’s a little more remote, or book a room at a neighboring resort. Just make sure you’ve spent plenty of quality time with your guests before your point of departure, so nobody feels like you’re ditching them in a strange locale. Emphasize that your guests can now enjoy their vacation. If you communicate your plans clearly before the wedding, everyone will know what to expect.

Your Special Touches Get Squished in the Luggage

If you’re bringing DIY masterpieces to spice up your wedding décor, only assemble as much as you absolutely have to before the event. If you’re using feathers, lay them flat between cardboard sheets or the pages of a large book. Print out place cards, but wait until you’re at your destination to cut them out and fold them. Look for decorations that fold flat, like hanging paper lanterns.

You Don’t Comply with Local Regulations

It’s amazing how many couples fail to do simple research about their destination’s legal marriage requirements and get caught in red tape mere days before the wedding. If you’re getting married outside of the United States, look up local law online and talk to other couples who have been married in the same country (you can easily find them on Internet message boards, if you don’t know any personally). You can also hire a destination wedding planner with expertise in your country specifically. Assume that there will be unexpected hurdles to jump; the trick is finding them before you leave. 

Mexico, for example, has a waiting period of two to three days after you pay your Marriage License fee before you can be married, with mandatory blood tests as well as a one-year waiting period for divorcees–and weddings are not performed on Sundays. You’ll also need to translate all of your legal documents, like your birth certificate, into Spanish before they will be recognized by the Mexican government. Mexico is still a top destination marriage location for couples worldwide, despite all the hoops. Do your research, and you’ll be fine. 

Airline Security Problems

For many brides, a destination marriage means travel one way with one last name, and travel the other way with another last name. Since the TSA requires that your name match your government-issued ID exactly, it can present a conundrum. If you want to avoid confusion, bring copies of your marriage license as well as your ID. The bottom line is this: whatever name will be on your ID at the time of travel, book the airline tickets to match it. 

Destination weddings are the perfect excuse to embark on a vacation with your new spouse, as well as with your family and closest friends. If you avoid some of the more common destination drama, you’ll be headed for sunshine and clear skies–literally!